12 Things To Do With Family in San Jose, California

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Emily Johnson


San Jose is the largest city in Northern California and the third largest in the state. Known as the capital of Silicon Valley, it is home to great museums, parks, attractions, and restaurants perfect for a family visit.

The warm climate with over 300 days of sunshine makes it a great year round destination. With so much to see and do, here are 12 ultimate things to do with family in San Jose, California.

Explore the Children’s Discovery Museum


The Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the top attractions in San Jose for families with kids aged 10 and under. This spacious museum spans two floors with numerous hands-on exhibits focused on art, culture, and science allowing kids to touch, play, and explore.

Some highlights include WaterWays, where kids can build dams and control water flow, Build it Up!, an area for early building skills, along with exhibits focused on nutrition, the human body, recycling, and more. Families appreciate the welcoming, inclusive environment with areas for nursing and changing babies too.

The museum features daily programs and workshops like story and music time. Outside is a grass area with a maze and climbing structures. With affordable admission prices, the Children’s Discovery Museum makes for a wonderful half-day activity for families.

Have Fun at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo


Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a beloved family attraction and San Jose institution spanning over 16 acres. The small zoo houses over 150 animals from all sorts of exotic locations representing mammals, birds and reptiles. Kids love getting close to the playful lemurs, feeding the eager goats and sheep in the petting zoo, and watching the lively meerkats pop in and out of their tunnels.

Happy Hollow also functions as a theme park and features kid-sized rides like a roller coaster, carousel and mini train ride. Active attractions like a puppet theater stage, climbing maze and fun park games like sack races and egg relays means there’s plenty for kids to burn energy. Parents appreciate the numerous benches, shade trees, and greenspaces for picnicking and letting kids run free.

Happy Hollow also features daily entertainment from magic shows to arts and crafts. With affordable admission prices, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo offers an awesome blend of small zoo excitement and amusement park entertainment.

Explore the USS Hornet Museum


Family members of all ages enjoy exploring the incredible USS Hornet Museum, a retired aircraft carrier that played instrumental roles in World War II and the Apollo space program. This floating city spans over three football fields in size and allows visitors to climb inside aircrafts on the flight deck, traverse narrow corridors through sleeping quarters and mess halls, and imagine what life was like for the thousands of sailors aboard this ship.

Many of the Hornets original items remain inside like outdated computer systems, special pins designating flight squadrons, and even soda bottles and sailor uniforms. Most of the aircrafts visitors can enter and touch were stored below deck when the ship was operational. Kids love climbing inside the cockpits of these retired planes while parents appreciate the immersive living history all around.

In addition to the massive ship itself, the USS Hornet Museum also features mini exhibits focused on naval aviation, astronauts that trained aboard the ship, as well as the Vietnam War and aircraft development from biplanes to jets.

Hike through Alum Rock Park


Nestled on the east foothills of San Jose lies Alum Rock Park, offering beautiful natural scenery, challenging hikes, breathtaking views, and wonderful family recreation activities. The park spans over 700 acres and features over 13 miles of trails that wind through grassland, woodland, and river areas rich with local wildlife like foxes, egrets, hawks and occasionally bobcats.

Well-marked trails range from flat, paved paths perfect for stroller walking to steep switchback routes up to scenic overlooks. Along the way, kids stay engaged searching for colorful butterflies, investigating unique fungus and mushrooms, and peering through binoculars for birds. Families enjoy easing sore muscles afterwards while picnicking at the ample tables and grills in shaded groves.

Alum Rock also features a large playground with bridges, tunnels, sand toys and two ziplines. With free admission and parking, Alum Rock Park allows families to enjoy the serenity of nature with plenty of creature comforts like bathrooms and drinking fountains conveniently interspersed.

Ride the Carousel at San Jose Municipal Rose Garden


The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is a beautiful free attraction where families can walk among over 4,000 rose bushes representing 189 rose varieties. Blooming from April through November, the sweet floral scents filling the air delight visitors strolling the neat paths and vibrant flower beds.

While parents appreciate the relaxing ambience, kids make a beeline for the well-maintained vintage carousel near the garden entrance. This intricately carved and painted carousel features over 30 horses and mythical creatures for kids to ride. Created in Italy, some animals rock gently up and down while others move faster in wider circles at varying heights.

With cheerful carnival music playing, kids eagerly race to claim their favorite mount when the carousel starts spinning. Rides cost just $2 each, meaning parents can easily let kids go around several times without breaking the budget. Riding the carousel is an ideal way for families to extend their visit to the Municipal Rose Garden, enjoying both natural and amusement attractions.

Learn and Play at The Tech Interactive


The Tech Interactive is Silicon Valley’s ultimate hands-on science and technology center perfect for curious kids and families. Spanning two spacious floors, this innovatively designed museum features over 100 interactive exhibits focused on natural science, engineering, design, and digital technology.

Kids can create their own stop motion animation videos, dig for dinosaur bones in an excavation site, or use robotic arms to stack cups. Exhibits are thoughtfully constructed using vibrant colors, a variety of tactile elements, and engaging sound effects geared towards multi-sensory experiences. Parents appreciate that exhibits have suggested ages ranges so they can guide children towards their best fit activities.

The Tech also features awesome workshops every day like building glow in the dark structures or programming robots. Special science shows which always involve explosions, loud sounds, or other surprising elements are also crowd favorites. With tickets under $30 per person, the Tech Interactive makes learning about STEM subjects an awesome interactive adventure.

Roam the San Jose Flea Market


The San Jose Flea Market offers families over 120 acres to roam, making it one of California’s largest open air markets. Operated every weekend, over 1,500 vendors fill stacked aisles with almost every good imaginable. Kids love scouting out the most interesting treasures like colorful pinwheels, squishy toys, and personalized bracelets to show mom and dad.

Roving mariachis bring festive atmosphere as they stroll playing traditional Mexican ballads. When kids get hungry half way through the flea there are plenty of options from hot dogs to giant turkey legs, plus churros, fruit cups, and aguas frescas to recharge. After eating, families often visit a dedicated kids area with amusement park rides only 50 cents each.

Parents can find incredible deals on everything from fresh fruits and veggies, housewares and electronics to clothes, makeup and luggage. With free admission, live music and street entertainment, the dynamic San Jose Flea Market is an awesome cultural experience with plenty of affordable shopping and dining for the whole family.

See Exotic Creatures at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo


Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a beloved family attraction housing over 150 animals across 16 acres of beautiful park grounds. Get up close views to a wide array of mammals, birds, and reptiles from all sorts of global locations that kids find fascinating. See mischievous lemurs bound around their forest enclosure. Hear the squawks and shrieks of bright macaws perched in the tropical aviary.

Watch prairie dogs pop out of underground tunnels curiously watching people pass by. Learn about amazing reptiles like giant tortoises, venomous snakes, and the park’s beloved albino alligator Blanche. Happy Hollow makes an effort to showcase endangered species to educate guests about conservation including red pandas, jaguars, and the vibrant green frogs of Panama.

Kids love getting hands-on experiences through daily creature encounters and feeding times with goats, sheep, and playful lemurs. Parents enjoy beautiful greenery and amenities like dining patios, gift shops, and nursing/family rooms. Happy Hollow Zoo offers awesome family entertainment with opportunities to view, learn about, and directly connect with incredible exotic animals.

Pick Your Own Produce


Families can enjoy pastoral farm life and the rewarding experience of picking their own fresh fruits and vegetables at several picturesque ranches on the outskirts of San Jose. Kirigin Cellars allows guests to meander through neat rows of strawberry plants plucking red ripe berries to collect in take home boxes.

Little foot steps leave a patchwork of tracks across the dirt paths. Kids eagerly sample the warm sweetness straight off the plants while parents reminisce about their own childhood adventures doing the same. Just down the road at Uesugi Farms families wander flowering peach orchards filling baskets with fuzzy golden fruit for homemade pies and jams.

Spring also brings fields of plump tomatoes and peppers to pick while fall features neat rows of pumpkins and winter squash. These harvest adventures allow parents to educate kids about agriculture science and seasonality in an immersive setting. Of course, kids simply enjoy the novelty of snacking their way through the fields. Affordable prices for pick-your-own produce make loading up the family with fresh fruits and veggies easy.

See a Show at Children’s Musical Theater San Jose


Since launching in 1948, Children’s Musical Theater San Jose (CMT) has delighted families with professionally produced musicals performed entirely by talented local youth. This non-profit theater company mounts five main stage shows annually like beloved classics such as “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Annie”.

Kids love seeing peers their age so expertly sing, dance, and act their way through lavish sets, costumes, and choreography. Season offerings also include original adaptations and lesser known shows adding variety. CMT performs in the stately Montgomery Theater which, though modestly sized, is equipped with excellent acoustics, lighting and sightlines.

Limited shows and runtimes under two hours make musicals appealing events for families. Ticket prices are affordable compared to adult productions in the Bay Area making frequent attendance feasible. Children’s Musical Theater San Jose creates unforgettable family memories while showcasing the incredible talent being fostered in San Jose’s youth.

Pedal Boats at Lake Cunningham


Lake Cunningham Regional Park offers families a variety of recreational activities from strolling the paved path circling the lake to trying stand up paddleboards. One of the most popular attractions is lounging atop the lake’s still waters aboard vibrantly colored pedal boats. Available for rent throughout the warmer months, these charming boats seat up to four passengers.

Kids eagerly pedal out towards the lake center to better appreciate panoramic views of the tree lined shores and rolling hills beyond. When little legs tire, parents can assist with pedaling or use oars for boat propulsion. Spotting wildlife like swooping red wing black birds, busy mallard ducks, leaping koi fish, and the occasional hawk overhead add adventure. Being in the heart of San Jose, it’s a novelty floating in serene silence with nature all around seemingly worlds away from Silicon Valley.

When pedaling up thirst and hunger, visitors enjoy the park’s walk-up cafe with refreshing beverages and snacks on patio seating over-looking the lake. Affordable prices make venturing out on the lake ideal for families seeking laid-back fun.

Walk Among Butterflies at Monarchs in Pacific Grove


Among the amazing natural wonders found along the scenic Central California coastline is the unique Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove where thousands of vibrant orange monarch butterflies flock each winter. These delicate beauties make the lengthy migration down from Canada and other northern regions to take shelter among the tall eucalyptus and Monterey pine trees clustered tightly together.

Families are mesmerized walking slowly along neat dirt pathways that meander through the sanctuary witnessing butterflies gently fluttering all around, some with wingspans nearly five inches wide. Kids delight spotting monarchs resting in branches clustered so tightly they look like brightly colored leaves about to take flight in an autumn breeze. The awe-inspiring sight of these small winged creatures en masse, fluttering from tree to tree to reach spots warmed by streaks of sunlight streaming through the canopy above is breathtaking.

Interpretive signs describing the unique wildlife around the preserve enrich the educational experience for parents and their curious kids. While the Monarch Sanctuary is open year round, late October through February offers peak sightings. Among Bay Area day trips and weekends away, walking among thousands of vibrant butterflies makes for unforgettable family memories in a truly unique Northern California site.

Conclusion


San Jose offers awesome family vacation opportunities with an array of museums, parks, attractions and markets to explore. From hands-on children’s museums like the Children’s Discovery Museum to classic amusement park fun at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, kids stay engaged with interactive, tactile experiences. Natural spaces like the lush Municipal Rose Garden and the expansive Alum Rock Park offer beautiful backdrops for family picnics, hiking, and simply letting kids play freely outdoors.

Family-friendly attractions like riding the Venetian carousel or picking fresh strawberries immerse visitors in cultural experiences spanning from Italy to the Central California farmlands. Throughout San Jose, affordable prices for admission and offerings catering directly to multi-generational guests makes vacationing seamless for parents and grandparents traveling with young ones in tow.

Vibrant markets like the San Jose Flea Market offer deals on goods ranging from pinwheels to cookware so families can shop while being entertained by live music. Throughout this northern California destination, STEM-focused attractions like The Tech Interactive bring science, technology and engineering topics alive through hands-on exhibits families experience together. With temperate weather nearly year-round, San Jose offers awesome vacations for making meaningful memories multiple generations cherish for years to come.

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