Large chess pieces

Play Chess in the Park, Santana Row

Large chess figures at Santana RowHave you all watched the Queen’s Gambit yet and were you obsessed with chess for a while? If you are looking for a public place to play chess or watch others scheming their next move, head out to Santana Row in San Jose. There is a large chess game set up on Santana Row’s Chess Plaza across from the Vintage Wine Bar. The chess pieces can be moved easily with two hands, even by tiny ones. The size of the pieces were knee-high for me. And while the board is a bit weathered I’m glad they made a comeback after being stored in quarantine because of COVID. Wooden table with a chess board.

If you prefer a smaller scale set you can bring your own pieces and play on the tables lining their larger cousin; of chess sets that is. This way you’ll be able to order a drink while lounging in the wooden chairs pondering your next move.

Fountain across from the large chess set at Santana Row, San Jose.By the way, Santana Row is an experience in itself. An outdoor shopping mall with some high-end stores, copious dining options, and outdoor experiences, like the upcoming Makers Market on October 8th, 2022. An inviting place to stroll and people watch.

Have you ever played chess at Santana Row?

If you like outdoor board games you can also play Senet at the Rosicrucian Museum; or get a group together and play the Guiness Record setting Monopoly.

Chalk art in Japantown, San Jose.

See Chalk Art

A monkey drawn in chalk, its body already fading.To create art is joyful, therapeutic, and a gift for the viewers if it speaks to them. To create chalk art adds a temporary component that I admire and despise at the same time. Hours spent by the artist are washed away within days. I captured the remains of Palo Alto’s Festival of the Arts that happened August 27 & 28, 2022 a few days later. To my surprise Tasso St where a couple of days ago the street artist put down masterpieces was only a faint memory as if the event never happened.

There are of course pictures online. But to see these street artists at work is a real treat. Coming September 17th to San Jose, the Luna Park’s Chalk Art Festival will be back after a hiatus due to COVID. The organizers expect over 3,000 artists, students, vendors, and community members in San José’s Backesto Park. You can see the Madonnari, the Italian word for street painter, at work. Luna Park also encourages you to learn how to draw with chalk. In fact they are a foundation that  provides funds for art school programs and local artists. The festival is free. A chalk art painting from a previous Palo Alto Arts Festival.

Another chalk art event right around the corner is happening in Niles on September 24th, 2022. The Chalk Art in the Park raises money for the Ohlone Humane Society. With a suggested donation you’ll receive a goodie bag with chalks and a square concrete to work on. 

Luna Park’s Chalk Art Festival in Backesto Park, San Jose September 17th, 2022. Admission is free.

Chalk Art in the Park in Niles Town Plaza, Niles September 24th, 2022, from 10am to 3pm.

Have you ever painted in chalk?

 

A kiln with a globe of fire.

Be Blown Away by BAGI, San Jose

A sign pointing to the public entrance for BAGIBAGI stands for Bay Area Glass Institute, a non-profit partially funded by the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs. On my recent visit to the History Park in San Jose I came across a sign inviting me to check out BAGI. Right next to the bee garden not far from the electrical tower there is an entrance to the History Park from the BAGI parking lot.

Glass hearts are for sale at BAGIWhen I stepped in I noticed the cubbies with things ready to be picked up. At a counter I was greeted by a young woman explaining what BAGI is. They give classes and you can sell your glass creations; it is also popular for team-events. She invited me to sit down on the bleachers in the next room where three artists were working. She mentioned that they are used to onlookers. They acknowledged me but fired away. I enjoyed watching the calm art of working with red-glowing glass. Fires burning in the ovens, hot rods being fired up, constant turning of the rods. Back at the counter you’ll be inspired by what people have created. Part of these creations are for show, part are for sale. You’ll see bowls and vases, glass beads, and whole jewelry creations. 

If you don’t feel comfortable just strolling by you can also book a demonstration. For a 1 hour demo, it is $10 per person with a minimum of 25 people or $250 for smaller groups.Kiln for melting glass

To deepen your relationship with melted glass the Bay Area Glass Institute offers classes for beginners thru advanced skill levels.

You can visit the BAGI at 635 Phelan Ave. San Jose, CA

Have you ever blown glass or watched someone doing it?

 

Front of Diridon station, San Jose

Find the Way to San Jose

Display from the Way to San Jose exhibit with a sign reading cinnabarIf you are like me, anytime you see a sign to San Jose you know what to sing. One of the ways to arrive at or leave San Jose is via Amtrak at the Diridon station. If you happen to be in the waiting room and need to pass time you should check out the displays around. ‘The way to San Jose’ is an exhibit that showcases the different transportation options in the Santa Clara Valley.

From early tule boats, a canoe used by the Oholone, to the BART extension program, the exhibit highlights different ways to travel. Mineta airport and the former port of Alviso are also stations to learn about. There is quite a history in this area about transportation! Mural of a oxen carrying passengers and horse riders

If you enjoy architecture, the Italian Renaissance Revival style of the Diridon station might intrigue you as well.

I hope your summer travel is going well and you’ll find your way back to San Jose.

Resources:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2010/10/14/the-way-to-san-jose-themes-transportation-history-exhibit-at-diridon-station/

 

People standing under the electric tower in History Park

Admire a Former Landmark of San Jose

The electric tower at the History of San Jose parkHistory Park in San Jose preserved a lot of buildings by moving them from their original location to Kelly Park. Some of the buildings are replications of former glory, like the Bank of Italy and the candy shop next door. 

An old photograph of the original electric tower taken from the information signage at History ParkNevertheless, the most recognized structure is the electric tower framing the intersection next to the Bank of Italy building. It is a half-scale replica of the original 237-foot tower that was built at the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Street in San Jose in 1881. The tower collapsed in a storm in 1915. As a monument to progress it was hoped to illuminate the downtown area by imitating moon light. J.J. Owens, editor of the San Jose Mercury, is credited with the idea. In an editorial piece, he proclaimed that by “providing a high and immense source of arc light, the night would become as day for the downtown area.” (Information signage at History Park)

Side view of the electric towerHailed as the world’s tallest free-standing iron structure of its time, some said the design influenced the 1889 Eiffel Tower. After a mock trial at Santa Clara State University, it was decided that two minds had independently come up with similar ideas. 

Ironically this concept of lighting up the downtown didn’t prove to be successful. The tower did not light the immediate area, and farmers nearby complained that the moon-imitating structure confused their chickens. 

But this was the beginning of available electricity in in cities, and gas lamps were slowly replaced with electric lights. 

Lit up replica of the electric tower during Christmas in the ParkA much smaller reproduction of this landmark can be seen lit up at Christmas in the Park sponsored by the Rotary Club.

Did you know about the electric light tower?

History in San Jose is located at 635 Phelan Avenue. Admission is free, except during special events, but parking is $6 for an all-day pass. The park is open Mondays thru Sundays, 9 am to 4 pm.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose_electric_light_tower

https://historysanjose.org/plan-your-visit/history-park/electric-light-tower/

https://www.sjpl.org/blog/looking-back-san-joses-electric-light-tower

 

Have a swimmingly good time at the Rotary PlayGarden, San Jose

Have a swimmingly good time at the Rotary PlayGarden, San Jose

A climbing structure at the Rotary PlayGarden.As I said before, when my child was younger we searched out interesting playgrounds. I am a big fan of the all-inclusive playgrounds here in the Bay Area. There is usually a lot of thought that goes into the design of these playing areas. One of these all-ability playgrounds is the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose. A fun place to climb, swing, ride, and run around. Swings at the PlayGarden

When you enter the PlayGarden the theme is clear, you are ‘swimming’ in an imagined river with fishes. The beige and blue foam ground reflects the beach and water features remarkably well. Fishes are objects to touch everywhere. 

The Rotary PlayGarden is part of the Guadalupe Gardens, a collection of ‘gardens’ that also include the Heritage Rose Garden, the historic orchard, and the community gardens.  Adjacent to the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy Visitor & Education Center, it has ample parking in front. 

As the playground is gated you have to adhere to the opening hours, which are Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm. Metal structure at the PlayGarden

 

Where do you go and play?

 

Other all-ability playgrounds are the Magical Bridge playgrounds and Walnut Creek near Heather’s Farm.

Search out a Little Free Art Gallery, San Jose

Search out a Little Free Art Gallery, San Jose

Little free libraries are present in a lot of neighborhoods and worth seeking out. Not only do they offer free reading materials, but some extended their selection during the pandemic with canned foods or seeds. I also admire the creativity people invest in making these small cabinets.

Hart Little Free GalleryThe little free art galleries are an extension of this genre. The principle is the same as the little free libraries, come to see some art, grab something that catches your eye, or contribute to the fun. As far as I know San Jose now has two of these neighborhood gems. One of the galleries is stocked by Jennifer Hart, a local artist, who enjoyed the challenge of creating small art. The gallery is located on Booksin Avenue in Willow Glen. You can also see the current inventory at her Instagram account “Hart Little Free Gallery”.  Drawings of a woman. One is titled: you are perfect

SJFLAG little free art galleryThe second gallery is nearby, in the Reed Elementary School area. SJFLAG is also on Instagram, but it asks that if you want to know the exact address you should PM them. I did not realize this on my quest, so it took me a little while to find the SFMOMA inspired box. 

 

Smooth Ray of Trumansburg, NY created a directory for free little art galleries. A snail at SJFALG

Have you been to a little free art gallery?

 

Resources:

https://sjctoday.6amcity.com/free-little-galleries-san-jose-ca/

Seed Share at Martial Cottle Park, San Jose

Exchange Seeds at a Seed Library

Seed packages and instructions from the Mountain View Library seed exchange.

Libraries are a great resource, not only for books. For example our library, in Mountain View, offers language lessons, movies, events, and my favorite program, Discover & Go. They also have a seed library. You can donate seeds or check out their inventory. Currently they have leeks, peas, basils, and ornamental flowers. Like Mountain View, a lot of local libraries offer a seed exchange program.

Shelves with seeds and growing instructions at the Mountain View library

These programs prevent the loss of seed integrity, and preserve genetic diversity. In addition they promote self sustainability. You can become a gardener with little to no start-up cost.

To participate you don’t have to exchange seeds, but you are encouraged to collect seeds from the ones you acquired and share again. 

The basic rules for seed sharing are:

Take what you need

Plant what you take

Learn to save seeds

Share what you save

Seeds and information materials from the seed share at the Martial Cottle Park in San Jose

The last Saturday in January is National Seed Swap Day. This day celebrates the beginning of the new gardening season. Unfortunately the UC Master Gardeners canceled their event at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose for this day. But you can always stop by their seed library in front of the park’s demonstration garden. 

Does your library offer a seed library?

If you would rather buy seedlings, please support Valley Verde in San Jose.

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.