Originally founded as “El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe” which literally means “Town of Saint Joseph of Guadalupe”, modern day San Jose is often called “the Capital of Silicon Valley“.
True to its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is now home to the headquarters of many “tech” companies such as Cisco Systems, eBay, and Adobe Systems.
San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, 3rd largest in California, and the 10th largest city in the United States. It was named the 6th safest big city in the US in 2015.
Things To Do In San Jose
There are so many different neighborhoods in the large geographic area of San Jose that, depending on where you are, you might not know if you’re still in the same city. Some of the hip areas are in San Jose’s downtown area, for those who prefer urban living, or Santana Row for a mixed living, shopping and dining community.
You can find vintage California charm in the neighborhoods of Willow Glen and Rose Garden. The woodsy area of Almaden Valley is known for its excellent schools, and Silver Creek is known for its subdivisions of sprawling “McMansions.”
Evergreen is in East San Jose, right at the foothills of the city. Since it is at the foothills, east San Jose is not as accessible as the other neighborhoods. Evergreen has excellent views of the foothills and many parks and recreational areas.
Groseprick Park is located right in the heart of Evergreen and offers a mile long loop, basketball courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, and hiking trails
Downtown San Jose
Downtown San Jose is a mix of offices, shopping, hotels, numerous restaurants as well as a convention center and the SoFA (South of First Area) nightclub district.
San Jose has two major professional sports teams, some fantastic amusement parks and a variety of theater and comedy venues to entertain you throughout the year. The city also hosts a colorful array of festivals and conventions and offers plenty of shopping options.
You can also get outdoors and take advantage of San Jose’s invariably sunny weather on the Guadalupe River Trail or in one of the many city parks. You’ll always find a wealth of cultural events at theaters, art galleries, and museums.
Square Farmer’s Market
Check out the San Pedro Square Farmer’s Market on Fridays for local and organic produce.
The Tech Museum of Innovation
Also called as the Museum of Science and Technology, the Tech Museum of Innovation is a great interactive experience for all ages and backgrounds.
The Tech Museum allows visitors to see how technology affects their daily lives. Permanent exhibits focus on the Internet, the human body, and exploration. You’ll also find an IMAX Theater, a cafe, and a retail store featuring merchandise unique to the Silicon Valley.
San Jose Museum of Art
Recognized for its contemporary collection of modern art, which highlights movements on the West Coast as well as national and international pieces. The museum started as a small civic art gallery in 1969 and has grown in step with its city.
San Jose City Hall
Designed by architects Richard Meier & Partners, the new City Hall, opened in 2005, consists of a free standing glass rotunda at the center, a council chambers wing to the south, and a separate tower to the east. Tours are available.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
A partnership between the City of San Jose and San Jose State University, the King Library opened in 2003 as the largest new library west of the Mississippi, with 475,000 sq. ft. and 1.5 million items.
No ID is needed to use materials within the library, but if you want to check them out, or use public-access computers or WiFi, you must apply for a free library card (available to residents and non-residents alike, but you need a photo ID).
Special non-circulating collections on the 5th floor include, among others: Beethoven Center, housing historical keyboard instruments and the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside Europe; Center for Steinbeck Studies, with more than 40,000 items—manuscripts, letters, films, photos, etc.— of writer John Steinbeck. FREE.
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
The first museum in the US to focus on quilts and textiles, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles has an outstanding collection on a rotating display. Exhibitions change quarterly at this exciting and modern museum. FREE for everyone on the first Friday of the month.
Paseo de San Antonio
A four-block pedestrian-only space, running between SJSU and Plaza de Cesar Chavez, lined with shops, hotels, casual and fast-food restaurants, and the Camera 12 Cinemas, At the Market Street end, an oversized bronze table features memories and writings of Mexican immigrant, activist, and SJSU professor Ernesto Galarza.
Robert Graham’s 1994 sculpture of the Mesoamerican feathered-serpent deity was criticized for its $500K price tag, its composite-cement construction, its unimpressive 8-foot height, its religious significance, and its resemblance to coiled excrement.
Winchester Mystery House
The legend is that Sarah Winchester, Winchester Rifle heiress, was afraid of being cursed by the ghosts of those who had been killed by Winchester guns. She thought that as long as construction continued, the ghosts would be kept at bay.
Construction did continue (for 38 years!), resulting in a fantastic house full of mazes, stairs that go nowhere and other odd architecture.
A “European-style” village of shops, restaurants, and high-priced condos, with hotels and great nightlife. There’s a year-round farmer’s market on Sundays, and during the summer bands play free outdoor music every weekend.
Santana row has become a hang-out spot for San Jose’s residents. Has numerous restaurants, bakeries, cafes and central garden. Stores include Anthropologie, J. Crew, and surf shops. Its development has had a huge impact on the San Jose landscape and economy.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium
This museum of Ancient Egypt features exhibits funded by the Rosicrucian Order, who have secured artifacts from archaeologists working in the area since the 1920s.
Take a tour through a detailed replica of an Egyptian tomb and browse their collection of mummies and artifacts.
Located between Jackson and Taylor on 1st-5th Sts, the neighborhood surrounding Fifth and Jackson streets (a mile from Downtown) has some good restaurants, retail shops, and cultural facilities. Festivals are held several times a year, and there is a year-round farmer’s market on Sundays.
This charming shopping district was once the center of a town separate from San Jose. Has a variety of small shops and restaurants, as well as a farmer’s market and a handful of community festivals and events throughout the year.
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
San Jose’s 5 1/2–acre Municipal Rose Garden, once a prune orchard, draws thousands of visitors each year. The Garden is exclusively devoted to shrubs of the rose family and features over 4,000 rose shrubs with 189 varieties represented. Hybrid–teas comprise 75 percent of the plantings. FREE.
Heritage Rose Garden
This garden, initially planted by volunteers in 1995, has a collection of almost 4,000 plants of more than 3,000 rose varieties. FREE.
Alum Rock Park
Amazing park nestled in the Eastern foothills of Silicon Valley. Great for picnics, hiking, biking, and exploring. Great scenic trails, and 1800’s era natural spring baths. FREE.
Lick Observatory can be found on the highest point of Mount Hamilton. It can be seen on a clear day in San Jose. It has a paved road climbing up to it which was originally a horse track, which it is a steady incline.
There are three telescopes on the mountain, including a newer one within walking distance of the observatory. There are tours of one of the telescopes and a gift shop. Sometimes gets snow in winter and on a cloudy day it is above the clouds.
Japanese Friendship Garden
Six-acre open, park-style garden designed to resemble the famous Korakuen in Okayama, Japan.
Japanese American Museum
Documents the history of Japanese Americans in the San Jose area. Highlights are a collection of farm equipment used on Japanese-American-owned farms and a recreation of a barracks from the internment during World War II.
Five Wounds Portuguese National Church
Located at the edge of the Little Portugal neighborhood and built in 1916–19 with materials from the Portuguese pavilion of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, this parish church of the Roman Catholic Latin Rite, with its Neo-Manueline archictecture, is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in San Jose.
Walking Tree tours — Our City Forest
A self-guided tours, via your mobile phone, of trees which have been marked for identification. FREE.
California’s Great America Amusement Parks
Roller coasters, thrill rides, children’s attractions, the Boomerang Bay water park, and Vegas-style live shows. Parking costs $20.
A favorite local spot to cool off in the summer, this water park features slides, rides and a 350,000 gallon wave pool.
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
A small, child-friendly amusement park with some animal exhibits. The carousel, train, miniature roller coaster and other rides are all included in the admission price, but bring a few quarters if you want to feed the goats in the petting zoo.
Pro Tip: Take VTA buses #73 and #25 to save $10 per vehicle parking fee.
Improv Comedy Club
A downtown venue showcasing well-known comedy acts, they have a full restaurant and bar. The club is also great for group outings for 10-400 people.
ComedySportz San Jose
Named “Best Local Theatre” by the Metro’s “Best of the Silicon Valley”, ComedySportz is an interactive improv comedy show where two teams of “act-letes” compete in various comedic games, with the audience as the judge.
Opera San Jose
San Jose’s resident opera company performs on a restored 1920s vaudeville stage and features some of the most accomplished young voices in the country.
Children’s Musical Theater San Jose
This children’s theater puts on productions the whole family can enjoy, from ‘Peter Pan’ to The Who’s ‘Tommy’.
Known for putting on high-quality Chicano/Latino plays in San Jose for over 25 years, Teatro Visión celebrates community, culture, and the vision of a better world.
Ballet San Jose
Formerly the San Jose Cleveland Ballet and more recently Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, this highly skilled and innovative company includes dancers from all over the world. Each season, they perform an extensive repertoire of classical and contemporary works.
Near by Places to Visit
Just east of the city lies Alum Rock Park, a canyon through which Penitencia Creek flows, which is lined by sulfurous mineral springs and several small waterfalls. Above the park stands Mount Hamilton, one of the highest peaks in the Bay Area at 4,213 feet. The telescopes of Lick Observatory, operated by the University of California, crown the summit and are open to the public during daytime hours.
Northeast of San Jose is the Livermore Valley, which includes wine country and the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore.
Other places to see in San Jose’s backyard are the Scenic Drive in Saratoga Hills, the quaint and classy town of Los Gatos, and Mission Santa Clara at Santa Clara University.
Palo Alto and Stanford University are about half an hour’s drive to the north. About 45 minutes northeast, you can visit Fremont’s Mission San Jose and the Ardenwood Historic Farm.
Less than an hour away over the scenic Santa Cruz Mountains, the small coastal city of Santa Cruz is a nice day trip out San Jose. Spend the day enjoying the beaches and Boardwalk, or make it the first stop on a longer coastal drive.
From Santa Cruz, you can take Route 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) south to Capitola, Monterey, and the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Pacific Coast Highway is a nationally famous highway. It goes along the whole coast of California giving off spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Many movies have shown this highway in scenes that take place in California, and it is also a main tourist attraction to drive along the coast.
Route 1 can take you up to Pacifica which is about 30 minutes north of San Jose. Pacifica is an ocean side residential town that has affordable housing and sit’s on hills that overlook the Pacific. The beach here is typical to the Bay Area and has a very rough current.
Less than an hour away is Half Moon Bay beach. This beach sits on the bottom of cliffs with a very rough current. During most the summer months the water is closed to swimmers because of rip tides and massive waves.
The Pacific ocean is typically cold and in half moon bay this is still very true. The sunsets here have been known to lure in travelers and those wanting to rent beach houses. Since Half Moon Bay sits on cliffs, the sunset goes down over the water and seems to create perfect scenery.
Only about an hour and fifteen minutes north, taking highway 101, is the city of San Francisco. San Francisco is the heart of the Bay Area and is the proud owner of the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco has may neighborhoods with all kinds of restaurants, shopping, parks, beaches, and views of the bridge.
The rolling hills of San Jose surround the city creating a valley. See the top of these hills by driving into East San Jose. The houses on the hills are spread out and ranch from ranches, farms, and even mansions. These houses can be seen from the valley and the picturesque drive leads to the top of the hills where you can see the entire landscape of San Jose. On the Fourth of July, many San Jose natives come up to the hills to watch the spectacular firework show over the city.
The downtown area is compact and rather easy to get around on foot. Most of the streets are arranged in a grid, but the grid is not strictly aligned with north (more like north–northwest).
Street address numbers increase (by 100 every 2 or 3 blocks) radiating from Santa Clara Street (an east/west street) or First Street (a north/south street).
Furthermore, Santa Clara Street (and other east/west streets) carry the prefix East or West radiating from First Street; and First Street (and other north/south streets) carry the prefix North or South radiating from Santa Clara Street. This makes it somewhat easy to locate a downtown facility given its street address.
Some neighborhoods directly adjacent to Downtown or in downtown area, such as, Japantown, the Alameda area, Downtown Willow Glen, and Campbell can be explored by foot.
Outside downtown, things are spread out in San Jose, so a car is the most convenient mode of transportation. Interstate 280 is the fastest route East–West, for example from the Valley Fair Mall or Santana Row, to the West, to Downtown, or from Downtown to Alum Rock Park. California 87 (to and from the airport) and Interstate 280/California 17 (from Rose Garden to Campbell and vice versa) offers fast North-South travel.
The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA), does offer serviceable transit around town. The frequency and hours of buses vary depending on the route and your location, so it’s best to check a schedule beforehand. The Light Rail system (primarily the Mountain View-Winchester route and the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa route) also provides quick service to, from and around downtown and Diridon Station; a single fare, $2, is good for 2 hours.
A VTA day pass lets you use buses and Light Rail lines all day and costs $6 for an adult, and $5 for a youth as of 2014. VTA Route #10 serves as a free shuttle between the SJC airport, Santa Clara CalTrain Station and the Metro/Airport Light Rail Station. DASH (Downtown Area SHuttle Rt#201) is another free service connecting downtown San Jose to the San Jose Diridon Transit Center.
Pro Tip: The 511.org website is a wonderful resource for trip planning, whether by car or public transit (or a combination of both). Its Trip Planner spans all Bay Area transit systems.
On the go, you can call VTA Customer Service at +1 408 321-2300 and listen to bus schedules on their automated system or download an app on your iPhone or Android Phone.
Many roads in San Jose have designated bike lanes and/or wide shoulders. A map of the city’s bikeways is available on VTA’s website. This, along with typically favorable local weather, makes biking a viable means of transportation within the city. Bus lines, light rail and Caltrain all accommodate bikes, making mixed-mode travel a simple affair.
There are a limited but growing number of Bay Area Bike Share stations around Downtown and Japantown (but, as of 2018, not in other neighborhoods) which allow anyone to rent city bikes for 30 minutes at a time (time above that costs extra).
As of 2018, a 24-hour pass offers an unlimited number of 30-minute-long rides and costs $10. A 3-day pass costs $20, so if you will be staying longer than three weeks in a year, then the $149 annual pass might make financial sense.
October 30, 2018 10:53 am
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