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Discover the South Bay's Outdoor Riches

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden, photo courtesy of wikipedia

We're in the midst of the holidays and the calendar now officially says it’s winter, but this is the Bay Area and with more sunshine in the forecast, getting outside should be the plan (especially if you have time off from work!) If you’re willing to leave the City, the South Bay is loaded with some outstanding parks and gardens worth exploring.

Japanese Friendship Garden

You’ll forget you’re in the middle of San Jose when you visit this nearly six-acre park. The Japanese Friendship Garden falls into that hidden gem category, I’ve talked to many folks who live in San Jose who have never been. Relaxing and peaceful, the Japanese garden is designed to resemble the famous Korakuen garden in Okayama, Japan, San Jose’s sister city. Bring quarters to buy food to feed the koi fish. Pathways wind around the water and stretches of green grass. There are plenty of quiet places to sit in the shade, which helps the park feel empty even when it’s not. Parking is easy, with a lot just next door.

History Park at Kelley Park

Photo by Dana Rebmann

History Park at Kelley Park

Right around the corner from the Japanese Friendship Garden, you don’t even have to move the car to check out History Park. The “park” part of the name can be a little misleading. It’s more like a walk through time. Historical buildings from the late 1800s that might have been demolished have been moved to History Park and preserved. With more than two dozen original and reproduction homes and businesses, it’s designed to remind visitors of Santa Clara Valley’s past. The blacksmith and old school gas station do a great job demonstrating the time warp.

Emma Prusch Farm Park Foundation

Photo by Dana Rebmann

Emma Prusch Farm Park Foundation

Once a working dairy farm, native San Josean Emma Prusch donated the park to the City of San Jose in the early 1960s. Prusch Farm Park offers a glimpse of farm life in the middle of the city that has grown around it. On the almost 50 acres stands a family farm house, and one of the largest free standing wooden barns in California which is home to animals including beef cattle and sheep. There are rare fruit orchards, two community gardens and plenty of great picnic locations. Keep an eye on your lunch though, chickens, ducks, geese, and all sorts of critters have free roam of the park. The playground and petting farm/animal enclosure make it an especially great spot for families with young kids.

Photo courtesy of naturetime

Filoli Gardens

It re-opens to the public after the holidays, but a visit to Filoli Gardens is worth putting on the calendar now. The 654-acre estate is home to incredible gardens that grow just about anything you can think of. There’s an olive orchard, fruit garden, daffodil meadow, water features that include a swimming pool and garden house loaded with flowers in fragrant bloom. When you go, give yourself at least a couple hours to wander.

Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann