Top 12 Attractions in San Jose

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nicknamed “Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose blends high-tech innovation with captivating cultural sites, natural beauty, and California charm. Beyond the city’s cutting-edge tech campuses lies well-preserved 19th century architecture, tranquil parks and gardens, and a diverse array of museums guaranteed to fascinate visitors.

AttractionSummary
Winchester Mystery HouseA mansion with bizarre architecture and haunted legends.
Santana RowA shopping and dining area with luxury boutiques and nightlife.
Cathedral Basilica St. JosephA historic cathedral with ornate decoration.
Rosicrucian Egyptian MuseumMuseum with the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Western North America.
Happy Hollow Park & ZooA family-friendly zoo and amusement park.
Municipal Rose GardenNorth America’s largest rose garden with over 3,500 plants.
Tech InteractiveA museum with interactive STEAM exhibits.
Alum Rock ParkA park offering nature trails, picnic areas, and mineral springs.
Children’s Discovery MuseumAn interactive museum focusing on STEM for kids.
San Jose Museum of ArtFeatures 20th and 21st-century art, including interactive exhibits.
History ParkA living history museum showcasing San Jose’s past.
Gilroy GardensA family theme park with horticultural displays and rides.

San Jose also provides easy access to the stunning Santa Cruz Mountains as well as California’s scenic central coast. From historical landmarks to family-friendly science centers, discover the top attractions that make San Jose an intriguing and enjoyable getaway destination.

Winchester Mystery House

Name and Location: The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd in San Jose, California.

History and Significance: The Winchester Mystery House was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. After the loss of her husband and child, Sarah visited a medium who told her that she must continuously build a home to appease the spirits killed by Winchester rifles. Over the next 38 years, Sarah proceeded to build a sprawling and eccentric mansion with no apparent rhyme or reason to its design. The home features stairs and doors that lead nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms, and many oddities. It has become a popular tourist attraction as an example of bizarre but ingenious architecture.

What to Expect: Visitors can take self-guided or guided tours of the extensive Winchester Mystery House and see the staircase to nowhere, door made for ghosts, séance room, and other unusual features. There are different tours available focusing on various aspects of the home.

Visitor Information: The Winchester Mystery House is open every day except for some major holidays. Hours vary by season. Tickets should be purchased in advance online. Tour options range from general access to specialty behind-the-scenes tours.

Baffling architecture aficionados for a century, the peculiar Winchester Mystery House stands as one of America’s most unusual homes ever constructed. After the death of her husband and infant daughter, rifle empire heiress Sarah Winchester visited a spiritual medium claiming that vengeful spirits killed by Winchester firearms caused her tragedies. The medium advised Sarah to continuously build a sprawling mansion to disorient haunting entities. The result became a 24,000 square foot architectural wonderland with 160 puzzling rooms of various sizes linked by maze-like corridors punctuated by haphazard dead ends. With perplexing nightly séances dictating construction, the home features bizarre oddities like staircases climbing to ceilings, doors opening onto two-foot drops, and a séance room at the geographical center. Daily Mansion Tours let visitors explore the Winchester Mystery House’s beguiling quirks and legend firsthand.

Santana Row

Name and Location: Santana Row is an outdoor shopping center located on Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Santana Row offers luxury retail stores, restaurants, a boutique hotel, and residences all designed to create an urban village environment. It features Mediterranean inspired architecture and landscaping to resemble a vintage yet modern main street. Since its opening in 2002, it has become one of Silicon Valley’s premier destinations for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

What to Expect: At Santana Row, visitors will find a vibrant pedestrian area with 70 shops, 30 restaurants, a boutique hotel, and lush landscaping. There are often events, music performances, outdoor dining, and opportunities to relax and enjoy the energetic atmosphere.

Visitor Information: Santana Row is open daily with varying hours by store and restaurant. Parking is available in the parking garages nearby off Olsen Drive and in surface lots with some short term street parking. The area is easily accessible by car or Valley Transit Authority light rail.

This vibrant outdoor shopping and dining destination brings luxury boutiques, people watching, and nightlife excitement to San Jose. Santana Row’s tree-lined streets house over 70 shops ranging from Apple and Gucci to local art galleries and spas. Global cuisine abounds with Mediterranean small plates, Italian gelato, or gin cocktails sipped al fresco upon Santana Row’s bustling patios. After dark, the neighborhood’s chic bars mix creative craft libations often with live music or DJ beats setting a sophisticated yet friendly tone. With its walkable European-inspired layout hosting community events from yoga classes to holiday celebrations, Santana Row charms South Bay visitors every day of the week.

Cathedral Basilica St. Joseph

Name and Location: The Cathedral Basilica St. Joseph is a Catholic church located at 80 S. Market Street in downtown San Jose.

History and Significance: The cathedral was built in 1877 and remains an important piece of San Jose’s history. It survived earthquakes and serves as the symbolic heart of the city. In 1985, it was renovated and an impressive marble sanctuary inspired by the vision of St. Joseph was added.

What to Expect: Visitors will discover ornate stained glass windows, beautiful architecture, Italian marble, and stunning religious iconography. People of all faiths are welcome to attend mass, light a candle, pray, or simply take in the tranquil beauty of this historic cathedral.

Visitor Information: The Cathedral is open daily from 7 AM to 7 PM for visitors. Guided tours are offered after Sunday mass. There is ample street parking nearby and it’s easily accessible by public transportation.

Rising from a San Jose hillside, the soaring dome of this ornately decorated Catholic cathedral makes a striking first impression sparkling in the California sun. French and Italian artisans spent over a decade embellishing St. Joseph’s interior with carved cherrywood pews, hand-painted religious frescoes, shimmering stained glass depicting biblical scenes, and an intricate granite altar flanked by larger-than-life saints. Many artistic elements carry symbolic scriptural meanings down to the very shapes adorning the cathedral’s rotunda. While captivating to simply admire during self-guided touring, free guided tours provide fascinating details on Wednesday and Saturday mornings explaining the cathedral’s old world craftsmanship and spiritual symbology.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Name and Location: The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is situated at Rosicrucian Park at 1342 Naglee Avenue in San Jose.

History and Significance: Founded in 1927 by the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, this museum houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in western North America including sarcophagi, mummies, jewelry, and statues. Their educational exhibits seek to reveal ancient mysteries and explore the history and culture of Egypt.

What to Expect: Guests can participate in guided tours, view films about Egypt in the planetarium, explore the extensive galleries of ancient artifacts, and attend lectures by Egyptologists. There are activities for both children and adults to foster learning.

Visitor Information: The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10 AM to 4:30 PM with extended hours in the summer. Admission is charged. Parking is available in their lot, and they are accessible by VTA bus.

Travel back to Ancient Egypt at this mystical museum displaying the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in western North America including mummies, hieroglyphic-etched sarcophagi, jewel-laden amulets, and a hand-carved temple replica. Eye-opening exhibits trace Egyptian influence spanning pre-dynastic eras through the reign of legendary queen Cleopatra. Don’t miss the intriguing display explaining rituals, gods, and the steps to mummification. Outdoors, stroll through authentic replicas of Egyptian architectural structures including bas-reliefs etched with secrets and symbols. Whether you’re an armchair Egyptologist or simply fascinated by archaeology’s golden age, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum lets visitors young and old immerse in tomb treasures and Nile-side history.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Name and Location: Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a family amusement park and small zoo located at 1300 Senter Road in Kelley Park, San Jose.

History and Significance: Happy Hollow has been providing affordable family entertainment in San Jose since 1961. Generations have enjoyed riding their miniature train, carousel, and other amusement rides as well as seeing exotic animals from lemurs to jaguars. It is a local treasure focused preserving childhood wonder.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy puppet shows, maze play structures, train and carousel rides, as well as educational encounters with farm animals, mammals, birds, and reptiles. There are play areas designed specifically for toddlers and young children.

Visitor Information: Happy Hollow is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM during most of the year. Single and season pass tickets are available. Parking is free in designated areas of Kelley Park. Light food, snacks, and beverages are sold on grounds.

Nestled inside Kelley Park, Happy Hollow transports kids and kids-at-heart into an imagination-fueled world with colorful playgrounds, pint-sized rides, and close-up critter encounters. This smaller-scale zoo lets visitors safely feed lorikeets, petewee goats, or brush inquisitive ponies in the hands-on outdoor petting farm. Happy Hollow’s ring-tailed lemur walk puts you face-to-face with adorable primates in a lush jungle-themed habitat. Adventure-seekers also love zooming through an elaborate hedge maze, crawling through kiddie-sized tunnels, and warding off the squirting sea dragon. Happy Hollow hits the sweet spot for families craving a friendly, engaging San Jose playground.

Municipal Rose Garden

Name and Location: The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is located at Naglee and Dana Avenues within Rose Garden Neighborhood of San Jose.

History and Significance: Created in 1927, this beloved park features over 3,500 rose bushes representing 189 rose varieties. The organization Friends of the San Jose Rose Garden volunteer and help maintain the garden’s beauty year-round, making it an urban oasis for locals and visitors.

What to Expect: Guests can leisurely stroll along paved paths with views of vibrant rose bushes in patterns and a central fountain. Peak blooming occurs May through September. The park also includes lawns, shade trees, and benches in a family-friendly setting.

Visitor Information: The Municipal Rose Garden is free and open to public daily from sunrise to half hour after sunset. Street parking is available near the park. Guided and self-guided tours are offered seasonally.

Spreading over five rolling acres overlooking downtown San Jose, the sprawling Municipal Rose Garden earns its nickname as “the largest rose garden in North America.” Here 3,500 vibrant rose bushes representing 189 fragrant varietals from Hybrid Teas to Grandifloras blossom against verdant lawns and neat brick pathways. Wander through rows of colorful blooms while hummingbirds and butterflies flit nearby. Peak rose viewing comes in May and June when brilliant yellows, deep wines, blushing pinks, and creamy ivories blanket the garden. docent-led tours provide handy growing tips for home gardeners. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy amid the sweet floral perfume or photograph blushing bouquets against a romantic city backdrop at this treasured San Jose haven.

Tech Interactive

Name and Location: The Tech Interactive, previously known as The Tech Museum of Innovation, is a science and technology center located in the heart of downtown San Jose at 201 South Market Street.

History and Significance: Founded in 1990 as one of the first of its kind, The Tech has become renowned for immersive experiences focused on inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM fields. Their mission is to unite Silicon Valley communities to inspire and enable innovation.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy hundreds of interactive STEM exhibits, live demonstrations, virtual reality experiences, an IMAX dome theater, and rotating special exhibitions spanning science, technology and its real world applications. There is something for all ages and knowledge levels to discover.

Visitor Information: The Tech is open 10 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Sunday. Ticket prices vary from $15 to $30 depending on exhibits and films. Discounts are offered for children, students, teachers, and families. The museum is easily reached via San Jose public transit.

With innovators and entrepreneurs flocking to Silicon Valley chasing futuristic ideas, it’s only fitting for San Jose to host cutting-edge museums like The Tech promoting STEAM education through hands-on exhibits. Centrally located opposite Plaza de César Chávez downtown, The Tech’s sleek building houses over 400 interactive experiences inviting kids to build robots, design video games, edit film footage, or conduct virtual heart surgery. Mind-bending illusions, a biotech lab, and augmented reality experiences also fascinate young minds and inner kids. Special events bring more wow-factor with expert talks, coding camps, 3D printing demos plus ever-changing new galleries like current exhibition Wild Lives documenting bio-inspired robotics.

Alum Rock Park

Name and Location: Alum Rock Park is a 740 acre urban park located on the east side of San Jose at 15350 Penitencia Creek Road, nestled in the Diablo Mountain range.

History and Significance: Founded in 1872 as California’s oldest municipal playground, Alum Rock Park offers spectacular mountain valley views and displays mineral springs trickling from underground. Its sulfur hot springs were once believed to offer health benefits, attracting tourists. Today it is beloved for hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and natural beauty just outside Silicon Valley.

What to Expect: Alum Rock features over 13 miles of trails suitable for walking, running, biking or horseback riding for all skill levels along with scenic vistas and opportunities to connect with nature. Visitors also enjoy picnics, playgrounds, a visitor center withgift shop, creek access, and bathrooms.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from 8 AM to one hour after sunset. Entry is free, but small day use parking fee applies. Restrooms, drinking fountains, barbecue pits, and picnic tables are scattered throughout the park.

Offering dazzling valley views, bubbling mineral springs, and miles of wooded trails just outside downtown San Jose, Alum Rock Park delivers easily accessible nature immersion within an urban escape. Following refreshingly shaded canyon paths leads hikers past native plants like elderberry bushes or poison oak as well as trickling creeks carving through tree-studded slopes. Iconic wooden bridges crossing leafy ravines make idyllic backdrops for family photos. After working up an appetite on the trails, picnic facilities dot the park including barbecue fire pits for quintessential California cookouts. Before leaving, sample the park’s namesake mineral springs freshly tapped into stone fountain basins near the entrance. As California’s oldest municipal park dating from 1872, Alum Rock remains a treasured public green space in San Jose’s backyard.

Children’s Discovery Museum

Name and Location: The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose is an interactive children’s museum located at 180 Woz Way in downtown San Jose.

History and Significance: Founded in 1990, CDM offers innovative environments and programs to inspire wonder, creativity, and lifelong learning in our youngest citizens. From new exhibits to community events, their activities nurture imagination and unlock new perspectives.

What to Expect: The museum offers hands-on exhibits, activities, workshops, and programs focused on STEAM learning for children ages 0-10. Kids can roleplay careers, perform science experiments, create in the arts studio, and more based on theme areas like Nature Explorer and Innovation Workshop.

Visitor Information: The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday with varying hours. Ticket prices range from $15 to $20. Memberships offering unlimited admission and benefits are available. The museum is conveniently located downtown near Children’s Park, the MLK Library, and Discovery Meadow.

With 10 interactive galleries spread across purple building known as “the plum,” Children’s Discovery Museum bursts with hands-on STEM exhibits creatively engaging developing minds. Kids can soar through space inside a lunar module, assemble the inner workings of giant appliances in Operation: Construction Zone, or don chef’s hats cooking global cuisine inside Whole Foods Market. Active youngsters also love racing Bilibot robots they code themselves or climbing multi-story climbing structures overlooking outdoor learning spaces. Newer experience like Animation Studio and our City let kids storyboard their own film clips or construct model skyscrapers mimicking San Jose’s downtown. Every corner provides enriching family fun worth discovering again and again.

San Jose Museum of Art

Name and Location: The San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, situated near Plaza de César Chávez.

History and Significance: Originally founded in 1969, the museum relocated to its award-winning new building in 2005. Its collections and changing exhibits focus on showcasing 20th century and contemporary Californian and Bay Area art across various media. As the Bay Area’s only modern art museum, it plays a key cultural role.

What to Expect: Visitors can experience diverse paintings, sculpture, photography, installations, digital art and more reflecting dynamic regional creativity. Interactive touch screens provide exhibit details and mobile guides enhance understanding of featured works. Talks, tours, films, and events offer additional depth.

Visitor Information: Open 11 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Sunday year-round.ticket prices range from $10 for adults to free for visitors under 18. The first Tuesday of every month offers free admission. Parking is available in adjacent garages or lots.

Though compact in size, San Jose Museum of Modern Art punches above its weight showcasing 20th and 21st century creativity spanning abstract expressionism to new media installation art. Located downtown opposite Plaza de Cesar Chavez park, this sleek space designed by architect Richard Meier makes an ideal small-dose art break for culture vultures and first-time museum visitors. Beyond displaying renowned pieces from Diego Rivera, Joan Miro, and Helen Frankenthaler on upstairs walls, interactive screens alongside artworks share illuminating context on artistic movements and meaning. Don’t miss Isamu Noguchi’s playful sculptural slide connecting second floor galleries! With free admission and intuitive exhibits explaining modern art, SJMA brings fine art out of ivory towers into inspired community dialogue.

History Park

Name and Location: History Park is an open-air history museum located at 1650 Senter Road in Kelley Park, San Jose.

History and Significance: History Park brings San Jose’s past to life with over a dozen authentically restored landmark buildings and structures showcasing life from the late 1800s to early 1900s. As an extension of the San Jose Historical Museum, it offers a unique window into Silicon Valley’s history.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore historic homes, print shops, a library, railroad station, and more while costumed docents share stories and demonstrations. Antique exhibits, heritage gardens, special events and walking tours immerse you in traditional local life. You may even spot ghosts on paranormal investigation tours!

Visitor Information: History Park is open Wednesday through Sunday 11am – 5pm. Admission is free, although fees apply for some special events and tours. Free parking is available within Kelley Park, and the Senter VTA Light Rail station is nearby.

Bringing local heritage to life one reconstructed building at a time, ever-expanding History Park at Kelley Park presents visitors with glimpses of late 19th and early 20th century life in San Jose spanning Native Californian, agricultural, and early industrial time periods. Meander dirt paths weaving past 30 heritage sites like an 1890s print shop equipped with turn-of-the-century printing presses or Patsy’s Italian Villa restaurant relocated log-by-log from San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood downtown. Pop inside a trolley car from 1887 or the Fallon House brought over piece-by-piece from its original location in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains. Vintage trains, a restored Duty Free storefront, and an authentically furnished Chinese Apothecary shop further augment your historical excursion around this 16-acre living history museum.

Gilroy Gardens

Name and Location: Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is located at 3050 Hecker Pass Highway/CA-152 in Gilroy, California.

History and Significance: Founded by Michael Bonfante in 2001, Gilroy Gardens is the only garden-themed family amusement park. It is designed to inspire guests to better understand horticulture while enjoying one-of-a-kind rides, shows, and attractions surrounded by millions of colorful flowers.

What to Expect: Visitors can walk among award-winning gardens while experiencing rides like the Circus Trees carousel, Timber Twister rollercoaster, and Bulgy the Goldfish on Water Oasis Lake. Other highlights include Gilroy Garden Express train, fountain shows synchronized with music, and educational opportunities to learn about plants.

Visitor Information: Gilroy Gardens is open from March through December, with seasonal hours that change monthly. Single day tickets range from $50 to $65 for adults and children under age three enter free. Parking is included with admission and lockers are available to store items.

Offering wholesome family fun 30 minutes south in Gilroy, Gilroy Gardens brings horticultural imagination to life through 24 themed gardens interwoven with gentle festival rides, splash play zones, engaging exhibits and restaurants. Must-do activities include circumnavigating the monumental cow tree sculpture in the topiaries garden, ogling alien plants in Expedition: Soaring Spirits, and riding the Butterfly Boats for a lift (literally) while surrounded by Monarchs and swallowtails mid-flight. When legs tire, hop aboard the miniature trains touring these family-friendly grounds filled with botanical wonders around every corner. Open annually from March through December, Gilroy Gardens makes an ideal green getaway or rainy day retreat south of San Jose.

Conclusion

From the peculiar Winchester Mystery House to soaring Cathedral Basilica St. Joseph, San Jose visitor attractions range from historical hideaways to hands-on science and nature-based activities showcasing this innovative Northern California hub’s heritage and high-tech leadership. Beyond expected tech company stops, San Jose provides dynamic arts, abundant green spaces, and multicultural insights sure to engage young and old travelers seeking quintessential Golden State experiences or simply stretching their limbs on a Silicon Valley break. Whether reliving Egypt’s glory or glimpsing tomorrow’s gene editing therapies, San Jose offers enriching fun around every corner.

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