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.

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

Touch station. The sign reads: Reach your hands inside these boxes and touch the secret item. Use what you feel and the photos as clues to figure out what's inside!

Smell, Touch, and See

The Guadalupe Park & Gardens Visitor Center, San Jose

Turtle sunbathing at the Guadalupe Park and Visitor Center, San Jose.

The Visitor and Education Center for the Guadalupe River Park is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. It says on the door to ring the bell when the door is locked, so I did. 

Right now during COVID there are no field trips, but you can imagine little kids will love this place. The room is not expansive, and probably hard to social distance with more than 20 kids.The center hosts a large aquarium and five terrariums. The volunteer asked me to watch my step, but when she looked over her shoulder, she saw that the turtle was still enjoying the sun, only turning slightly to me to get its picture taken. 

Snake skin. The sign says: Feel free to touch on this shelf gently.
Raccoon fur at the Guadalupe Visitor Center, San Jose

I was also surprised to see such a large garter snake in one of the terrariums. The snake just shed its skin and you are allowed to touch the remains. It feels fragile but not brittle. I was informed by the volunteer that this skin was just a few days old.

Speaking of touching, there is a large raccoon fur hanging next to the snake skins to diversify your sensory experience. This is a room for all senses. The far wall has touch, smell, and sight stations. I hope the visitor center will be filled with kids again soon, enjoying it with all senses.

Smell container. Sign reads: Please return the scent containers to this bin once you have finished guessing.

The Guadalupe Park & Gardens Visitor & Education Center is located 

438 Coleman Ave, San Jose

Current open hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.
Mark your calendars. Pumpkins in the Park 2021 is October 9th, 10 am to 4 pm. Experience Guadalupe River Education, free pumpkins (while supplies last), a giant slide and obstacle course, and much more at Guadalupe River Park.

If you want your children to have sensory experiences, try the Sensory Garden of the Gardens of Lake Merritt, Oakland or Charles Street Gardens in Sunnyvale.

The entrance of the children's bookstore Hicklebee's in San Jose.

Excited by children’s books’ artifacts, Hickelbee’s in San Jose

Hicklebee's where books come alive sign.

Exit through the gift shop, is not only an experimental documentary by street artist Bansky but the strategic reality of most museums. At Hicklebee’s, a quaint children’s bookstore in the lovely Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, that idea is turned on its head: a museum in a bookstore. 

The wall with authors and books artifacts at Hicklebee's, San Jose.

Hickelbee’s employee Carol Schweppe and her husband Steve brought their vision of children’s books alive with artifacts sprinkled around the store. Over the cash register a sign with their motto: Hicklebee’s – where books come alive. When I spotted the Nimbus 2000 I knew exactly what they meant. 

Don and Audrey Wood - Smoking Hot Pens - Original art created following a Hicklebee's signing in 1985.

In a display case on the left from the entrance, you can find more examples of literate artifacts. There is Harold’s purple crayon and an oversized acorn from Chicken Little. And, the authors themselves left their marks. Pictures of smoking pens from a signing by Don and Audrey Wood for example. In every nook you can find autographs and caricatures.

A wall of Hicklebee's with signatures and caricatures from authors.

With this much attention to detail it is no surprise that Hickelbee’s is a well stocked independent children’s bookstore. 

Have you spotted interesting artifacts at Hicklebee’s?

Another independent bookstore with a fascinating history, gives space to the counterculture of the 60s. See my blog post on Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

Paintings by Natasha Kramskaya

Celebrate ‘An American Mosaic’ in San Jose

Different salsas at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival.

The gallery exhibit from Works ‘An American Mosaic’ celebrates many firsts, first live gallery exhibit for this year, first collaboration with Mosaic America and School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. For me this was also my first time at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Chili Mole Pozole Festival with live music, artisan vendors, and, of course, the exhibit of ‘An American Mosaic’. 

RGB by Tulio Flores at the 'An American Mosaic'.

The $10 entry fee was for the festival and it came with a bag of tortilla chips and a choice of salsas. My two salsas were both pretty spicy.  

Fourteen San Jose artists express their creativity and love for the Bay Area. As diverse as the artists are their works, with sculptures, painted bottles, and many different painting styles. It felt good to be experiencing art again and I enjoyed the multitudes of ideas and approaches. My favorite was Tulio Flores RGB.

This exhibit will tie in with the upcoming free Mosaic Festival on October 2. Mosaic America celebrates the diversity of America through art, performance, movement, and food. So, maybe this will be your first festival of the year? 

Artisan vendors at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival, School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza.

If you are still a bit hesitant about festivals you can view the exhibit the next two weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 12 – 4: except October 2nd.

The Silicon Valley Mosaic Festival is Saturday, October 2nd, from 12 – 6pm at the School of Arts & Culture Gallery at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave at King Road, San José

Admission is free.

How do you celebrate diversity?

artists:

Fco1980

'An American Mosaic' exhibit view.

Dan Fenstermacher

Tulio Flores

Force129

Richard Hoffman

Natasha Kramskaya

Jennifer Lay

Johanne Marion

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

Betty Proper

Ally Spray

Kenneth Tan, The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration

Roan Victor

Yxaya

If you need more inspiration from San Jose artists try the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) or the galleries at SJSU.

Inside the orchetaria showing 3 electric pianos and some dining tables.

Dine and be Serenaded, Orchestria in San Jose

The Orchestria Palm-Court is a very special restaurant in San Jose. It serves great continental European cuisine, but the attractions are the many electric pianos. 

Electric piano with rolls of music and a poster for Golden Summertime.

You’ll be time traveling in this brick building from 1910. The decor is art nouveau with Tiffany lamps and Thonet’s No. 14 chairs. The music comes from the electric pianos, orchestrions (self-playing orchestras), and jukeboxes, all built around the 1920s. Our server moved around starting up the machines. He played jazz and classical music, and gave us a taste of the huge varieties of their electric pianos.

Popcorn machine at the Orchestria in San Jose

Partly the mechanics of the piano is exposed and you can see the rolls of encoded paper rolling around and pulling levers. The room is filled to the brim with machines and other paraphernalia, like the 1910 popcorn maker that butters every corn individually. We were encouraged to walk around and take a look at the machines. Since we booked an early dinner and, maybe also thanks to the Jazz Festival, the dining room was only occupied by us and one other family. For us, it was entertaining to guess which machine produced the music. 

A Poppy Dew from the vintage soda fountain at Orchestria.

We also enjoyed the food, they take pride in using all organic produce. I have to say, the vintage soda fountain drinks were my personal highlight. I enjoyed a Poppy Dew, fresh lime, orange sorbet and mint. But, let me tell you this was a hard decision. Parking was a challenge, so plan for that. Overall this is a true experience.

The Orchestria Palm-Court is located at 27 E. William St in San Jose, part of the hip SOFA district. They are only open Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. Please make a reservation ahead.

A box of music, Doin' the Raccoon.

Have you been to the Orchestria?

Near the Orchestria is the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Quilt and Textile Museum

I did not receive any form of compensation for writing this post.

Spray painted sign: J-TOWN

Dive into J-town, San Jose

Santo Market mural in J-town, San Jose.

Sunday I convinced my family to come with me on an augmented reality tour of J-town – Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown. J-town, or Japantown, in San Jose is one of three remaining Japanese communities in California, the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Augmented lotus of the hidden histories tour of j-town on a phone

I saw an announcement for the augmented tour and we printed out the map from hiddenhistoryjtown.org and downloaded the AR-vos app on ar-vos.com. Our first stop was Santo Market, a supermarket with a great mural. The app showed us pictures from farmers and when you clicked on a seed it turned into a green vegetable, best guess broccoli. 

Augmented Taiko. It reads: 1973 San Jose Taiko is dedicated to cultural understanding creative expression & rhythmic heart beat.

The intersection of Fifth and Jackson St has floating blue lotuses. If you walk over to the Issei Memorial you see more images and a short Taiko performance with animated characters. This, I think, was my favorite. But overall the experience might be for a younger audience. My teenager wasn’t impressed at all.

Plants and toys at Zonkey's.

While walking around we found a store that sells plants and collectible toys – Zonkey – what a great combination! 

Our last try with the augmented tour was in front of San Jose’s Buddhist Church. You could place Chattra Umbrellas on the sidewalk. I got mine to spin, my husband multiplied his. 

The real treat were the two chalk drawings left over from the Obon Festival. Beautiful. 

Chalk art mural in J-town, San Jose.

In conclusion, I would not recommend the augmented tour, but a real tour of J-town is well worth it. 

A few more tips if you decide on doing the augmented tour. We found that we had to restart the app for every station. Also, the maker of the app, AR-vos, recommend bringing an extra phone charger. And I agree, the app will drain your battery. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk into the streets in order to view the art.

While you are in Japantown, I also highly recommend the Japanese American Museum.

Have you explored J-town before?

A sign at the Lower Guadalpe River Trail about Lupe the Columbian Mammoth

Excavate the Story of Lupe the Mammoth in San Jose

In 2005, Roger Castillo, a citizen scientist, walked his dog along the Guadalupe River in San Jose. He spotted some bones. First he thought they were cow bones, but a closer inspection led him to believe it was a different animal. He called a geologist from San Jose State. The UC Museum of Paleontology excavated part of a skull, a femur, some toe bones and a rip fragment of a young mammoth. 

The Lupe sculpture at the Lower Guadalupe River Trail.

Lupe the Mammoth, named after the Guadalupe River, was a juvenile Columbian Mammoth. It was a big revelation for the scientific community since these are the most intact remains of a mammoth ever found in Santa Clara County. Today the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose has the remains of Lupe on display. The museum also teaches kids about the works of ​​paleontologists, with a hands-on exhibit.

Mamu looking into the Children's Discovery Museums exhibit of Lupe the Mammoth.

There are two sculptures of mammoth in San Jose. Both depict adult size mammoths and are about 11-foot high. One is on the outside of the Children’s Discovery Museum looking into the exhibit made by Blue Rhino Studio. The other is near where Lupe’s remains were found. This statue is an 11-foot bent pipe sculpture by Greenmeme Artists Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe. The juvenile Lupe mammoth was probably 6-feet tall.

Sign for the Lower Guadalupe River Trail with the sculpture of Lupe in the back.

If you want to see the metal sculpture, parking is tight around there. I recommend you bike the Guadalupe River Trail. On your ride you can stop at both sculptures.

In a KQED video UC Berkeley’s Paleontologist Kaitlin Maguire

 explains the history of Lupe and her involvement of the exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum.

What do you know about Columbian Mammoth?

If you decide to bike the Guadalupe River Trail maybe keep on going to the Three Creeks Trail and see the iris garden?

Resources

About Mammoth

https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/mammoth/about_mammoths.html

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

https://www.cdm.org/mammothdiscovery/index.html

A cow is part of the climbing structures at Discovery Farm.

Discover a Farm – Martial Cottle Park in San Jose

Martial Cottle Park celebrates the agricultural history of Santa Clara County. The land was gifted to Santa Clara County by Walter Cottle Lester, who was the last of a 150 year farming legacy.

Trail at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose.

A visitor center presents the heritage; outside, information tables with a timeline put the development in perspective. Trails, picnic areas, and green spaces occupy some of the 287 acres. Jacobs organic Farm and community education programs occupy 180 of these acres. The UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County help with community education about agriculture and the environment. And, the 4-H youth development, and Our City Forest, also found a home at Martial Cottle Park. 

A tunnel for climbing at the Discovery Farm playground.

Appropriately named Discovery Farm is the playground at Martial Cottle Park.  Some challenging climbing structures, farm animals to scale, and a tractor are the attractions. There are a few rules for the 5 – 12 year olds posted at the entrance of the playground such as sufficient strength and coordination, advisable parental supervision, etc. Additional COVID-19 protocols are in place. The water feature is turned off due to drought regulations.

Climbing structure at Discovery Park, San Jose.

Martial Cottle Park 

5283 Snell Ave San Jose, CA 95136

Opening hours are 8 am till sunset. 

Parking fees are $2 per hour or $6 all day.

Have you been to Martial Cottle Park?