Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Attractions & Things to Do in San Jose, CA

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    San Jose is the third-largest city in California and an urban hub of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s well known for its sunny, mild weather and innovative community, as well as its deep roots in the agricultural industry of years past.

    San Jose incorporates the old with the new in its bustling downtown district, where historic thoroughfares like San Pedro Square lead to modern cultural outlets like The Tech Interactive science center. Downtown is also the place where you’ll find top cultural attractions like art museums and the state-of-the-art SAP Center, where hometown fans cheer on the NHL San Jose Sharks.

    Other things to do in San Jose revolve around history and exploring the outdoors. From 18th-century missions to vast open-space preserves, San Jose offers a wide range of ways to spend a sunny day. And for the rare rainy days in San Jose, tourist attractions like the Winchester Mystery House and Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum provide family-friendly things to do indoors.

    Numerous public transit routes connect San Jose, the largest city in the Bay Area, to other nearby cultural destinations including Palo Alto and San Francisco.

    Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in San Jose.

    1. Municipal Rose Garden

    Established in 1927, the Municipal Rose Garden has blossomed to become one of the most visited attractions of the city. Rows and rows of roses define much of this five-acre park in the middle of a lovely city neighborhood, with peak blooming occurring throughout the month of May.

    The Municipal Rose Garden is open to the public seven days a week with free admission. It’s a popular park for strolling, picnicking, and family photoshoots. Permits are required for any commercial photography.

    Alongside the thousands of rose shrubs and hundreds of varieties, the Municipal Rose Garden also features a manicured green space and a natural stage surrounded by a pocket of redwood trees–earning another top mention as one of the best places to get married in San Jose.

    Address: Dana Avenue & Naglee Avenue, San Jose, California

    2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

    The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum houses the largest collection of authentic Ancient Egyptian artifacts in western North America. Exhibits at the museum span Ancient Egyptian daily life to the afterlife, ranging from uncovered jewelry and housewares to tomb tours and hieroglyph examples.

    New at the museum, the Alchemy Exhibit is the first of its kind in the United States and features a full-size alchemy lab reproduction. The museum also regularly hosts rotating exhibits throughout the year.

    The museum is the centerpiece of the larger Rosicrucian Park–a lovely landscaped space that highlights the Egyptian-inspired architecture of the museum. Within Rosicrucian Park, other notable attractions include the Rosicrucian Temple and the historic Rosicrucian Planetarium.

    It’s a popular museum for day trips and school visits and is a short walk from the Municipal Rose Garden. Tourists can catch scheduled shows at the planetarium, and the museum hosts regular events, workshops, and other special programs including mummification workshops.

    Address: 1660 Park Avenue, San Jose, California

    3. Downtown San Jose

    As the largest Bay Area city and third largest city in California, the downtown district of San Jose is buzzing with activity. Sidewalk cafes, boutique storefronts, and community institutions define much of downtown, blending modern cultural appeal with historic architecture.

    Downtown is also home to engaging education spaces, including The Tech Interactive and the San Jose Museum of Art. Both of these innovative institutions are accessible from the two-acre Plaza de Cesar Chavez – a central downtown green space, with many other things to do in every direction.

    Within downtown, the pedestrian-only San Pedro Square is one of the most historic parts of the city, as well as one of the trendiest, with outdoor seating, live music, and restaurants throughout. The San Pedro Square Market is a modern public food hall within the Square, encompassing a growing number of eateries. San Pedro Square also hosts a weekly farmers market every Friday throughout the year.

    4. Santana Row

    Santana Row is a premier commercial and entertainment district with a bustling mix of shopping, dining, and foot traffic. Name-brand stores like Kate Spade and Gucci line the pedestrian walkways within the Mediterranean outdoor shopping plaza, next to well-reviewed restaurants purveying everything from fine-dining Italian to casual street tacos.

    Walking through Santana Row offers a pleasurable stroll, especially come evening when streetlights blend with neon signs to make for an inviting ambiance. Santana Park is a great central space within Santana Row with manicured green space and a local ice-cream shop nearby.

    Santana Row is home to a free Summer Music Series filled with local lineups, as well as other community celebrations, including free yoga and an end-of-summer Children’s Bash.

    For an upscale place to spend the night, Hotel Valencia is a boutique hotel with luxurious rooms and suites overlooking the shopping and dining district.

    Address: 377 Santana Row, San Jose, California

    5. The Tech Interactive

    Tech Interactive is a keystone museum in downtown San Jose, anchoring the southeast corner of Plaza de Cesar Chavez. This family-favorite museum blends education and entertainment with award-winning displays. It extensively features interactive exhibits and state-of-the-art galleries focusing on technology.

    The Tech Institute also offers a wide range of education programs for adults and children, as well as an IMAX theater playing documentaries and family-friendly blockbuster movies.

    6. Plaza de Cesar Chavez

    The center attraction of downtown San Jose is Plaza de Cesar Chavez, also known as Cesar Chavez Park. The park spans two colorful acres amid concrete surroundings and is a popular place to hang out, with shade-producing trees, park benches, and a general hum of activity. Another reason Cesar Chavez Park is so popular is its proximity to downtown museums.

    Across the street from Cesar Chavez Park, Tech Interactive is one of the most visited downtown museums. Other downtown attractions stemming from Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park include the San Jose Museum of Art and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. One block from The Tech Interactive, the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts offers another cultural appeal, with regularly occurring Broadway performances and regional productions.

    7. Winchester Mystery House

    The Winchester Mystery House was the past residence of Sara Winchester, widow of William Winchester, and heiress to the massive Winchester fortune from the production of the Winchester repeating rifle–also known as “the gun that won the West.”

    After the untimely death of her husband and infant child, Sara Winchester moved to San Jose in 1886 and began a nearly 50-year renovation project on an eight-room farmhouse. Over the course of five decades, Sara Winchester created what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House, hosting thousands of visitors each year.

    What makes this popular tourist attraction so mysterious is the renovation choices made by Sara Winchester. Local lore attributes the false stairs, misleading doors, and 160 different rooms as a measure to evade paranormal spirits stemming from her family’s past. These theories and more are well touched upon during the guided tours available seven days of the week, which include access to the intricately manicured gardens surrounding the home.

    Address: 525 S. Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, California

    8. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

    Southeast of downtown, the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a 16-acre green space filled with amusement rides, puppet theaters, and a small collection of endangered and rescued animals.

    The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Animals range from a giant anteater to a spotted jaguar with many species in between. Special animal encounters happen at the zoo daily, allowing guests to have an interactive experience.

    The park surrounding the zoo has numerous amenities and children’s play areas. The Crooked House within the park offers a whimsical adventure just outside of the ordinary, and a Dino Dig station allows kids to uncover new areas of interest. Two large play structures at the park are also a big hit with giant, twisty slides and numerous crawlspaces.

    Address: 748 Story Road, San Jose, California

    9. San Jose Museum of Art

    The San Jose Museum of Art showcases modern and contemporary art in the heart of downtown near the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. Alongside a permanent collection of 2,500 pieces, this downtown art institution offers something new to see with consistently rotating exhibits.

    A diverse variety of programs and events occur at the San Jose Museum of Art, including Facebook First Fridays at the beginning of each month, offering free admission with extended nighttime hours and live music.

    Address: 110 S Market Street, San Jose, California

    10. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

    Neighboring the San Jose Museum of Art, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is another eye-catching attraction of the neighborhood. This historic Roman Catholic is easy to admire from the street church and dates back well over a century. Interested observers are invited to attend any regularly scheduled mass.

    11. Guadalupe River Park & Gardens

    Guadalupe River Park & Gardens is a three-mile linear park following the Guadalupe River and connecting many top attractions of the city. The trail’s southern portion starts at the center of the city near the SAP Center and The Children’s Discovery Center.

    The trail continues north from downtown following the river corridor. The universally accessible Rotary PlayGarden is on the route, providing a family-friendly and all-inclusive place to play. And farther north, a Heritage Rose Garden offers its best colors somewhere around May.

    Address: 438 Coleman Avenue, San Jose, California

    12. Alum Rock Park

    Alum Rock Park is one of the oldest municipal parks in California. It’s on the city’s northeast side, and dates back to 1872. Its early history includes tenure as a health spa complete with mineral springs. Today, it provides over 700 acres of canyon environment to explore within city limits.

    The park nestles into the foothills of the Diablo Range, with Upper Penitencia Creek running through the middle of the landscape. This lush and scenic area offers several activities, with visitor favorites centering around hiking, picnicking, and simply exploring nature.

    Designated picnic areas are throughout Alum Rock Park, some of which are reservable. And 13 miles of trails wind throughout the landscape, including popular routes like the Eagle Rock Trail. Trails are open for hikers, bicyclists, and horse riders, though users will want to note any trail signs denoting restrictions.

    13. Mission Santa Clara de Asís

    The Mission Santa Clara de Asís is on the Santa Clara University campus and is the centerpiece fixture of this Jesuit university founded in 1851. The history of the Mission stretches back into the 1700s and the first exposure of Spanish explorers to the South Bay Area.

    The Mission is still a consecrated Roman Catholic church, and interested members of the public are welcome to attend regularly scheduled mass. For more longstanding architectural attraction, the entire Santa Clara University campus is dotted with historic structures.

    Address: 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, California

    14. Los Gatos Creek Trail

    Los Gatos Creek Trail is a regional bike trail stretching south from San Jose to Los Gatos. It’s nearly 10 miles in length and is a popular pathway for bicyclists, joggers, walkers, and anyone who wants to enjoy the creekside environment.

    The Los Gatos Creek Trail terminates in Downtown San Jose, not far from Guadalupe River Park, where more trails are found. It’s a popular route on the weekends and the trail connects numerous regional parks, open space preserves, and other scenic destinations of the city.

    15. San Jose Flea Market

    The San Jose Flea Market is a time-honored gathering space in the Berryessa District. The open-air market started with 20 sellers in 1960, and today, it spans 120 acres and receives more than four million visitors each year. The market is open Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year, rain or shine.

    Daily passes are available for vendors looking to set up a stall, so the shopping selection changes with each visit. Expect a wide range of goods, including antiques, houseware, apparel, and electronics. While some purveyors may accept credit or debit cards, others may deal only in cash.

    It’s much more than a selling space at the flea market. Live music often provides a soundtrack between the stalls, and other family-friendly activities, like rides and arcade games, also draw a crowd. Ready-to-eat food is also available from local food trucks and snack vendors.

    16. Japantown

    This cultural hot spot is one of few historical Japantowns remaining in the United States and stems from over 120 years ago when the first Japanese immigrants settled in the area. Today, a vibrant mix of restaurants and storefronts comprise Japantown, also known as Jtown, as well as art galleries, fresh markets, and historical monuments.

    17. Fremont Older Open Space

    Fremont Older Open Space Preserve is on the urban fringe west of San Jose. It’s one of many designated open spaces under the scope of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, providing over 65,000 acres of natural habitat west of San Jose up to Redwood City.

    Fremont Older Preserve is particularly popular due to its quick access from San Jose. Parking for this 739-acre preserve is accessible at the end of Prospect Road in the neighboring city of Saratoga. Only 21 sites are available if everyone parks correctly, making finding a spot a challenge on the weekends.

    The beautiful landscape of Fremont Older also makes the preserve popular. Several trails for hikers and cyclists wind throughout the area, and routes like Hunters Point provide panoramic views of the Santa Clara Valley. The Seven Springs Trail is also a favorite at the preserve, and both comprise some of San Jose’s best hiking trails.

    Where to Stay in San Jose, California for Sightseeing

    Luxury Hotels:

    • At the heart of San Jose’s entertainment district, Hotel Valencia – Santana Row is one of the few places to stay in this hip part of the city. It offers a sophisticated style reminiscent of old-world Spain, especially in the hotel’s common spaces, including a decadent outdoor pool and lounge area. Accommodations at the hotel include standard rooms and suites, all equipped with Egyptian linen and elegant decor. Some rooms feature private balconies with courtyard views. Other amenities at the hotel include fine on-site dining, a fitness studio, and a complimentary continental breakfast.

    Mid-Range Hotels:

    • The Homewood Suites by Hilton San Jose Airport-Silicon Valley is a popular choice for professional visits in San Jose. This suite-exclusive hotel offers apartment-style rooms complete with a full kitchen. Amenities at the hotel that make it easy to stay connected include a 24/7 business center, free and fast Wi-Fi, and ergonomic workspaces in each room. Ways to unwind after hours include taking laps in the outdoor pool, utilizing the free weights in the fitness room, and relaxing on the soft linens of a king-size bed.
    • Northeast of downtown, a mile from Levi’s Stadium, HYATT House San Jose/Silicon Valley is another excellent hotel at a moderate rate. This dependable hotel has over 160 rooms with various styles, all equipped with modern furnishings and amenities like HDTVs and free Wi-Fi. Studios, standard guest rooms, and suites with three beds are available, and some rooms are pet-friendly. The hotel’s shared spaces include an outdoor pool area, a stylish lobby, and a breakfast area with customized omelets available.
    • Two miles west of the Winchester Mystery House and Santana Row, Aloft San Jose Cupertino offers contemporary rooms at a moderate rate. The property is oozing with style, especially in common areas like the chic lobby and outdoor pool with cabanas. This style and comfort extends into the rooms at this pet-friendly hotel, with loft-style accommodations available. In-room amenities include coffee makers, dedicated workspaces, and HDTVs with premium movie channels.

    Budget Hotels:

    • For great value in downtown, Extended Stay America – San Jose – Downtown is one of the first hotels to check out. Its large suite-style rooms offer more living space and a full kitchen, including an electric stovetop and full-size fridge. The overnight rate is also very affordable and accommodating to long-term visits. Other amenities that make the hotel excellent value include a free grab-and-go breakfast in the morning, complimentary internet access, and a 24/7 laundry facility.
    • North of downtown, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham San Jose Airport is in a prime location to access all of Silicon Valley. Alongside an affordable rate, the hotel has an excellent reputation for cleanliness and tidy rooms. The hotel also offers several amenities for a convenient stay. Complimentary items with each visit include parking, breakfast, and internet access, and other amenities like the outdoor pool and fitness station offer ways to relax between moments in the room.
    • For a modern motel with a distinct style, Alura Inn offers a comfortable place to sleep and an excellent overnight rate. The rooms have recently been remodeled with stylish decor and comfortable furnishings. Overnight accommodations include standard rooms, suites, and studios with stovetops and full kitchens. Complimentary amenities at the hotel include internet access and parking. Free gourmet coffee is available in the lobby every morning.

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