.Arts & Culture | Reader Picks

The valley’s favorite concert venue, the Mountain Winery, hosts big-name acts like the Doobie Brothers.

Best Concert Venue/Series

The Mountain Winery
14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga; 408.741.2822. The Mountain Winery feels less like a winery and more like its own kingdom: far removed from the rush of the valley, with a mainstage under crumbling ruins and sweeping vistas to die for. All of which is a little funny, considering that bands like Foreigner and Cheap Trick and comedians Margaret Cho and Wanda Sykes are closing out the 2010 concert season. The Winery can make even foul-mouthed comics feel refined and regal.

2. Shoreline Amphitheatre
1 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View; 650.967.4040

3. Montalvo Arts Center
15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga; 408.961.5800

Best Art Museum

San Jose Museum of Art
110 S. Market St., San Jose; 408.271.6840. There are a lot of jokes out there about what’s art and what’s not, but after 40-plus years of—literally—dominating the landscape in downtown San Jose, the San Jose Museum of Art pretty much wrote the book on what art is. A strong permanent collection with an emphasis on modern California and Western artists is supplemented by traveling shows that range from intensive retrospectives (like the current first look at the career of computer-imaging artist Leo Villareal) to intriguing themed group shows, often with a high-tech edge.

2. Cantor Arts Center at Stanford
Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford; 650.723.4177

3. San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
520 S. First St., San Jose; 408.971.0323

Best History/Specialty Museum

Tech Museum
201 S. Market St., San Jose; 408.294.8324. The Tech Museum isn’t just for field trips anymore. As Silicon Valley evolves, the museum grows up. With forward-thinking exhibitions like last year’s hugely popular “Star Trek” feature, the current “Genghis Khan” display and the brand-new Innovation Gallery focused on Silicon Valley creators, the Tech Museum continues to boldly go where no fourth-grade class and its parent chaperones have gone before.

2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
1660 Park Ave., San Jose; 408.947.3636

3. Children’s Discovery Museum
180 Woz Way, San Jose; 408.298.5437

Best Art Gallery

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
560 S. First St., San Jose; 408.283.8155. Now approaching 30 years, the ICA consistently hosts unusual shows by, well, contemporary artists, with an emphasis on the creative ferment in this region. The move to its present location next to Metro allowed the ICA to shuffle two shows at once in addition to maintaining its “Night Moves” window displays for after-hours art lovers. The gallery is especially strong in the presentation of large though-provoking installation pieces. The annual fall auction provides an opportunity to sample—and maybe own—works by scores of local artists. The ICA also runs an active print center for both beginners and seasoned veterans.

2. Montalvo Arts Center
15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga; 408.961.5800

3. WORKS/San Jose
451 S. First St., San Jose; 408.286.6800

Best Local Festival

Music in the Park
Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose. For 22 years now, Music in the Park (with Metro‘s help, we’re proud to say) has hosted free outdoor concerts with big-name touring acts and local favorites—all designed to relieve the workday blues. Having just wrapped up another season featuring a range of popular acts like Cold War Kids, English Beat and Pete Escovedo (and popular food vendors), Music in the Park remains the go-to destination on a hot summer afternoon.

2. San Jose Jazz Festival
Various venues, downtown San Jose

3. Gilroy Garlic Festival
Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy; 408.842.1625

Best Art House/Independent Theater

Camera Cinemas
Cinema 12, 201 S. Second St., San Jose, 408.998.3300; Camera 3, 288 S. Second St., San Jose, 408.294.3334; Camera 7 Pruneyard, 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell, 408.559.6900; Camera Cinemas Los Gatos, 41 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos, 408.395.0203. As accessible as a Judd Apatow comedy, as chic as the avant-garde fare they shelter: the Camera Cinemas have survived changing tastes, busted economies and the machinations of interstate multiplex operators. Almost anyone who has lived in the valley for any length of time has some pleasurable memory of time spent in the Cameras’ various locations. The Camera 7’s new general manager (and nationally known avant-garde filmmaker) Alejandro Adams promises ever-more adventurous programming and midnight movies.

2. Aquarius, Palo Alto
430 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650.266.9260

3. CinéArts Santana Row
3088 Olsen Dr., San Jose; 408.554.7010

Best Mainstream Theater

AMC Saratoga
700 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose; 888.262.4386. What is it about AMC Saratoga that sets it apart from, well, all the other AMCs in the area? Is it the relatively central location? The proximity to several dining establishments? We’re guessing it has something to do with those self-serve butter machines tucked in the corners of the lobby that tempt film fans on the way into the theater. You might not have ever used them—what would your date think?—but we know you’ve thought about it. Oh, believe us, we know …

2. Winchester Theaters, San Jose
Olsen Drive and Winchester Boulevard, San Jose; 408.984.5610

3. Century 20 Oakridge
925 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose; 800.326.3264

Best Open Mic Night

Rooster T. Feathers
New Talent Showcase, Wednesday. 157 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; 408.736.0921. “Talent” is a word used liberally—YouTube is replete with kids showcasing their “talent” for smashing things on their heads and jumping off rooftops—but when Rooster T. Feathers’ promises talent on “New Talent Night,” you can rest assured you won’t be cringing your way through it. As one of the first names in valley comedy for more than 30 years, Rooster T. Feathers knows a thing or two about how to make folks laugh and brings in fresh meat for discerning hecklers every Wednesday.

2. Sonoma Chicken Coop, every other Sunday
Olsen Drive and Winchester Boulevard, San Jose; 408.984.5610

3. Britannia Arms Cupertino, Wednesday
1087 S. De Anza Blvd., San Jose; 408.252.7262

Best Theater Company

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose; 408.367.7255. San Jose Rep has inhabited the big, bright building in the center of downtown for many years, mounting dramas, comedies and musicals in dazzlingly array. New artistic director Rick Lombardo has ably picked up where retiring Timothy Near left off, with shows that are both robustly entertaining and intellectually challenging. Brace yourself for an upcoming season of romantic comedies, a celebrity biography and a “biomedical thriller.”

2. San Jose Stage Company
490 S. First St., San Jose; 408.283.7142

3. TheatreWorks
Performances at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto; 650.463.1960

Ballet San Jose dancers know that practice makes a Best Of winner.

Best Dance Company

Ballet San Jose
40 N. First St., San Jose; performances at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts; 408.288.2800. Hundreds of little girls want to be ballerinas when they grow up, and when they grow up to become ballerinas, they want to go to Ballet San Jose. Ballet San Jose has a habit of collecting the best talent around, importing its dancers from all over the world. Dennis Nahat maintains high standards and picks carefully for his programs, programming classics by Flindt and Balanchine and delivering audience pleasers like Blue Suede Shoes. This season, the emphasis is on timeless story ballets, including Giselle and Swan Lake.

2. Flamenco Society of San Jose

3. Santa Clara Ballet
3086 El Camino Real, Santa Clara; 408.881.0879

Best Small Theater Company

The Retro Dome
1694 Saratoga Ave., San Jose; 408.404.7711. All too often, “family-friendly” means “kids only.” The Retro Dome is the new kid in town, but it’s easy to see why it’s burning up best-of lists this year—a cool vibe, reasonable prices and friendly staff. When it’s not screening classic films (from Tootsie to The Exorcist), the Retro Dome has begun presenting plays and musical revues like The Fantasticks, and the well-received Sisters of Swing!, hosting quality shows that are not only safe for any age but also carry a little bit of Broadway cred.

2. Sunnyvale Community Players
550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale; 408.733.6611

3. Shady Shakespeare
Performances at Sanborn-Skyline County Park, Saratoga; 408.264.3479

Best Symphony/Classical Group

Symphony Silicon Valley
325 S. First St., San Jose, performances at the California Theatre; 408.286.2600. Symphony Silicon Valley makes a point of livening up the classical scene with modern interpretations of old standards and a strong rotation of guest conductors. A recent innovation—staged performances of classical musicals called Broadway in Concert—has added to the handsome mix of traditional and unexpected. The symphony isn’t afraid to take on some monumental works; this season it is performing Brahms’ German Requiem with a full chorus.

2. Opera San Jose
2149 Paragon Dr., San Jose; 408.437.4450; performances at the California Theatre

3. San Jose Chamber Orchestra
1034 Bennett Way, San Jose; 408.295.4416

Best Children’s Theater

Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose
271 S. Market St., San Jose, performances at Montgomery Theater; 408.288.5437. CMT has the children’s theater market on lockdown, not just for San Jose but for children’s theater in general. CMT figured out a long time ago that children’s theater doesn’t mean you have to skimp on sets, training or talent. The group has been pushing the envelope since 1968 by taking on cutting-edge projects and recent Tony winners the minute the rights are released to the public. See that bar? It’s just been raised.

2. Willow Glen Children’s Theatre
Performances at Willow Glen Middle School, San Jose; 408.448.6400

3. San Jose Youth Shakespeare
Performances at the Historic Hoover Theatre, San Jose; 408.978.5516

Best Comedy Venue

288 S. Second St., San Jose; 408.985.5233 Is cheerleading a sport? Is chess a sport? While these questions have been debated since the dawn of time, ComedySportz makes a good case for performance as a competitive act. Supplying Silicon Valley with not only its patented improv experience but also performance workshops and seminars for everyone from teenagers to corporate types, ComedySportz plays hard and plays to win.

2. San Jose Improv
62 S. Second St., San Jose; 408.280.7475

3. Rooster T. Feathers
157 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; 408.736.0921


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Giveaways

Enter for a chance to win tickets to Roy Orbison Returns at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose on Friday, March 15. Drawing March 11, 2024.
Enter for a chance to win a 6-Pack of tickets to the Gem, Mineral & Jewelry Show in San Jose. Drawing March 11, 2024.
Metro Silicon Valley E-edition Metro Silicon Valley E-edition