The Best of Silicon Valley 2018

Introduction | Food & Drink | Goods & Services | Art & Culture | Nightlife | Short List

Haters insisting on insulting San Jose's tendency toward bland architectural choices and beige-on-beige building palates have less to gripe about than they did back in 2008. A number of initiatives spearheaded by local artists have helped to brighten up the town sometimes referred to as Tan Jose. The Exhibition District has focused on raising money through grants to paint murals all over the city, while the Ex-D's affiliated Local Color artist cooperative has reactivated the shuttered Ross Dress for Less space—turning it into a space for creatives and makers of all stripes. And last fall, Empire Seven teamed with Universal Grammar, the city of San Jose and other local organizations to put on POW! WOW! San Jose, which recruited local artists to create more than 10 murals over the course of a single week.


Best Art Gallery

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
560 S First St, San Jose
Allied Arts Guild
75 Arbor Rd, Menlo Park
510 S First St, San Jose

Best Holiday Celebration

Christmas in the Park
Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park, San Jose
Fantasy of Lights, Vasona Lake County Park
333 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos
Oktoberfest, Campbell
Campbell Ave, Campbell

Best Film Festival

San Jose Short Film Festival
Palo Alto International Film Festival
Palo Alto
Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival

Photo by Greg Ramar

Back in 2014, the South Bay’s performing arts community took a major hit, as the San Jose Repertory Theatre went belly up and pulled out of the Hammer Theatre. For a few years, the big blue building remained vacant. But in 2016, San Jose State University worked out a deal with the city of San Jose to take over the complex and the era of Hammer 2.0 was born. Now the theater center is home to a variety of productions—including SJSU programs, National Theatre Live screenings, live music and touring productions. The Hammer Theatre Center is no longer a symbol of a flailing Silicon Valley arts community but the centerpiece of a lively scene.

Best Small/Quirky Museum

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
1660 Park Ave, San Jose
Campbell Historical Museum
51 N Central Ave, Campbell
Computer History Museum
1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View

Best Dance Company

Los Gatos Ballet
630 University Ave, Los Gatos
Dance Attack
Multiple locations
San Jose Dance Theatre
1756 Junction Ave, San Jose

Best Small Theater Company

City Lights
529 S Second St, San Jose
San Jose Youth Shakespeare
El Teatro Campesino
705 Fourth St, San Juan Bautista

Illustration by Jhonen Vasquez

After a long absence, Silicon Valley, a mecca for nerd culture, has not one, but two, comic book and sci-fi oriented conventions. In 2014, Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics and the Art Boutiki, regained control of the Alternative Press Expo, which he founded in 1994. The celebration of alt-comics produced by the likes of Derf Backderf and Jhonen Vasquez returned to its city of origin, San Jose, in 2014. Then, in 2015, prototypical nerd and Silicon Valley booster Steve Wozniak took over the Big Wow! Comic Fest, rebranding it Silicon Valley Comic Con. It returns for its third year this March.

Best Theater Company

Broadway San Jose
100 W San Fernando St, San Jose
San Jose Stage Company
490 S First St, San Jose
CMT San Jose
1401 Parkmoor Ave, San Jose


Best Local Festival

Mountain View Art & Wine Festival
Mountain View
Los Altos Art & Wine Festival
Los Altos
Palo Alto Festival of the Arts
Palo Alto


Best Local Festival

Music In The Park
Los Gatos
Boogie on the Bayou

Photo by Frank Ferrante Productions

For a period in late 2017, downtown San Jose was without a single dedicated movie theater. This was not OK. Thankfully, Guggenheim Entertainment has taken over what was once the Camera 3 and is trying a new concept—mixing live stage performance, the longtime San Jose staple Comedy Sportz and revivals of classic movies, as well as singalongs. The new space, rebranded as 3Below, recently held one such audience participation night, inviting Monty Python fans to a screening of The Holy Grail.


Best Local Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival
Santa Clara Art and Wine
Santa Clara
Sunnyvale Summer Music Series


Best Local Festival

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Dancin' on the Avenue
San Jose
San Jose Obon Festival
San Jose


Longtime Bay Area resident and current Mountain View denizen Andy Weir was always into science and space travel. He also, apparently, has a penchant for writing. Back in 2011, he published a serial story about a man marooned on Mars on his personal blog. The posts eventually became The Martian, published in 2014 to critical acclaim. The sci-fi smash became a blockbuster film starring Matt Damon. In late 2017, Weir published his follow-up, Artemis, about a low-gravity heist on the moon. The work has already been optioned for a movie, which may star Rosario Dawson in the leading role.

Best Local Festival

Fremont Festival of the Arts
Milpitas Backyard Boogie
Celebrate Milpitas

Introduction | Food & Drink | Goods & Services | Art & Culture | Nightlife | Short List