San Jose is the largest city in Northern California both by population and by area.
Located on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay, there is no shortage of fun things to do in San Jose.
Surrounded by the beauty of Wine Country, San Jose is at the center of Silicon Valley.
Considered by many to be the true birthplace of modern technology, Silicon Valley is home to Apple Computer, PayPal, eBay, IBM, Adobe Systems, Samsung, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems, and Western Digital to name a few.
The Silicon Valley area has the third highest GDP per capita in the world, preceded only by Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway.
San Jose, California is ranked the fourth most affluent city in the United States.
Whether it is for a week, a weekend or longer, there are plenty of fun things to do, things to see, and places to visit in San Jose.
There are a number of attractions to see, fun to be had, places to go, and stuff to do that could make your trip to San Jose, California one to remember.
Out of the numerous potential places to visit in San Jose, California, we have narrowed down the absolute best of the parks, attractions, and historical landmarks located there.
This guide should help you answer the question of what to do in San Jose.
1. Winchester Mystery House
San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House was built in 1884 by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the Winchester Rifle magnate William Winchester.
Originally, it reached seven stories in height; however, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake did some damage. The house now stands at four stories.
During a total of the home’s 38 years of construction, Sarah’s belief that the house was haunted by those who had been killed by a Winchester rifle led her to have her house built without the direction of an architect.
As such, there are numerous peculiarities in the construction such as stairways and doors leading nowhere.
The house has 40 bedrooms, but only one working bathroom. She believed that these steps she was taking during construction served to confuse the spirits.
The house now serves as a popular San Jose’s tourist attraction.
On the premises of the Winchester compound sits the American Fire Arms Museum.
Learn the history of the Winchester rifle through exhibits and displays of the rifles throughout history.
Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128, USA
2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is a magnificent museum that is constructed in the architectural style favored by the ancient Egyptians to give you an immersion in their culture.
It also houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the western United States.
There is also a planetarium on the premises that has shows on the weekends.
You shouldn’t visit San Jose without spending some time in Ancient Egypt.
Address: 1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA 95191, USA
3. San Jose Museum of Art
The San Jose Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection of works from West Coast artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
There is a historic wing that was originally built in 1892 for the San Jose Post Office which was used for until 1937.
From 1937 to 1969, the building was used as the City of San Jose Public Library.
It was acquired by the Fine Arts Gallery Association and the new wing of the museum opened in 1991.
This is one of the only museums to focus on West Coast artists.
Address: 110 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
4. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph was originally a small adobe church built for the benefit of the settlers as opposed to the native Indians.
Construction began in 1803 in the town originally called El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe.
Earthquakes in 1818 and 1822 damaged the original structure beyond repair, and a second adobe church was built to replace it beginning in 1835.
The second church was also damaged by a major earthquake in the 1868 Hayward Earthquake.
The third church was built in 1869 only to be destroyed by a fire in 1875.
A fourth temporary structure was built a few blocks away.
The fifth and final building is the magnificent Basilica that stands today.
Construction began in 1876 and the church was finally granted Basilica status by the Vatican in 1997.
The stained glass windows alone make this one of the most beautiful places in California.
Address: 80 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
5. Tech Museum of Innovation
The Tech Museum of Innovation is great for the entire family.
It is meant to give the visitor a taste of computing technology being brought to life within the walls of the various Silicon Valley companies.
It is also meant to inspire future generations to meet and exceed today’s technology.
This museum used to be housed in a garage before relocating to it’s current 132,000 square foot home due to its popularity.
The interactive nature of the museum makes this attraction one of the top places to visit while you’re in San Jose.
While you are there, make sure you pop into the IMAX theater to watch their current offering.
The view-screen is eight stories high for a truly unique experience, and one of your best activities in San Jose, California.
Address: 201 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
6. Alum Rock Park
Alum Rock Park is the oldest municipal park in California. It has 13 miles of biking and walking trails of varying difficulty.
From 1891 to 1901, access to the park came in the form of a Narrow Gauge Railroad that originated in downtown San Jose.
The park boasts scenic views of Silicon Valley, a visitor’s center, a small museum, and picnic and play areas.
Parking access is free and is the perfect destination for a relaxing family day with plenty of stuff to do.
Address: 15350 Penitencia Creek Rd, San Jose, CA 95127, USA
7. Children’s Discovery Museum
The Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the top ten children’s museums in the United States.
Since it’s doors opened in 1990, it has provided interactive educational entertainment to over 6 million visitors.
It is one of the most popular places to go in San Jose, California.
The museum’s unique BioSITE program provides action-science education focused on environmental responsibility.
The museum’s Discovery Youth program provides fifth through twelfth graders a sampling of technology from the neighboring Silicon Valley.
The museum was primarily funded by the generous donations of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer.
Address: 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110, USA
8. Kelley Park
You can spend an entire day at Kelley Park. With 156 acres of stuff to do, you can enjoy gardens, the park’s trails, the zoo, and museums.
Kelley Park is the home of the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, Japanese Friendship Garden, San Jose History Park, Viet Museum, and Portuguese Historical Museum among other historical societies.
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo sits on 16 acres within Kelley Park, and encompasses a zoo and amusement park providing your family with plenty of things to see.
The amusement park attractions are geared towards younger children and toddlers, and the puppet theater is a unique addition.
A petting zoo and education center round out the offerings.
The Happy Hollow Zoo is a fully accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and holds a special place in the heart of California.
Japanese Friendship Garden
The Japanese Friendship Garden is spread out over six acres, and is symbolic of the friendship between San Jose and its sister city of Okayama, Japan.
The gardens include three ponds fully stocked with koi, a traditional tea house, cherry trees, and a Pagoda.
This peaceful retreat is hidden behind walls on the Kelley Park property and is intended to be a mirror image of the famous Korakuen Gardens in Okayama, Japan.
The San Jose History Park is a park within a park. San Jose history is depicted throughout this indoor/outdoor museum via the replica buildings of old San Jose.
- replica firehouse
- blacksmith shed
- migrant cabins
- Santa Ana One Room School House
- replica homes of early Santa Clara Valley Settlers
- post office
- the Viet Museum
- the Portuguese Historical Museum
- Pelham Collection of Early Electronics
- Hellenic Heritage museum
- and other historical buildings
For a true taste of San Jose history and one of the best things to do in San Jose, make a visit to Kelley Park.
Address: 1300 Senter Rd, San Jose, CA 95112, USA
9. San Jose Heritage Rose Garden
No trip to San Jose would be complete without a visit to the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden.
A Heritage Rose is one that has been bred for many years, sometimes centuries.
At the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, you will encounter over 3,600 different rose bushes representing more than 2,700 different varieties.
While most of these varieties originated in Europe, there are many here that were discovered in the gardens of older homes, old cemeteries, and some actually discovered alongside a dirt road.
The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden is maintained by a loyal army of volunteers with all gardening materials financed by the City of San Jose.
Public admission to the garden is free, but donations are always welcome, and if you want to volunteer, they can always use the help.
Address: 438 Coleman Ave, San Jose, CA 95110, USA
10. San Jose Flea Market
The San Jose Flea Market has been a local hotspot for the past 59 years.
It has a number of restaurants and alleys and aisles of everything you could possibly imagine. From jewelry to stereo equipment to books.
There are pony rides, a carousel, and a small Ferris wheel to keep the kids busy while you wander around and view the substantial offerings.
There is something for the entire family, complete with free live music on the weekends. Admission is free with paid parking.
Address: 1590 Berryessa Rd, San Jose, CA 95133, USA
11. New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum
The Almaden Quicksilver Mine is the oldest and most productive mercury mine in history.
The mining operations of 135 years are chronicled at this museum.
While the mine itself is closed down, there are many historical structures left at the site.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about the rich history of mercury mining.
Address: 21350 Almaden Rd, San Jose, CA 95120, USA
Japantown, San Jose is one of the last three Japantown cultural communities in the United States.
It is also one of the best, and definitely worth spending a whole day there.
This 125-year-old community offers some of the best authentic Japanese restaurants, theaters, art galleries, and shops in the country.
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture for the day.
Address: Japantown, San Jose, CA 95112, USA
13. Hayes Mansion
Whether you go just for the beautiful architecture or if you are lucky enough to score a room there, the Hayes Mansion should not be missed.
This historic mansion is actually built in 1906 in the general layout of a Maltese Cross with a long center section that houses a solarium.
The architecture is that of a Mediterranean Villa and is 41,000 sq ft. The property used to boast its own Post Office, Railway station, and power plant.
Today, it is a luxury hotel with over 200 guest rooms.
Address: 200 Edenvale Ave, San Jose, CA 95136, USA
14. Great America Amusement Park
San Jose’s Great America Amusement Park was first established in 1976.
Currently under the control of Cedar Fair, the park sits on 100-acres and is considered the premier amusement park for Northern California.
The roller coasters range from the Gold Striker that is considered the new standard when it comes to wooden coasters, to the newest addition, the Rail Blazer which has an innovative design unlike any other coaster in the world.
Thrill rides, family rides, carnival games and Boomerang Bay, a water park, give the family lots to do.
For the littlest visitors, Planet Snoopy offers rides, shows, playgrounds, and a meet and greet with all your favorite Charlie Brown characters.
The park is only open seasonally, so plan accordingly if a Great America day fits into your travel itinerary.
Great America Amusement Park is located adjacent to Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers football team.
Address: 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054, USA
15. Museum of Quilts & Textiles
A loving celebration of the art of quilting and textiles can be found at San Jose’s Museum of Quilts & Textiles.
Exhibitions are both historic and contemporary and are changed every six to twelve weeks.
This San Jose museum celebrates the art of quilting with a collection of over 800 quilts, and celebrates textiles through the various innovative uses of cloth fibers throughout cultures and history.
There is also a research library with more than 500 books on quilting and textiles throughout history.
The first Friday of every month offers free admission from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm giving you the perfect excuse to go spend a fun and educational couple of hours while you’re visiting San Jose.
Address: 520 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
16. Bigfoot Discovery Museum
Located 32 miles southwest of San Jose, the Bigfoot Discovery Museum is a must on your things to see list for believers of all ages.
There have been numerous sightings in the Santa Cruz Mountains over the years, and the Big Foot Research Project wants to hear all about it.
Stories, interviews, photos, and investigations are all kept in this two-room museum near the entrance to the Redwood National Forest.
Admission is free and owner Mike has stories to tell.
Address: 5497 Hwy 9, Felton, CA 95018, USA
17. Mount Hermon Adventures
For a truly unique outdoor adventure, Mount Hermon Adventures is most definitely one of the fun things to do in San Jose.
Located under the canopy of magnificent and ancient Redwood Trees, they are famous for their aerial courses and zip lining.
The park is well known in the area for team building, and a day spent at Mount Hermon Adventures will prove both fun and educational.
Mount Hermon Adventures is an important part of the Redwood Forest along the Santa Clara coast.
They are just a few miles outside of San Jose and the minimum age to participate is 10-years-old. Their zip line is considered the best in the state.
Address: 17 Conference Dr, Felton, CA 95018, USA
18. Mountain Winery
Formerly known as the Paul Masson Wineries, the Mountain Winery is well known for its wine tasting and for its outdoor theater that hosts numerous concerts throughout the year.
The winery itself is a historical site. They are now best known for their summer concert series.
Enjoy a night out with dinner at a show. Starting with a 3-course gourmet meal at La Cresta Restaurant followed by music provided by both classic bands and modern superstars.
For something different, you can experience the Wine Deck and enjoy wine selections paired with a selection of cheese and charcuterie or upgrade that selection to a seafood feast.
Both the restaurant and the wine deck are only open on concert nights and reservations are recommended. Truly one of the best things to do.
Address: 14831 Pierce Rd, Saratoga, CA 95070, USA
19. Villa Montalvo
Also just outside San Jose in the Santa Cruz Mountains lies the Montalvo Arts Center. This cultural center and park surround the mansion, which is a historic landmark.
There are a number of hiking trails as well as a number of gardens filled with elaborate marble statues and several different garden structures.
The mansion itself is primarily used for weddings and other events but the property as a whole is definitely worth the trip and should make its way on to your list of places to visit.
Address: 15400 Montalvo Rd, Saratoga, CA 95071, USA
20. San Jose McEnery Convention Center
Located in the center of downtown, the San Jose McEnery Convention Center sponsors numerous events throughout the year.
From Auto shows to ComiCon, there is always something going on there.
This 550,000 square foot structure has resident art displays outside the entrance on San Carlos Street including the tile mural project and the interactive sculpture called The Idea Tree.
If there doesn’t happen to be a convention or show that piques your interest, a short visit to the mural and Idea Tree should be a part of the trip.
Address: 408 Almaden Blvd, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
21. Los Gatos Creek Trail
Many visitors believe that no trip is complete without enjoying some of the trails at local parks.
One of the favorite destinations for mountain biking is the Los Gatos Creek Trail.
There is even a trail in the works in downtown San Jose which will take the biking enthusiast directly to the Los Gatos Creek Trail as well as other local trails.
Los Gatos Creek Trail offers 9.7 miles of biking and pedestrian trails for hours of family fun.
22. San Pedro Square Market
San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market has a great selection of restaurants for a long leisurely lunch outdoors or a gourmet dinner.
There is live music 6 nights a week, and most restaurants are open until 9:00 pm.
San Pedro Square is also home to an important piece of San Jose history.
El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe was the first city founded in the Californias in 1777.
The Peralta Adobe House, built in 1797, is the last remaining structure from the original Pueblo.
The Peralta House can be toured by appointment only.
The Fallon House is another historic landmark in San Jose.
Thomas Fallon and his wife Carmel first moved to San Jose in 1855 and built their home shortly thereafter.
Their goal was to build the “grandest home in the county.” The house became the Italia hotel in 1900, and was acquired by the City of San Jose in 1990.
Like the Peralta House, the Fallon House can be toured by appointment only.
With the food, shopping, music, and history, the San Pedro Square Market is one of the best things to do in the downtown area of San Jose.
Address: 87 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95110, USA
23. Santana Row
Santana Row is an exclusive area of West San Jose that is an upscale shopping, dining, and residential area.
This 42-acre area is called the “Village within a City,” and is home to 50 shops, 30 restaurants, and residential areas.
The architecture of the area is influenced by various European neighborhoods nicely complimented by beautifully appointed landscaping.
An important part of Santana Row is Park Valencia where live music and public events take place.
Whether you are after a burger from a chain or a gourmet dinner at one of the concept restaurants, Santana Row should be on your list.
Address: 377 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128, USA
24. Overfelt Gardens Park
Another day of fun things to do in San Jose includes a visit to Overfelt Gardens Park.
This 33-acre park includes trails, a fountain and a fragrance garden populated with various aromatic plants.
Three lakes provide habituate for various birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, and amphibians year around.
The California Wild Area of the park is covered in native wildflowers, brush, trees, and grasses.
In the southeast area of the park is the Chinese Cultural Garden complete with a Statue of Confucius.
Address: 2145 McKee Rd, San Jose, CA 95116, USA
25. Shoreline Lake Park
Located just off the scenic Skyline Blvd, Shoreline Lake Park should definitely be on your places to visit in San Jose.
Take the family for a day of fun that includes an 18-hole golf course, miles of both paved and unpaved trails, a wildlife refuge, and a fun aquatic center that offers rentals of sailboats, windsurfers, kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and rowboats.
There is also a wildlife refuge on the site.
Address: 3160 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
26. Skyline Boulevard
Skyline Boulevard is one of the most scenic drives in Northern California and possibly the entire state.
Also known as State Route 35, this two-lane highway runs along the ridge by the Santa Cruz Mountains from San Francisco south.
It goes through Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and San Mateo. It offers incredible views of the Redwoods, the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco Bay.
During the winter, snow at the higher elevations draws families out for fun in the snow.
There are numerous protected open space areas that can be accessed along the way. Skyline Boulevard is also a favorite for Mountain Bikers and offers trails of all sizes.
It is truly another one of those free and fun things to do in California.
27. Computer History Museum
What would a visit to San Jose and the Silicon Valley region be if there wasn’t a Computer History Museum?
Originally a part of the now defunct Digital Equipment Corporation, the museum moved to the Silicon Valley area in 1996.
This San Jose icon is one of the great places to visit is said to have the largest collection of computer artifacts in the world.
The exhibits and collections are updated regularly as additions such as the IBM exhibit and most recently the donations of source code by Adobe and Microsoft.
The museum is open daily, and there are family tours available every Saturday.
Make sure you check to make sure they are open because private events will close the museum to the public.
Address: 1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
28. San Jose City Hall
The current San Jose City Hall is the sixth building to carry that title throughout history.
It is a masterpiece of postmodern architecture, and definitely should be one of your chosen places to visit while you are in San Jose.
Address: 200 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
29. SAP Center
Home of the San Jose Sharks NHL Hockey Team, the SAP Center is considered one of the best places to attend an event.
The SAP Center in San Jose is also home to numerous other concerts and events. In 2012 and 2016, the USA Olympic Gymnastics Trials took place there.
There are several Mixed Martial Arts events that take place there regularly. Make sure you check the calendar to see which blockbuster concerts are scheduled there.
There is almost always something happening at the SAP Center, and your trip to San Jose, California could well include one of these events.
Address: 525 W Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113, USA
30. Raging Waters Water Park
Everyone turns into a kid for the day when there is a big beautiful Water Park around.
Raging Waters is the largest water park in Northern California, and offers 23 acres of family fun.
If you visit San Jose, California during the summer, cooling off for the day at Raging Waters should be part of your plans.
Address: 2333 S White Rd, San Jose, CA 95148, USA
When traveling in the San Jose area, you will be best off with access to a rental car.
While most of the attractions are within the city itself, there are several important attractions that will require you to drive.
While in the area, it would be a shame not to venture out to visit parts of San Francisco, the Redwood Forest, or Yosemite National Park.
San Jose can be a convenient starting point for these excursions.
Several of the things to do in San Jose are reliant on what season you choose to visit.
While the climate is similar to that found in the Mediterranean, if you choose to travel in the Santa Cruz Mountains or into Yosemite, you will most likely run into snow.
Hotels in this area can get expensive. There are 492 hotels in San Jose and prices can be found for $68 a night if you look carefully.
If you are looking for luxury, there are a number of hotels that can accommodate you in that as well.
Start Planning Your Trip To San Jose
It is said that in order to truly appreciate San Jose, you need to view it as a local would.
As such, many of the top itinerary selections include locations that are important to the history, important to the area and places where the locals like to go.
No matter how short or long of a time spent visiting San Jose, your time will not be wasted.
This historical city offers attractions, education, and fun to children and adults alike.