On December 14, the first installment of “The Hobbit” comes to theaters in the Bay Area and across the globe. Many lovers of J.R.R. Tolkein’s work and the associated films are giddy about the upcoming movie. Do you want to create your own Middle Earth experience here in the South Bay? Try one of these local businesses or activities for a truly fun time.
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
180 Woz Way
San Jose, CA 95110
As fans of “The Hobbit” know, its main character is the titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo ends up going on an adventure with an unlikely group of dwarves, accompanied by a wizard, Gandalf. Among the many trials which the group struggles through is a battle with a dragon, Smaug. There may be no dragons in the South Bay, but there is a wooly mammoth. Lupe, the skeleton of a wooly mammoth, was found along San Jose’s Guadalupe River. She is now a feature at the Children’s Discovery Museum, where there is also a replica of how Lupe would have looked when she was roaming the Santa Clara Valley nearly 20,000 years ago.
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Winchester Mystery House
525 S. Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95128
In “The Hobbit,” Bilbo ends up in an underground cave with Gollum, a creature who holds a mysterious ring. Bilbo, who likes treasure, ends up winning a game of riddles with Gollum in order to win the ring. These riddles are not unlike the well-known Winchester Mystery House, a San Jose landmark originally built by Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. She believed that “she was haunted by the souls of those killed by the gun” and designed a maddenly illogical house to be built with her money. She hoped that with the house constantly under construction, the ghosts would leave her alone. The Winchester mansion is now open for tours. Experience walking through the winding corridors and doors that go nowhere. See if you can make any sense of it.
Both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy share a quest – each features a group of hobbits, dwarves, men and elves working together to achieve a goal or find an item. Quests may not be so common in everyday life these days, but there are entertaining ways to get out into the fresh air with your friends and family and go on a search. One way is the new sport of geocaching, where a GPS device is used to find a cache placed by another player. There are several public geocaching projects currently active in the South Bay. Some are listed on the Geocaching.com website by location.
Rabbit’s Foot Meadery
1246 Birchwood Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Dwarves and hobbits can agree on one thing – they both love to drink. Among the South Bay’s many breweries, Santa Clara’s Rabbit’s Foot Meadery is unique in its Middle Ages (or Middle Earth?) approach. Brewing and serving mead, an alcohol made from honey, this brewery has a tasting room and bar where you can try all the varieties of its mead, wine, ciders and beer.
When going on a quest, one might need to find food along the way. Every fan knows that hobbits love their food and their meals. One option for the hobbits, and for you, is mushrooms. Late fall and winter bring mushroom season in the Bay Area. Several of the area’s mycology (mushroom) groups have mushrooming trips and expeditions planned, and the annual North American Mycological Association’s annual foray is scheduled for mid-December in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
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Laura Tarwater-Scharp is a freelance writer, editor and historian. Originally from the Midwest, she has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.