Self-guided tour of San Jose, California

When I was a kid growing up in central California, downtown San Jose was a place to avoid. A few years ago, Mayor Tom McHenry launched a downtown revitalization project that gave birth to a wonderfully new or renovated neighborhood. San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, which bears the name of its sometimes rival in northern San Francisco. San Jose has both a larger population and a much larger area than San Francisco.

One of the newest additions to the city center is the new City Hall with a clear dome that conjures up an image of transparency in government like this (smaller scale) of the Reichstag in Berlin.

Many downtown visitors start off as convention attendees at the San Jose Convention Center, named after former Mayor Tom McHenry. This modern facility helps to attract visitors downtown.

The HP Pavilion also gave locals and visitors a reason to return downtown. The HP Pavilion is located just across the highway 87 from the rest of downtown, but is an easy walk from one side to the other. In addition to being the sharks' home in San Jose, the pavilion is also a popular concert venue.

You don't have to be a hockey fan to enjoy the energy of teenage-clad San Jose Shark fans. When preparing for the Sharks game, practice this move. Place both hands straight in front of you, one above the other, with palms facing each other. Move your hands apart and together and you're ready to "knock" the other team.

Another popular sports team is the A Farm single team for the San Francisco Giants, the San Jose Giants, which plays at a municipal stadium south of downtown. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch a minor league baseball game, present the movie "Bull Durham" with billboards for local fence companies. This is Silicon Valley, some of these local businesses are advertising databases instead of steaks. Go watch the kids race the mascot around the bases or racers trying to hit the headlights of a fastball truck to win a prize.

As San Jose receives 300 days of sunshine a year, a great place to grab a meal is at a side cafe in San Pedro Square, but many other restaurants are also downtown. For budget food, try the storm in La Victoria or Cape Verde in Askeu. For a favorite meal, one of my favorite classic local restaurants is Paulos.

A great museum for children for young children is the Children's Museum of Discovery on the path of Woz (named after Apple founder and big kid Steve Wozniak). Older children and adults alike will enjoy the downtown Technology Museum, which celebrates the science and innovation that created the wonderland of Silicon Valley. The technology also has IMAX theater.

My favorite venue for live theater in the center is San Jose Rap, which puts about 6 plays a year in spectacularly intimate theater. There are no bad places in Rep. If comedy is to your liking, check out Comedy Sports comic style.

The downtown area is accessible by car or via CalTrain, Amtrack and bus.