Best Things To Do in San Jose
Whether you've come for business or not, you'll find a lot to do in your spare time. San Jose hosts a bunch of attractions that don't take too long to enjoy: Burn an hour or two downtown at the San Jose Museum of Art and the Children's Discovery Museum. And if you (and your kids) are itching for a hands-on way to learn about Silicon Valley's computer industry, check out the Tech Museum of Innovation. For a whole day of family fun, head to California's Great America amusement park in nearby Santa Clara. To blow off some steam or eat a good meal, make your way to Santana Row.
Updated February 16, 2017
- #1View all PhotosfreeSantana Row#1 in San JoseEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Where do Silicon Valley tycoons go to spend their money? To Santana Row, a chic shopping development just a short drive west of downtown San Jose. Here you'll find delectable eateries, a movie theater and designer shops like Gucci and Kate Spade. And the apartments and the Hotel Valencia built above the ground-floor businesses create an urban vibe that particularly takes off at night when Santana Row becomes a nightlife hub. Many recent travelers claim that this is the best people-watching spot in the city. Also keep your eyes on the parking lot: Exotic sports cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris are often spotted here.
- #2View all Photos#2 in San JoseChurches/Religious Sites, Tours, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Tours, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Architecture buffs will want to set aside some time to see the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, a large Roman Catholic church located in downtown San Jose. This structure is actually the fifth reincarnation and sits on the site of former basilicas that were damaged by earthquakes or fire in the 19th century. It draws in visitors with its architectural beauty, both inside and out. Reviewers were particularly enchanted by its domes and stained-glass windows (of which there are 39 colorful panes to behold). Aside from its impressive structural elements, the cathedral wins praise for its peaceful atmosphere.
- #3View all Photos#3 in San JoseMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum hosts the largest collection of ancient Egyptian finds on the West Coast, boasting more than 4,000 artifacts. Along with a tomb replica, the museum's many sarcophagi and mummies thrill most visitors. And many appreciate the detailed descriptions and timelines adjacent to the displays. A few recent travelers express mild disappointment, however, saying the museum may not appeal to those with a surface interest in ancient Egypt. Still, this off-the-beaten-path attraction (many locals said they didn't even know it existed) offers a unique and educational (not to mention affordable) alternative to some of the area's other top to-dos. What's more, you'll also find a planetarium on-site that screens three different space films.
- #4View all Photos#4 in San JoseMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
The Tech Museum of Innovation is right at home in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley. This blue-domed facility in downtown brings in school children by the busload – literally. This place thrives off the curiosity of young people and offers plenty of hands-on learning opportunities that serve to educate museum-goers about scientific concepts, such as space exploration, biotechnology, clean energy, genetics and the science of sound. Recent visitors raved about the fun yet educational exhibits for their children like the Social Robots gallery, an area that allows kids to design, build and program a real robot using sensors, controllers and actuators. The museum also has an on-site IMAX Theater that runs both educational and feature films. Those who ventured in without young children offered a word of caution for future visitors, saying the facility is better suited to elementary school kids and not necessarily an entertaining stop for adults or teens.
- #5View all Photos#5 in San JoseMuseumsTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
The San Jose Art Museum brings a bit of high culture to the downtown area. Its collection focuses on 20th- and 21st-century works in a variety of media – painting, video installation, photography and more. The temporary exhibits frequently feature a local Northern California artist, which gives some personality to the space. Although some reviewers remark on the museum's small size and limited collection, they do say it's worth a visit thanks to its interesting exhibits and reasonable admission prices. What's more, most appreciated that the museum can be viewed in a matter of hours thanks to its manageable size.
- #6View all Photos#6 in San JoseMuseums, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Like the nearby Tech Museum, the Children's Discovery Museum offers hands-on experiences for kids as well as some interesting displays for adults. Recent travelers seem to have several favorite exhibits, but the WaterWays – a large network of water-filled tubes through which colorful balls travel – stands out above the rest. Parents like the sections of the museum that are designed for specific ages like the Wonder Cabinet, which caters to children age 4 and younger and encourages exploration in a safe and stimulating setting (like an art studio). And although there is a food court (which some say is a bit expensive), you're also permitted to bring your own lunch or snacks.
- #7View all Photos#7 in San JoseParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Visitors frequently describe this small garden as "tranquil" and a nice place to let the kids run around. Built in 1965 as a symbol of everlasting friendship between the city of San Jose and its sister city, Okayama, Japan, the garden features Japanese bridges, waterfalls and koi fish (a favorite attraction among youngsters).
- #8View all Photos#8 in San JoseAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDAmusement ParksTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
It's no Disneyland, but this theme park in the Santa Clara neighborhood (about a 15-minute drive from downtown San Jose) will surely satisfy your family's craving for thrilling rides, water park fun and live entertainment. While the high-flying coasters like Flight Deck steal most of the attention (and the wait times), the theme park offers a wide variety of carnivalesque booths along with a few entertaining performances. You'll find many of the families with younger children enjoying the smaller thrills of Planet Snoopy. And to make this into a great summer attraction, Great America also offers the Boomerang Bay Water Park and its fun slides, cabana and wave pool.
- #9View all Photos#9 in San JoseHistoric Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Across the street from hip Santana Row, the Winchester Mystery House is both a piece of San Jose history and, according to some, a tourist trap. The incredibly superstitious Sarah Winchester – heiress to the firearm fortune – built this monstrous structure in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The estate boasts 161 rooms and a bevy of mind-boggling designs, such as a staircase to nowhere, secret passageways, a séance room and the Hall of Fires, which is equipped with four fireplaces and three hot air registers. While some visitors appreciate the architectural oddities, others quickly grow bored of the furniture-less rooms. Still, you might consider a visit: The house is one of San Jose's oldest homes, and some people won't believe you've truly seen the city if you don't make a quick stop here. What's more, it's a California Historical Landmark. Reviewers who visited with tweens and teens said it proved an entertaining activity for the whole family.
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