Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weekend Escape:San Jose's Santana Row

once upon a time, the best reason to stop in San Jose was to visit the Winchester Mystery House (525 S. Winchester Blvd.; [408] 247-2101, Although that's still a good excuse to get off Interstate 880, San Jose is no longer a one-trick pony for tourists. Silicon Valley and the tech industry have transformed the city into something more than just an inexpensive place to stay on the way to San Francisco. Nothing exemplifies the new San Jose better than Santana Row, a 647,000-square-foot mixed-use development with about 70 retail shops, 20 restaurants, a movie theater, a hotel and, perhaps most important, free parking. The tab: One night at Hotel Valencia is $199 to $700; dinner for two can be found for $40 to $300.
The bed
Hotel Valencia (355 Santana Row; [408] 551-0010, is the only hotel on Santana Row, but you wouldn't want to stay anywhere else even if there were options. The 215-room hostelry includes hand-painted murals of a flamenco dancer on each floor that welcome guests to their abodes. Cielo, a seventh-floor seasonal bar and terrace, provides gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Because business is a major attraction in San Jose, Hotel Valencia offers about 4,000 square feet of meeting space. When guests aren't talking shop, they can relax on 300-thread-count Egyptian linens, enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast at the on-site Citrus Restaurant or have a drink at Vbar.
The meal
With 20 restaurants, Santana Row serves a variety of tastes. Those looking for Italian can enjoy sausage and peppers at Maggiano's Little Italy (3055 Olin Ave.; [408] 423-8973,; no single item more than $45.95); steak lovers can find 24-ounce prime porterhouses and 12-ounce rib-eyes at LB Steak (334 Santana Row, Suite 1000; [408] 244-1180,; steaks from $28). There's even a Veggie Grill (3055 Olin Ave., No. 1030; [408] 296-6473,; no single item more than $10.95) for vegans and vegetarians. Wherever you eat, make sure to save room for the vegetable taco at El Jardín Tequila Bar & Restaurant (368 Santana Row, Suites 1050, 1060 and 1070; [408] 246-1744,; no single item more than $15) because the caper vinaigrette makes it one of the best you'll ever have.
The find
Santana Row features numerous examples of art and architecture that provide a different — and free — experience. Perhaps the most obvious stands in front of Vintage Wine Bar (368 Santana Row, No. 1040; [408] 985-9463,, where a neo-Gothic church façade was shipped from Montpellier, France. "Tabula Selenographica," an art installation that highlights the 28 phases of the moon, isn't as easy to find: Guests need to look up when walking below the overhang on the eastern side of Santana Row Boulevard. Tunisian wrought-iron grillwork hangs on Tatum Lane around the corner from Anthropologie (356 Santana Row; [408] 249-0436), and you'll find an oversize chess board in Santana Row Park.
Lesson learned
There's more to San Jose than a creepy house that might or might not be haunted.