Walking Tour of Santana Row

Image of Villa Cornet and Lamborghini

Who says startup companies are the only reason Silicon Valley is glamorous?  Who says you need to head up to San Francisco for the urban scene?

Santana Row is a uniquely Northern Californian fusion of design, culture and accessibility, recreating the atmosphere of Paris' Champs Elysees using a distinctly Silicon Valley neo-Mediterranean architecture.

A bustling farmers market lines the streets on Sunday mornings in quaint contrast to the exotic car meets on Saturdays.

But for all the testosterone from the horsepower and club life of the weekends, Santana Row is an amazingly eccelctic place where strollers share the spotlight with Ferraris and people of all walks of life can enjoy the live music.

This walking tour starts from the garage on Olin Avenue, which is most easily accessible from Winchester Blvd.

1.  Park Valencia

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

4.  Cocola

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

6.  Chess Courtyard

7.  CineArts

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

First stop: Park Valencia, across from the Olin Avenue parking garage

1.  Park Valencia

Live performances and ample seating make the Park Valencia a popular venue for enjoying a latte from the nearby Starbucks or just lounging around with friends on a sunny day.  The hot dog stand adds an ironic, but not self-conscious, sense of authenticity to the metropolitan environment.  And an interesting side note is the secret behind the perennially green grass.

Image of Park Valencia
Image of Park Valencia

Next stop: Walk up Olin Avenue past the Urban Outfitters 

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia 

The most evocative image on Santana Row is the tower which presides over the Borders, located in the Villa Cornet building.  The Borders isn't meant as a luxury store like many of the others here, but it's still Santana Row's flagship.  Across from it is the upscale Hotel Valencia whose Vbar is the trendsetter for the rest of the strip.

Image of Borders
Image of Borders

Next stop: Follow sidewalk past Hotel Valencia 

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

Unlike its brethren elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Straits Cafe on Santana Row makes an amazing transformation from its roots as a popular Asian fusion restaurant into the epicenter of the weekend nightlife, with karaoke on Wednesdays to live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and live jazz and cover bands in between.

Image of DeForest Building
Image of DeForest Building

Next stop: Next door

4.  Cocola

The Cocola Bakery is a popular lunch spot because of its sandwiches served on fresh baguettes.  It has ample outdoor seating in the shade of the corridor under the DeForest Building, across from Straits Cafe.

While the food is a bit pricey for what you get, the convenience, atmosphere and proximity to the Valley Fair side of Santana Row make it a good place to take a load off your feet for a little while.

Image of Cocola
Image of Cocola

Next stop: Cross street and walk past Borders

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

With its distinctive architecture and outdoor patio, the Vintage Wine Bar could get away on its looks alone.  But this haunt was named The Wave Magazine's "Best Wine Bar" in San Jose because of its abundant selection and precisely chosen pairings.

Image of Vintage Wine Bar
Image of Vintage Wine Bar

Next stop: Walk south down the courtyard

6.  Chess Courtyard

Challenge a friend to a public match in the chess courtyard.  Players of all skill levels are welcome to have a go and can be found there at all hours of the day.  There are also more traditional stone chess tables which you can use for more private matches.

Image of Santana Row Chess
Image of Santana Row Chess

Next stop: Head south to Olsen Drive

7.  CineArts

While you won't find mainstream films at the CineArts here at Santana Row, the latest indie films featured here might just bring out the cinephile in you.  The seating is almost luxurious with clean reclining seats, ample cup holders... and movable arm rests in case you're with that special someone.

Many Saturday mornings, exotic car owners and fellow car enthusiasts flaunt their wheels in the parking lot next to the theater.

Image of CineArts
Image of CineArts

Next stop: Across the street

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

As a bonus, after you've had a glass of cabernet at the Vintage Wine Bar and caught the latest foreign flick at the CineArts across the street, you can pick up a bottle of your favorite varietal at the Vintange Wine Merchants.

Image of Vintage Wine Merchants
Image of Vintage Wine Merchants