Beyond San Jose
About 40 minutes southwest of San Jose, Santa Cruz is reputed to be the site of the first surfing in California. According to legend, three Hawaiian princes -- Edward, David and Jonah Kalaniana’ole -- surfed on locally milled redwood boards at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Today Santa Cruz has 11 world-class surf breaks, including the point breaks over rock bottoms near Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, which create some of the best surfing waves in the world and features several surfing contests with international competitors each year. The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is staffed by docents such as Harry Mayo and others from the Santa Cruz Surfing Club who have surfed Santa Cruz waves since the 1930s.
In addition to surfing, this laid-back, old California seaside town is home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California’s oldest amusement park and a designated State Historic Landmark. Home to a National Historic Landmark, a 1911 Charles I. D. Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster, the Boardwalk has been owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company since 1915. The Boardwalk is accessible by car and by the Roaring Camp Railroads, a historic train originating in Felton and chugging through redwood forests to the coast.
The Santa Cruz region is also home to dozens of beautiful wineries, with trails winding through the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the shores of the Pacific. One of the oldest appellations in the state, chardonnay accounts for about a third of the acreage and the area is best known for its pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. The region was touted by Wine Spectator as the “Most Underappreciated Appellation in the World.”
San Jose’s central location makes it the perfect home base for exploring not only the best of San Francisco, but also for Monterey. Just an hour and 15 minutes southwest of downtown, Monterey’s beaches and attractions await, such as the shops and restaurants of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Pebble Beach golf courses. The city is rich with literary history, especially from former resident John Steinbeck. The National Steinbeck Center Museum in Salinas is a tribute to the life and work of this influential American novelist, bringing his stories to life, and giving visitors a full sensory experience as they walk in the author's footsteps. Just south of the city is Carmel-by-the-Sea, a town as well known for its shopping, whimsically romantic homes and art galleries, as well as its world-famous former civil servant, the Honorable Mayor Clint Eastwood, who still makes an appearance from time to time. Drive 25 miles south on Highway One to Big Sur, which curves along dramatic cliffs with sheer drops to the sea, offering eye-popping vistas and some of the most beautiful parks in the state.
We know, we know. You can’t come to the Bay area without seeing San Francisco. It is indeed a fabulous city, and San Jose offers the perfect jumping point, whether by car or train. Whatever you do, don’t be a geek and call it Frisco or the locals will roll their eyes in exasperation. San Francisco is a popular international tourist destination, renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture and its famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Pier 39, cable cars, and Chinatown. The city is also a principal banking and finance center, and the home of over 30 international financial institutions, helping to make San Francisco fifteenth in the world's list of cities by GDP and eighth in the United States. San Jose is technically a bigger city, but who’s counting?
The elephant in the room of this charming college town is Stanford University, about 20 minutes north of San Jose. Named after a tree, this Ivy League city revolves around this famous private research institution, which was founded in 1891 by United States Senator and former California governor Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, as a memorial to their son Leland Stanford Jr., who died of typhoid in Italy a few weeks before his 16th birthday. The university is a major attraction, and is divided into a number of schools such as the Stanford Business School, Stanford Law School, Stanford School of Medicine, and Stanford School of Engineering. The university has served as an incubator for the most brilliant high teach minds in Silicon Valley, its alumni have founded companies including Nike, Hewlett-Packard, Electronic Arts, Sun Microsystems, Nvidia, Yahoo!, Cisco Systems, Silicon Graphics and Google. Today Palo Alto is headquarters to a number of Silicon Valley high-technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, VMware and Facebook. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a geek or relative of a student to enjoy Palo Alto. Downtown is adorable, its pedestrian friendly streets attractive for shopping, dining, nightlife and people watching.
Besides having over 30 of the most popular and influential technology businesses with headquarters here, including Google, LinkedIn and Symantec, many additional big names, such as Microsoft, AOL and Nokia have a prominent presence here. But it’s not all work and no play, which is why Mountain View is regarded as one of the many cities in the South Bay that offers a rich diversity of fun adventures within its downtown business community.
Its main downtown strip, Castro Street, features pub life from the Irish St. Stephen’s Greens, a Latin nightclub the Monte Carlo, and Asian inspired venues such as the Zen Lounge, among other diverse hot spots like the Indian-Chinese fusion cuisine of Temptations. And if you feel the need to go online immediately with your rants and raves, have no fear, all of downtown Mountain View offers wireless connectivity. From specialty shops, sidewalk cafes, coffeehouses and restaurants, to its festivals, galleries and year-round farmer's market - downtown Mountain View is truly a place of excitement, culture and charm.
Click below to see why San Jose was named Happiest, Smartest and Healthiest city!
Get an Official San Jose Visitor's Map & Guide HERE