When I was a kid growing up in central California, downtown San Jose was a place to avoid. A number of years ago Mayor Tom McHenry started a project to revitalize downtown that has given birth to a wonderfully new or refurbished neighborhood. San Jose is the largest of the cities in the Bay Area that bears the name of its sometimes rival to the north San Francisco. San Jose has both a greater number of people and a much greater land area than San Francisco.
One of the most recent additions to downtown is the new city hall with a clear dome that invokes an image of transparency in government like that (on a smaller scale) of the Reichstag in Berlin.
Many visitors to downtown start as visitors to a convention at the San Jose Convention Center named after former mayor Tom McHenry. This modern facility helps draw visitors to the downtown neighborhood.
The HP Pavilion also gave locals and visitors alike a reason to return to downtown. The HP Pavilion is located just on the other side of highway 87 from the rest of the downtown area but it is an easy walk from one to the other. In addition to being the home to the San Jose Sharks the Pavilion is also a popular concert venue.
You don’t have to be a fan of hockey to enjoy the energy of the teal-clad San Jose Shark fans. In preparation for a Sharks game practice this move. Place both arms out straight in front of you, one above the other, palms facing each other. Move your arms apart and together and you are ready to “chomp” the other team.
Another popular sports team is the single A farm team for the San Francisco Giants, the San Jose Giants that play at municipal stadium just south of the downtown area. If you have not had the chance to watch a minor league baseball game picture the movie “Bull Durham” with billboards for local businesses on the fence. This being Silicon Valley some of these local businesses are advertising databases instead of steaks. Go to watch kids race the mascot around the bases or contestants trying to knock out the headlights of a truck with a fastball to win a prize.
Since San Jose gets 300 sunny days a year a great place to catch a meal is at a sideway café at San Pedro square but many other restaurants are also in downtown. For a budget meal try a burrito at La Victoria or a kabob at Askew. For a fancier meal one of my favorite classic local restaurants is Paulos.
A great hands-on museum for young kids is the Children’s Discovery Museum on Woz Way (named after Apple founder and big kid Steve Wozniak). Older kids and adults will also enjoy the Tech museum downtown which celebrates the science and innovation that created the marvel that is Silicon Valley. The Tech also has an IMAX theatre.
My favorite venue for live theatre in downtown is the San Jose Rep which puts on around 6 plays a year in a spectacularly intimate theatre. There are no bad seats at the Rep. If comedy is more to your liking then check out the comic styling of Comedy Sports.
The downtown neighborhood is reachable by car or via both CalTrain, Amtrack and bus.
Chris Christensen is the host of the popular Amateur Traveler travel podcast. He also blogs about travel to San Jose and San Jose Tours http://sanjosetours.us
The press has had this to say about the Amateur Traveler:
Men’s Journal says: “One of the 4 best adventure travel podcasts”
The Chicago Sun Times included the show in their list of 10 “Best travel sites”
Best Life Magazine named the Amateur Traveler one of the 10 best podcasts on the internet.
Nominated for a People’s Choice Podcast Award in 2007, 2008.
Popular Vote Winner for a Lonely Planet Blog Award 2009 in the Podcasting category.
Named by tripbase.com as one of the 10 best looking/most accessible travel blogs on the internet