Downtown Trip

My wife and I had never really seen San José till the last weekend. We had passed through Downtown several times, found a few things interesting but never stopped by. Last Saturday, we set out to change that. We lined up a few places to visit in and around Downtown, and planned our route.

The first stop was History San José. Gary had aroused our curiosity just a few days earlier. We drove to Kelley Park that houses ‘History’ and got lucky right away — parking was free. No idea why it was so, even though it was a sunny Saturday — no harm done to us. Firstly, I expected more of a museum; but this was in a park setting. There were houses and buildings moved in from elsewhere, similar to a place we had seen in Utah earlier. For us, the highlights of the place were the Light Tower (which was once upon a time used to illuminate the Downtown area), O’ Brien’s Cafe, the trolley ride and the school.

Trolley ride, History San José


The trolley ride is quite short. The guide told us about its history, including how it ran from Los Gatos to San Francisco and people could see the blossoms along the way in Spring. The hot day demanded that we check out the famously delicious “ice cream soda” at O’ Brien’s. We also visited the printing place, an exhibition in the Pacific Hotel and an old Victorian-style house. The best was saved for the last though. We got into the school — don’t remember the name — and an old lady there patiently explained what each thing was, how kids were taught in the olden days and so on. She was happy that we were visiting and told us more about ‘History’ itself.

Inside O' Brien's Cafe, History San José

The place is run with the help of volunteers like her and hence exhibits are open only based on their availability. It was heartening to see very old people passionately explain to us about various aspects. Overall, this was truly a delightful way of showcasing and teaching history.

As we were in Kelley Park, we wanted to check out the Japanese Friendship Garden too, as it was also one of the days of the Sister City celebrations. We wouldn’t have minded even the zoo; but both were put off for another day for want of time.

Old building in Downtown San JoséWhat's this building in Downtown San José?

Now, it was time to move to the actual Downtown. With all its one ways, we had some trouble getting to a Public Parking place. The Downtown is a nice mix of the old and the new, like many cities around the world.

King Library and the sale outside

My wife loves books and so, we went to check out the King Library. Again, by luck, it was the day of the book sale. We grabbed a whole lot of books just for a few dollars. It wasn’t a Sunday for us to go for a whole bag though. This sale happens every last weekend of the month. So, book-lovers, keep a tab! The library itself is fantastic, as Gary already wrote. It was closing at six; so, we couldn’t spend a long time there.

We walked around a bit after that to find a Starbucks. I actually go to Starbucks for tea, not coffee. What I look for is Chai Tea Latte, which tastes closest to Indian tea.

Green all around at St. James Park, Downtown San José

Finally, we relaxed at St. James Park. It seemed like an oasis of inactivity in the relatively busy Downtown area. There was a big family enjoying the beautiful day and an Asian couple taking wedding pictures. Daylight was fading and it was time to return home. It was a pretty enjoyable trip and one of the few times we have leisurely explored a Downtown area. There are more sights to see, of course, and we’ll be back.

3 Comments so far

  1. Gary Wiens (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

    I was unable to get a definite answer on parking fees at Kelley Park, which ranged from fees charged only during summer months to using the Happy Hollow parking schedule. I mentioned the parking fee so there would not be an unpleasant surprise if visitors were charged a parking fee. It is great that you were able to park free on the weekend. A weekend visit is best as you mentioned that various buildings were open.


  2. joann Landers (unregistered) on May 7th, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

    I have yet to visit the Library, but everyone raves about it.


  3. Victor Solanoy (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 11:28 am

    Being a resident of San Jose, I’ve always looked elsewhere for exploring. I realized that some people I know who grew up in San Jose their entire lives, save a few years to go to college, had never really ventured into Downtown San Jose. They still thought that the downtown area hadn’t changed from the 70’s and early 80’s when it was grimy, full of transients and shuttered storefronts. Downtown has a lot to offer… at the very least, it’s a very pedestrian friendly when the neigborhood walks get boring.



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