A Full Day in San Jose

Every so often, I take the children to downtown San Jose via light rail and we spend the day there. We have memberships to three museums there, and there’s almost often some event going on, whether it’s Christmas in the Park, activities tying in to the national gymnastics championships, or a Vietnamese moon festival. We’d actually planned to do this on Friday, but the wind and rain was just to scary to brave.

Kelly had asked that our first stop be the Children’s Discovery Museum. Ordinarily, I prefer to go there in the afternoon, after half the patrons have gone home for naps, but it made sense on this day, and it is the first downtown stop on the light rail. There was a line to get in, and apparently we’d arrived for a special event: celebrating the Day of the Three Magi. I found it delightful, because I knew the celebration. In Germany, teenage boys dress up as Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar and go door to door, collecting money for charity. In return for the money, they mark the top of your door with C+M+B in chalk. I asked a man at the Mexican radio station booth outside the museum how it was celebrated in Mexico (since this was the form being recognized here.) He told me children get little presents, and people take shares of a circular sweet bread.

The museum itself celebrated it as a mix of ethnic celebration and educational crafts. The three wise men (as in Germany, portrayed by teenage boys) introduced the day on a stage within the museum:


For the rest of the day, bands and dancers performed Mexican folk music on the stage. Kelly checked out several of the special crafts, and made bookmarks and a corn husk doll. Neil, however, was especially delighted that the Lawrence Hall of Science had a special booth at the museum for the day. He ‘d wanted to go there on this vacation, but it just didn’t happen: but here they were with a variety of math games for him to play. In fact, the children’s museum had added a few things that could intrigue him, which is great, because Kelly’s still at the children’s museum age, and I often worry that Neil may have outgrown them.

After all had been had been at least briefly explored, we walked over the Guadalupe River to the San Jose Museum of Art. We hadn’t been there since the museum’s regrettable Camille Rose Garcia show. But now her stuff was long gone, and there was a Joan Miro exhibit I was eager to see. Our local art museum didn’t disappoint us this time. The main gallery had a collection of Richard Diebenkorn paintings from his New Mexico period, although two had had to be removed because of leaking caused by the rainstorm. I just hope they didn’t actually get damaged. By it, and on the top floor, the museum had a variety of good contemporary art selections, both borrowed and from the permanent collection. Neil particularly likes this piece from the permanent collection:


If you look closely, the picture is completely composed of little photographs of toys. The Joan Miro exhibit was a lot of fun, too, and this time, as previously, that particular gallery had an interactive children’s activity that related to the art (and which let me browse at leisure.)

On our way out, we noticed that the San Jose Museum of Art had replaced the stolid audio tour devices with iPods, which struck me as stylish, smart, modern, and very appropriately Silicon Valley



We had lunch at a fancy pastry shop across from the Fairmont. It looked frighteningly posh, but after I ordered our lunch  (a cheese croissant, apple, and cookies for Neil; elegant cake slices for me and Kelly; and a coffee for me), I discovered it was actually less expensive than Starbucks.

After lunch, we crossed the street to go to the Tech, which was insanely crowded. They currently have a Body Worlds exhibit on, which is not to my (or the childrens’ taste) but it draws in a lot of people, many of whom normally wouldn’t go to a science museum. Even though the Body Worlds exhibit is in a different (nearby) building, it seems most take advantage of their ticket to check out the Tech as well, and even now, in late afternoon, many stations were busy. Hordes more were in line to see IMAX movies, for which you also get a substantial discount when combined with museum admission. Neil made a beeline for the IDEA House exhibit, which was one of the more manageable places, and before I knew to stop her, Kelly had soaked her coat in the sink challenge:


The fun of the Tech went away however, when I left Neil to shop for himself in the museum store, and took Kelly upstairs to the busy Digital Playground. Neil discovered he’d rather buy a marble run we saw at the art museum; Kelly was skunked out of the maracas, and we were briefly unable to find each other. In a museum that was as busy as Grand Central Station at rush hour, it was a horrifying moment. We all decided to move on after that.

Our last planned destination of the day was the downtown library, where Kelly’s always itching to go into the kids’ section, a large special room off the main floor. It wasn’t any more entertaining that our local branch, however, and we were pretty tired. I called Peter and asked him to meet us for drinks at our favorite pub, Trials. We normally don’t walk there from the library, so seeing what there was along the way was intriguing as well. On First Street, nearing badly-reputed St. James Park, I saw these particularly interesting murals:


When we got to Trials, I hung Kelly’s coat in front of the fire to dry out. I always love Trials: it attracts a wide range of people, but it somehow also always manages to feel as comfortable as being at home, no matter how often or rarely we stop in. Here Peter’s raising a pint to our adventurous day:


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