Known as one of the safest cities in the Bay Area, San Jose is often also referred to as the Capital of Silicon Valley. San Jose is also the largest city in the Bay Area and Northern California, as well as the third-largest city in the state, and the 10th largest city in America. That being said, there are tons of things about San Jose that make it special to visitors and residents alike. If you’re looking for a day (or two) out in the city, here are the 16 best things to do in San Jose, California!
Related: Find Rooms For Rent In San Jose
Outdoors in San Jose
1. Take a hike at Almaden Quicksilver County Park
San Jose has several county parks that are perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. At Almaden Quicksilver County Park, once the world’s second-largest mercury mine, you can hike among the tunnels and tracks left behind by the massive mining operation. Alum Rock Park, one of the state’s oldest municipal parks, was once known as a health spa. This was all thanks to 27 natural mineral springs that are still around today. At Joseph D. Grant County Park, Santa Clara County’s largest, 51 miles of trails wind their way through the foothills of the Diablo Range. This place is a brilliant picnic, hiking, and date spot all in one!
Hours: 8AM till sunset
2. The Heritage Rose Garden
Get a sense of the San Jose of yesteryear at the Heritage Rose Garden and Japanese Friendship Garden. At the rose garden (free, open daily) you can admire 2,800 varieties of heritage, modern and miniature roses. The Japanese Friendship Garden, built in Kelley Park in 1965, has a koi pond, flowing brook, waterfalls, and bridges that honor the friendship between San Jose and its sister city Okayama, Japan.
Costs: Free entry
Hours: 8AM to 5PM
3. California’s Great America and its seven rollercoasters!
Thrillseekers don’t need to look any further than San Jose for two of the best amusement parks in the state. This is truly one of the best things to do in San Jose if you’re free with a sunny day on your hands. At California’s Great America, seven roller coasters, including the “floorless” coaster Patriot, will send you screaming. But if it’s some water-front fun you’re looking for, Raging Waters, San Jose’s beloved water park, will help you beat the Valley heat! Jump on rides that range from the family-friendly wave pool and endless river to daredevil drops and steep, twisting slides. Something for everyone, eh?
Costs: $38 +taxes
Hours: 11AM to 7PM
Sports in San Jose
1. The San Jose Sharks and the Hockey Season at the SAP Center!
During hockey season, the San Jose Sharks play home games at the SAP Center, the “Shark Tank,” downtown. Their practice facility, Solar4America Ice (Shark’s Ice) down the road, is also open to the public and when the team isn’t on the ice, you can rent a pair of skates and hit the rink. The San Jose Earthquakes play at PayPal Park (formerly Avaya Stadium) which opened in 2015 with space for 18,000 screaming fans.
Costs: Upwards of $100/San Jose Sharks game
Hours: Game and season specific.
2. The Excite Ballpark aka The San Jose Municipal Stadium
Known until 2019 as the San Jose Municipal Stadium, this 4,200-capacity sports venue has been here since 1942. In its 80 or so years, the stadium has had 11 different tenants, the current being the Class A – Advanced team, the San Jose Giants.
The San Jose Giants have a history to be proud of, having lifted five Minor League titles between 2001 and 2010. And as a farm team, more than 190 MLB players have cut their teeth right here. This list includes a few members of the SF Giants’ World Series-winning roster, like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, and Jonathan Sánchez.
When it comes to food, choose from churros, BBQ, nachos, funnel cake, and of course hot dogs.
Costs: Vary with every game.
Hours: Noon to 9:30PM unless mentioned otherwise.
3. Monopoly in the Park!
Don’t feel like sitting on the bleachers to watch traditional sports?
Take yourself to experience Monopoly in the Park, a larger-than-life-sized version of the world’s most popular board game and the only Guinness Book of World Records attraction here in San Jose. To put it very simply, your property is traded on a 930 square foot permanent Monopoly board installed in Discovery Meadow near the Children’s Discovery Museum. Everyone has a chance to “make it big” in Silicon Valley real estate playing with jumbo dice, gigantic token-shaped hats, and even wearing jailhouse garb if you “do not pass go and go directly to jail.” It’s big fun for team building, families, or just friends enjoying a playful afternoon.
Cost: $300 with a deposit of $150
Hours: Open 24 Hours.
Museums in San Jose
1. The NASA Ames Research Center
The search is on for extraterrestrials at the NASA Ames Research Center. Here you can also learn about past space missions and see what it’s like to live and work in space. For a glimpse beyond our galaxy, head up to the Lick Observatory high above the city on Mt. Hamilton. During their Summer Series, visitors can learn more about astronomy and view the stars through the historic observatory’s two powerful telescopes. This has to be one of the best things to do in San Jose for anyone who is new to the city!
Hours: The Exploration Center is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on weekends 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
2. San Jose Museum of Art
Downtown San Jose has a truly vibrant art scene. The largest museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, houses a collection of modern works from the 20th century. At the more intimate San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, three rotating galleries display exhibits from all corners of the visual arts. Next door, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, the first American museum dedicated to the craft, has a fantastic collection of vibrant cloth, blankets, as well as garments. For a less structured view of the city’s artwork, take a walk through downtown where a robust public art program has drenched the streets in color. A free self-guided map is also available online.
Cost: Adult, $10
Senior 65 and over, $8
Free for teachers, students with IDs, kids under 17, and members.
Hours: Friday–Sunday, 11am–5pm
3. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
The Rosicrucians, a community of mystics hundreds of years old who study the metaphysical laws of the universe, are alive and well in San Jose. Their home base, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, an oddball institution that is part-history, part-mindblowing fringe philosophy, houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the Western US. Among the display cases, you’ll find cat mummies, sarcophagi, and a replica of a rock-cut tomb from Middle Egypt!
- Adults (18-64) – $10.00
- Adults (65 and older) – $8.00
- Students with ID – $8.00
- Children (ages 7 to 17) – $8.00
- Children 6 and under – complimentary
Hours: Friday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pmSaturday and Sunday: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Culture in San Jose
1. The Winchester Mystery House
Widow Sarah Winchester, the heiress to her husband’s Winchester Rifle fortune, began construction on the sprawling Winchester Mansion in 1886. She believed the house was haunted by those who had died at the hand of the Winchester rifle and by the time of her death, 36 years later, the still incomplete house had 160 rooms, 2000 doors, and dozens of staircases that often led nowhere in an effort to confuse the malevolent spirits. This is by far one of the coolest things to do in San Jose, regardless of whether you get spooked easily or not!
Cost: Packages start from $9.99
Hours: Open daily; 10:00AM to 5:00PM weekdays / 10:00AM to 7:00PM weekends
2. The Original HQ of Apple, Google & HP!
Silicon Valley owes much to the humble suburban garage. It’s where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer, where Hewlett Packard (HP) developed their first audio oscillator, and where Google first googled. Though they’ve moved on to grander office spaces, the original headquarters of all three companies remain an important part of San Jose’s history. The Apple and HP garages have also been listed as National Historic Landmarks.
Hours: Open daily, please do be mindful of the homeowners.
3. Book a whole tour of Silicon Valley!
Yes, you heard that right! There’s an actual tour that takes you around and through the history of Silicon Valley! This tour explores the past and future of Silicon Valley on an exciting tour of some of the most famous tech startup companies. They also offer pickup at your hotel in central San Francisco, and then travel by air-conditioned bio-fuel minibus to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
On the tour, you’ll get to see some of the first mega computers and commercially-produced machines, as well as classic games like Pac-Man and Atari to stir up some childhood memories. There’s also enough to learn about the computer revolution and information age and get an idea of where it is leading us to in the future.
Cost: Free if virtual! In-person tours cost upwards of $100/person.
Hours: Vary according to bookings.
Restaurants & Shopping in San Jose
1. The San Jose Flea Market
Opened in 1960, the open-air San Jose Flea Market has become a world all of its own with up to 1500 vendors setting up shop on Sundays (the market is open Wednesday, and Friday to Sunday) selling everything from fresh produce to fine collectibles. On West San Carlos Street, several permanent antique stores line up along Antiques Row, including the massive Antiques Colony. Just down the street, Moon Zoom, and Black and Brown’s racks of retro clothing will keep you entertained for hours.
Cost: Entry on Saturdays is $2. Walk-in Entry on Sunday is $3.
- Wednesday: Vendor Gates open at 6 AM.
- Friday: Vendor Gates open at 6 AM.
- Saturday & Sunday: Vendor Gates open at 5 AM.
2. Vito’s Trattoria
Vito’s Trattoria is a restaurant that offers up genuine Italian cuisine packed with flavor and surrounded by excellent service. Open for lunch and dinner since 2003, Vito’s has gathered a following of locals and out-of-towners alike. The décor is charming and reminiscent of an Italian villa, and the staff are always hospitable and accommodating. Vito’s offers pizza to go, a homemade pie that always has people coming back for more. They also own a café right next door with a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, and pizza ready to grab and go.
Cost: $31 to $50
Hours: 11AM to 8PM
3. Aqui Cal-Mex
Aqui Cal-Mex is a San Jose franchise serving quick, quality food. When you walk into any one of the warmly decorated restaurants, you place your order at the counter and wait at a table until the food is ready. While you wait, you might admire the walls of Aqui, which are decked out with unique artwork from talented local artists. The menu features a cultural mix of Asian, American, and South American flavors with items like adobo chicken lime avocado, mango sesame chicken, Thai peanut bowls, California enchiladas, and cotija taquitos. For a quick, healthy bite that is full of flavor, stop at one of Aqui Cal-Mex’s locations in San Jose.
- Mon-Wed 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
- Thu, Sun 11:00 am – 8:30 pm
- Fri-Sat 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
4. Midtown Arts Mercantile
Midtown Arts Mercantile, a renovated complex in a formerly industrial neighborhood that houses Apis Floral and Good Karma Bikes, is a good place to start. If you’re looking for bigger brands like Kate Spade, Madewell, and H&M, visit the nicely designed open-air mall Santana Row.
Cost: 11AM to 8PM
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