San Jose Travel Guide

USA  #7 in Best Day Trips from San Francisco
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Courtesy of by Frank Chen/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in San Jose

If you have extra time, Japanese Friendship Garden is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in San Jose
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    #1 in San Jose
    3.3 miles to city center
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    3.3 miles to city center
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    The shops and restaurants open around 10 a.m. and close around 9 p.m., although many that cater to the late-night crowds will stay open well past then. Visitors should be aware that parking can be extremely limited at busy times, so you might have to leave your car across the street at the less-trendy Westfield Valley Fair mall. For more information about special events and specific store hours, check out Santana Row's website.

  • #2
    Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
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    #2 in San Jose
    0.1 miles to city center
    Churches/Religious Sites, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    0.1 miles to city center
    Churches/Religious Sites, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    The church offers a daily Mass (in both English and Spanish on the weekends), but you can also view its interior during a tour. You'll find the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in downtown San Jose on Market Street. If you'd like to schedule a formal tour, you'll have to fill out a reservation form online, which can be accessed on the cathedral's website. Entering the church is free, but it suggests a $2 donation per person if you schedule a tour.

  • #7
    Japanese Friendship Garden
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    #7 in San Jose
    1.7 miles to city center
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    1.7 miles to city center
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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).

    Recent visitors said the garden provided a peaceful backdrop for a relaxing stroll, though some were disappointed with its size, describing it as underwhelming. Because of its picturesque landscaping and romantic ambiance, it's also a popular spot for engagement photos and outdoor wedding ceremonies, according to reviewers.

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