Do you know the way to San Jose?

Genie Davis November 26, 2011 No Comments

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Do you know the way to San Jose? Of course you do, if you’ve ever driven between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as I have many, many times. Possibly more times than I’ve ever wanted to drive the 101 freeway, which is why I decided on a recent such trip to make a stop in San Jose itself and view the newly renovated and decidedly child-friendly Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.

Even if you’re not familiar with central California’s Silicon Valley city, San Jose is worth a stop for a variety of fun attractions and reasonably priced hotels.

About the Zoo

The zoo itself just spent seventy two million dollars to woo new visitors and obtain The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certificate, the first such certificate to be granted anywhere in the United States to a zoo by the non-profit Green Building Council. In fact, visitors interested in learning about the green conditions at the zoo can follow a self- guided tour that highlights the design features and over all improvements. This is a great activity for parents to pursue while the kids enjoy the exhibits.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

San Jose's environmentally friendly Happy Hollow zoo offers a great time for children.

The green building designs and spacious animal habitats will please people who don’t usually enjoy or approve of zoo environments. And of course children of all ages will flock with pleasure to Happy Hollow where lemurs and pygmy goats join Capuchin monkeys in playful abandon. The city run zoo is located on sixteen acres, and along with the animal habitats also offers a carousel, tree house, and a puppet theater, always big hits with the pre-school crowd.

Older children and adults will enjoy the conservation lectures offered in the intimate Learning Lodge, a small but comfortable building that uses hay bales as insulation and radiant floor water heating to save on energy costs.

Equally ecological and great fun for the kids to see is the grass growing from seven zoo buildings’ roofs. The kids thought the grass was there for grazing by very tall animals, but actually, it’s planted on roof tops to keep buildings summer time cool and winter time warm. The kids loved the look of this environmentally excellent design. They also loved the eye catching and colorful entry to the zoo whose design includes glass that was recycled from old bottles as paving material. We learned that beneath this zany exterior, there’s more green-design at work, as rainwater flows via channels into a catch basin located underground. Once there, the water can be used for – watering. When it’s not raining.

While the kids just enjoyed the fun ride of Danny the Dragon, a car-drive attraction that carries visitors down a smooth concrete path, parents will enjoy that the ride’s motor has been retro-fitted, replacing a polluting gas engine with a clean electric one.

Most of the green-certified features are hidden, like the catch basins and the new Danny-ride engine. Some are contained inside spiffy new attractions such as the spiral lawn, a grassy area near the Carousel ride that appears on the outside to be just a fun play area. But the swirls of grass here actually form a channel that sends rain water and any run off from lawn sprinklers back into an underground basin for recycling and reuse.

In other words, it’s an esoterically enjoyable drainage ditch. And the kids will love running through the patterned grass. They’ll also enjoy the springy playground surface provided from a padded base made of recycled tires. Bouncy under foot, the resilient surface makes playground spills far less likely to require a BandAid.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo Playground

The recycled rubber in the playground surface prevents play time injuries.

And what about the animals themselves, how are they benefitting from green-planning? The kids swore the animals looked happier than at other zoos, and maybe they are. Not only are many of their enclaves spacious, the fruits and veggies they consume are local and organic. In fact, their food crops are grown right on site, making their food consumption both ecologically sound and healthier. Zoo residents thrive on park-grown crops like tomatoes and squash, and the zoo’s visitors benefit too. In San Jose, the caramel apples my kids consumed came from trees located in the zoo’s own orchard.

The zoo can easily fill a full day for small children; we spent three pleasant hours at the park.

The Tech Museum San Jose

Kids ages five and up will love moving on to the exhibits at The Tech Museum also located in San Jose. Here you’ll find scores of interactive and hands-on exhibits ranging from a simulated space walk to a Life Tech Gallery where kids are offered gloves and goggles and invited to work on projects in a lab setting. And what are they working on? Making medicine. Seriously, they get to create samples made from jelly fish protein and bacteria, and then follow the progress of their experiment on line, after they leave. A full day can easily be spent here, but at a minimum, you’ll need half a day to let the kids work on projects.  There’s a domed IMAX theater too offering up science and documentary titles, and a snack bar where kids can create their own popcorn flavors for consumption while viewing.

If you don’t know the way to San Jose, now’s the time to map a route for these two great attractions.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions

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