BlogHer – Welcome to Silicon Valley!

When one of your favorite bloggers asks you to post an email you sent to your blog so she can share it with her blogging friends… does that make you a blogger?  I should have posted this sooner but I slacked off.  And drove across the country.  Seriously.  But more about that later because I’m still feeling mighty special… even if I am late to the party.

If you’re coming to San Jose for BlogHer or just coming to the area for fun, this is a compilation of things to do.  While any native will suggest you rent a car, I do realize that it’s not always an option.  Our area is really cool but a bit spread out and our public transportation is a bit lacking.  If you have the opportunity to drive and see areas like Santa Cruz and San Francisco – do it!  You won’t regret it!  If you can’t rent a car, then I will make notes of activities near CalTrain – a train that runs north and south along the peninsula on the east side, near the SF Bay.  This runs all the way to SF near AT&T Park and the Embarcadero.

Since the convention is in San Jose, I’ve focused on what we affectionately call the South Bay; this is the home of Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Ebay, Facebook, Yahoo, and Lockheed Martin – a few little start-ups you may have heard of.  It’s an awesome place to be and experience!  Sometimes it’s a bit difficult not thinking of ourselves as the center of the world.  In a very humble way, of course!

Ideas for things to do:
Thursday night Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences in SF 6pm-10pm – if you can get away for this it’s super fun!  It’s 21 and over and the aquarium/natural history museum pops up bars, workshops, and brings in a DJ, they often have themes.  Drink a martini while looking at fish and not hearing someone’s kid throw a fit?  Yes, please!  (I’m not against kids, btw.)  I will warn you that the rainforest closes early around 8 so jump in line for that early so you can see all the pretty butterflies!  Sometimes the planetarium shows are cool and sometimes they’re not…. if you do want to see them, grab tickets when you enter because they go fast since they’re free.
Shop where the rich people do at Santana Row in San Jose and Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto – ok, this might not be super fair because they have normal stores like White House Black Market and Nordstrom (both of where you’ll find me in the clearance racks) but this really is where those people with money here tend to spend theirs on $200 yoga pants.  Both malls are really pretty, open air malls with nice restaurants – they’re fun to walk around if you’re into shopping.  I do admit that when near Santana Row, we usually hit the Cheesecake Factory across the street in the super huge Westfield Mall which is more of your typical “mall.”  There’s this little family run grocery store in Stanford called Sigona’s where I buy dried fruit (mangoes!) and special vinegar (chocolate balsamic, lemon white balsamic, strawberry balsamic – all super yummy and nice gifts for foodies!).
*Stanford is easily accessible from CalTrain, it’s a short walk from the station
Santana Row also does Happy Hour at their restaurants:
I haven’t actually eaten at Santana Row (again – the darned Cheesecake Factory gets me!) but I have eaten at Straits, Maggiano’s, Left Bank, and Pasta Pomodoro in other locations.  All were good but Pasta Pomodoro is probably my least fave because I felt their food was average.  Straits is a fusion restaurant known for specialty cocktails, Left Bank has super good French food (I’ve done their lunches mainly which are reasonable but not cheap), and Maggiano’s I enjoyed when I ate there in Vegas (for some odd reason I mainly remember liking the salad that came before my meal).
If you’re thinking about wine tasting, head to Ridge Winery in Cupertino.  This winery is gorgeous and it’s not even in wine country!  It’s actually in a suburb near San Jose where the programmers for companies like Google and Linked In live.  It’s up on a hill, above the reservoir and it’s a really neat place with good wines.  The road up is narrow and windy, we went once during a storm in winter and it actually snowed on us (kind of magical because we have to drive 4+ hours to see snow in the wintertime).  
Fogarty Winery is another one that’s not nearly as far as Napa (actually it’s quite close) with really good wines!
On the campus of Stanford University is the Cantor Arts Center.  It’s free, is on the most beautiful college campus (Stanford), and has a Rodin sculpture garden that my husband has hung out in drunk in the middle of the night.  He swears I was there but I was working and fielding his drunk calls while he told me all about how he was being dared to hit on other girls.  
*also accessible by CalTrain
The Tech Museum is ok but it’s mainly a kid’s attraction; I’ve been there once and it was cool to feel like a kid again!  This maybe the only attraction I’m suggesting that’s walkable to the convention.
Best place to watch a sunset?  The beach of course!  Best spot at the beach?  How about a haunted distillery/restaurant with a killer Irish coffee and fire pits perched on a cliff?  Yes, please!
I love kicking it on the SF Wharf, while the place is a total tourist trap, it’s fun to take a cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge or eat fresh seafood and visit the sea lions if they’re in town.  I prefer Fog Harbor for grub.
There’s nothing – NOTHING like seeing a game at AT&T Park!  Yes, again, it’s in SF but we have the most gorgeous stadium, gourmet food (crab rolls are world famous and Ghiradelli sundaes, real fresh tossed caramel corn, and craft beers…. do I really need to say more?), and a decent team of hotties!  The San Jose Giants often feature our stars while they’re recovering from injuries and up and coming players, I haven’t personally been to a game there but I hear the stadium is nice and it’s super affordable.
*AT&T Park is a train ride north and it’s kinda cool seeing all the little towns along the peninsula 
A drive out to Capitola or Santa Cruz is also worth it!  I love Santa Cruz, the downtown which isn’t on the beach has some really killer restaurants.  Santa Cruz has parking meters you need to pay until 8pm, so be on top of that!  (Got a parking ticket the night after my wedding there…. so I’m not forgetting that lovely surprise anytime soon.)
There is an outlet mall in Gilroy which is MASSIVE!  Like 6 city blocks, need to drive between stores big!  It’s pretty cool but the outlets like Ann Taylor actually have different clothing made for them and while you can get nice stuff, sometimes it’s not the same quality.  Still, it’s fun and you can get super nice purses and accessories.
And we’re known for food here!  If you need something fast, find an Erik’s Deli for sandwiches which is a local chain using really good ingredients (way better than Subway!) or a local ma and pa owned deli shop (always worth it).  Sushi is almost always fresh and creative!  Some of the hippest restaurants can be found on Castro Street in Mountain View (*again, take CalTrain!) – you’ll often find me at New Mongolian BBQ which is super cheap and all you can eat – plus they cook it all in front of you (just put together a bowl of raw ingredients at the buffet and take it to the chefs).  They’ve also got hip pubs and bars in that area.  
Don’t shun the food trucks!  We have what is called Off The Grid in lots of the towns around here where a bunch of food trucks will take over a parking lot, typically from 5pm-10pm or during lunch time near big business areas; some are organized events but most of the trucks are nomadic and don’t stick to a set schedule.  The food is always fresh and super good.  I will make regular treks to eat at certain food trucks and it’s not uncommon to see an hour long line at some of them.  Most of the famous trucks (like Dosa Republik and Sam’s Chowder Mobile) can be found on Facebook posting where they’ll be since they like being stalked as much as we like stalking them!
University Ave in Palo Alto (*CalTrain accessible) is also super popular for good food, old movies at the Stanford Theater, and shopping boutiques.  Another cute area for spotting soccer moms in $200 yoga pants is Burlingame Avenue (*CalTrain accessible); a quaint downtown strip with high end stores, charming and really good cafes, and eclectic independent stores.
And that’s all I can think of for now… unless you’re moving there – then I have a ton more suggestions, just email me.  I haven’t even touched on the fun in the east bay like Oakland and Berkeley.  
As for what to pack?  Make sure you bring something warm if you’re going to SF.  Mark Twain has said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.  Summer is when our fog rolls in and it can be a bit unpredictable.  If comfort is your thing then you’ll be right at home; that guy in the hoodie and converse sneakers is probably an engineer with massive degrees.  We don’t dress up or judge like they do in other areas but there are those of us who really enjoy looking cute.  Just be yourself!  Unless you’re trying to impress specific people at the convention… they may have higher expectations.
If you’re heading out this way for BlogHer, I hope you have an amazing time at the conference!  I hope this has given you an idea of all the greatness this area has to offer, even if it is randomly thrown together.  Thanks for reading and making me feel like the real deal!