Guide To South Bay For The Holidays

December 21, 2013 4:00 AM

Are friends and family coming in town for the holidays? To all but native Californians, there’s something incongruous about holiday decorations within sight of sunny Pacific shores, but the South Bay can deliver both. For those who choose an airport for lack of crowds and a hassle-free experience, Mineta San Jose International Airport has got to be one of the best. Anyone headed in and out of Silicon Valley can aim for shiny, new SJC where Wi-Fi is free and electric outlets plus a USB port are built into armrests of seats at the gate. However your guests arrive, they expect to be entertained. Keep the holidays bright with these South Bay activities.

gilroygardenskids01 Guide To South Bay For The Holidays

(credit: Gilroy Gardens)

Holiday Lights at Gilroy Gardens
3050 Hecker Pass Highway
Gilroy, CA 95020
(408) 840-7100

Gilroy Gardens is the small local answer to the big theme park question. Just the right size and pace for the under-eight set, it’s illuminated for 15 evenings of feasting and Charlie Brown-style Christmas cheer. Santa’s Workshop is in full swing under millions of twinkling lights strung up all over the gardens, lake and park. Take any of 35 rides including a railroad train, antique carousel, panoramic wheel and more. Kids know Candy Cane Lane is one of the best places to take your grandma.

sanjose Guide To South Bay For The Holidays

The Tech Museum of Innovation (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Downtown for the Holidays
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 291-0525

It’s a downtown holiday tradition to join the skaters or the spectators. The South Bay’s biggest outdoor ice rink is ready as part of this city’s Downtown for the Holidays events. Sandwiched in between the San Jose Museum of Art and the Fairmont Hotel, the rink is open from November 15, 2013 through January 12, 2014. A few blocks away, check out “Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination” at The Tech Museum of Innovation. See authentic costumes and props from all six films in this exhibition’s last stop at the end of a tour to 20 cities worldwide since 2006. For more holiday fun downtown, the small businesses of San Pedro Square Market have their decorations up and live jazz on the calendar.

raffi torres 166772360 Guide To South Bay For The Holidays

Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks (credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

San Jose Sharks
SAP Center
525 W. Santa Clara St.
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 287-7070

Get to Shark Tank to see how the pros handle the ice. Everyone is happy that the NHL is in action this year at Christmas. The holiday schedule offers four at-home dates for the Sharks: December 21 versus the Dallas Stars, December 23 against the Colorado Avalanche, December 29 taking on the Anaheim Ducks and on January 2, 2014, the first game of the new year brings the Edmonton Oilers south of the border. Next up are the Detroit Red Wings on January 9. The players are laced up, sticks at the ready and onto the ice for these home games at 7:30 p.m.

four winds tree farm Guide To South Bay For The Holidays

Four Winds Tree Farm (credit:

Skyline Ranch Tree Farm
Skyline Blvd./Highway 35,
1 mile south of Page Mill Road on Skyline Blvd.
Los Gatos, CA 95033
(408) 395-0337

Four Winds Ranch
19679 Skyline Blvd.
Los Gatos, CA 95033
(408) 399-9020

If your family tradition calls for trimming the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, there’s still time to buy a real Christmas tree or cut down your own. The first trees were planted in 1958 by the same folks who run the Skyline farm today. Cut your own Douglas fir, White fir, Scotch pine, Monterey pine or Sequoia; the farms supply the saw and twine. This family also operates Lone Star Tree Farms at 20514 Gist Road in Los Gatos, a nine-mile drive off Highway 17. At Four Winds, trees from the Santa Cruz Mountains have been growing since 1955, where the entire family is helping out to serve visitors with trees, a taco stand and refreshments.

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Plumed Horse (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Plumed Horse
14555 Big Basin Way
Saratoga, CA 95070
(408) 867-4711

Sporting a Michelin star for the sixth consecutive year, this comfortable, elegant restaurant makes the perfect choice for a classic winter treat. Wine lovers will delight in the sight of the 40-foot glass wine cellar displaying more than 10,000 bottles, including impressive magnums and 19th century Madeiras. Sit beside a contemporary fireplace in the bar to browse 1,800 selections presented on an iPad. Small groups can book the chef’s table in a soundproof room with wall-to-ceiling glass windows offering a full view of the working kitchen from which culinary creations are coming your way.

Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things in her adopted San Francisco. A dedicated urbanite, she’s a transplanted New Yorker by way of a couple of decades in London as a hotel sales and marketing manager. Follow her work on @ReferencePlease, USA Today, Yahoo! and on

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