So Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up: Christmas Light Shows in San Jose

Even in the land of exorbitant rent and 24/7 work schedules, people are finding time and resources to spread Christmas joy that Buddy the Elf would be proud of.

If you’re looking for an evening of light gazing, you don’t have to drive far to do it. And in the “good will to men” department, several of these houses also give you the opportunity to donate to organizations like Make-a-Wish or collect food for Second Harvest Food Bank, among other charitable pursuits.

Grab your friends or kids, get out of the FRIGID 52-degree weather, and check out these displays in a neighborhood near you.

Obewan Christmas

Obewan

 

Where:

694 Alamo Drive

San Jose, CA 95123

 

Opportunities to give: Make-a-Wish Foundation

 

The deets:

Shows run 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. nightly in this neighborhood extravaganza with a stunning 32,000 lights synchronized to music. And they’re looking out for your freezing limbs too: songs featured in the show are broadcast on 92.9 FM, so you don’t have to leave the warmth of your car.

Christmas in San Jose!

ChristmasSanJose

 

 

Where:

1473 Glacier Drive

San Jose, CA 95118

 

 

The deets:

This light show operator admits to putting up “more than the average amount of lights” for nearly a decade of Christmas fun, and even goes into a year-by-year breakdown of what’s been added and updated since 2008. This year, he’s updated his “Pixel Megatree”; it now stands 25′ high with 2,160 pixels Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. nightly.

 

Santa’s Carnival

SantaCarnival

 

 

Where:

1408 Kimberly Dr.

San Jose, CA 95118

 

Opportunities to give: Second Harvest Food Bank

 

The deets:

Watch for lights, inflatables, and a white picket fence—as if you could miss them— in this year’s Santa’s Carnival on Kimberly Drive.

 

The MegaTree

MegaTree

 

 

Where:

1683 Catalonia Way

San Jose, CA 95125

 

 

 

The deets:

It’s all about the tannenbaum in this display– a 25 foot tall tree with lights that bounce and dance and spiral to the music on 92.9 FM. The homeowners note, “Keep a close watch and you may even see Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, and other characters.”

 

Matto’s Orchard Lights

MattosLights

 

Where:

1545 Stone Creek Dr

San Jose, CA 95132

 

 

The deets:

This picturesque display spans over 1/3 acre of apricot trees and features over 72,000 LED lights. This one’s a walkthrough display with several “lands” to explore, including a candy shop, snowman land, and nativity scene. Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., and later closer to Christmas.

 

The Penultimate Frontier

DSC_9412    A long time ago, in a neighborhood actually very near, there existed a place where children’s imaginations could run wild like the mustangs and frolic in the memories of bygone eras.  No, I’m not talking about the Children’s Discovery Museum.  That’s still DSC_9472there.  You should maybe take the children in your life there sometime.  I’m also not talking about Happy Hollow.  That’s also still there.  In fact, not too long ago, it got a pretty great face lift.  Might want to put that on the to-do list also.  No, I’m talking about a little land of wonder called “Frontier Village”.  If you haven’t heard of it, and aren’t over the age of 35, don’t fret.  It left this Valley before you arrived.  And yet…something survived.

Frontier Village was first built in 1961, the brain child of Joe Zukin after he visited Disneyland, and decided San Jose also needed such an attraction.  It had gunfights and burro rides, and Congregation at Frontier villageeven a roller coaster.  What it didn’t seem to have, unfortunately, was enough visitors.  In 1980, after 19 years of operation, it sadly closed its gates to the children who had played there.  But as it happens, some of those children didn’t feel going along with that version of the story.  Shaughnessy McGehee was 16 when Frontier Village finally succumbed to the pace of life in the Valley, and missed the magic he felt there.  And so, DSC_9466when the park was parceled out and and sold at auction, he began what was to become a lifelong passion for collecting bits of it.  He managed to get miniature cars and toy horses and signs, and the things he couldn’t get, or couldn’t fit into his sizable backyard, he decided to recreate, on a more manageable scale.  And a very impressive collection it became.

But like the park itself, all good things must come to an end.  McGehee will be moving soon.  His collection may not be.  He can’t take it with him, and those to be the new owners of his house don’t share his love for this particular piece of history.  Thankfully, Great America and New Museum of Los Gatos have both agreed to take some pieces of his DSC_9427collection for their displays.  And Frontier Village will live on, at least a little longer.  Of course, if you would like to see it for yourself, there will also be an opportunity for that.  New Museum will be holding their first showing on Nov 7th 2015.  The exhibits taken by Great America will open some time later.  But the last viewing of these relics in their second home, the Final Frontier, as it were, will be an open house (really an open backyard) being held by the McGehees on DSC_9488Halloween, Oct. 31st 2015.  Come and experience this second-hand piece of San Jose history first-hand!

 

DSC_9462

It’s my birthday, and I’ll have it in San Jose if I want to

TreatbotYou’ve done your birthday in SF, you don’t want to spend the money to do your birthday in Vegas, and in San Jose, well, it seems like your options are pretty dang limited.

Don’t resort to Denny’s! You can actually have a birthday that you WANT to talk about on social media right here in San Jo. Here are some of our picks for what to do:

 

HayesHayes Mansion: History and a Hefeweizen

The second best mansion in San Jose (it’s hard to beat Sarah W’s place), is Hayes Mansion. The former home of Mary Hayes Chynoweth (a spiritualist and close personal pal of–you guessed it–Sarah Winchester), Hayes Mansion is now a gem of a hotel in South San Jose. Built in 1905, this place is loaded with history, including a library full of Mary’s favorite books, framed pictures of turn of the century San Jose, and a secret speakeasy you can access via a secret elevator. (We’ll let you discover that one on your own). Palm Plaza Lounge, the bar on the property, has a gorgeous, large outdoor patio area with heat lamps, sofas, and live entertainment on weekends.

 

4thstreet4th Street Bowl: For something completely different

Do you enjoy bowling? Do you equally enjoy singing? How about dancing to generic ‘90’s beats? Then 4th Street is the place for your annual shindig. A combination bowling alley/karaoke bar/club, it is a truly memorable (and weird) experience that you have to try at least once…and possibly only once.

 

MonopolyMonopoly in the Park: For a record-setting birthday

Joey Chestnut isn’t the only record-setter of note in San Jose. We are also home to the largest Monopoly board in the world, a 930- square foot Guinness World Record holder you can rent out for your birthday. Play the game with larger-than-life dice, giant token hats, black and white stripes for unfortunate “go directly to jail” cards, and more.

 

sanpedrosquaremarketlightingSan Pedro Market: Lots of food, plenty of alcohol, and a really, really old house

With more than 20 unique vendors selling food, beverage, and trinkets in the shadow of the oldest residence in San Jose (the 219-year-old Peralta Adobe), you’ll be able to make everyone on your b-day guest list happy here. Check the calendar of events for live music, and be sure to visit our friends at Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream for a perfect birthday dessert from a San Jose original.

 

campoCampo di Bocce: Bocce ball if you’re feeling old; Fireball if you’re still feeling young

Okay, okay, it’s TECHNICALLY Los Gatos, but we couldn’t leave this place off the list. Just when you thought bocce ball was just for bored people at parks, Campo’s got food, alcohol, and a super competitive environment: all the ingredients for a perfect birthday (assuming you’re on the winning team).

The Holy Trinity of San Jose Attractions

We here at Searchlight SJ focus on all things uniquely unusual and fun about San Jose so that you can stop yourself the next time you start to say to a visitor or friend that there is nothing to do in San Jose except go to Santana Row, the Winchester Mystery House, or a Sharks game.  That’s not to say that we want to stop you from promenading around the Row, touring Sarah’s beautiful but bizarre mansion, or taking in a game from the best hockey team in the world, in fact, we encourage it!  Best of all, these three oft visited San Jose hot spots have some zany attributes that we love and that you’ve probably never known:

Santana Row: San Jose’s answer for Rodeo Drive has quickly become a go to for expensive clothes, fine dining, and exhibiting adoration for all things upper class.  Santana Row doesn’t just attract the rich and famous of the South Bay, it has also hosted its fair share of well known national personalities including Bill Clinton.  The former President stopped by Rosie McCann’s during a 2004 book tour for dinner and, among other things, a mango mojito (because nothing says Irish pub like mango and mojito).  Stop by Rosie’s and check out the photo of Clinton’s visit near the entrance but please, order a Smithwicks instead.

Winchester Mystery House: You’ve undoubtedly visited this California State Landmark on fieldtrips or while entertaining out of town guests and may feel like you could give the admittedly pricey tour.  The next time your uncle is visiting fear not, there’s plenty more to be learned and seen in the mansion.  The key to a good experience at the Mystery House is a quality guide.  To minimize the chance of an overly scripted guide avoid summer months and try for a morning or early afternoon tour.  If you still find yourself growing disinterested and need a way to spook your nephews ask your guide about the Hall of Heads.  For years the Winchester House hosted a wax museum that focused on the history of Winchester and the rifle.  In the 70’s the wax museum was disassembled and replaced by the current rifle museum and its wax figures were dismembered with it.  Various waxy body parts are stored in un-toured rooms of the mansion including one room dedicated to the heads of the historical characters.  If you’re lucky enough to end up on a small tour and with an adventurous guide the room can be seen (if you ask nicely) after touring the Grand Ballroom.

San Jose Sharks: A trip to the Shark Tank remains one of the hottest tickets in town and we can say (with bias) one of the best sporting environments around.  Everyone knows that the Sharks’ winning ways haven’t been able to carry them to the Stanley Cup but since 1991 San Jose has built a respected and already storied franchise with a history that includes the only NHL game ever to be rained out.  In March of 1995 downtown’s mighty Guadalupe River flooded its banks thanks to torrential rain and poorly constructed spillways and covered Highway 87 and nearly every road into the arena with several feet of water.  While the floodwaters did not reach the arena the rain did not cease and the water continued to rise thus forcing the NHL to declare the game with the Detroit Red Wings a rain out, the first and only rain out in the league’s history.  Check out the pictures of a flooded 87 and Guadalupe flood cycles (if you’re into that sort of thing) at the Oakland Museum of California’s website.