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GREAT ESCAPE: Lazy Days at Guadalupe River Park

There's truly something for everyone at this unique regional park in the heart of downtown San Jose.

Like a long, green ribbon, Guadalupe River Park winds through the heart of downtown San Jose, a sight to soothe jaded urban eyes and remind us that nature can, indeed, coexist with a city. This unique open space truly has something for everyone.

What to do here: The park is one of those places where you can be as busy or as lazy as you like. If you prefer to stroll and observe the human parade, it’s perfect for that. If you want to peruse plants, several historic garden areas await. You can frolic with your kids on its playgrounds. You can admire the public art, be a life-sized Monopoly piece, or reflect on Native American culture or San Jose’s sister cities. And—bonus! You can even fish in the river.

Why we like it: Guadalupe River Park isn’t just one park—it’s a series of parks, gardens and historic sites that have been strung together, each with its own unique personality. The 2.6-mile-long regional park starts on one end with the San José, Costa Rica, Sister City Plaza, and ends at Arena Green near HP Pavilion.

In between are all kinds of wonderful places to explore, such as the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, the Historic Orchard, Discovery Meadow near the Children’s Discovery Museum, Monopoly in the Park (the world’s largest Monopoly board at 930 square feet), and a Veterans Memorial dedicated to all four branches of the armed services. Public art abounds throughout the park, and there are plenty of walking and bicycle paths, benches and beautiful lawns on which to linger on a summer’s day.

And even more to like: Some of the surprising features of Guadalupe River Park include fishing—yes, you can fish from the end of April through November—although people 16 and older need a valid California Sport Fishing License and photo I.D., and only barbless hooks and artificial lures are allowed.

You also may see wildlife in the park, including black-tailed jackrabbits, snowy egrets, red-tailed hawks, skunks and gopher snakes. The park also contains bronze sculptures created by Michael Boris to celebrate the animals of the area.

A variety of events and educations programs are held throughout the year at the park; for a complete list, see grpg.org/Calendar.shtml. Summer day camps for youth are now underway, and several festivals are being planned for August and September.

About Guadalupe River Park: The park was initially set into motion when a flood control plan was linked to the idea of an urban park in the 1960s; a decade later, the building of Mineta San Jose International Airport necessitated removing nearby homes because of airport noise and safety concerns.

The open space prompted the planning of Guadalupe Gardens, a series of gardens to be built on the empty land, and in 1995, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy was formed when Friends of the Guadalupe River Park and the Guadalupe Gardens Corporation merged. Guadalupe River Park and major infrastructure work in Guadalupe Gardens were completed in 2005.

Directions and phone: A good place to start exploring the park is at its Visitor and Education Center at 438 Coleman Ave., San Jose. Take Highway 87 to the Julian Street exit; turn right on West St. James Street and then take the second left to North Market, then continue a half mile to Coleman.

At the center, you’ll find trail maps, newsletters and other important information Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. If you visit at other times, check out Arena Green near HP Pavilion, where you’ll find the children’s area and carousel, and ample parking is available. Information: 408-298-7657 or grpg.org.

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