Day Trip to Filoli – A Historic Gem in the Bay Area

All photos are my own except for the map of the garden and floor plan of the house.

COVID-19 Update: Filoli is STILL OPEN, you have to reserve tickets via their website. Their website offers information in both English and Chinese.

Summer Update: Filoli’s “Summer Nights” take place every Thursday 5pm – 8pm until September 3rd. More information and tickets can be purchased in advance here. Other summer events can be found here. The current exhibit is a sculpture exhibit called “Rich Soil” by Kristine Mays. The sculptures are large life forms made of pieces of wire that represents the intricacy and fleeting nature of human gestures and expressions, yet the metal wires also represent resilience and perseverance, as humans move forward in their lives with their hard-wired identities. Kristine Mays work pays honor to the ancestors of this land – lives, some of which have been acknowledged and the many which have been forgotten.

My favorite thing about Filoli beyond the beauty of the premises is that they host exihibits that are very carefully designed to focused on the community and human aspects of life/history/home/identity – this is what makes Filoli so charming to eyes and soul. Last October when I first visited Filoli, I was so charmed by the beauty of the garden and was on a slight time crunch so that I did not pay much attention to the “Nest: Creating Home” exhibit in the garden and house (more information below) which in hindsight, I’m admiring now as I look through the brochures I had collected from that day.

Filoli is a California State Historic Landmark that showcases an eclectically designed house as well as a gorgeous garden landscape that was constructed in the 1910s-1920s for two wealthy San Franciscans. The name “filoli” was created by Mr. Bourn who combined the first two letters of three phrases he lived by.

Fight for a just cause. Love your fellow man. Live a good life.

Following Mr. and Ms. Bourn’s passing in 1936, the estate was purchased by Ms. and Mrs. Roth in 1937. In 1975, Mrs. Roth donated 125 acres of Filoli that included the House and formal Garden to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Filoli Center was established as a local nonprofit that works with the National Trust to preserve and maintain the property for public enjoyment.

You can spend about 3-5 hours here to explore the entire garden and tour the house. The garden is huge – there are many different sections with a variety of plants and flowers so if you’re an avid flower photographer you’ll definitely want to arrive earlier to spend at least 3 hours in the gardens.

Visitor Map with COVID-19 guidelines. Click here to see the pdf version.

*Disclaimer: The order of the following descriptions and photos does not reflect the path put forth in the visiting guidelines due to COVID-19. I am sharing the path that I took as I made my way around Filoli when I visited in October of 2019. The vegetation may differ from now because some are seasonal but the photos will give you a good idea of what to expect especially in the autumn season!*

After you make your way from the Visitor Center through the Clock Tower Shop, you will pass through an ornate door and enter the Sunken Garden.

Sunken Garden

Walled Garden

These hydrangea bushes are the most magical place in the entire garden! The photo doesn’t do the colors or natural lighting justice!

Pool Pavilion

EXHIBIT [ Nests: Creating Home ]

One of the garden exhibits that we saw – we had picked up a brochure that listed several garden exhibits that had to do with “nests” small and big. It could’ve been a scavenger hunt and definitely a fun one to do with children! Filoli is an all-around family friendly place to visit!

Garden House

The Garden House is such a unique structure located in the middle of the gardens – I love how beautifully the sunlight shines through the tall windows. Looking out the windows, you can see all shades of green, it’s such a serene experience.

Another hydrangea bush outside of the Garden House, this capture reminds me of a scene from a Studio Ghibli movie: Spirited Away!

Rose Garden

Knot Garden

Fruit Garden

The entrance to the panel garden (behind me)

Panel Garden

The house has incredibly ornate decorations and antique pieces blending western and eastern styles. Even though you can only explore the first floor, there are already SO many distinctly furnished rooms with so much to see and admire!

The House (backside)

The House (frontside) Courtyard

The House (inside)

Found this on Pinterest

When my boyfriend and I visited, it happened to be a day when the power was out in the area so we had to rely on natural lighting to tour the house. The huge, tall windows allowed enough natural light into the rooms to illuminate the furniture and artworks. In the hallways and some of the rooms, flashlights were placed in corners or hung from ceilings to somewhat illuminate the space and being that it was Halloween month, it made the house feel slightly eerie in certain places. I couldn’t help but also notice that every room has a different curtain style. The vases in the house carry fresh seasonal flowers from the garden! There is also a lot of Asian style pieces and figurines displayed throughout the house – a charming display of appreciation of Asian art and patterns.

Going along with the interactive exhibit “Nest: Creating Home”, upon entering the foyer, we saw the first of many plaques set up around the house describing the lives of the people whose lives centered around Filoli – from the butlers, maids, chefs, gardeners, etc – many migrant workers who came here to support this estate, bringing their own traditions and making this place “home”. I love that Filoli showcases these people.

Dining Room



Drawing Room


French Room



Hallways and Windows

Holidays at Filoli

From late November to late December, Filoli hosts various holiday events that include: *note: these are events that I believe they host annually but this year their website has yet to be updated with the calendar for holiday events – once they do, I will add their link here*

EventDescription of Event
Artisan MarketFeaturing specialty vendors, hand-crafted gifts, Filoli cider and honey, holiday candies and treats
Holiday TeasFiloli’s Holiday blend tea is served with delicious finger sandwiches, fresh scones, and holiday treats!
Santa SaturdaysUsually held during the 3 Saturdays leading up to Christmas, families can get pictures with Santa, story time with Mrs. Claus, and participate in making holiday crafts!
Decadence NightsA romantic activity for couples: Have wine and chocolate tasting while enjoying the garden’s beautiful lights.
Solstice CelebrationHeld once in December, this a candle-lighting ceremony accompanied by live music and performers.
Open LateOn the weekends and most Thursdays and Fridays in late Nov and the entire month of December, Filoli Garden and House will be open until 8pm: more time to enjoy the holiday magic of Filoli!
More details and a calendar of the events can be found here. *these are 2019 events and will be updated once 2020 events are released*

Filoli also hosts party events ranging between 10-200 guests! You will have to email for more details.

All in all, to conclude this incredibly long post, I really would like to visit Filoli once every season! They also offer membership passes for those who want to visit more often!

I know I included so many photos already but I have more photos that I’m probably going to include in another post on “Instagrammable places in the Bay Area” or something like that. I did a photoshoot in almost every garden in Filoli which was another reason we felt that we were running short on time.

If you enjoyed this post and want to keep it in an easily accessible place, feel free to select your favorite pin design and pin it your pinterest board!

Let me know in the comment section if you’ve visited Filoli, attended any of their holiday events, or if you’d like to visit one day!


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