“Do you know the way to San Jose” (downtown San Jose) via ACE commuter rail

 

ACE Train idles at Stockton's Robert Cabral ACE/Amtrak station, just before dusk.

 

 

“Do you know the way to San Jose? I’ve been away for so long.  I may go wrong and lose my way,” went the popular 1968 song by Dionne Warwick.  It sold over a million copies and won Warwick her first Grammy.

My pals and I had not been to downtown San Jose for almost 25 years, but had heard how revived and visitor-friendly the town had become.  And, as a center of the Silicon Valley and high-tech, San Jose justified our trip on the ACE (Altamont Corridor Express) Train from Stockton. 

Our plan was take the ACE train, all the way to San Jose to explore and see what had changed.  It’s a scenic, memorable and relaxing way to cover the 90-some miles! And, true to what we had heard, downtown San Jose is full of interesting, high-tech and visitor-friendly attractions.

With the ACE train, the latest morning train departs Stockton’s Robert Cabral Amtrak/ACE station at 7:05 AM, with stops in Manteca, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Santa Clara and into downtown San Jose’s historic Southern Pacific Diridon Station a little after 9 AM.

The two hour train ride traverses a number of old downtown areas, climbs over the Altamont Pass and through beautiful Niles Canyon and the southern border of the San Francisco Bay.  Stunning scenery presents itself at many a stretch, just out of sight of autos – adults and kids will delight in the train ride portion of the adventure!

In the final two miles of the train ride, one passes the new 49ers Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a new stadium being built for the San Jose Quakes (professional soccer) and, two blocks from the Diridon station, the SAP Arena, home of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. For 49ers games, ACE runs a Sunday train from Stockton to Santa Clara.

The earliest return on ACE is 3:35 PM – it is a commuter rail line, after all.  There are also three later departures in the afternoon. The ACE train has virtually all new rolling stock, immaculate rail cars, including one equipped to hold about 15 bicycles. So a tour of San Jose with your bike is another option. 

A free DASH shuttle bus takes you to many intriguing downtown San Jose stops, so no money is required to take the bus. Along the route are the Martin Luther King Library, San Jose State University, the Tech Museum of Innovation, the San Jose Museum of Art and a number of interesting historical buildings, hotels and unique restaurants such as Original Joe’s.

Our primary destination was the Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose’s world-class museum dedicated to innovative and creative spirits that inspired Silicon Valley.  Special exhibits at “The Tech” include the Tech Studio, Social Robots, the Earthquake Platform (we adults and a passel of kids were awestruck by the simulation of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and other more recent temblors), Moon-landing simulator, Body Metrics, the Tech Virtual Gallery, Health and Biotech Gallery, the Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery and much more. 

This is a center for youngsters and teens; it was impressive to see Stanford University present with a Genome exhibit, enthralling a dozen young future scientists!  The entire three floors of The Tech are kid-friendly, designed to be hands-on; all four of our adult tourists were energized to plan a future visit with grandkids of all ages. The Hackworth IMAX dome theater (inside The Tech) is the largest in the west; an additional fee is required to see movies on the massive circular screen.

Shopping highlights of San Jose’s downtown include the Historic District, with a number of unique boutiques and eclectic shops, interesting shops at both the museums, and a variety of stores at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue. We picked up a copy of Silicon Valley Metro, a free weekly paper at the train station; it’s loaded with activities, night spots, restaurant recommendations and “what to see and do”; they also have a slick web site full of similar info:  www.metroactive.com.

Just two blocks from the Tech Museum of Innovation (“The Tech”), we found the ornate and historic Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph at the corner San Fernando and Market. The San Jose Museum of Art, with Café and museum store, (originally the 1892 San Jose Post Office), is just across the street.

DASH offers free shuttle to various points around downtown, including Martin Luther King Library, San Jose State University, San Jose Convention Center and the aforementioned shopping areas.  All in all, it’s a pretty, historic and tourist-friendly destination, enhanced by the ease of getting there on the ACE train!  Though, the ACE Train service, except for San Francisco 49er’s games, is not available on weekends.

For those seeking further rail exploration, the San Jose Diridon Station is served by CalTrain, the rail line that runs north to San Francisco (seven days a week), and one can also take Amtrak from San Francisco to Stockton, and vice versa.  All three rail lines are “bike friendly”, as well. Hence, a several day rail excursion can make for even more fun!

So, purchase your ACE ticket, “find your way to San Jose”, and do some innovative exploring!

What to take: Binoculars, camera and snacks for the trip and good walking shoes.

For more information: The Tech Museum of Innovation, 201 South Market St., San Jose 95113, phone 408–294–8324, the tech.org; opens daily at 10 AM, groups save up to 25%, IMAX films and special exhibits require a separate fee. Downtown San Jose Association, 28 North First Street #1000, San Jose, Ca 95113; (408) 279-1775; www.sjdowntown.com.  ACE Train: Robert Cabral Station, 949 E. Channel Street, Stockton, CA 95202; www.acerail.com; fares, adults, round-trip, $24.50, kids 6 to 12 and seniors 65 and over, half price or $12.25 each.  CalTrain rail service from San Jose to San Francisco, www.caltrain.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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