Raise your hand if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have never visited the Winchester Mystery House. OK, I see your hand there! As residents of the Bay Area, especially those of us who grew up here, we tend to avoid anything deemed “touristy.” The Winchester Mystery House has that reputation-and it shouldn’t! This is a local landmark all of use need to see at least once in our lives!
The first time I visited the Winchester Mystery was back in the 1990s. My friend, who was from out of state, wanted to see all the attractions the Bay Area had to offer. We visited every site in the Bay Area people travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to see. It was really eye opening to go to all the places people rave about, but those of us from here never see. When she took me to the Winchester Mystery House, I fell in love with it instantly.
It’s a beautiful home with an interesting story; and an even more interesting one-time owner. Sarah Winchester was a wealthy woman who inherited a portion of the Winchester fortune through her late husband. She moved out west on the suggestion of a medium and found this home in the Santa Clara valley. Legend has it the medium told her to continually work on the home in order to confuse spirits who were after her; or at least following her.
As you can see in the placard above, she ensured work was continually done on the home throughout the time she lived there. She had remodeled the original, 8-room farmhouse, into a seven story mansion which sustained some damage in the 1906 earthquake. You can view the damage, and learn how the building was stabilized, during the mansion tour. It’s very interesting! The mansion you see now does not go up seven stories, it is shorter, and more earthquake friendly. Of course, some of the features are a bit odd, such as the “door to nowhere,” and interior staircases which lead to a wall or ceiling. See below-
These are the features which make this house so interesting! You can see a lot more strange features such as these on the standard mansion tour. This is the tour I took my family on over the weekend, including my Mom. The reason we went on the tour was because my Mom informed me she had never been to the Winchester Mystery House! What was it that I said about Bay Area natives not seeing all the cool places we have around the area? Yup, my Mom was born and raised in San Francisco, she has lived in the Bay Area her whole life, and this was the first time she saw the Winchester Mystery House! Whhhhh-aaaaaaattt?????
It was so much fun taking her to see the mansion. Just like me, my husband, and my kids, she really enjoyed the ornate interior fixtures, the beautiful windows, the incredible light fixtures, and of course-the history! Seriously, the tour guides are a plethora of knowledge; both of the house and Santa Clara valley. You can learn so much from them. We really enjoyed our tour guide, and learned so much about Sarah Winchester and the home.
Despite the fact that both my husband and I have visited the home before, and taken the same tour, we learned new things! I feel like this is a tour you have to take multiple times in order to remember everything. There is a new tour on the schedule, which takes you to an additional 60 rooms in the mansion which have never been open before. We definitely want to take that tour next time we visit. Our kids had so much fun, and they want to go again! They also want to attend one of the special events the Winchester Mystery House holds. They have a Halloween event, and various holiday themed events throughout the year. Definitely check out their website to plan your visit! Keep reading-
Although I have droned on about the history and interior features, there is much more to visiting the Winchester Mystery House! The outside areas are absolutely beautiful. You can see the beautiful exterior features on the home as well as the manicured gardens. There are also several buildings on the grounds which were used to help run the estate.
You can find the gas lighting shop used before electricity was installed on the estate, and you can also find the carriage house, tank house, foreman’s house, stables, and more! They also have activities which are fun for both kids and adults. There is a museum, a cafe, and a large gift shop which my kids discovered instantly! haha
The Winchester Mystery House is located across the street from Santana Row, and walking distance to Valley Fair, so you can easily make a day of it! I highly recommend making reservations and buying your tickets online. This will ensure you get the tour time you want. You can also leisurely review all the different tours and activities they have available when you want to visit.
This is a staycation activity all Bay Area residents need to see! Also, if you are from out of town, I highly recommend putting the Winchester Mystery House on your travel itinerary.
You can learn all about the home and what is has to offer at WinchesterMysteryHouse.com.
I hope you have as much fun as my family and I had when we visited!