Midtown San Jose is home to some of the best (we think!) vintage neon signs in the world. From the massive Western Appliance sign to Stephen’s Meat Market’s charismatic dancing neon pig, there is plenty to see and photograph here. Most of the signs are also excellently maintained and glowing on the darkest night. So tell your friends, grab your camera and follow along on our vintage neon tour for a glimpse at some rare vintage neon in the wild. And don’t forget to share! Use the hashtag #SanJoseNeon
Falafel’s Drive In: A former Snow White Drive-In, this site has been Falafel’s Drive-In since 1966. The restaurant has a huge cult following and has been featured on Drive-Ins, Diners, and Dives on the Food Network. While you’re there, be sure to grab some falafel and a banana shake!
2301 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose, CA 95128
Western Appliance: This business has been around since 1885! Its massive sign was built in 1962, and originally had flashing lights on top of the three spires. The flashing lights were turned off when the city of San Jose decided they confused planes heading into Mineta San Jose International Airport. When the store expanded, the sign's foundation and poles were integrated into the building since local ordinances would not allow the sign to be moved. You can see the foundation when you look through the windows of the store.
1976 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95128
Y Not : An adult toy, book and video store adapted this sign when it opened in 1974. This sign originally advertised for the Y-Not bar, which was here previously. The "Y" was meant to resemble a martini glass. This sign dates back to the 1950s.
1933 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95128
O.C. McDonald: Founded in 1906, O.C. McDonald installed the first air conditioning system in the city of San Jose. The whole building is a wonderful example of midcentury architecture and typography, and the lobby has several historic pieces on display, including a vintage company work truck. The sign is from the 1950s and the words Oh See! alternate at night, promoting the company’s initials.
1150 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95126
Stephen’s Meat Market: Built in the 1950s, this sign is all that remains of the historic market and factory that was located at this spot. This sign is a local favorite and had greeted visitors arriving at Diridon Train Station for decades. Be sure to check out the sign at night. When all lit up, the pig dances.
105 S Montgomery St., San Jose, CA 95110
West Side Billiards: A pool hall since the late 1940s, this sign was installed in the following decade with the star and eight ball added at a later time. The hall has remained virtually unchanged inside and is a wonderful time capsule to another era.
1050 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95126
Time Deli: Need to know the time? This place has you covered. A great local deli and barbeque joint, Time Deli has been in business since 1950.
349 S Bascom Ave., San Jose, CA 95128
Burbank Theater: This theater opened in 1949 showing first-run movies, then art and revival films. Starting in 1973, the Burbank became one of San Jose's adult film theaters and remained that until it was shut down in 2000. Today the beautiful theater has a huge number of fans in the neighborhood, and many hope restoration and creative reuse are in the future for this building.
552 S Bascom Ave., San Jose, CA 95128
Orchard Supply Hardware: At this location since 1947, Orchard Supply Hardware has been serving San Jose since 1931. This sign has been well-maintained over the years, and you can see the design of the sign incorporated into several places inside the new location that opened on the far end of the parking lot.
377 Royal Ave., San Jose, CA 95126
Mel Cotton’s Sporting Goods: This business has been around since 1946, with the current location here since 1958. They have everything you need for your outdoor sporting needs, and this arrow has been pointing the way for over 50 years.
1266 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95126
Hills Flowers: In business since the 1920s, the neon script adorning the front of this building is as beautiful as the flowers they sell.
266 Race St., San Jose, CA 95126
Public Auto Wholesale: Sadly, much of what was original about this sign has been covered up, but you can still see a large portion of a car sticking out of the top of the sign and a big red arrow along the bottom. At one time, the tires lit up and turned with chaser bulbs, letting the car cruise West San Carlos all night.
1480 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95126
The Bears Cocktail Lounge: While this sign isn’t original, the reuse is perfect. Throw in the fact that the owner hires a sign painter to regularly touch up the hand-painted signs on the building and this bar is worth checking out.
1872 W San Carlos St., San Jose, CA 95128
Tip Top Liquors: While this sign has undergone several changes and updates over the years, you can’t beat a name like Tip Top.
439 S Bascom Ave., San Jose, CA 95128
The Card Mart: This sign currently accompanies a vacant building, so be sure to get this one before it’s gone.
511 S Bascom Ave., San Jose, CA 95128
Neon Tour Provided by Josh Marcotte