Most of the attractions in San Jose are related to the natural beauty of the area or to its historical past. Kelley Park is a popular site, offering a variety of diversions, including Happy Hollow Park and Zoo where visitors can enjoy family-oriented amusements and view wildlife in a 12-acre natural setting. The 16-acre San Jose Historical Museum on the park grounds features a recreated turn-of-the-century town with such exhibits as a working blacksmith shop, a Victorian home, and a doctor's office. Also located in Kelley Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden, featuring flowering trees and shrubs, waterfalls, and koi fish. Other botanical gardens in San Jose are Overfelt Botanical Gardens and the Municipal Rose Garden.
Alum Rock Park is a wildlife refuge containing mineral springs, trails, and picnic facilities; the Youth Science Institute based in the park offers educational programs and special events to acquaint children with nature. Ardenwood Historic Farm in neighboring Fremont is a working farm that demonstrates agrarian life from 1880 through the 1920s; among the exhibits are soap and candle making and the planting and harvesting of crops with horse-drawn equipment.
Especially popular with tourists is the Winchester Mystery House; according to legend, this "haunted" Victorian mansion, containing 160 rooms, was built by the wealthy but eccentric widow of the maker of the Winchester rifle to appease the spirits of the rifle's victims. Nationally known for its table wines, the San Jose area boasts dozens of wineries; many offer wine-tasting and tours of their facilities. Several theme parks operate in Santa Clara County, including Paramount's Raging Waters in San Jose's Lake Cunningham Regional Park and Paramount's Great America in nearby Santa Clara.
San Jose is becoming a regional center for the arts as local performing groups and organizations consistently draw larger audiences from throughout the Bay Area. A wide range of theatrical, musical, and dance performances is presented at the Center for the Performing Arts and the Montgomery Theater downtown.
The American Musical Theatre of San Jose entertains capacity crowds with three to four annual Broadway musicals. The San Jose Repertory Theatre produces classic and contemporary drama, and plays for children are staged by the San Jose Children's Musical Theater. The San Jose Symphony and Opera San Jose present full subscription seasons. The Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley is considered one of the country's most innovative ballet companies, with a repertoire of more than 120 modern and traditional classical ballets. HP Pavilion hosts varied performers such as U2 and Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
San Jose's museums and galleries specialize in a variety of fields. Attractions include the Children's Discovery Museum, offering hands-on exhibits, and The Tech Museum of Innovation, offering an IMAX theater and interactive experiences in new technologies. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum features the city's only planetarium as well as astronomical and scientific displays; a full-scale Egyptian tomb exhibit; and a collection of Egyptian artifacts.
The San Jose Museum of Art features changing exhibits of American art. The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, one of the few museums of its kind in the country, provides a showcase for the history of quilts and textiles. The work of local and Bay Area artists is shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art and at the Works Gallery.
Arts and Culture Information: San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, 408 Almaden Blvd., San Jose, CA 95110; telephone (408)295-9600; toll-free (800)726-5673
Special events and celebrations take place in the San Jose area throughout the year, many of them focusing on the cultural heritages of the region's diverse population. Winter events include January's San Jose International Auto Show; in February, the Vietnamese Spring Festival and Parade offers food, entertainment, games, and other fun highlighting Vietnamese culture in the city. Spring offerings include the San Jose Art Festival, a juried art show; and the Golden Circle Theatre Party, an annual black-tie benefit, both in March. April's annual Iris Show is a favorite of gardeners and iris aficionados; May brings cultural celebrations including the Nikkei Matsuri, Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival, and the Zee Heritage India Festival. Summer events include the Comcast Jazz Festival and the weekend Downtown Farmers Market. Fall's offerings include dance and arts festivals, Halloween at Bonfante Gardens, and the Silicon Valley Marathon. San Jose's year winds down with a Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony, and the Nuestra Navidad, an celebration of Christmas in the Mexican tradition.
San Jose is in an advantageous location for fans of professional sports. The National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks play at the HP Pavillion. The HP Pavillion also hosts the San Jose Stealth lacrosse and AFLs SaberCats football teams, as well as figure skating, boxing, and other sporting events. Major league soccer's San Jose Earthquakes play at San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium. The San Jose Giants, the farm club for the San Francisco Giants National League baseball team, play their home games at Municipal Stadium in San Jose. Horse racing is on view at Bay Meadows Racecourse in San Mateo and at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
Several professional teams compete within driving distance of San Jose; among them are baseball's San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, and Oakland's Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
A variety of neighborhood and regional parks in the San Jose area provide facilities for a variety of activities such as water sports, baseball, tennis, golf, hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife study. San Jose's 144 large and small neighborhood parks and gardens, and another 9 regional parks, are maintained by the city; especially popular are Almaden Quicksilver Park, Alum Rock Park, and Lake Cunningham Regional Park. Numerous reservoirs and lakes are located throughout the region for sailing, waterskiing, and windsurfing. A number of golf courses exist in the area, including two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, and the new Los Lagos Golf Course spanning Coyote Creek.
With several major and outlet malls, regional shopping centers, and myriad neighborhood stores and specialty shops, San Jose can meet the needs of most consumers. San Jose's largest shopping center is Eastridge; a major renovation scheduled for completion in 2005 will offer shoppers one million square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The San Jose Flea Market is one of the nation's largest flea markets and attracts more than 2,000 sellers and more than 80,000 shoppers per week to its 8 miles of corridors and alleys. Shoppers will find anything from antiques and collectibles to freshly-made foods. The "Produce Row" section of the market is touted as California's largest farmer's market.
Restaurants are plentiful in San Jose, offering American cuisine and ethnic specialties ranging from German and French to Mexican, Persian, Moroccan, and Thai dishes. Several authentic Japanese restaurants are clustered in historic Japantown. Santa Clara Valley wineries combine brunches, luncheons, and picnics with wine tastings; the area is noted for its Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Johannisburg Riesling wines.
Visitor Information: San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, 408 Almaden Blvd., San Jose, CA 95110; telephone (408)295-9600; toll-free (800)726-5673