San Jose is the largest city in Northern California and was the state’s original capital. It sits on the north shore of San Francisco Bay and is known as a very affluent area with an eye-watering high cost of living. The city was founded in 1777 as Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe. It has a population of more than 1 million people, and its nickname is The Heart of Silicon Valley. San Jose is the biggest city in Northern California and second only to Los Angeles in size across the whole state. So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in San Jose on your visit.
Winchester Mystery House San Jose
This Queen Anne Victorian mansion was home to the widow of the Winchester firearms owner. Sarah Winchester lived in the host until her death in 1922. The property was said to be haunted by the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles, which must be a whole lot. One of the many things the home is known for, apart from its unique style, is the fact that it didn’t seem to be built to any solid plans. Depending on the source, it has been said that the house was under constant construction from 1885 until Sarah Winchester died in 1922. Imagine the continual headache she must have had from all that constant banging.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $20-$54
Downtown San Jose
It’s impossible to run out of things to do in San Jose, and downtown has a plethora of top sights. The Tech Museum of Innovation showcases up to date inventions and dazzles children with its interactive displays. It’s also a free thing to do in San Jose, which makes it a top-rated stop. The downtown area is also home to several notable theaters and music venues. These include the beautiful 1927 California Theater. Taking in a show during your visit is one of the most fun things to do in San Jose. Alternatively, take in the atmosphere in one of the many bars and food stalls at the famous San Pedro Square Market.
Guadalupe River State Park
The state park also offers a shorter 3 miles of urban pathways that lead through the city center towards the Little Italy neighborhood. The area has various pieces of public art, and it’s not uncommon to spot some local wildlife while you’re there. There are picnic spots, rose gardens, a rotary play garden, and a visitor center to take in while you’re there. It’s a great thing to do in San Jose, California with kids. The weather is pleasant year-round, so it’s unlikely you’ll find a day when it’s not an option to visit.
Cathedral Basilica of St Joseph
This beautiful Catholic Church is located in downtown San Jose. The church was elevated to the diocese of San Jose in 1990, following restoration. It was later designated as a minor basilica by Pope John Paul 11 in 1997. The gorgeous building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an active part of the San Jose community. The perfect white exterior, with its towering pillars and twin domes, glow brilliantly in the California sunshine. The interior is intricate and delicate, and visiting is one of the top things to do in San Jose for the history alone.
Alum Rock Park
Alum Rock Park is the oldest state park in California and dates back to 1872. It’s 720 acres of land with more than 13 miles of walking and hiking trails. Given the size of the park, it’s no surprise that it’s home to many native animals and species of plant and flowers. As well as the (very) occasional mountain lion, the park is home to many giant snakes and the odd tarantula or ten. However, there are also some far cuter and way less dangerous residents. These include Great Blue Herons, Great Horned Owls, and Gray Foxes. Native plants include the beautiful California fuschia and wild rose. It’s yet another wonderful fun thing to do in San Jose.
If you feel like splashing your cash during your visit, a trip to Santana Row is a great thing to do in San Jose if you’re feeling flush. This up-scale outdoor mall is an experience all of its own. Shopping in San Jose has rarely been more fun than it is here. If Gucci, Ted Baker and Kate Spade appeal to your budget, you can let loose. If you’re looking for something a little less pricey, head to H&M or Urban Outfitters. When your feet need a break from pounding the sidewalk, there’s a great range of wine bars, restaurants, spas, and salons to help you chill out.
Despite the rather frightening name, Raging Water is one of the most fun things to do in San Jose; particularly if you have kids. This 23-acre park is perfect for a spot of summer fun for all the family. It’s the largest water park in Northern California and has a vast selection of pools, rides, and rivers for everyone. If you have smaller kids, there’s plenty of rides tailored especially for younger age groups. There’s also plenty of options for chilling out, eating and drinking for when you need a break from all that fun. The park is only open during the Summer months.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $29.99-$42.99 (depending on package)
Off-beat San Jose
If you’re all about off-beat and unusual things to in San Jose, we’ve got you covered. If you’re in the mood for a visit to one of San Jose’s legendary garages, there are a few you can check out. The garages that housed the first office space of Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Google are all in the city. Apple and HP are National Historic Landmarks. No word on why Google’s garage hasn’t entirely made the mark, but the company now owns it. If you want something a little scarier, get yourself over to Dead Time Dreams and participate in the ultimate haunted house experience. It’s a fully immersive experience that’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you need a terrifying fun thing to do in San Jose, this is it.
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About San Jose
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in San Jose. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this northern Californian city has to offer.
Is there a beach in San Jose, CA?
No, we’re afraid there’s not. San Jose sits inland, so the closest beaches are in Santa Cruz. This is around a 45-minute drive from the city center; 30 miles to the south.
Is it safe to walk around San Jose?
As with every city in the US, there are areas perfectly safe to walk around, day or night. Other should be avoided if you’re out on your own. It’s particularly important to be mindful of your surroundings if you’re visiting and unfamiliar with different neighborhoods. Violent crime and property crime in San Jose is slightly higher than the national average, but it has no alarming statistics to put off potential visitors.
What is San Jose known for?
San Jose is known for being the Capital of Silicon Valley. It has many technology start-up businesses and is a hub for innovation. It was in a garage in the city that Hewlett Packard was born in 1938, along with Google and Apple. These days, it’s home to eBay, PayPal, and Adobe and continues to inspire start-ups from across the world. San Jose is also famous for being the original state capital of California, long before Sacramento came on the scene.
What can you do for free in San Jose?
There’s a ton of free things to do in San Jose for all the family. You can hit up the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Arts in downtown and check out the latest exhibition. Alternatively, head to the Rosicrucian Planetarium and take in one of the daily educational presentations.
San Jose is an atmospheric city, famed for its affluent residents, innovative companies, and its position in the beautiful hills of northern California. Its history is well represented and takes into account the original Ohlone people and then Spanish and Mexican residents. It has California’s fastest-growing economy and the most millionaires and billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the US. The city is served by Norman Y Mineta International Airport and has a great mix of accommodation to suit a range of budgets. Although it has a very high cost of living, there’s a great range of free things to do in San Jose to suit travelers on a budget.