R&R Spots Offer Escapes from Maddening Crowds
San Jose Business Journal

Traipsing through exhibits can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But after a day of smiles, handshakes and exchanging information, you just want to find a place to unwind and relieve stress.

It's time for some R&R -- not more R&D. So where do you go to escape convention claustrophobia?

Whether you are attending a conference at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center or the Moscone Center in San Francisco, you will find a wide variety of nearby opportunities to relax, ease the mind and nurture the soul. Both centers are in downtown areas close to parks, caf�s and scenic walks. Many of the nearby hotels even provide special amenities to clear the mental cobwebs and find tranquility.

The San Jose McEnery Convention Center is surrounded by an array of activities and venues to escape the convention frenzy. Directly across the way, you can meander through the San Jose Museum of Art, a Romanesque-style structure, circa 1892. Here you can explore exhibits of 20th-century American art, photography and sculpture. Admission is free.

If you just want to rest those weary feet, sit on a bench meditating on the flowing fountain at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, where you can also enjoy free summer concerts. For some spirituality and peace, enter the nearby St. Joseph Cathedral with its exquisite hand-painted murals, stained glass and Renaissance style. This structure also is considered a minor basilica, in the canonical sense.

At the historic landmark hotel, the Hyatt St. Claire (302 S. Market St.) across the street from the center, unwind with a drink in the Spanish-tile courtyard or go back to your suite for a whirlpool spa. If you are not a guest and need a massage and spa treatment, contact nearby Plum Spa, located at 74 S. First St.

The Hyatt San Jose (1740 N. First St.), one mile from San Jose International Airport, is surrounded by 17 acres of lush landscaped gardens and fountains. For a soothing workout, take a swim in the large outdoor pool.

If you're up to a long stroll, go a mile and a half from downtown to the city's Rose Garden, featuring 5,000 plantings of 150 varieties of roses. Bring a lunch to enjoy at one of the tree-shaded picnic tables.

More than 50 wineries dot the San Jose area, with two right in town: Mirassou Vineyards (300 Aborn Road), run by America's oldest winemaking family, offers eight-course candlelight dinners accompanied by the winery's award-winning varietals and soft strains of classical music in an elegant surrounding. Less than a mile from downtown, J. Lohr Winery (1000 Lenzen Ave.) offers wine tastings daily.

Need a place to escape for the evening? Explore South of First Avenue, where you can visit some clubs or see the free 16mm movie features at the Agenda Lounge.

About an hour's drive north of San Jose is the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The center adjoins the Yerba Buena Gardens and Center for the Arts, a $44-million entertainment and art complex (701 Mission St.). Walk among the sculptures and greenery, and sit down on a bench to read or just chill out. You can find soothing sheets of running water by the Martin Luther King Memorial. On the rooftop, you can have a cool drink or coffee at the outdoor caf� Clouds, with its sweeping view of the city's eclectic architecture.

If you want to free the child in you, take a magical merry-go-round ride or glide around the large ice skating rink.

Across the street on Third is the Museum of Modern Art, with a gourmet-style caf� where you can sit outside and watch people while enjoying a cappuccino or latte. Art lovers can get lost inside the museum and the gift store for several hours. If you walk only several blocks, you will come to the Sony Metreon for a myriad of movies to choose from during your nighttime -- or midday -- escape.

For evening entertainment and relaxation, try the top of the Marriott Hotel on Mission Street just opposite Yerba Buena Center. You can see a breathless bay view and have a cocktail while being entertained by the soft jazz piano sounds of James Campbell, Tuesday through Thursday evenings, and a live band on Fridays and Saturdays.

Many San Francisco hotels have become aware of the necessity to provide extra comfort and services for the harried business traveler.

The W Hotel (181 Third St.), directly across from the Moscone Center, offers everything from spa packages, massages, reflexology, manicures, pedicures, body wraps and soaks to private guided nature walks, sailing and horseback riding along the beach.

For the antsy, active visitor, the hotel has a 24-hour fitness center, with a whirlpool to relax in while stargazing through the glass atrium.

Rejuvenate with a swim at the elegant Palace Hotel's large indoor pool with overhead skylight, and treat yourself afterward for a soak in warm whirlpool spa.

If you are up for a short 10-minute stroll from the convention, visit the artsy enclave of South Park on Third between Bryant and Brannan streets. This quiet tree-lined park, bordered by boutiques and European-style caf�s and restaurants, provides a peaceful respite from the hectic day. The Butler and the Chef bistro has recreated the ambiance of a Parisian caf� where time is lost in conversation and contemplation.

Conventions need not be a stressful time in your life, if you do your due diligence in becoming aware of the neighborhoods near your event. Turn your business venture into a miniature vacation -- an opportunity to explore new places, rejuvenate, and nourish your body and mind.

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