The Holidays: San Jose’s Christmas in the Park continues to shine

Christmas in the Park

As we begin the holiday season, San Jose’s Christmas in the Park settles into a new kind of normal along with us. A favorite tradition of many is to visit the Christmas in the Park display stationed in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. The event has lit up the San Jose island square for more than 40 years and lasts from November to January. Lit Christmas trees, festive food, drink vendors and Christmas displays are scattered throughout the park as guests walk past. Although friends and families cannot stroll by decades-old animatronics and a massive Christmas tree this year, the Christmas in the Park tradition lives on at History Park, as a drive-through edition, just a 10-minute drive from Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. 


This year’s Christmas in the Park requires families to reserve their spots in advance through their online website. While the event has always been admission-free in the past, the Christmas in the Park organization expects a loss of revenue due to a reduction in sponsorships, vendors and ride revenue. The tickets for a single car can cost 10 or 20 dollars, depending on when families are willing to arrive. Despite this needed change, it can be expected that the organization will survive next year. The event’s opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, garnered more than 100 cars near Senter Road and Phelan Avenue. The wait time for opening night was 20 to 30 minutes. 

Audrey Hambrick

This year’s attraction begins in the adjacent Kelley Park parking lot. After passing through a gate notifying that visitors are “now entering the land of imagination and illumination,” various lights and animatronics will catch the eye. Throughout the leisurely drive, you may recognize the old elves working in a candy cane lumber mill or a large clock counting the days until Christmas arrives. During the drive, guests are encouraged to tune their radios to 99.7 The Point, to listen to some holiday tunes, new and old. As cars make their way out of the parking lot and underneath LED-lit arches that emulate a swirling pinwheel effect, some may think that their journey ends here. However, cars are then directed into the History Park grounds, which showcase the decorated Christmas trees, along with more animatronics and a completely electronic Christmas tree.

Audrey Hambrick

The new location for Christmas in the Park in History Park is a perfect choice. The rustic buildings of the area, including former homes and landmarks. Cars will feel transported to the Christmastime of the past, as the interiors of shops light with a warm glow. A nice addition to the lit displays are the appearances of the Nutcracker and Santa. Both are dressed employees that will surely cause children to point in awe. Another welcome addition is the use of lights that are synchronized to The Point’s music. Some may be able to point out the Olaf light display that sings along to the current song on the radio. 


After cars drive by decorated Christmas trees by numerous organizations, they are led out of the park and the Christmas in the Park experience ends.


It’s pleasing to see that the City of San Jose and other donors like Google and Amazon have helped the Christmas in the Park organization to keep this local experience alive. Santa Clara citizens deserve the chance to let go of their stress by gazing upon the numerous Christmas lights in the park. If families were hoping for completely perfect lighting on the animatronic displays or the Christmas trees’ signs, they would be out of luck. Guests may have to strain their eyes to see which organization has a special tree and the lack of lighting causes some of the decades-old Christmas animatronics to seem off-putting. Despite these shortcomings, the comfy feeling of following cars in a line while enjoying the atmosphere of History Park should be enough to engage families. Christmas in the Park is here to stay in San Jose, bringing back some of its Christmas spirit.