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California Flying: The way to San JoseCalifornia Flying: The way to San Jose

AOPA’s annual Expo is coming to San José in November. Three days of education, innovation, recreation, and aviation-style saturation are on the menu.

AOPA’s annual Expo is coming to San José in November. Three days of education, innovation, recreation, and aviation-style saturation are on the menu. AOPA Expo is a once-a-year opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to gather under one roof and this year’s show promises to be another winner. In 2008, AOPA Expo is booked at the San José Convention Center from November 6 to 8. It’s wise to start planning now for this year’s show. Details about which airports will be used by Expo visitors are still being developed, but if you’re visiting in the meantime, there are two airports that serve the immediate area and two more nearby.

The local airports

The parallel 3,100-foot by 75-foot runways at Reid-Hillview Airport are the closest small airplane runways to the convention center. Palo Alto Airport has a single 2,443-foot by 65-foot runway and is located 12 miles northwest of the convention center. South County Airport has a single 3,100-foot by 75-foot runway and is located 16 miles southeast. These three Santa Clara country small airplane airports all charge $8.50 per day for parking. All have Enterprise car rental agencies on the airport or located nearby.

Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport is closer than the small airports but more expensive with ramp fees exceeding $50 a day. Details, including noise abatement procedures, for all Santa Clara County airports are available online.

San José, the third largest city in California, fills the basin and laps up the sides of a large valley located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, covering an area of 178 square miles. Expo visitors will find that a taxi ride into the downtown area is the most hassle-free and least expensive way to get to the San José convention center. It’s not that rental cars are particularly expensive, but parking at downtown hotels can exceed $20 a day. Other visitors who have come to see the city’s many attractions will find that a car and local roadmap are indispensable.

A downtown worth visiting

The convention center sits smack in the middle of a thriving mix of historic buildings, contemporary museums, soaring hotels, performing arts venues, and green space. Within a half-mile radius you’ll find the Children’s Discovery Museum in Guadalupe Park, the Tech Museum of Innovation (the “Tech”), historic buildings such as the Hotel Sainte Claire, the Hotel DeAnza, and the San José Museum of Art. The Center for the Performing Arts and the San Jose Repertory Theater are also nearby. Weaving in and out throughout the valley is the Guadalupe River and a pattern of freeways and expressways. These arteries ease the travel times to other local attractions such as the Lick Observatory, Rosicrucian Park and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, the San José Municipal Rose Garden, History Park at Kelley Park, the Portuguese Historical Museum, and the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, to name a few of the more well-known attractions.

The Lick Observatory appears as a cluster of buildings surrounding a white dome located atop 4,200-foot Mt. Hamilton east of the city. Visitors are welcome on Fridays from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A five-date concert series during the summer months between June and September includes a musical concert, lectures, and an opportunity for all attendees to look skyward through one of the observatory’s large telescopes.

The Rosicrucian Park covers a full city block. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum buildings all conform to ancient Egyptian architectural styles, and contain the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts on display in the western United States. It is located six miles west of the convention center. One block farther down Naglee Road is the four-and-a-half acre Municipal Rose Garden, which features more than 4,000 rose bushes. The Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies is housed in the Dr. Martin Luther King Library on the campus of San José State University. The center contains many musical scores, examples of Beethoven’s writings, and a lock of his hair, a sample of which was tested to determine the cause of the great composer’s death. The campus is one-and-one-half miles northeast of the convention center. The center is open most days from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Although San José is home to what is sometimes called the “dot com revolution,” its historic past hasn’t been forgotten. Many buildings from the early days have been moved to a permanent exhibit at Kelley Park, which is located four miles southeast of the convention center. History Park, a permanent part of Kelley Park, is home to many restored buildings including Dr. Warburton’s Office, the Ng Shing Gung Temple, the Empire Fire House, and Dashaway Stables. The park is also home to The San José Historical Museum, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Portuguese Historical Museum, and the Happy Hollow Zoo and Amusement Park. The San José Web site has a downtown walking tour map and self-guided cell phone audio tour.

The Winchester Mystery House

One of the area’s most fascinating attractions is the Winchester Mystery House. It’s located 10 miles southwest of the convention center near where Highways 280 and 17 intersect. Sarah Pardee Winchester had married into the Winchester Rifle family only to become widowed when her husband succumbed to tuberculosis. A spiritualist advised Mrs. Winchester that the spirits of all who had been killed by Winchester firearms were after her. She was also told that she would live indefinitely if she built a great house to appease these spirits. From 1884 when construction began and for the next 38 years a team of artisans worked 24 hours a day every day of every year on the house. Although there are definitely many nonsensical elements in the construction—such as staircases that ascend to ceilings and doors that go nowhere—the home is stunning for the no-expense-spared materials and the exceptional workmanship.


San José is located 50 miles south of San Franciso in Santa Clara County. It is California’s first settlement (in 1771) and covers 178 square miles in an area that is often called the “Silicon Valley.”

These are only a few of the attractions in the cities that surround San José proper. High-tech fans will enjoy many tributes to Silicon Valley, which include the kinetic art San José Semaphore on the Adobe Systems Building located two blocks north of the convention center, and Intel’s 10,000-square-foot interactive learning museum, which is located north of the international airport near the Paramount Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara.

Now that you know the way to San José, fly in to enjoy one of California’s newest and most entertaining big cities.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

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