Immigrant House at Heritage Park in Mountain View

Admire the Tiny House at Heritage Park, Mountain View

The entrance to the Immigrant House at Heritage Park in Mountain View and an information signage in front.

Heritage Park at 771 N. Rengstorff opened in 2016 to show off Mountain View’s history as a farm town. The grand jewel of the 1.2 acre park is the 1880s-area Immigrant House. Once thousands of these tiny houses were homes for the immigrant workers of the Valley of Heart’s Delight. With a footprint of about 400 square feet it is basically a tiny bedroom and a kitchen area. Immigrant House is Mountain View’s last such cabin.

Interior of the Immigrant House, a kitchen setting.

Thanks to the Kiwanis Club, a grant from Google, Santa Clara County, private donors, and the Friends of the Immigrant House, the Immigrant House moved twice and landed at its permanent location. Currently, due to the pandemic,  there are no guided tours for the inside of the house. But you can take a peak and see the lovely decorated interior. The front room shows a table with two stools, a shelf and a kitchen cabinet. The bedroom has a tiny bed.

The oven was also used for cooking. The information signage in front briefs us that the cost of rent in the 1930s and 1940s was $11 per month. A whopping $161 in today’s terms. To put this in perspective, lists the farmworker wages between 1929 and 1933 to $1.90 a day.1 Assuming a 6-day workday, monthly wages are about $46. This means rent would have been roughly 1/4 of their income, and clearly counts as affordable in today’s terms.2

80-year-old windmill at Heritage Park, Mountain View.

Other amenities of the park are the 80-year-old windmill, bees, and a community garden. The 130 trees originate from the previous owners and include 30 different varieties. There are tree identifiers placed next to them. Hopefully the annual Harvest History Festival, celebrated in September, can resume this year.

It is great to see the historic significance of the workers of the Valley of Heart’s Delight in the focus of this park. 

Have you been to Heritage Park?

If you’d like to peek into local history I’d also recommend the Los Altos History Museum. They have another tiny house example of this time period, a tank house.


1“As the Depression deepened, the growers slashed wages and laid off workers. Between 1929 and 1933, wages dropped from $3.50 to $1.90 a day.”

2Affordable Housing: Affordable housing is generally defined as housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities.

Android Lawn Statues surrounded by caution tape

Hope for Reconstruction of the Android Lawn Statues, Mountain View

Foam sculpture of a donut, partly destroyed.

The Android Lawn Statues were always an interesting excursion to show visitors. On my last visit, about a week ago, this place looked appalling. Caution tape was around the perimeter. The figures, which are larger than life sculptures of each new Android operating release, were either busted or completely removed. Named after sweet treats and candy, like Kit Kat and cupcake, these Android figures are made from foam.

Oreo Android figure wrapped in caution tape.

After the 2018 pie release, Google decided to go on a more boring route. The releases are now designed by numbers, starting with 10, which has an Android head peeking out of the zero.. For 11 and 12 you can see a virtual 3-D model. Interesting maybe to a nerd to find some inscription on the back – but unfortunately, it lost its cute appeal.

The lawn statues garden is located on 1981 Landings Drive; the Google merchandise store used to be steps away. Google decided to close down the store and now only has an online version. 

Hope is on the horizon

Hope is on the horizon
Google's Charleston East building is still under construction.

Google’s Charleston East (Google’s futuristic new campus) is almost here and they promised to open the first floor to the public. Watch this video by Tech Insider (​​ The circus-like canopy shape introduces another interesting office building to Silicon Valley, joining Apple’s spaceship and Nvidia’s triangular headquarter. Or like the Bjarke Ingles Group architects call it: “smile-shaped clerestories”. In a report from the Mountain View Voice in February of last year, Charleston East’s public access could be revised to just allowing non-Googlers to enter on the west side of the building. Amid security concerns the tech giant might also put a, none the less pretty, wall around its campus.

Funny also, that the Android Lawn Statues have a neglected Facebook page, with a link to an Android fan site, but no official Google page.

I understand that these are office buildings and there is no responsibility to share anything with the public. Nevertheless, visitors to Silicon Valley long to see evidence of the high tech giving back to the community – even if it’s only in the form of some large foam statues. 

Have you been to Mountain View? Here is my list of 50 things to do in Mountain View.

The Plaza Green at Mountain View's City Center Plaza.

Chill Out in Downtown Mountain View’s Plaza Green

Colorful Adirondack chairs at Mountain View's Plaza Green.
Yellow Adirondack chairs, and in the background holiday decorations.

I’ve been driving by the Civic Center Plaza and admired the bright Adirondack chairs for a while now. The other day I made a point to chill out on the Plaza Green. After my visit to the farmers market I stopped and lounged in the chairs. There is some turf to tie this idea together, and some tables to put down your drink. Perfect to meet some friends and get some Bean Scene treats. If you prefer a regular table and chairs, they are closer to City Hall. Ideal for your outside lunch. Right now there are still Holiday decorations out. I people-watched two women having a photo session, but otherwise this was a highly social distancing experience.

I am not sure where the pieces for the giant chess game are, but on the city’s website it looks like they used to have Bean Bags and Connect Fours, in addition to Jumbo Chess. Maybe while they have the concerts on the plaza in the summer?

City Hall, Mountain View and a Jumbo Chess mat.

Mountain View is making a huge effort to block off parts of Castro and have outside tables for the restaurants there. I hope they’ll stay with the european-style concept.

Mountain View’s Plaza Green is located on 500 Castro street.

By the way, Los Altos has had a pop-up park, the Third Street Green, since 2016.

A man walking

Hide inside a Giant Redwood, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Welcome sign to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Start of the New Year with a hiking challenge at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. First Day Hikes is a nationwide program to promote a healthy lifestyle. To start off easy I recommend the 40-acres Redwood grove at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The loop trail is a 0.8 miles flat hike. The loop starts at the visitor center, which is only open Friday – Sundays from 10am to 3pm. During the rain it gets muddy, so it isn’t wheelchair accessible, at least in the wet months. If you’d like to learn about the park while on the trail I recommend downloading the audio tour and then start on the right hand side of the loop. This way the audio clues are counting up. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle.

The beginning of the loop trail.

We did enjoy the rain and were somewhat covered by these 1,500 year old trees. There are a few possibilities to ‘hide’ inside one of the giants. The largest is the Fremont tree, it was the campside of the Fremont exhibition which surveyed the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. A whole family can fit inside the Fremont tree. You should bring a flashlight to look around while inside. The other options are more covers than hiding spots. But nevertheless they give you a close encounter with these majestic trees. 

In addition to the 0.8 loop there are a few other trails with different difficulty levels and terrains.

I'm in a tree

In January, each Saturday at noon, there will be an Old-Growth Redwood Tour. Check out their event page for even more educational fun.    

Have you ever hid inside a Redwood tree?

The Sonic Runway and San Jose City Hall.

Dance through the tunnel, Sonic Runway, San Jose

The Sonic Runway with City Hall, San Jose.

A few years ago, in 2017, I wrote about the light installations in downtown San Jose: See the light throughout the tunnel. The Sonic Runway had just been installed as a temporary installation as part of the Playa to Paseo partnership to bring Burning Man art to San Jose. Now it is back! By popular demand this light show can be enjoyed for at least six more years and will revitalize San Jose’s City Hall Plaza.

Sonic Runway in pink and purple, San Jose.

The artists team responsible includes lead artist Rob Jensen and co-lead Warren Trezevant. They first presented the Sonic Runway at Burning Man Festival in 2016. This reactive light installation “converts audio signals into patterns of lights that shoot down a corridor of arches at the speed of sound”, according to the Sonic Runway website. With 554 LED, the archways light up with electronic music traveling down the 25 arches with the speed of light (about 343 m/sec). The archways can also be activated by live music. San Jose plans events starting in March 2022.

I recommend going down starting from both sides. At one end you travel with the speed of light, starting at the other end, the lights come at you. Of course, if you ever wanted to run at sonic speed, just imagine, as one kid I watched there did, you are Sonic, the blue hedgehog, and run! 

The Sonic Runway lights up at 5 pm until midnight, every day.

Located at San Jose City Hall Plaza, 200 E Santa Clara St, San Jose

Have you experienced the Sonic Runway?

More information

I made a short video of the Sonic Runway Check it out on my YouTube channel and give me some love and subscribe 😉

There is also a Sonic Runway in Chengdu, China. Read this article by one of the creators, Rob Jensen: The Sonic Runway: From Playa to China in the Burning Man Journal

Entrance to Christmas in the Park.

Have a Jolly Time at Christmas in the Park, San Jose

Some of the many Christmas trees at Christmas in the Park, San Jose.

Around this time of the year I miss the German Weihnachtsmärkte. A festive way of celebrating the season. There you can meet some friends, warm up with some Glühwein (mulled wine), or punch, have some candied almonds, and shop for some artisan gifts. Yes, this is an idealization, my mind ignoring the crowds, but these fairs definitely are part of the Holidays. If you are ever in Berlin for December make sure to visit many of these markets because they all feel different. 

Saucer carnival ride at Christmas in the Park.

Christmas in the Park in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park compares to a Christmas market in Spandau. Here are a lot of carnival rides for little kids. I was greeted by the smell of kettle corn. There are also candy shops, Belgium waffles, and churros to munch on. You can’t buy Glühwein, but there is a hot chocolate booth. The crowds were not bad and the line for food was reasonable. 

Five girls dancing on the Community Stage of Christmas in the Park, San Jose.

Most people enjoyed the community stage, where local groups performed Christmas acts. But the special attraction of this fair is the hundreds of Christmas trees that are decorated by local businesses, high schoolers, and families, and the animated Christmas themed figures that move about. These figures include the stable of Santa’s reindeers, a train with trolls working, and a band of a fox, a skunk and a raccoon.

Sign for the Kristi Yamaguchi ice rink.

There is also a photoshoot opportunity with Santa on an outside stage and some Lego landscapes with a Holiday theme.

At one end, next to the San Jose Museum of Art, is the Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice skating rink. 

A San Jose tradition

Christmas in the Park is a San Jose tradition for over 40 years now. For people preferring a more socially distant experience, they have continued the drive-thru light experience Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday near Raging Waters that was established last year (tickets are required) or you can sign up for a zoom meeting with Santa.

Christmas in the Park is located at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. Admission is free. The experience is open every day till January 2nd, from noon to midnight.

Is Christmas in the Park part of your Holiday tradition?
This is a nice place to come at night and see the lights on the many Christmas trees. The last time I was here, in 2017, I stopped by during the day, and seeing these many trees is still special.

Skate in Central Park, San Mateo on Ice

Skate in Central Park, San Mateo on Ice

San Mateo on Ice is a holiday tradition. It is located in the Central Park of San Mateo. With 11,000 square feet of real ice any ice skating lover will have a great time. Real ice means that it can be a bumpy experience, so keep this in mind. Plus popular holiday songs will get you in the seasonal spirit.

San Mateo on Ice admissions booth with the ice rink in the background.

For opening hours it’s best to check their calendar. Tickets can be purchased onsite and are divided into standard ($17) or premium ($20). What rate applies depends on the day and includes skate rentals. They tender a $2 discount for people working in the military, police, and fire fighters. It’s not a frugal adventure, but they do offer free skate days that are sponsored by local companies. The next free skate day is December 15th.

People ice skating around a Christmas tree.

All skaters and spectators must sign a waiver. San Mateo on Ice does recommend that people wear helmets, but when we checked it out there was no one with protective gear on ice. Also, notice that it is the rainy season (yay!) and the rink is open rain or shine. When it has to close due to weather there is no refund.  

San Mateo on Ice

Located on 50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA

Check their website for opening hours and prices.

Nutcracker and a sign to welcome skaters.

Open everyday including holiday, until January 9th, 2022.

Disclaimer: I did not get any compensation for this post. In fact I only photographed and did not skate. 

While you are in Central Park you should check out the Japanese Garden

Dave's Christmas Lights in San Jose

Make-A-Wish and See Dave’s Christmas Lights, San Jose

Christmas lights on 1851 Cherry Ave, San Jose

It is again the season that lights will cheer us up when it gets dark early. For 17 years now Dave’s Christmas Lights on 1851 Cherry Ave in San Jose not only put up over 60.000 lights on display they also have donation bins for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Giving holiday cheers and raising money for a great cause, what stops you? You can drop money in the red donation bins or give online

Sign in front of Christmas Lights: Please Help!! This display is our gift for friends & children to enjoy.

The lights are on every night from 6 pm to 9 pm. On weekends Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there. Meet them from 6:30 to 9 pm. Due to COVID-19 they started last year to have this as a drive-by event. This year, as we all know, COVID is still around, so are the drive-by requirements. 

Light display with one of the red donation boxes on 1851 Cherry Ave, San Jose.

Stay safe and give joy!

Dave’s Christmas Lights are on until December 27th, 2021.

Drive by 1851 Cherry Ave, San Jose.

Other lights displays are:

Eucalyptus Street in San Carlos and Robertsville in San Jose

A few sculptures from the Sam Richardson exhibit at the Anderson Collection

See Social Issues Highlighted at the Anderson Collection, Stanford

Stanford is once again open to the public. Last Friday they prepared for the big game against Cal, student bikers zipped around campus, and the art museums are open. We took advantage of the fact that we are able to enjoy the art again, and visited the Anderson Collection.

First, you have to register online to be admitted to the museums. Each museum, the Anderson Collection and the Cantor, have their own registration. We were able to register in front of the museum and walked right in. 

Sam Richardson's sculpture: Most of that Iceberg is Below the Water. In the background a quote from him: I am most satisfied with my work when the tension between simple reductive form and multifaceted content is balanced.

There are currently three new exhibits. First, on the ground floor Sam Richardson’s Islands, Ice, and Sand. Eerily fitting was the subject of climate change in his resin molded landscapes. The piece ​​Most of that Iceberg is Below the Water (1969) for example draws the viewer in with the facets and effect of the light reflecting the pattern above. In fact, Richardson’s art is about 50 years old and has regained meaning in recent years.

A close-up of some of the 3000 toe tags from Hostile Terrain 94.

The wall installation, Hostile Terrain 94, shows more than 3000 handwritten toe tags, each representing a person that died crossing the US/Mexican border at the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019. This participatory art project by the Undocumented Migration Project is hosted simultaneously in over 130 locations on 6 continents and started in the fall of 2020.

One of Eamon Ore-Giron's artworks in the Non Plus Ultra series at the Anderson Collection, Stanford.

On the second floor is Eamon Ore-Giron’s Non Plus Ultra. Ore-Giron’s large linen canvases with the gold applications and geometric shapes invoke a history of transnational gold exchange. He moves this subject further by exchanging black with the gold in the later series “as a rejection of colonial legacies and the value system that supports it.” 

The Anderson Collection

is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11 am – 5 pm.

Sam Richardson: Islands, Ice, and Sand, until March 13, 2022

Undocumented Migrant Project: Hostile Terrain 94, until January 30, 2022

Eamon Ore-Giron: Non Plus Ultra, until February 20, 2022

Visitor parking is right in front of the Museums, but requires downloading an app in order to pay for it.

Have you visited the Anderson Art Collection lately?

Now that the Stanford campus is open again you might want to explore it. To get ideas check out my list of 50 things to do in Stanford.

Large petroglyph at the Chitactac Adams Heritage Park.

Spot some Petroglyphs at Chitactac Adams Heritage Park

Next week is Thanksgiving, a tradition widely believed to have started in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, when colonists and peoples from the Wampanoag tribe shared a week of harvest celebration. 

Exhibit shelter in the Chitactac Adams Heritage Park.

Tommy Orange, in his book There There, depicts the origin of Thanksgiving being a celebration of a ‘successful massacre’; this is rebutted by Snopes. Not the fact that there was a massacre in 1637 killing 500 people, but that this was the origin of the Thanksgiving tradition. Snopes argues that Sarah Josepha Buell Hale petitioned for this holiday and in 1863 it was written into law by President Lincoln. Hale used the narrative of a meal being shared by Natives and Pilgrims to promote the united vision of the state.

This is about as much as I will participate in a history lesson. Fact is November is National Native American Heritage Month. A good reason to search out sacred sites and learn about Indigenous Peoples in the Bay Area.

Large petroglyph with a circular pattern.

The Chitactac Adams Heritage Park in Gilroy offers information on the life and culture of the Ohlone. In an exhibit shelter there are multiple boards teaching us about the diversity of the Native Peoples in the Bay Area, language examples of the Mutsun and Rumsien, and their use of herbs as medicine. 

Bedrock mortars, round holes in the rock.

The real attraction, however, are the petroglyphs, or rock art. In the middle of the shelter a large rock shows circles ground into the rock. Due to many instances of vandalism it was moved multiple times. There are two more rocks as examples at the shelter, but you are encouraged to spot them outside on the boulders. Please don’t climb on the boulders, the petroglyphs are thousands of years old. 

The 0.2 mile hike of the park has interpretative signs about the lives of the native peoples in this area. The rock art on this hike was hard to see, but the holes in the boulders used for grinding up foods, so called bedrock mortars, are impressive.

Sign of Ranchos and Growth, in the background kids playing and vandalism.

Another striking feature of different rock art was vandalism. The disrespectful disfigurement was near a boulder formation with information about Ranchos and Growth.  

The Chitactac Adams Heritage Park is open year round from 8 am to sunset. 

Note the hike is only partial wheelchair and stroller accessible. 

Another sacred site I wrote about is Mount Umunhum

Other Resources: