Are you visiting San Jose for Sunday’s Rock ‘N’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon? Here’s what to do after crossing the finish line.
Written by: John Mendelsohn
Many past visitors agree that by far the most enjoyable thing to do in San Jose is rent a car and drive up to San Francisco. But don’t imagine that the city, the tenth most populous in the country, remains the Dullsville suggested in the 1960s hit in “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”; the enterprising visitor will find a wealth of things to see and do, provided he doesn’t stay too long.
Modern San Jose’s best-known tourist destination by far (because you start seeing signs advertising it as far away as Saskatchewan) is the Winchester Mystery House. The late Sarah Winchester thought her abode had come to be haunted by the ghosts of persons killed by the famous repeating rifle invented by her husband, William Witt Winchester, whose initials predated the Internet by over a century. Where you or I might have hired an exorcist, or moved to Santa Cruz, Sarah allowed a medium to convince her that she would confound the ghosts by hiring a succession of contractors to come in and construct 13 staircases to nowhere, for instance.
Over the course of 38 years of this, during which her digs came to comprise 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms and 10,000 windows, we must assume Mrs. Winchester came to savor the smell of sawdust in the morning — to believe that it smelled likes victory. Today, the Winchester Mystery House is San Jose’s principal tourist attraction, found boring and expensive to view by some, but pleasurably eerie by others.
With burly bouncers who look like the lead singer of the SJ-bred Smashmouth, but more intimidating, admitting only the gorgeous and well-heeled-looking to most of the chic nitespots in San Pedro Square, the ungorgeous and proudly proletarian gravitate to Gordon Biersch to guzzle indigenous brewskis and eat. Arrive early to get a spot in the patio, where you’ll find the highest concentration of enticingly bared midriffs.
Who doesn’t love German cuisine? No? Neither do we, truth be told. Nonetheless, Teske’s Germania Restaurant Bar & Beer Garden offers not only to-die-for bratwurst, but also traditional Teutonic music, and waiters in lederhosen.
San Jose is one of America’s safest big cities. Those who find drive-by shootings and the like exhilarating will want to head for the area bounded by Story, King and Capitol.
The Tech Museum of Innovation offers some 250 mostly interactive exhibits in four themed galleries, and a notable gift shop in which you’re sure to find exactly the right gift for the propellerhead in your life. The Hackworth IMAX® Dome Theater shows really big movies.
We pause to note that in the mid-60s, San Jose was actually where most of the Bay Area’s best bands were based. You’ve heard of Count Five, whose Psychotic Reaction was a Top 5 hit in 1966. You haven’t heard of the E-Types (who actually hailed from Salinas, down in Steinbeck country, and who probably regarded San Jose as The Big City), but should have, as they were fab, gear, and all the other pimply hyperboles. The Doobie Brothers formed in San Jose. Don’t pretend you’ve not heard of Smashmouth, if only here.
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum was one of the world’s first Egyptian museums. Founded by the Rosicrucians (sort of like the Freemasons, but even weirder) well over a 100 years old, the place is modeled after the temple at Karnak, and has the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities on the West Coast. You needn’t learn a secret handshake to be admitted.
The Richardson Romanesque portion of the architecturally schizophrenic San Jose Museum of Art downtown dates back to the late nineteenth century, while the other, golden-hued sandstone, half was built in the 90s. Employing state of the art temperature and humidity controls that allow it to share exhibits with New York’s Whitney Museum, the museum’s defiantly parochial focus is on the recent work of West Coast artists.
San Jose State University fields a football team that competes in NCAA Division IA and has produced a couple of notable NFL quarterbacks and head coaches. Stroll the same grounds a then-fresh-faced Stevie Nicks strolled before she changed the course of popular music in our time. While there, don’t miss the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and Museum, the only North American institution devoted solely to the life and works and accomplishments of the Bard, or whatever he called himself. Enjoy original manuscripts, first editions, three fortepianos, a harpsichord, a clavichord, and a listening area.
Santana Row, a European-style pedestrian area filled with overpriced shops and restaurants, is a nice place for a traipse if you don’t mind the sort of antiseptic contrivedness you’d find at a theme park owned by the Christian right. Increase your pleasure by imagining that the area’s namesake is the Grammy-winning chicano guitarist. Increase it further by meeting the gal or dude of your dreams at one of the countless wine bars.
You needn’t schlep all the way up to the Napa Valley to sample wines. Do so in downtown SJ at J. Lohr. Once having done so, stagger over to Japantown for sushi, bearing in mind that there are also Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, and even Mexican restaurants there, not to mention a big farmers market on Sunday mornings, and the oddly named Japantown Buddhist Church for your spiritual needs.
Your taste for the exotic thoroughly whetted now, you’ll delight in the knowledge that there are more persons of Vietnamese origin in San Jose than anywhere else in the world outside Vietnam, with the heaviest concentration of Vietnamese businesses located south of downtown along Story Road between Kelley Park and McLaughlin Ave. The Viet Museum, near the city’s Municipal Stadium, is surrounded by more restaurants than you’ll be able to shake a bowl of pho at.
Avoid the faux pho at all costs, as it is inauthentic.
San Jose, or any other California city, having a professional hockey team is approximately as loony as Utah’s professional basketball team being called the Jazz, but damned if the San Jose Sharks won’t be playing their NFL rivals Anaheim Ducks on their home ice, the HP Pavilion, the evening before the half-marathon. Exactly the sort of thing to put your adrenals on notice that they’re going to be needed!