The way round San Jose
San Jose is famous for the song, but apparently the people asking if you knew the way to San Jose should have been using it as a great little jumping off point for San Francisco and Monterey. Or so says local girl turned avid traveller, Kristina Wegscheider.
Kristina has been to 50 countries on all seven continents, and if that's not enough of a credential for us wanting her to contribute to WR, then how 'bout the fact that she's also the co-founder of Do It While You're Young, an inspirational travel site for young women? So she's another excellent candidate to have her local knowledge tapped in a Questionnaire for Experts, Bloggers and other Travel Knowledgables.
Take it away Kristina...
Where's your home town, and what's the main reason people visit?
My hometown is San Jose, California and most visitors are usually coming here for business. But, when I do have guests in town, I take them to nearby places like San Francisco and Monterey, which are each about an hour away.
What's the main reason you think people SHOULD be visiting?
If you ask most residents, they’ll say San Jose is boring but I disagree! We actually have a lot to do and many activities allow you to be outside enjoying the beautiful weather we have here most of the time. I love to hike in the Almaden Quicksilver County Park which has a lot of history considering it was a major mining hub in the late 19th century. It’s fun to pack a picnic lunch, explore the trails and find a picturesque look-out point for lunch.
I also like to encourage people to channel their inner geek and visit the headquarters of the companies that make Silicon Valley famous. While you probably can’t get inside, it’s kind of cool to get a photo by the Apple or Google signs. We also have the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
If you had to recommend to the friend of a friend one unmissable thing to do in your home town what would it be?
I would recommend that they attend a San Jose Sharks game. Despite the warm weather, people really get into hockey here. The downtown fire engine even has a large shark fin on it! To get the full experience, grab a pre-game meal in downtown San Jose and then head over to the “Shark Tank” for the game. Be sure to track down the team’s mascot, SJ Sharkie, for a photo op.
If they had a whole day in town what would you recommend they do?
I would recommend getting up early and going for a morning jog on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. After you have burned some calories, head down to Purple Onion Café in downtown Los Gatos for a light breakfast. After browsing the boutique-lined streets, swing by Icing on the Cake for a scrumptious treat.
On a hot afternoon, my favorite thing to do is grab a snack and head to the Guadalupe Gardens at the Guadalupe River Park. The planes landing at nearby Mineta San Jose International Airport fly right over and it makes for an interesting perspective.
As evening sets, head over to Santana Row, an upscale shopping, dining and living complex. Whether you are window shopping at high-end stores like Gucci or Burberry or grabbing a bite to eat, you will have a wonderful time. Santana Row also has various nightlife venues, from upscale chic to casual Irish pub.
What if they had three days?
With more time, I recommend that visitors venture out to neighboring cities to experience all that California has to offer. Some suggestions:
San Francisco – a plethora of things to do from biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to visiting the charming neighborhoods. If you want a unique perspective of SF, check out this iPhone app which gives you a walking tour that visits several interesting staircases in the city. Just bring your walking shoes and be sure to layer.
Gilroy – You have probably never heard of Gilroy but it is an important part of California as it is the infamous “Garlic Capital of the World.” Travel here in late July and you can experience the Gilroy Garlic Festival featuring a laundry list of food items infused with garlic (even ice cream!). Gilroy is also home to an outlet mall with great deals on name brand clothing and products.
Wine Country – If you like wine and spa treatments, Wine Country will be heaven. While Napa Valley is better known by most, don’t miss its charming neighbor, Sonoma. They both offer a variety of vineyards with open tasting rooms and decadent skin and body treatments. My favorite restaurant in this area is called Farm featuring organic and sustainable dining options paired with local wines.
Santa Cruz – A laid back beach town where it’s not uncommon to have a school surfing team. One of the main attractions here, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, is a great outing for adults and kids alike but also venture to the nearby Santa Cruz Wharf and rent a kayak to explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Monterey – Home of former sardine canning factories, Monterey is another gem about an hour away from San Jose. Explore Cannery Row, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and be sure to visit nearby Pebble Beach for a glimpse at the world-famous golf course. If you don’t golf or want to avoid some hefty green fees, try dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Peppoli, inside The Inn at Spanish Bay.
What will you never catch a local doing?
There is definitely some terminology that a locals use or don’t use. When it comes to our highways, there is a clear way to determine if someone is from Northern California or Southern California: someone from NorCal will say “I’m taking 101 to get there” whereas someone from SoCal will say “I’m taking the 101 to get there.” It is very silly and something I only noticed when I went to college. Another big no-no is calling San Francisco “Frisco”. Only tourists do that.
What WILL you catch a local doing?
Being green and healthy! Generally speaking, California is a very progressive state and our environmental regulations tend to be much stricter than the rest of the United States. Additionally, part of the lifestyle here is being active and healthy. You can totally get away with running errands in your gym clothes (brands like lululemon are very popular here) – instead of being seen as sloppy, it shows other that you lead a healthy life. Organic and vegetarian options are plentiful and you are bound to see an abundance of electric and hybrid vehicles.
And what local delicacies would visitors be fools not to try while they're there?
While the area is known for good seafood, sourdough bread and fresh produce, I believe the true appeal of the area is the melting pot of cultures and the influx of ethnic restaurants available to residents and visitors.California has a great variety of Mexican food – both authentic and modern options. A recent find of mine is Green Chile Kitchen, delicious New Mexican cuisine. Save room for dessert as they have everything from green chile apple pie to a snickerdoodle sundae! Back in my neck of the woods, I like to fill my plate with Greek food. In the San Jose area, I recommend Thea (Santana Row) and Opa! (Willow Glen and Los Gatos).
In 140 characters, how would you sum up your home town as a great destination?
San Jose: active, community, cuisine, culture, education, future, genuine, healthy, hockey, outdoors, prosperity, sunshine, technology.
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