I’m lucky. Many people have to fly off to distant cities, rent cars and spend their nights in hotels to attend good musical events. I can just jump in my car and, for a few bucks to park, take in an evening of free, top-notch entertainment. Best of all, I can sleep in my own bed that same night.

This summer will be another opportunity for me to take advantage of my location here in Northern California. In particular, I’m looking forward to the Comcast San Jose Jazz Festival (August
11
through 14) and the Friday night concerts at the Santa Cruz Beach
Boardwalk.
If you are a Northern Californian, these events will perk up your
summer. If
you plan a visit, the performers lined-up will top-off your trip.

What you’ll find

The Jazz Festival features nine stages scattered around the downtown
area
with something that will appeal to almost everyone’s taste. From the
hottest
of salsa to the coolest of blues to the hippest of “Jazz Beyond,” a
concoction of visual and sound artistry, you’ll surly find something
that
will get your juices flowing.

A 45-minute drive from San Jose (depending on traffic, of course) will
take
you to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where every Friday night through
September 2, Bands on the Beach features two 45-minute rock-and-roll
shows
at the bandstand set up on the beach.

This summer, there will be performances by The Greg Kihn Band, Classic
Rock
Allstars, Colin Hay, Rose Royce, Eddie Money, The Family Stone
Experience,
The Fixx, Micky Dolenz, Papa Doo Run Run, Survivor, and the Drifters.
For a
listing of dates, go to the Web site.

How to get here
Mineta San Jose International Airport serves,
naturally, San Jose and is the closest major airport to Santa Cruz.
Southwest Airlines is a sponsor of the Jazz
Festival and offers low fares into San Jose.

Where to eat

If you’re looking for an up-scale restaurant, Eulipia in San Jose, will fit the bill. The Sonoma
Chicken Coop
is a moderately priced spot
serving
up causal California cuisine in what it calls “inexpensive excellence.”
And
for a different taste, try House of Siam
a
good Thai place right downtown.

Over at the beach, either the Shadowbrook Restaurant
in Capitola or the Crow’s Nest Restaurant at the Santa Cruz
harbor
would be a good choice. Both have the same owners and offer unique
venues.
If you’re looking for a real dining “experience,” head up into the Santa
Cruz mountains to Ciao Bella (831-336-9221). This quirky, roadhouse
restaurant, has good food and even a stage show. I’m certain you’ll
remember
this place.

All of these restaurants are popular in the summer so make sure you have
reservations.

Where to stay

If you are coming from out of town and plan to stay in San Jose, the
Arena Hotel is nearby and modestly
priced.
If your wallet is a little fatter, the Fairmont San Jose or the revamped Hotel Montgomery are good options. When
making reservations, ask if they have Jazz Festival specials.

If bedding down in Santa Cruz is more to your liking, try The Coast
Santa
Cruz Hotel
right on the beach. For a more modest rate, the University Inn
is within walking distance of
the
boardwalk and beach. Or book a room at the Mangels House (Tel:
831-688-7982). It’s a B&B located just outside Nisene Marks State Park
(see
below).

Take a break

Between stages at the Jazz Festival stroll down the Guadalupe River Park
a ribbon of land being developed
along
the banks of the Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose. It’ll be a nice
relief from what could be some hot weather, and like the festival, it’s
free
too.

Ocean View Park,
across the river and up the bluff from the Boardwalk provides a
wonderful, scenic spot for a picnic. For the more adventurous, hike to the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in Nisene Marks State Park. Or find your way to
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. You won’t be driving
through any trees here, but you can take a self-guided walk through a
grove
of redwoods. (Hint: Take a flashlight to duck into one of these giants,
the
center of which was burned out long ago in a forest fire.)

The down sides

The San Jose airport — the airport that I use most frequently — is
usually
crowded, congested, confusing and seemingly always under construction.
Getting in and out of this facility reminds me of the old shopping
slogan
from T.J. Maxx: “It’s never the same place twice.”

And while on the subject of shopping, you can leave your department
store
credit cards at home. Neither of the downtowns of San Jose or Santa Cruz
have much in the way to interest true power shoppers. For that you’ll
have
to travel north to San Francisco or south to Carmel.

My favorites

You’ve probably got your own musical favorites, but for me: Poncho
Sanchez
performing on the main stage in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez on Sunday, and
then the following weekend Papa Doo Run Run performing at the Boardwalk.