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San Jose, Calif.gem in the west

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Time Out: San Jose

San Pedro Square Market

Spurred by the tech boom’s latest wave and Santa Clara’s efforts to gussy up for the 2016 Super Bowl, the South Bay is no longer a dead zone. Anchored by foodie haven San Pedro Square Market, downtown San José is experiencing a long-awaited resurgence as bars, restaurants and shops explode out to every formerly drab corner. Then there are the neighboring towns strung along El Camino Real, each with a walkable downtown lined with bustling boutiques and cafés. No car? You can get pretty much anywhere in the valley on the light rail system, which connects San José with Mountain View, Campbell, Santa Teresa and all points in between.

Chef Randy Musterer’s Asian fusion food defies expectations, as evidenced in combos such as miso clam chowder or yellowtail nigiri topped with basil and macadamia nuts at Sushi Confidential in San Pedro Square Market, an airy courtyard banked by two buildings and filled with food stalls. Also try the shiitake mushroom burger from Konjoe Burger Bar or the spicy fried-catfish sandwich from Lou’s Beach Shack.

Join the lines out the door at CREAM for the Zagat-rated, design-your-own ice cream sandwiches featuring homemade cookies and oddball flavors. Green tea ice cream with red velvet cookies, anyone? Manresa Bread in Los Altos—one of two spinoff bakeries of the Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa—is also worth a pilgrimage; get there in time to grab a kouign amann, a buttery Breton pastry puffed to perfection around layers of caramelized sugar.

The tech industry is on full display at many of the valley’s most popular attractions, from The Tech Museum of Innovation to the iconic garage where Hewlett-Packard was founded. Apple aficionados will want to visit the company’s HQ and store, the only place you can pick up some of its most famous T-shirts. Take a break from all that glass and chrome at Filoli, a 654-acre country estate with English Renaissance gardens so fine they’re protected under the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Just 33 miles over the mountains on picturesque Highway 17, Santa Cruz is the quintessential beach town. Stroll the tree-shaded sidewalks downtown, stopping at über-trendy Verve Coffee Roasters for the best cappuccino you’ll ever taste. Then head north to Natural Bridges State Beach, where you’re likely to spot otters, dolphins or even a spouting humpback whale.

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