Do you know the way to San Jose? That Dionne Warwick song from the late sixties was playing in my head as we packed the kids in the car for our overnight in the South Bay. I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area nearly twenty years and I think I’ve been to San Jose three times.
I had been itching to take the kids to the Tech Museum and my husband and I were intrigued by the Art Museum, so we decided to book a hotel room overnight and make a festive trip out of it between Christmas and New Year’s.
It had been raining for nearly two weeks, so we also had visions of a great hike if the skies cleared up. I called a close Cuban-American friend who knows San Jose well and happens to be a foodie. He was on it, and within half an hour recommended three eateries in the area, so I felt ready to go.
Just an hour or so south of San Francisco, San Jose these days is known as the heart of Silicon Valley.
We booked a room at the Hotel Valencia Santana Row, a chic contemporary hotel set amidst a European style pedestrian shopping street. The hotel was a block away from The Winchester Mystery House, a somewhat lost in time, local tourist attraction that seemed a bit cheesy and overpriced for our taste. I was worried that Santana Row might be a Disney-esque version of a European Pedestrian district but it was actually quite stylish, and all decked out for the holidays. Since our trip was short and specific, I had to resist my shopping urges, but many appealing stores beckoned me.
The hotel was slick and comfortable, and my kids remarked on the leather pillows as we entered our room overlooking the patio. It’s fun to splurge for a night, close to home, on occasion. Despite the torrential downpour we made it to the pool and hot tub twice. Actually, my favorite time to soak and swim is when it’s cold, dark and rainy. The pool area had a Mediterranean feel and the outdoor shower was a nice touch. The little fitness room was much appreciated and we took advantage of it, making the most of our getaway.
In the evening, the patio looked welcoming with fire pits and a fountain in the center, but it was just too wet and cold for a nightcap. Instead, we tucked in and watched the Kennedy Center Honors on TV.
The San Jose Tech Museum is a must-see and we spent hours exploring the two floors of exhibits. The hands on, kid friendly stations were a big hit with my budding techies. My youngest son, aged 7, joined a group with a mock digestion project, simulating the route our food takes through our bodies. My older son designed a terrifying roller coaster circuit and both kids were mesmerized by a robot-artist working non-stop. We all wound up with portraits of ourselves after waiting in line with other bedraggled parents for what seemed like an hour.
The rain had pummeled the holiday display in the park and the holiday skating rink struck me as a rip-off at $15 a pop. Once we realized a soggy hike was not even possible, we headed for the San Jose Museum of Art and were really pleased with our choice. The museum was manageable, light and the staff super helpful. Two shows on view during our trip interested all four of us with lots of interactive features. The kids loved the gallery in the basement where they could build with legos, cards and blocks.
Lunch was at a local Coffee Shop called Flames, which had the feel of a real California diner from the ’50s or ’60s. My foodie friend had recommended Habana Cuba as one of his favorites and we had to agree. The food was really authentic and the kids’ menu made me so happy I wrote a review for a kids’ nutrition site called Well Kiddos. The pork melted in our mouths and the mojito was perfectly not too sweet. We also noshed at Race Street Fish Market, which seemed like a local institution. I’m not much for entirely fried meals but it was worth the sacrifice since all my boys are fish and chips monsters and I could get a broiled piece of fish. It was fun watching the crowd, only one hour from SF, but a world away.
Full of food, art and technology, we headed back home, thoroughly pleased with our mini-sojourn. It was just enough of a getaway to break up the long winter vacation and the waterlogged weather.