Summer’s the perfect time to walk the streets of San Jose’s Santana Row. This outdoor shopping mecca right near the 280/17 intersection is the essence of California living—trendy shopping, tons of spots to grab some eats under the palm trees and even activities just for kids. With a new weekly farmers’ market, outdoor music coming in July and restaurants with kid-friendly options, you’ll want to plan a day (or two) to explore in the very near future.

Photo: Santana Row

Park Valencia

If you have a kid in tow, make Park Valencia your first stop at Santana Row. This recently revamped outdoor area has giant chameleons to climb, faux grass hills to roll down and shady spots to park your stroller while you chill with your iced latte. A giant parking structure is right across the street so it’s easy to swing by. There’s even a small, contained play area by The Counter for the smallest tots.

Photo: Santana Row

Music for All Ages

Park Valencia is the hub of tons of kid fun at Santana Row. On the second Tuesday of the month, kids and parents gather from 10 a.m. to noon for the monthly kids’ club that features performers like Andy Z, themed crafts, scavenger hunts, face painting and more. This free event is a must-do for those lazy summer days when the kids need to dance their wiggles out.

Wednesdays in July bring the annual summer concert series, also held at Park Valencia. From 6-8 p.m., kids and grown-ups can bust a move to hits from the 80s (July 19), pop/rock favorites (July 5), and even Beatles (July 26) and Santana (July 12) tribute bands.

Shop Le Marché

Just opened! Take a walk in this French-inspired Farmers’ Market every Wednesday evening from 4-8 p.m. Sample the sweetest cherries and apricots that nearby farms can provide, grab a gourmet strawberry macaron and take home some fresh-made goat cheese for your next summer soiree. Over 50 vendors set up shop here every week to bring the best to you.

Take the shorites to the kids’ corner where they can make crafts like the adorable hot air balloons featured at Le Marché’s opening night (made with strawberry baskets!). Also popular with the littles are the cooking demos, live music and fruit samples galore. If Sino is serving up their melt-in-your-mouth Chinese BBQ pork buns, definitely pick up an order or two to eat by the fountain.

Irresistible Eats

There’s always something new to eat at Santana Row. Poke Bar set up shop earlier this spring in the Park Valencia courtyard to rave reviews from those looking for a fresh, quick option for lunch or dinner. This cuisine brought over to the mainland from Hawaii combines the freshest fish, veggies galore and sauces for every taste and puts it on top of rice, salad greens or chips (for a twist on ceviche). Best of all, service is lightning fast. It is made to your exact specifications and is easy to eat while you chase the toddlers around Santana Row.

Right next door is the churned-to-order ice cream gem – Smitten. Pull the kids up to the window to watch their cookie dough ice cream with pretzel pieces being made right in front of them with liquid nitrogen magic. It’s only the best organic milk and cream and fresh-picked fruits and veggies from west coast farms that are used at Smitten. Flavors change with what’s in season and the vanilla never disappoints.

Photo: Tacolicious

Feed your taco cravings at Santana Row’s Tacolicious where the short ones can order off the kids menu that morphs into a taco truck. Grab a spot in the outdoor courtyard on Taco Tuesday when T-lish serves up assemble-your-own old-school, house-made tacos (six for $15)—complete, of course, with their own taco sauce, ground beef, and, yes, patriotically orange cheddar cheese. Pitchers of margs are available for $29 from 5 p.m. to close. Cheers!

Mark your calendar to swing back to T-lish on a Monday when the kids are back in school. From September through May, the Tacolicious School Project supports local public schools by donating 15% of the Monday proceeds to one designated school each month. By this fall they will have raised over $1 million (that’s a lot of tacos!).

The Details

Stay up-to-date on all the Santana Row happenings by checking out their events page. Wine strolls, the Cars & Croissants gathering of exotic car enthusiasts and more events are happening all the time. Join lululemon athletica for their complimentary Summer Yoga Series on Saturdays at 9 a.m. Look forward to the opening of Amazon Books later this summer (yes, a brick and mortar version of the online giant) and Mendocino Farms salad and sandwich shop coming this fall.

Santana Row
377 Santana Row
San Jose, Ca

What are you looking forward checking out at Santana Row this summer? Let us know below!

– Kate Loweth

Photos by the author except where noted