Free Things To Do Guide Alviso California Free Things in Alviso, California
    A guide to free things to do in the community of Alviso
    Reviews by Gary Singh (with apologies to Eric Carlson) (July 24, 2003)

    FOR THOSE who are too young to possibly imagine what Silicon Valley looked like before the silicon, Alviso provides the proverbial throwback. With high-tech development about ready to bash through its front door, Alviso plods on, as if the year were still 1960. Wide empty streets. Junkyards. Wildlife. Ethereal geography. Isolated trails amongst the sloughs and salt flats. This town is the epitome of the ignored, forgotten and swept aside--a place that modernity and industrialization completely left behind. At least for now.

    1. Go to the Beach in San Jose

    The Alviso Marina and Slough is actually a Santa Clara County Park, and you can use it as a kickoff point for mountain biking or bird-watching. The area is part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts 280 species of birds each year. Hope Street is the street you take until it ends in order to get to the marina, so, all sarcasm aside, you can say it's at "the end of Hope Street."

    2. A Green Education

    A great place for children to learn about the bay environment. The three-story wooden building of the Environmental Education Center contains a number of interactive exhibits, and kids can take classes and guided tours. The top story has a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding area. Northeast corner of New Chicago Marsh (408.262.5513).

    3. Serious Junk

    Alviso Junkyard
    Gold and Moffat streets
    It's all here: cars, trucks, motor homes, junkyard dogs, washing machines, golf carts and more. One of the best collections of junk anywhere in the South Bay.

    4. See a Real Ghost Town

    Hardly anybody in San Jose knows that a small ghost town named Drawbridge sits on a marshy island in the bay, about three miles north of Alviso. Hunters and fisherman came to the island by train in the 1870s, and many never left. By the 1920s, the autonomous population had grown to more than 400, and some say there was a pretty wicked night life. Of course, since there were no police or no government on the island, it supposedly became a haven for bootleggers, gamblers and whorehouses, but this has been disputed. And they had to fend for themselves, as there was no electricity or plumbing. But the community gradually faded away, as pollution and urbanization from the burgeoning valley destroyed the hunting and fishing industries. Now it's a ghost town with dilapidated gray buildings, and the island is gradually sinking. It's closed to the public, and you can only get there with a guided tour. For tours, call the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge at 510.792.0222.

    5. Get a Canny Sense

    Bayside Canning Company Building
    Hope Street, just south of the Marina, Alviso
    Although it hasn't been used as a cannery since 1936, it's a great building to look at, as it's covered with murals depicting Alviso history. Now used by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

    6. Imagine the Possibilities

    South Bay Yacht Club
    First there was the South Bay Yachting Association, formed in 1888. Eight years later, it was renamed the South Bay Yacht Club. Check out this historic clubhouse, built in 1903 and moved to its present location in 1986 because of continued flooding due to land subsidence.

    7. Walk the Walk

    Alviso and Mallard Slough Trail loops
    Alviso has some of the loneliest trails around, but they can be paradise for bird-watching, bike riding or just a plain-old walk in mostly solitude. Levees, salt ponds, sloughs, wildlife: it's all here. home

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