MERCURYNEWS.COM: June 20, 2022
It was the party of the year — maybe even the decade. With champagne bottles popping, downtown San Jose’s largest hotel, a Fairmont since 1987, was christened last month by Hilton San Jose as a Signia hotel — Hilton’s most upscale business brand, focused on meetings and corporate events.
The town’s glitterati celebrated the grand opening in style, in the magnificently-renovated lobby with its cathedral-inspired arches and glistening bar surrounded by comfy couches and chairs. The event launched what many are calling a “resurrection” of a city that — like many — suffered significantly during the pandemic.
Santa Clara on Feb. 3, 2020, was the state’s first county to declare a COVID-19 health emergency. Nonessential businesses closed, and San Jose State University shuttered its campus just a few weeks later, making the downtown core seem like a ghost town. The final blow was when the venerable Fairmont itself closed on March 5, 2021, and filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.
Yet the resurrection has begun. Plans for a massive Google campus called Downtown West plus the addition of the Signia hotel — just Hilton’s second in the United States, signal the return of a vibrant downtown core. The energy is palpable. For the overnight visitor, this summer is a good time to visit San Jose and take advantage of lighter crowds and all the museums and history the city’s downtown has to offer.
The Tech Interactive, across from Signia, is a perennial award winner for its interactive exhibits that engage the whole family. Young architects can design their own city, making decisions on everything from parks to skyscrapers. Explorers can strap in for a virtual space expedition. And an exhibit with a high ‘eek factor’ lets visitors see what’s inside real, preserved human bodies. Body Worlds Decoded combines the world-famous specimens by Gunther von Hagens with a layer of augmented reality developed in the Silicon Valley.
Gaming destinations are a growing part of downtown San Jose, with two new food and drink venues for adults who want an elevated game-play experience. Think of them like interactive sports bars with giant TVs and dozens of e-games for solo or group play. In fact, Guildhouse is so big that it has 18,000 square feet of gaming and dining space. MINIBOSS has 32 arcade games and 12 pinball machines in over 5000 square feet of space.
What makes these businesses even more unique is the high quality of food and drink. The menus include local wines, craft beers and cocktails, along with a higher level of food than you’d expect to find. In fact, MINIBOSS has roasted forest mushroom and fried duck egg sandwiches, Wagyu beef sliders and oxtail poutine.
Speaking of gaming and technology, San Jose is hosting its annual SiliCon Aug. 27-28 at the San Jose McEnry Convention Center. The event, the vision of Rick White and Steve Wozniak, started in 2014 and attracts about 60,000 people with special guests like actors George Takei and Christopher Lloyd.
Much like Comic Con and Maker Con, SiliCon celebrates the best of pop culture, tech, science, gaming and more with appearances from celebrities, authors, astronauts and artists. Co-producer Adam Savage calls SiliCon a “giant, blank canvas that every attendee can draw on.” There’ll be virtual workshops to build cyberpunk headsets, dragon horns, 3D printing and prop-making.
As San Jose continues to build on its tech cred, it’s also proud of its history. The city was the first capital of California and is marked by Plaza de César Chávez, the oldest public open space in California. The downtown core also has a stunning Catholic Church, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, which was built in 1877 and offers free tours. A few blocks away is the oldest district in San Jose, San Pedro Square. Today, it’s a popular public market with vendors offering food and beverages from around the world.
From history to breathtaking innovation, a stay in downtown San Jose gives you access to a mind-boggling array of museums, historical sites and cutting-edge shops and restaurants. An overnight stay at the new Signia by Hilton San Jose puts you in the epicenter of a city that celebrates history and innovation.
Ginny Prior can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and at ginnyprior.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit San Jose has information on museums, hotels, restaurants and upcoming events and festivals. You can also download a walking map of downtown online at sanjose.org.
The new Signia by Hilton San Jose has special summer rates at hilton.com/en/hotels/sjcsmhh-signia-san-jose.
Find information and tickets to SiliCon at siliconsj.com.