Once a somewhat sleepy farming town, San Jose has grown from a post-WWII bedroom community to become the third-largest city in the state of California. Drawing high-tech businesses in the 1970s and 1980s, the city literally boomed in population and technology-industry in the 1990s. However this former capital of the Golden State isn’t all business and offers much to city explorers.
Residents enjoy a moderate climate for much of the year, with a bit of wet weather from December through February. Summer temps are often in the 80s and 90s, but with a bit of offshore flow, the temperature can easily climb into triple digits. If the city gets too warm, it’s just a two hour drive north or south, and one can cool off in San Francisco or Santa Cruz, respectively.
The history of the area included a lot of fruit orchards. One local favorite site is Casa de Fruta (“House of Fruit”). What started as a humble family farm that expanded to a fruit stand and store is now a full-scale amusement unto itself. There is a carousel, a narrow gauge railroad, a inn and an RV park. They host many annual events such as the Spring festival (April), a Civil War Reenactment (June), the renowned Gilroy Garlic Festival (July) and the Northern California Renaissance Faire (October).
Located on Mount Hamilton is the Lick Observatory. Although primarily a research institution, the Observatory offers a range of educational programs and exhibits. Visitors in the summer months can try to visit on one of the limited evenings when public viewings through the thirty-six and forty-inch telescopes are made possible. Also in the summer is the unique Music of the Spheres Concert Series which combine music with astronomical lectures and viewing.
A complete San Jose original is the Winchester Mystery House. Starting in 1884, a woman named Sarah L. Winchester began construction on this house. The eccentric and rich widow had the latest modern conveniences added to this sprawling 160-room mansion. She herself directed much of the design and the house has such details as staircases that go to the ceiling, gilt detailing, forty-seven fireplaces and four stories (down from seven following the 1906 Earthquake).
San Jose is a long day’s drive from Los Angeles, but broken into two days on the Pacific Coast Highway and it can be a luxurious trip. Travel between San Jose and San Francisco can be easily done by car or train. By air, it’s an easy few hours from either Los Angeles or Seattle.