Downtown San Jose for the Holidays
By Kathy Chin Leong


One hour south of San Francisco, downtown San Jose hosts some 400,000 visitors during December. It’s a hidden gem where all your food, culture, and entertainment lies within a three-block radius. Simply park your car and leave it there for the day. Weekend parking is free at designated lots.

Sponsored by the Downtown San Jose Merchants Association, the innovative Christmas in the Park display at Plaza de Cesar Chavez on Market and First Street is one that draws families throughout the Bay Area. Starting Thanksgiving weekend and open from 9 a.m. to midnight daily until January 1, it features animated and musical doll and animal holiday exhibits, holiday trees decorated by community organizations, and an 18-foot Christmas tree.

And a few yards away is the annual Downtown Holiday Ice , outdoor temporary ice skating rink which lasts until mid-January. Skate time and rental runs $14 for adults and $12 for kids, 12 and under. Before Dec. 15, rates are $12 and $10 respectively. And right behind the rink is a small Winter Wonderland , a cluster of tyke-sized amusement park rides.

Next to the ice skating rink, the free San Jose Museum of Art at 110 S. Market St. will be open until 10 p.m. from Dec. 12 to 23 with performances by children and local musicians. On Sunday, Dec. 11 from 11:30 to 4 p.m., the museum will sponsor a complimentary family art day with the theme Holiday to Remember , where folks can create their own decorations and ornaments.

Downtown is a sure bet for holiday entertainment with two featured plays. From matinee and evening showings Dec. 2 to Dec. 11, families can attend The King and I, presented by the Children’s Musical Theater . Showing at the Montgomery Theatre, the show costs $11 to $15, 291 S. Market St. 408/228-5437.

The Nutcracker ballet playing at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd. 408/288-2800. Tickets run $25 to $74, and the show will play from Dec. 15 to 24 with selective 1:30 p.m. matinees and 7:30 p.m. evening performances.

The Fairmont Hotel , across the street from Plaza de Cesar Chavez offers a holiday tea for those wanting to experience the fullness of the season. And the signature restaurant, The Fountain, serves fare with everything from french fries and hamburgers to pasta and fish at affordable prices. On Sundays, the hotel serves up an amazing buffet champagne brunch.The hotel is located at 170 S. Market St., 408/998-1900.

Don’t forget local haunts such as The Tech Museum of Innovation and the Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM ), all within walking distance. At The Tech, you and your family can take in the magical film Polar Express presented on the IMAX screen which costs $10 for adults and $7 for kids 12 and under. At the CDM, you can take little ones to enjoy the hands-on exhibits and climb onto a real fire truck and ambulance.  They can also enjoy the new Dr. Seuss exhibit and participate in various Hispanic multi-cultural activities. Tech Museum, 201 S. Market St., 408/294-TECH; Children’s Discovery Museum, 180 Woz Way, 298-5437.

If you decide to start early in the morning, go to the San Jose Holiday Parade on Sunday December 4. Then you can hit the Fairmont or the Il Fornaio restaurant for brunch before attending the Nutcracker or Polar Express film. After the performance, you can go to view exhibits at the Christmas in the Park and listen to a performance at the San Jose Museum of Art in one day. For dinner, there are a myriad of dinner places to choose from with various price points throughout the perimeter of the area including San Pedro Square, about two blocks away from the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES:


* www.thetech.org  – info on the popular Tech Museum of Innovation.
* www.cdm.org  – details, admission for Children’s Discovery Museum.
* www.fairmont.com  – info on the famous Fairmont Hotel.
* www.sanjose.org  – more on the events of San Jose.

Author Kathy Chin Leong was raised in San Jose and tries to go to Christmas in the Park as often as she can.

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