Although I had driven past San Jose on Hwy 101 several times in my teens and early twenties, I had never once visited this town made famous by the Diana Ross hit, Do You Know The Way To San Jose? I even rocked out to the Frankie Goes To Hollywood version but still had never bothered to stop and see what the fuss was all about. You know, San Jose was always just San Jose.
Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, I found myself in San Jose for a few days and I discovered a city well worth visiting. Although most of my time was spent indoors in the air conditioned rooms of the San Jose Conference Center, I did manage to escape and I found a city very worth visiting.
If you love food, San Jose has some interesting restaurants – I can highly recommend Cafe Frascatti on 1st street, just a hop, skip, and jump away from the conference center. Best cup of coffee in town… that is, if you like a real cappuccino in an honest to goodness cup. They have great internet, an even better staff and their baguette sandwiches are simple but made with tasty ingredients. They are even willing to share the staff table when it’s the only power outlet available.
If you’re with a crowd and no one can make a decision on where to eat, head to the San Pedro Square Market… you’ll find several restaurants under one roof and a beautiful outside plaza with tables large and small, awnings with shade, and enough greenery, sun, and pleasant breeze to make you think you’re visiting the Mediterranean without the ocean view. I had some great Vietnamese spring rolls while a friend grabbed a soda from the homemade soda stand, POPS & Sons, where they make interesting flavor combinations like lavender, anise, and saffron. There was bbq and salads and sandwiches and more. I want to go back and try each and everyone of the 200 craft beers that are offered by the Market Beer Co. but I thought better of it. I’m adventurous but not quite that adventurous.
After you’ve had your fill of food and drink, you can explore the rest of downtown. They have a very cool looking Tech Museum that I visited for a short time one evening thanks to a conference event held on the museum grounds. The nearby Museum of Art looked great from the outside… I had hoped for a late night opening but wasn’t in luck. I was able to visit the Basilica of St. Joseph, a large white cathedral in the center of town. The interior is even more stunning that the exterior, the light pouring through the stained glass windows made the painted walls almost luminous. Make sure to take the time to sit down and admire the portraits painted directly on the walls but be especially observant to those high over head in the central dome.
If you would rather spend time outdoors, there are plenty of pleasant spaces. If it’s warm, your kids might love to play in the outdoor fountain at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, in between the Art Museum and the Tech Museum. The park was welcoming to an eclectic mix – families enjoying the sunny afternoon, business folks escaping from the office, teens on skateboards using the long walkways to practice their craft, and a few stray folks enjoying the shady shots as a pleasant place to nap. And no one seemed to mind a stray amateur photographer.
In short, don’t write off San Jose like I have for so many years. Give it a chance, take a trip, and enjoy yourself! There is certainly plenty to see and do and I only scratched the surface.