Exploring Filoli Garden and Historic House

One of the highlights of my visit to San Mateo County, California, was the Filoli Historic House and Garden. Filoli comprises 654 acres of beautiful property in the rural community of Woodside, just 30 miles south of San Francisco. The house and formal gardens take up 16 of those acres, and most of the rest is in its natural state, with large trees, woodlands, and a nature preserve to inspire you.


Upon entering the grounds, you are transported back in time to 1915, when American business tycoon William Bowers Bourn II decided to build the country estate of his dreams. The house is 54,00 square feet and has 43 rooms!


The mansion at Filoli was built between 1915-1917 for the Bourn family. The estate boasts a blend of English Renaissance and Georgian styles.


This is my favourite photo of the interior of the mansion at Filoli. It is so beautiful and magical. I can visualize the many special events that were held in this magnificent ballroom.


There are many mesmerizing views in the Filoli Gardens.

filoli garden is a terrific example of an early american renaissance garden

I loved strolling through the various gardens at Filoli, and was lucky enough to have timed my visit to see the roses beginning to bloom. Throughout the long growing season, you will see Filoli Garden transform in waves of tulips, roses, peonies, sweet peas, and much more as each variety takes its turn to be in full bloom. See the Filoli site for details.


I didn’t get a good photo of Percy the peacock. But I did buy some of the lovely peacock paper napkins I found in the Filoli gift shop–as well as some tasty chocolate offerings, too.

In 1975, Filoli was donated by its second owners, the Roth family, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A staff of 60 and 700 volunteers help maintain the property and run its many events today. Be sure to stop into the lovely gift shop site before you leave the property, and keep an eye out for Percy, the allusive resident peacock. I saw him foraging among the greenery outside the gift shop, but he refused to pose for a photo!

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or glass of wine and take the 21 minutes to watch this video, and you’ll soon be planning a trip to Filoli for yourself. It is the gem of San Mateo County.




















Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

71 Responses

  1. Alfresco Adventure says:

    I enjoy your photos and reading your articles. This post was really impressive and has inspired me to visit Filoli in the coming days. Thanks for sharing your experience while you visited there.

  2. Amazing article about the Filoli Garden. It is a very informative article. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Lavish says:

    The house really looks grand, love your blog! Keep up the great content and we look forward to seeing more! If you are interested in reviewing some of our lavish hotels and resorts, please let us know and we can arrange something!

  4. I love the historic house and Fioli Garden! A true beauty at its best! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I have been reading your articles for a long time and I am very impressed by the way you write. Being read and shared is a great tribute in itself. For me the dream appreciation would be when someone who has read the piece find something entertaining, connecting, inspiring, thrilling, puzzling, beautiful or humorous in it… I suppose in some way we writers are trying to connect with the reader. Whichever way this connection is expressed is always a compliment! Thank you for your great article about Filoli.

  6. Tuvya Marcus says:

    Wow! Such a wonderful post you have shared about the Filoli House and Garden. I had difficulty removing my eyes from your post. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Thank you very much posting such a great article. All your posted pics of the house and gardens at Filoli are just amazing.

  8. Hey Doreen, the house really looks grand. And the Fioli garden is so beautiful! It was great to know about the history of the house. I could sit in it for hours. Thank You so much for your blog. Keep sharing!

  9. Thank you so much for this informative article. it’s really useful for all lovers of historic houses.

  10. Janet Wade says:

    Your photos of Filoli are beautiful and your commentary is exactly right. I’ve been one of the hundreds of volunteers at Filoli for eight years and it never gets old. I’d like to add two things to your blog. First, about a year ago Filoli added a one-mile loop through the woodland acres of the property. It’s great for families and at one point you cross the San Andreas fault. (There’s a sign!) Also, Filoli has monthly afternoon teas and special teas on special occasions. Check out their website for details: http://www.filoli.org. Hope to see you there.

  11. YUKTI Agrawal says:

    I did not know that there is such a beautiful garden, near to San Francisco. The garden is lovely with lots of flowers and I also loved grand interiors of Filoli.

  12. I will surely visit this place once in my life. What a beautiful heaven slice of heaven!

    I truly delighted in leaning more about Filoli House. I would love to walk around the broad greenhouses. I can only imagine the number of planters that are utilized to keep up the grounds. A debt of gratitude is in order for another fascinating travel story.

  13. neha says:

    Such a beautiful garden. And it has a resident peacock as well! I immediately fell in love with that first rose you put in your post. And the Filoli garden has definitely won my heart. The house is also beautiful. I kind of feel envious of the Roth family, they once got to live here!

  14. mihaela says:

    what a beautiful house! even the pictures transported me back in time so I can only imagine how a visit there must be. great find!

  15. Valentini says:

    Very beautiful photos and presentation of the place! You make it looks great, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  16. OMG! This is in my own backyard & I had no idea! Thank you!

  17. mark jame says:

    Thanks for this interesting post about exploring Filoli Garden and Historic House.

  18. alison netzer says:

    This place looks amazing. I grew up a mile away from longwood gardens in PA, and loved going when the flowers bloomed

  19. Swooning for those flowers. Filoli Garden and Historic House is a real gem!

  20. Looks like a lovely place to visit.

  21. While I have spent quite some time in CA and in the San Francisco area, I have not been to Filoli Garden and Historic House. Amazing – 16 acres of gardens and 54,000 SF house! I will put it on my list for our next visit to the San Francisco area.

  22. It looks lovely! Now that my daughter is living in San Francisco, and I’ve seen all of the popular sights, I’ll have to explore some of the less well-known sights. Filoli looks like a great way to spend an afternoon!

  23. Kartik says:

    Fioli Gardens seems imposing and huge. How did they get around to building such a huge property that too in California where real estate is so costly? The place, the gardens and the mansion look worth exploring along with the history. I had a look at the video, and it says that after the quake, people began building expensive estates. That seems so against the grain and logic, but I guess if the owner was mining gold and supplying water and gas to whole of california, he had some cash for a lavish lifestyle!

    • Thx for your comment, Kartik. Don’t forget that California property prices 100 years ago were much lower than they are today. And that where Filoli was built, it was considered to be a really rural area, so property prices would have been significantly lower than in nearby cities like San Francisco. But yes, business magnates of the early 20th century really liked their massive estates and opulence.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Exploring Filoli Garden and Historic HouseMy Profile

  24. Sue Reddel says:

    I’m so glad that you included the video it was lovely. I would so enjoy a visit to Filoli Gardens.

  25. Filoli House looks beautiful! Just imagine living in those surroundings, and with all that space…

  26. I love touring these wonderful old mansions and envisioning what life must have been like for those fortunate enough during the time to call it home! Great post.

  27. I’d love to see Filoli Garden in bloom – the combination of tulips, roses, peonies, sweet peas is my favourite collection of flowers. It’s so rare to see sweet peas these days – they don’t seem to grow well in the east

  28. David and I love visiting historic houses and gardens. I will put this one on our list.

  29. What fantastic blooms! If my travels bring me to San Mateo, I’ll be sure to visit the Fioli garden.

  30. Filoli Garden looks really beautiful. The interiors of the mansion look so exquisite. I am really enamoured by the picture of the interior with gold and white decor. Must have been a nice experience strolling through the gardens and the historic mansion.

  31. I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this site. if you have time Read my blog.

  32. Rajash says:

    Wonderful exploring of this blog sharing best historic and adventure trip experience.

  33. Amrita Sen says:

    The house really looks grand. And the Fioli garden is so beautiful! I saw the video and it was great to know about the history of the house. Did you sight Percy, the peacock?

  34. So beautiful! I would love to spend sometime wandering through the house and garden. I’ll skip the peacock though. The last house I owned in Montana came with a peacock–the destructive bugger. He got a new home in the local zoo. 🙂

    • Hi Rose and thanks for your comment. Yes, In think that peacocks can be quite the chore to have and host! A lovely resort I stayed at in Puerto Vallarta had peacocks living there. They were lovely to see, but they started making their calls VERY early in the morning, and woke us all up far too early …
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Exploring Filoli Garden and Historic HouseMy Profile

  35. What a beautiful setting you found at Filoli Garden. The flowers are so gorgeous and beg to be smelled. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Cindy says:

    The Filoli House & Garden looks just beautiful. I’ll bet those flower gardens smell lovely. I could almost smell that rose through the photo!

  37. I’d love to tour Filoli Garden. Sounds beautiful and grand.

  38. I will surely visit this. My daughter and her family live in Livermore and found out it is only 1.5 hours away. And I will be visiting them in August this year!

  39. Esther says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  40. Catarina says:

    Nice stately home that clearly highlights Canada’s ties with the UK.

  41. Phoenicia says:

    What a beautuful stately home – truly grand. The Filoli Gardens is breathtaking – I could sit in it for hours. America is spoilt with land in comparison to the UK. I read about the average square foot of homes in America and think you are very fortunate.

  42. Beverly says:

    I really enjoyed learning more about Filoli House. I would love to stroll through the extensive gardens. I wonder how many gardeners are employed to maintain the grounds. Thanks for another interesting travel story.

  43. Janet May-Hewson says:

    I just finished watching the video you attached on FiLoLi. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing. Must have been a beautiful tour.

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