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Let San Jose’s “Christmas in the Park” Get You in the Holiday Spirit

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San Jose’s Plaza de Caesar Chavez serves many purposes throughout the year. It’s a gathering point, a musical venue, a place where festivals, picnics, and all sorts of fun takes place.  But during the holiday season is when this community green scape becomes truly magical. This is when the plaza becomes Christmas in the Park.

A long held San Jose tradition, the two-acre plot is transformed into a holiday winter wonderland of colorful lights, snowmen, holiday characters, and over 400 Christmas trees decorated by local school children, businesses, and community organizations.  Carolers, gingerbread houses, elves, and a holiday train mingle amongst the festive decorations.  Kids may even spot the cast of Shrek amongst the lights!

For some revelers, this event is a stop on the way to or from the San Jose Ballet production of the Nutcracker, just minutes from the edge of the park. Others will linger around the 60-foot Community Giving Tree listening to school children sing and perform from a stage set among giant gifts at the foot of the tree.

The tradition began with one family’s love of the holiday season. The Lima Family was known for their elaborate Christmas displays.  They began with a nativity scene that Don Lima built himself and erected on the family’s front lawn. Each year he added to his displays and as he did the number of visitors who came to see them grew. Eventually his handcrafted Christmas spirit outgrew his yard and a larger tradition was born. Christmas in the Park opened in downtown San Jose after the Limas donated those displays to the city. Those original decorations are still part of this annual event.

Christmas in the Park --- a nativity scene

The display that started Christmas in the Park, a nativity scene constructed by a man whose family loved the holidays.

In the spirit of the family who started this charming tradition, Christmas in the Park has grown and expanded since moving to the plaza. Here are some of the additions your family will enjoy during a visit:

DOWNTOWN ICE

Located in the Circle of Palms at the steps of the San Jose Museum of Art, Downtown Ice is open from mid-November through early February this year. This outdoor ice rink is a terrific place for families to make lasting holiday memories by introducing youngsters to ice skating.

PHOTO WITH SANTA

Don’t go to the mall to get a little time with Saint Nick! He’s got a photo booth set up and ready to go at the north end of Christmas in the Park! Bring your digital cameras or whip out that smart phone to capture this moment free of charge. Santa and his elves are also running a book drive this year, dropping off a book is a simple way to display the giving spirit of the season.

WINTER WONDERLAND

Part amusement park, part carnival, Winter Wonderland sparks smiles, widens children’s eyes with wonder and is loaded with family fun. It allows glimpses of Christmas in the Park from atop a giant Ferris wheel, an opportunity to play classic carnival games, dodge in and out of fun houses and enjoy treats like cotton candy, churros, candied apples, and the largest loaded hot chocolate you’ve ever seen.

SANTA RUN

A 5k family-friendly run/walk, the Santa Run Silicon Valley is the newest feature of Christmas in the Park. Entrants are encouraged to dress up as a favorite holiday character or tradition. While Santa is the most likely to be seen running through the downtown streets,  a few reindeer,  Christmas trees and other characters can be seen in the mix. The finish line at Christmas in the Park is filled with laughter and Christmas spirit as costumed runners cross the finish line.

the Santa Run Silicon Valley 5k is the newest feature of Christmas in the Park

Santas abound at the Santa Run Silicon Valley 5K.

STAY FOR THE WEEKEND

There’s so much to enjoy around Plaza de Caesar Chavez year round. Holiday festivities aside, the Tech Museum of Innovation is across the street from Christmas in the Park. The Children’s Discovery Museum is just a short walk away. Embrace your family’s artsy side in the city’s SoFA District (South of First Avenue). Make it a weekend stay by booking a room at Hilton San Jose and take in all that downtown San Jose has to offer! For even more fun ideas near San Jose, see my other article, Silicon Valley Tour – Adventures for Geeks of All Ages.

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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…

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