Top 12 Things to Do in San Jose, California

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

San Jose is full of worldly treasures and there are multiple interesting things you could do to have the time of your life.

ActivityHighlights
Visit Santana RowUpscale shopping, dining, and entertainment, resembling a Mediterranean village.
Tour the Winchester Mystery HouseHistorical mansion with architectural oddities and legends.
Japanese Friendship GardenSerene park with traditional Japanese elements.
Happy Hollow Park & ZooFamily-friendly zoo and amusement park.
Cathedral Basilica of St. JosephStunning French Gothic revival architecture and religious art.
Tech InteractiveInteractive technology and science museum.
Rosicrucian Egyptian MuseumLarge collection of Egyptian artifacts and a replica tomb.
San Pedro Square MarketVibrant food scene with a variety of dining options.
Municipal Rose GardenThousands of roses in an award-winning garden.
San Jose Museum of ArtArt museum showcasing a wide range of visual arts.
California’s Great AmericaThrilling amusement park with roller coasters and family rides.
Alum Rock ParkNature park with hiking trails and mineral springs.

Some activities that could give you a thrilling experience are listed below.

Visit Santana Row

Name and Location: Santana Row is an upscale Main Street-style shopping district located in west San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Opened in 2002 in the heart of Silicon Valley, Santana Row offers visitors a vibrant destination with a Mediterranean aesthetic, combining luxury shopping, fine dining, spas, boutique hotels and residences all in a lushly landscaped walkable setting.

What to Expect: Guests browse premium stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, enjoy world cuisine from modern restaurants and cafes, relax in salons/spas, check out lively plazas and attractions like the District Wine Bar & Kitchen along tree-lined walkways optimized for strolling.

Visitor Information: Free admission. Shops/restaurants have varying hours. Parking in garages and lots. Events year-round. Details at santanarow.com.

Santana Row is an upscale outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment destination in San Jose. This lavish complex features over 70 shops, 30 restaurants, a boutique luxury hotel, and apartments – all designed to emulate a vibrant Mediterranean village. Stroll along the tree-lined streets and discover famous brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Tesla or dine al fresco at restaurants serving global cuisines. Catch a movie at the CineArts theater, enjoy cocktails at rooftop lounges, or just people watch from a cafe patio. With its abundance of amenities, Santana Row is one of San Jose’s premier lifestyle destinations.

Tour the Winchester Mystery House

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

History and Significance: Once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, heir to the rifle fortune, construction began in 1884 and continued for 38 years to accommodate her belief in spiritualism. The resulting striking Victorian manor is filled with architectural curiosities.

What to Expect: Guided tours allow visitors to explore the 160-room mansion’s unusual features including stairs leading nowhere, doors opening to walls, constant turns and switches between designs from various eras. The gardens, cafe and gift shop offer additional activities.

Visitor Information: Open daily. Tickets start at $37 for self-guided tours, $65 guided. Advance purchase required, tours sell out. Details at winchestermysteryhouse.com.

The Winchester Mystery House is a sprawling Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion renowned for its size, architectural curiosities, and connection to the famous Winchester rifle. Built continuously from 1884 until 1922 under the eccentric owner Sarah Winchester, the home contains 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces and several oddities. Take a guided tour to hear tales of the property’s alleged paranormal activity and view unique attractions like staircases leading to ceilings, doors opening to walls, and a séance room. This historical San Jose curiosity exemplifies elaborate Victorian architecture while providing insight into an enigmatic woman’s fascinating mind.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Name and Location: The Japanese Friendship Garden is a cultural oasis located at Kelley Park in San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Built in 1965, this serene 7.5-acre garden aims to foster friendship between Japan and the United States through celebrations of both cultures interwoven throughout the traditional Japanese garden landscape and structures.

What to Expect: Guests stroll gracefully arched bridges, view vibrant koi fish, and learn origami while admiring bamboo, bonsai trees, and rock gardens interspersed with Japanese art and architecture along winding paths with scenic respites.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10AM-7PM. Free for ages 12 and under, $10 for adults. Docent tours available. More information at japanesefriendshipgarden.org.

Find serenity amidst classical Japanese architecture and design at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose’s Kelley Park. Stroll along peaceful pathways past historic pagodas, arched bridges, bonsai trees, and koi ponds – all beautifully landscaped into several traditional garden styles. Have a Zen moment while admiring the graceful steps and stone lanterns or observe cascading waterfalls designed to represent Japanese mountain streams. Don’t miss the traditional teahouse where guests can partake in an authentic matcha tea ceremony for a small fee. For a calming outdoor space celebrating Japanese culture, San Jose’s tranquility shines brightest here.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

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

History and Significance: Open since 1961, Happy Hollow offers adventurous playgrounds and unique wildlife encounters across its 17 acres, providing children in San Jose with creative outdoor play and memorable experiences that foster an appreciation of the natural world.

What to Expect: Families visit animal exhibits like Lemur Lookout alongside rides, puppet shows, play structures and hands-on educational opportunities that integrate wildlife into themed attractions geared for kids like Jungle Joe’s Water Play and the Happy Hollow Railroad.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am–5pm. Entry $8-12, under 2 free. Annual memberships available. Parking $6. Schedule at happyhollow.org.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose provides animal encounters, rides and attractions perfect for families with young children. Get nose-to-nose with playful meerkats, giggle while brushing goats in the petting zoo, and watch prairie dogs pop out of their underground tunnels. Hop aboard the antique carousel, soar on the airplane ride and explore areas like Lemur Woods. Interactive exhibits at the neighboring Discovery Center let kids play educational games focused on wildlife, jobs, and global culture. With Happy Hollow’s engaging mix of friendly animals, rides and hands-on learning activities, it’s an ideal destination for quality family time.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

Name and Location: The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is located at 80 S. Market Street in downtown San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Completed in 1877, this historic Roman Catholic church features Churrigueresque architectural style with an intricate carved stone facade on its exterior and interior walls and dome covered in elaborate biblical motifs executed in gold leaf to make it a beloved San Jose landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors stand awestruck admiring one of the finest examples of early California religious art. While not officially a museum, weekday tours allow the public inside to take in spiritual architecture and decor including the carved pulpit, stained glass windows, ornate Stations of the Cross and vibrant palette.

Visitor Information: Daily mass and seasonal service times online. Self-guided tours available Friday-Sunday or schedule group tours through the rectory office Monday-Friday.

Boasting exquisite French Gothic revival architecture, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph has been an iconic Catholic church and San Jose landmark since its consecration in 1877. Step inside the soaring sanctum to admire stunning stained glass windows, carved marble shrines and larger-than-life sculptures honoring various saints. Don’t miss the pipe organ loaded with over 4,700 pipes that regularly host music events for the community. Climb the cathedral’s bell tower to take in panoramic views of downtown San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley from this historic place of worship located in the city’s original Spanish Colonial plaza.

Tech Interactive

Name and Location: The Tech Interactive is a hands-on technology and science museum located in the heart of downtown San Jose at 201 South Market Street.

History and Significance: Established in 2000, The Tech is one of the top museums teaching science, technology and innovation in Silicon Valley through immersive environments focused on design, problem-solving and the creative process across two expansive floors of interactive labs and exhibits.

What to Expect: Patrons of all ages build robots, try bioengineering, experience virtual worlds, control lightning, explore 3D printing and engage in over 100 hands-on activities illuminating STEAM fields from bones to drones to coding for an inspiring look at inventions shaping tomorrow.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm except major holidays. Exhibit halls close 30 minutes prior. Entry is $25 for adults, $20 for youth 3-17 with member and group rates. Tickets online.

Immerse yourself in cutting-edge innovation at The Tech Interactive, one of the best STEM museums in the United States. This hands-on technology and science center contains over 475 interactive exhibits focusing on areas like biotech, computers, lasers and more spread across multiple engaging galleries. Build robots, engineer structures to withstand earthquakes, explore virtual worlds, control real NASA spacecraft rovers or race solar cars. Special rotating exhibits like National Geographic’s “Women: A Century of Change” inspire future scientists and engineers. For igniting tech passion through immersive education, The Tech provides world-class inspiration.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Name and Location: The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in western North America at Rosicrucian Park in San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Founded in 1927 by the esoteric Rosicrucian order AMORC, this museum presents 4,000 years of Egyptian history through the lens of Rosicrucian philosophy using the ancient artifacts assembled to provide teachings on the mysteries of life and the afterlife.

What to Expect: Guests explore recreations of tombs and temples containing sarcophagi, mummies and statues while learning about beliefs on death, the underworld, gods, pharaohs, the Book of the Dead and everyday living in context of how such ancient wisdom connects with modern personal growth.

Visitor Information: Open Wednesday-Sunday 9am-5pm for self-guided and audio tours. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Entry fees $9 plus discounted member/youth rates onsite and online.

Travel back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt at Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in the western United States. Spread across various themed galleries, marvel at exquisitely preserved funerary objects, glittering jewelry once adorning royalty, household goods illustrating daily living, and rare limited-access items for researchers. Don’t miss the replicated tomb of an ancient scribe, complete with sarcophagus and trompe l’oeil murals. Through guided tours, school programs, lectures and more, this globally renowned museum aims towards community education on Egyptian history and culture right in San Jose.

San Pedro Square Market

Name and Location: Located in downtown San Jose, San Pedro Square Market encompasses a city block filled with boutiques, bars, restaurants and live entertainment centered around the historical San Pedro Square plaza.

History and Significance: Once part of the city’s early marketplace later redeveloped for dining and nightlife in the 2000s, today San Pedro Square Market captures San Jose’s vibrant energy through a mix of locally-owned shops, award-winning eats and community events from farmers’ markets to music in a historical public space.

What to Expect: Visitors grab a drink at rooftop bars, indulge sweet crepes for breakfast, sample craft beers or fine dining for dinner and peruse handmade gifts and wares while enjoying free live bands and people watching in the bustling Square.

Visitor Information: Free entry. Shops and restaurants have varying hours, some late-night. Public garage parking. Directory at sanpedrosquaremarket.com.

For some of San Jose’s best people watching and a fun taste of Northern California’s vibrant food scene, eat and drink your way through San Pedro Square Market’s collection of wine bars, breweries and creative restaurants. Outdoor spaces filled with twinkly lights lend festive energy perfect for sharing Korean fried chicken, giant pretzels, or Indian street food while sipping local craft beers, cider or wine. Don’t miss trying Armadillo Willy’s Texas-style smoked brisket and ribs. Thanks to the plaza’s pedestrian-only transformation into a bonafide town square, San Pedro Square Market is one of downtown’s trendiest social destinations from lunch through last call.

Municipal Rose Garden

Name and Location: The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is located within Kennedy Park at Naglee and Dana Avenues in downtown San Jose, California.

History and Significance: Created in 1927 for 15 cents per climbing rose bush purchased from residents, today it features over 4,000 rose bushes from 189 rose varieties across five terraces, making it an iconic landmark noted for its spring blooms and serving as a site for weddings.

What to Expect: Visitors walk terraced trails to admire fragrant and colorful blossoms while reading educational plaques for each rose type grouped by color, history and attributes amid fountains, arbors, and city views making it ideal for photos or serene reflection.

Visitor Information: Free access daily from sunrise to half hour after sunset. Peak blooming mid-April through June. Parking available at lot kiosks. Volunteer gardener program.

Saluting San Jose’s identity as the capital of Silicon Valley, the Municipal Rose Garden is recognized as an official American Rose Society test garden containing over 4,000 vibrantly colored roses representing 189 varieties. Blooming April through November, this beloved urban greenspace delights visitors strolling along meandering pathways past fragrant beds exploding with every hue of red, pink, white, yellow and orange imaginable. Specialty gardens showcase miniature rose varieties, ground cover roses and roses ideal for landscaping. For witnessing Northern California’s climatic abundance through thousands of perfumed petaled beauties, San Jose’s rose garden astonishes.

San Jose Museum of Art

Name and Location: Located downtown, the San Jose Museum of Art houses a distinguished collection of modern and contemporary art including new media arts specific to Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation and experimentation.

History and Significance: Founded in 1969 as an inclusive art space without preconceptions, the Museum spearheads new ideas and forms of visual expression through a mix of rotating exhibits, onsite installations and programs aimed at creativity and design thinking for the future.

What to Expect: Visitors interact with mixed media, video, light projections and electronic displays from global contemporary artists through guided tours while also attending hands-on community events from lectures to concerts within the iconic wing-shaped building.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday–Sunday 11AM–5PM, until 8PM Thursdays. Closed Mondays. Admission $10 Adults, discounted for students/educators/seniors. Wheelchair accessible.

With a collection spanning 5,000 years of creativity across cultures worldwide, San Jose Museum of Art educates through promoting inspirational human achievements in visual arts. Located downtown, the museum’s light-filled modern space houses paintings, sculpture and installations from contemporary masters plus ancient antiquities and classical Asian ceramics. Don’t miss experiencing Manuel Neri’s iconic marble sculptures, Joan Brown’s introspective portraits, or Ruth Asawa’s mesmerizing wire installations. Through spotlighting diverse media from different eras and locales beyond Western canon, San Jose Museum of Art thoughtfully advances art’s purpose enriching society.

California’s Great America

Name and Location: California’s Great America amusement park is located in Santa Clara near San Jose at 4701 Great America Parkway. Open seasonally.

History and Significance: Open since 1976, this Bay Area theme park consists of over 40 rides and attractions across 100 acres including classic rollercoasters like Gold Striker, Flight Deck and Railblazer alongside live entertainment, Peanuts characters, shops, games and dining options perfect for families, thrill-seekers and events.

What to Expect: Guests experience rides for all ages and thrill levels including the Drop Tower, Carousel Columbia and Planet Snoopy for kids alongside shows, festivals, concerts, Halloween haunts and a convenient location adjacent to Levi’s Stadium and conventions.

Visitor Information: Generally open March-October. Hours and single day ticket prices vary seasonally. Prepurchase discounts and memberships available with plus options. Parking fee extra. Schedule on cagreatamerica.com.

For adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster action and family friendly fun, California’s Great America amusement park delivers thrills galore. Daredevils flock to signature scream machines like the vertical drop Floorless Demon, triple-inversion Gold Striker wooden coaster and notorious double-helix Flight Deck prone to flipping riders upside down! When not testing gravity defiance limits or plummeting down water slides at adjacent Water Park, families enjoy kid-sized rides, arcade games, shows and Snoopy meet-and-greets. As one of Northern California’s top theme parks conveniently located in Silicon Valley, Great America makes for an action-packed San Jose daytrip escape.

Alum Rock Park

Name and Location: Alum Rock Park in San Jose encompasses 720 acres of rugged natural beauty in the foothills of the Diablo Mountain range offering nature trails with scenic vistas, picnic grounds, playgrounds and mineral springs used since the 1800s.

History and Significance: As California’s oldest public park founded in 1872, generations have enjoyed its winding trails, geologic formations, native plants and wildlife alongside amenities from volleyball to train rides that provide easy mountain forest access minutes from downtown San Jose perfect for a day trip or event rental.

What to Expect: Hikers traverse moderate trails and footbridges spanning groves and ravines accented with waterfalls and outcrops while kids play on jungle gyms and families use barbecue pits and pavilions amid a vibrant, verdant landscape with small zoo animals to spy.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8:30am-dusk. Entry is free with some picnic and parking fees. Some amenities seasonal. Details at sanjoseca.gov/alumrockpark.

Nestled in the Diablo Mountain foothills on San Jose’s eastern edge lies Alum Rock Park, showcasing spectacular natural canyon beauty perfect for hiking and communing with nature just minutes from downtown. Follow scenic trails passing trickling creeks and waterfalls along forested hillsides filled with wildlife like squirrels, mule deer and over 200 species of birds. The park’s centerpiece is its namesake natural mineral springs flowing through stone channels originally built during the 1930s. With geo-thermally heated pools for relaxation plus family-friendly playgrounds for recharging, Alum Rock Park provides the best of both adventure and leisure.

SEE’s Candies Factory Tour

Name and Location: The SEE’s Candies Factory Tour demonstrates the history of an iconic California candy brand at their busy San Francisco factory headquarters at 442 Potrero Avenue open for public tours.

History and Significance: Founded in 1921 in Los Angeles, for over a century visitors to the original factory observe firsthand how SEE’s Candies are handcrafted as tour guides share details on chocolate making from raw ingredients to delectable finished product enjoyed across America.

What to Expect: The walking tour winds guests through wrapping rooms, kitchens and packing areas seeing, smelling and even tasting signature candies being made like Bordeauxs and lollypops during the 45 minutes alongside historical exhibits as keepsake photos capture the delicious experience.

Visitor Information: Free tours run year-round on weekdays by advance reservation only, subject to factory operations. Tour times offered between 9AM-3PM at sees.com/sanfrancisco/visitor-center. Reservations required far in advance due to popularity.

Satisfy your sweet tooth while learning candy making secrets behind SEE’s iconic chocolates during an insider factory tour of their San Jose headquarters. This intimate walking tour takes visitors behind the scenes of kitchens crafting holiday favorites and signature treats before visiting Historic Candy Americana Museum chronicling confectionery history. Don’t leave without ample free samples! Their signature pack-your-own experience allows mixing personalized assortments of Brittle, Scotchmallows, California Brittle and more – just try not devouring your deliciously fresh creations before making it home. For chocolate lovers, this sugary, interactive tasting experience is heavenly.

Leave a Comment