Think San Jose is all tech and no fun? Think again! This ultimate bucket list reveals a vibrant city packed with hidden gems, beautiful gardens, thrilling attractions, world-class tech museums, and unique cultural experiences. Get ready to discover a whole new side of Silicon Valley.

San Jose is a bustling city in the heart of Silicon Valley. If you’re looking for things to do in San Jose, California, you’ve come to the right place!

This list includes both classic San Jose staples and some lesser-known gems that are sure to make your time in the city special.

This list of the 51 best activities and attractions in the city will keep you busy for months. There is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your San Jose bucket list today!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

San Jose: Map of Top Attractions

Interesting Museums and Indoor Activities in San Jose, California

From the quirky Winchester Mystery House to the fascinating world of Silicon Valley innovation, San Jose’s museums will spark your curiosity.

1. Winchester Mystery House

51 Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, Winchester Mystery House, Halloween
Halloween decoration at Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a uniquely spooky attraction in San Jose, California. This sprawling mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester.

After her husband died in 1881, Sarah became obsessed with the idea that she was being haunted by ghosts and started construction on this massive home to appease them.

Construction continued 24 hours a day for 38 years until Sarah’s death in 1922. The house is full of oddities, such as secret passageways, trap doors, and stairways leading nowhere.

Visitors can tour the house to learn more about its history and see some of its strange features.

The Halloween decorations at the Winchester Mystery House are some of the best in the Bay Area, which makes it a perfect time to visit!

Book online: Winchester Mystery House Tour

2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

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Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is a hidden gem in San Jose that is worth a visit.

This museum is dedicated to the art, history, and religion of ancient Egypt, and it is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating civilization. 

The museum was founded by members of the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), an international organization that promotes the study of mysticism and entrepreneurship.

The museum houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the Western United States. Visitors can explore three floors of exhibits, which include items such as jewelry, statues, mummies, and sarcophagi.

With its extensive collection of ancient artifacts, this museum provides visitors with an informative and educational look at the art, history, and religion of ancient Egypt.

In addition to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Rosicrucian Park is also home to the new Rosicrucian Labyrinth, Alchemy Exhibit, and Alchemy Garden, as well as the historic Rosicrucian Planetarium, Peace Garden, Rosicrucian Temple, and Research Library, with more than 30,000 volumes on topics related to Egyptology. 

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Peace Garden at Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

So if Ancient Egypt fascinates you even a little bit, be sure to check out the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose!

Look at my Instagram reel revealing a beautiful corner at Rosicrucian Park!

3. The Tech Interactive in San Jose – A Can’t-Miss Attraction for Science and Technology Lovers

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The Tech Interactive in San Jose

The Tech Interactive is a state-of-the-art science and technology museum in the heart of downtown San Jose.

At the heart of silicon valley, where new ideas emerge and lead us and have had such a profound influence on the world, a museum such as this is expected.

All the exhibits here are interesting. This museum is interactive, hands-on, and educational. You can learn about the history of Silicon Valley, see how semiconductors are made, experience an earthquake, and much more.

Innovations in Health Care and Body Motion are two of my favorite exhibits. This museum entertains, educates, involves, and inspires.

Visitors can experience more than 200 interactive exhibits, participate in hands-on activities, and see live shows.

Kids will love getting their hands dirty with the many interactive exhibits, while adults can appreciate the cutting-edge technology on display.

The IMAX theater is also a great way to learn about science and technology in an immersive environment. The Tech Interactive is a can’t-miss attraction for science and technology lovers of all ages.

Book online: The Tech Interactive tickets

4. The San Jose Museum of Art – A beautiful escape for art lovers

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A beautiful sculpture inside the San Jose Museum of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art is an excellent option for art lovers looking for an enjoyable afternoon activity in downtown San Jose.

The museum’s diverse collection features both contemporary and traditional pieces from around the world, making it a perfect stop for anyone interested in contemporary art or old masters, or those just looking to appreciate some beautiful artwork

5. The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Nestled in downtown San Jose, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is a non-profit gallery that showcases the work of local, national, and international artists. Best of all, admission is free!

The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm, and features both solo and group exhibitions. Visitors can expect to see a wide range of art forms on display, including paintings, sculptures, installations, and more.

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, such as artist talks, film screenings, and performance art.

Whether you’re a longtime art lover or just getting started, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is sure to have something for everyone.

6. The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose – The best place for children to learn through play

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Tiny hands, big discoveries 🌟. Here’s a throwback to a playful day at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, where my little one’s curiosity was as vibrant as the colorful exhibits around her. It’s a place where learning and fun go hand in hand, sparking joy and wonder in the hearts of our children. ✨

The Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose is dedicated to providing a fun and educational experience for children of all ages.

With tons of hands-on exhibits, the Children’s Discovery Museum focuses on art, culture, music, science, and technology.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum also offers a variety of programs and events. It is sure to be a hit with your little ones!

7. Intel Museum

The Intel Museum in San Jose is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of Silicon Valley or the technology industry.

The museum tells the story of how Intel came to be one of the world’s leading manufacturers of semiconductor chips and computer processors. 

The museum offers a wide range of exhibits, from early semiconductor chips to modern processor technology. 

And best of all, admission to the museum is free, making it a great option for budget-minded travelers. 

The museum store offers a wide selection of souvenirs and gifts, including books, t-shirts, and mugs. 

Whether you’re a history buff or a tech geek, a visit to the Intel Museum is sure to be enjoyable and enlightening. So if you’re ever in Silicon Valley, add this museum to your list of places to visit!

8. Computer History Museum

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Computer history museum

Technology is changing the geography of our lives. Since we live in the heart of Silicon Valley, it is interesting to know the long history of technology and its revolutionary impact on the world.

Visit the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and discover stories and exhibits that inform and inspire, or satisfy your curiosity with hands-on activities.

The story of computing is invigorating and is driven by the human passion for tinkering, inventing, and solving difficult problems. Spend a day here and you will go back home thinking about human ingenuity.

Silicon Valley’s innovative tech culture is built up around a belief that Change is Good. While exploring this museum, I was thinking about the changes brought about by technology to every aspect of our lives.

The pace of change confounds me often. This museum gave me a fertile ground to reflect upon many profound things directly related to our lives.

After exploring the Computer History Museum, head over to Googleplex in Mountain View – the corporate headquarters of Google. Enjoy a cool sculpture garden there before heading back home.  

9. Triton Museum of Art

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The beautiful art gallery inside Triton Museum of Art

The Triton Museum of Art, right across the street from the Santa Clara Civic Center, houses both contemporary and historical pieces.

The focus of these exhibits are on artists who come from the greater Bay Area – and best of all, admission AND parking are free!

10. Lick Observatory – – The world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory

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Lick Observatory – – The world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory

After your daily work, have you ever looked up and got lost in the beauty of the moon or the immense night sky? I am sure you have.

If you are visiting or living in the San Francisco Bay Area, then plan a drive to Lick observatory, the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory and home to the second largest refracting telescope in the world.

Visit Lick Observatory and get lost in the world of the cosmos through its various exhibits. Listen to a short informal talk about Lick history while looking at the Great Lick Refractor in the 36-inch telescope dome for free.

Also, don’t forget to take a short walk to the Shane Dome to view the 120-inch Reflector.

The Shane reflector is one of the major telescopes used to discover extrasolar planets. Enjoy a cup of coffee in the adjacent garden and enjoy the view of the Santa Clara Valley from the parking lot at 4,209 feet. 

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The second largest refracting telescope in the world

11. NASA Ames Research Center: Explore the Frontier of Space and Technology

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The full-size Space Shuttle model was an impressive sight as I approached the entrance to NASA Ames Research Park.

Delve into the world of cutting-edge space exploration and technology at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.

Discover interactive exhibits, fascinating displays on NASA missions, and learn about the Center’s role in groundbreaking research.

Be sure to check the NASA Ames website for special events and temporary exhibits – you might get lucky and catch a rare display like a Moon rock like me.

I visited NASA Ames with my daughter, and we both loved it. The exhibits sparked her curiosity about space, and we were fortunate to visit during a special event where a Moon rock was on display.

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Getting to see an actual Moon rock up close was an unforgettable experience during my visit to
NASA Ames!
Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, NASA Ames Research Center
My daughter’s face lit up as she hopped into the shuttle cockpit exhibit at NASA Ames. “I’m an astronaut!” she exclaimed, eagerly flipping switches and pushing buttons. At that moment, her imagination took flight, and the world of space exploration came alive before her eyes.

You, too, might find a unique treasure on display!

Important Note: The Visitor Center is located within the NASA Ames Research Center. Visitors require a valid passport or U.S. Driving License/ID for entry.

12. The de Saisset Museum

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The de Saisset Museum

The de Saisset Museum is a free museum of art and history on the grounds of Santa Clara University.

The de Saisset has a wide and accessible variety of exhibitions and educational programs that explore the art and history of the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the local Santa Clara Valley.

Galleries are open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the academic year. 

13. Explore California’s Mining History: New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum

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Discover how quicksilver (mercury) shaped California’s history at the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.

Learn about the mining process, its environmental impact, and the lives of the workers who shaped this important industry.

Outdoor Activities and Natural Beauty in San Jose, California

Breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun – explore San Jose’s stunning natural beauty, from fragrant gardens to majestic mountain vistas.

14. The Municipal Rose Garden – A fragrant corner of San Jose

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The Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose!

The Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose, a one-time prune orchard, is a beautiful 5.5-acre garden that is full of shrubs of the rose family.

There are over 4,000 rose shrubs in 189 different varieties represented here. The roses are arranged in concentric circles, with each variety grouped together.

The result is a colorful and fragrant display that is truly a sight to behold. The garden also features several other plants and trees, including Camellias and Magnolia trees.

It’s a popular tourist destination because of how lovely it is. If you’re looking for a fragrant and serene corner of San Jose to relax in, this is the spot.

The Municipal Rose Garden is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free, making it a great option for a budget-friendly activity in the Bay Area.

15. Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose – A Living Symbol of Friendship

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Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose

The Japanese Friendship Garden was built as a symbol of everlasting friendship between the City of San Jose and its sister city of Okayama, Japan.

The garden was built in 1965 as a beautiful and peaceful place for visitors to enjoy, and it has been a popular destination ever since.

Featuring traditional Japanese landscaping, with ponds, bridges, and waterfalls, the garden is a true delight for the senses.

It is also home to many beautiful koi fish, which can be seen swimming gracefully in the ponds.

16. Almaden Quicksilver County Park 

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Are you looking for a day trip that is both fun and educational? Then be sure to visit Almaden Quicksilver, County Park.

Located in South San Jose, Almaden Quicksilver County Park is a sprawling park that covers over 4,163 acres and is home to miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as opportunities for camping, fishing, and horseback riding.

Additionally, this popular park features several historical sites, including the remains of the New Almaden mercury mine.

During early spring, the park offers one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region. This park is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, thanks to its beautiful scenery and abundance of wildlife.

Tip: Choose the Hacienda entrance to the park. It features the iconic New Almaden bell tower and outdoor mining museum in the parking lot of the Hacienda Entrance. 

Also, don’t miss seeing St. Anthony Church, located within a minute of walking distance. It is one of the oldest churches in San Jose and features beautiful architecture.

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17. Alum Rock Park

Alum Rock Park is one of the oldest municipal parks in California. It is nestled within a canyon in the foothills of the Diablo Range.

Alum Rock Park is a great place to visit if you are looking for a natural oasis in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The park offers many leisure outdoor activities, including hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, picnicking, and relaxing.

The park also has picnic tables, barbecue pits, water, and restrooms available in most picnic areas.

If you are looking for a place to enjoy nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Alum Rock Park is worth a visit.

18. Los Gatos Creek Trail

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There are plenty of reasons why one should visit Los Gatos Creek Trail. Firstly, the scenery is absolutely beautiful.

From the lush greenery to the sparkling creek, it’s a sight to behold. Secondly, there’s lots of shade along the trail, which makes it perfect for a hot day.

Lastly, there’s a great variety of activities that can be enjoyed along the trail, from walking and jogging to skating and biking.

And the best part is, at the top of the trail, you’ll have amazing views of Lexington Reservoir and San Jose.

So whether you’re looking for a peaceful nature stroll or an energetic workout, the Los Gatos Creek Trail has you covered.

Tip: I recommend the western reach of the trail. It extends from Meridian Avenue on the edge of Downtown San Jose and travels through Campbell and Los Gatos to reach Lexington Dam.

19. Joseph D. Grant County Park

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Nestled within the rolling landscapes of Santa Clara Valley, Joseph D. Grant County Park holds a special place in my heart as my cherished retreat for a Sunday siesta.

Joseph D. Grant County Park is a beautiful and expansive park in the Santa Clara Valley. At 10,882 acres, it is the largest regional park in Santa Clara County and features some of the best open space resources.

The park is also home to rich environmental, cultural, and recreational assets, including majestic oak trees and grazing cattle.

Visitors can enjoy various activities in the park, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing. There are also many picnic areas and playgrounds for families to enjoy.

Joseph D. Grant County Park isn’t just a slice of nature; it’s a haven for rejuvenation and a testament to the beauty of the Santa Clara Valley.

It’s my Sunday sanctuary, a place where I reconnect with nature and myself, one peaceful breath at a time.

20. Calero County Park

Whether you’re a Bay Area resident looking for a nearby escape from the city or a visitor from out of town looking to explore all that California has to offer, Calero County Park should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

There are two distinct areas at Calero County Park: the reservoir and the “back country.”

The reservoir is perfect for those who want to spend a day on the water, with plenty of opportunities for fishing, and boating.

The backcountry area is perfect for those who want to explore, with miles of hiking and biking trails winding through oak woodlands, chaparral, and riparian plant communities.

21. Hellyer County Park

With over 175 acres of land, Hellyer County Park is a hidden gem in the Bay Area. Located in San Jose, this urban park is perfect for a day of hiking, picnicking, or just enjoying the outdoors.

One of the best things about Hellyer County Park is that it’s perfect for a day of hiking and picnicking. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, so you can explore as little or as much as you like.

And when you’re ready to take a break, there are plenty of picnic tables scattered throughout the park. So bring your friends, family, or a special someone and enjoy a day in nature.

If you’re looking for more excitement, Hellyer County Park is also home to the Hellyer Velodrome. This world-class cycling facility is open to the public and offers racing and training programs for all levels of cyclists.

So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, the Hellyer Velodrome is the perfect place to get your wheels spinning.

22. Vasona Lake County Park

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Vasona Lake County Park is one of Santa Clara County’s most popular regional parks. The 152-acre park features a lake, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and a playground.

The park is also home to the Los Gatos Creek Parkway, which provides visitors with stunning views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Vasona Lake County Park is a great place to spend a day with family and friends. There are plenty of things to do at the park, including fishing, hiking, picnicking, and playing on the playground.

The Los Gatos Creek Parkway is also a great place to take a walk or go for a jog. You can even rent boats and paddleboards from the park’s boathouse.

23. Mount Umunhum

Mount Umunhum overlooks the Santa Cruz Mountains and has panoramic views, a rich cultural narrative, and opportunities to connect with nature.

In the Ohlone language, Mount Umunhum means “the resting place of Hummingbird.” In the late 1950s, the United States government bought Mount Umunhum to build the Almaden Air Force Station.

The station served as an early warning radar from 1957 until it closed in 1980. The station was built as part of the initiative to have a network of radar stations during the Cold War so that the airspace could be monitored.

While exploring San Jose, if you want to breathe in the fresh mountain air, take in the stunning views, and learn about the history of Mount Umunhum, I recommend a hike to the summit.

If you are a sunset lover like me, then linger till the colors in the sky change and witness a resplendent sunset. I still remember seeing from the summit a sparkling city below and a vibrant sky above.

24. South Bay Wineries Tour – The Best Kept Secret of San Jose

If you’re a fan of wine, then you definitely need to check out the South Bay wineries tour.

This is a great opportunity to sample some of the best wines in the area and visit some family run wineries that don’t get as much attention as the more popular ones.

The area is absolutely beautiful and it’s the perfect way to spend a day if you’re looking for something different to do.

The South Bay region is home to some of the best wines in California. However, it’s often overlooked by tourists who flock to Sonoma and Napa Valley instead.

This is a shame because there are some fantastic wineries in the South Bay that produce amazing wines.Fortunately, there’s an all-inclusive wine tour that goes off the beaten path and visits some of these hidden gems.

During the tour, you’ll have a chance to sample different wines and learn about the history of winemaking in the area.

You’ll also get to meet the people who own and operate these family-run businesses. This is a great opportunity to support local businesses and learn about what goes into making great wine.

The tour includes transportation, so you don’t have to worry about trying to find your way around unfamiliar territory. Plus, it’s led by a professional guide who will ensure that you have a great time.

Book South Bay Wineries Tour

25. The St. Clare Garden – A hidden gem on the Santa Clara University campus

The St. Clare Garden is a hidden gem on the Santa Clara University campus in California.

Nestled behind Sullivan Hall, the garden features a tranquil pond, a bubbling fountain, and a variety of beautiful flowers and plants.

The garden is open to the public during daylight hours, and it’s a popular spot for students to study or relax between classes.

The garden’s serene setting makes it a perfect place to reflect on the day or clear your mind.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to read or enjoy some time in nature, the St. Clare Garden is sure to provide a peaceful respite from the humdrum of everyday life.

Also Read: 31 Best Gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area

26. History Park – San Jose

For a taste of Silicon Valley history, head to History Park in San Jose. This 14-acre park is home to 32 original and reproduction homes, businesses, and landmarks, giving visitors a glimpse of Santa Clara Valley’s past.

Paved streets, running trolleys, and an old-fashioned ice cream shop add to the park’s charm, and there are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the buildings and learning about the valley’s rich history, while kids will love riding the trolleys and playing in the park.

Best of all, admission to History Park is free, making it a great option for budget-minded travelers.

Thrill Rides and Amusement Parks near San Jose, California

Get your adrenaline pumping! From world-class rollercoasters to family-friendly attractions, San Jose’s thrilling amusement parks offer excitement for everyone.

27. California’s Great America – A world-class amusement park!

Whether you’re looking for thrills or spills, California’s Great America has it all. With more than 60 rides, there’s something for everyone.

Explore world-class roller coasters, thrill rides, kiddie rides, and family attractions! From family-friendly rides like the Carousel Columbia to thrill rides like Flight Deck, there’s something for everyone at California’s Great America.

Plus, don’t forget to check out Planet Snoopy – it’s sure to be a hit with the kids!

Also, South Bay Shores waterpark is included with park admission, so you can enjoy splashing around in the sun all day long!

With slides, a lazy river, and splash pads, there are plenty of ways to stay cool at South Bay Shores.

In addition to rides and attractions, California’s Great America also offers live entertainment and events.

From concerts in the park to holiday-themed events, there’s always something going on at California’s Great America. Be sure to check the calendar of events so you don’t miss out on any of the fun!

Pro Tip – Buy the yearly pass that combines Great America with Gilroy Gardens, another great place to visit with kids!

28. Happy Hollow Park and Zoo – A Bay Area Treasure

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Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, San Jose

If you’re looking for a great place to take the kids in the Bay Area, look no further than Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose!

This beloved institution has been entertaining and educating locals and visitors alike for over 50 years.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo first opened its doors to the public on May 1, 1961.

The park was founded by a group of citizens who were passionate about giving children in the community a place to learn about and interact with animals. In its early years, the zoo was home to just a few dozen animals.

Today, there are over 140 animals representing over 60 different species at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo!   

In addition to being a zoo, Happy Hollow Park is also a fully-fledged amusement park! The park features rides, a puppet theater, and a wide variety of play structures for kids of all ages.   

If you’re looking for a fun-filled day out for the whole family, make sure to add Happy Hollow Park & Zoo to your list! With so much to see and do, it’s sure to be a day everyone will enjoy. 

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A beautiful Macaw inside the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, San Jose

29. Raging Waters, San Jose

Raging Waters is one of the best water parks in California and one of its largest. This 60-acre waterpark has more than 50 world-class rides, slides, and other attractions.

Aqua Rocket is one of the most popular attractions, California’s only hydromagnetic water coaster. The park is also home to attractions such as the Wave Pool, the Lazy River, and Splash Island.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Raging Waters, San Jose, Northern California’s Largest Waterpark, is a fabulous option.

Cultural & Religious Sites

Explore San Jose’s diverse cultural landscape. Discover historic missions, a beautiful cathedral, and places of worship representing different faiths.

30. Mission Santa Clara de Asís

Mission Santa Clara de Asís is a stunning mission in Santa Clara, California. The mission was founded on January 12, 1777, and is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University.

The mission is dedicated to Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th-century Italian nun. This was the first mission in California to honor a female saint.

The mission is well worth visiting for its beautiful architecture, paintings, and ceiling, as well as its location on the grounds of Santa Clara University.

A beautiful rose garden awaits you just off to the side. It’s a great place to come, reflect and be with your thoughts for a little bit.

31. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is a large Roman Catholic church in Downtown San Jose, adjacent to Plaza de Cesar Chavez. The basilica is dedicated to St. Joseph, the Catholic Church’s patron saint and namesake of San Jose, California. It is listed as a California Historical Landmark.

The church was built in 1877 and rebuilt five times after earthquakes or fires. The cathedral basilica is a beautiful place to visit and offers a majestic view of the church with its two domes. It also has 39 exquisite stained glass windows that are a sight to see.

I fell in love with the light and sound projection on the façade of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose during the holidays. Check out the Instagram reel below and if you like it, follow me on Instagram.

32. Sikh Gurdwara Sahib – San Jose

The San Jose Gurdwara is a beautiful Sikh temple located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The architecture is Indo-Persian, a fusion of Hindu and Islamic elements.

It is the largest Gurdwara in the world outside of India. The temple is open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.

The San Jose Gurdwara is a welcoming and inclusive community that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

In addition, there is a langar (Sikh community kitchen) that provides complimentary meals to people from all backgrounds daily. All diners eat together in one shared space.

PS: Sikhism originated 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India. Its founder, Guru Nanak, preached monotheism, women’s equality, and rejection of the Hindu caste system.

Sports & Recreation

Whether you’re a sports fanatic or a casual enthusiast, catch a thrilling hockey game at the Sap Center or enjoy a scenic round of golf at a hidden gem course nestled within the hills.

33. The Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in San Jose – A hidden gem tucked away in the hills

The Cinnabar Hills Golf Club in San Jose is a hidden gem tucked away in the hills. The golf course is beautifully landscaped and well-maintained, making it a pleasure to play.

In addition, the views from the hilltops are simply stunning. The club also offers a spectacular setting for a wedding ceremony and reception.

The Cinnabar Hills Restaurant is another highlight of the club. The food is fantastic, and the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting.

Cinnabar Hills Golf Club is worth checking out for those looking for a great place to play golf, host an event, or just want some time off within the Bay Area with good food.

The calm and serene landscape here is a great way to take a break from the fast-paced life in Silicon Valley. It is a perfect getaway to relax, rejuvenate and spend time with oneself.

34. Cheer on the San Jose Sharks: Thrilling NHL Action at the SAP Center (The Shark Tank)

The San Jose Sharks are the Bay Area’s NHL (National Hockey League) team, and they play their home games at the SAP Center, known as the Shark Tank, located in downtown San Jose.

If you’re a hockey fan or just looking for a fun night out, I recommend catching a Sharks game. The atmosphere is electric, and the fans are passionate about their team.

You can watch the San Jose Sharks play in the Western Conference from fall through spring at the “Shark Tank”.

Even if you’re not a hockey fan, it’s still a fun experience. If you can’t make it to a game, listen to live music or see a show. You won’t be disappointed.

35. Family Fun on Ice: Public Skating in San Jose

Create lasting memories with family and friends at a public skating session in San Jose! Whether you’re an experienced skater or a wobbly beginner, there’s a rink for you.

Enjoy the thrill of gliding on the ice, with upbeat music, a friendly atmosphere, and perhaps a hot chocolate break for extra warmth.

It’s a perfect way to get some exercise, laughs, and create cherished moments together.

Landmarks & Public Spaces

Experience the heart of San Jose! Explore lively markets, important civic buildings, and a central plaza where the city comes together.

36. Plaza de César Chávez in Downtown San Jose

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Plaza de Cesar Chavez  in Downtown San Jose

The Plaza de César Chávez is a popular civic space in Downtown San Jose, California.

The plaza was named after civil rights and labor activist Cesar Chavez and is the oldest public space in Northern California.

The plaza is bounded by numerous landmarks and institutions, including the Tech Museum of Innovation and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Adding to the cultural richness of the area, visitors can also find thought-provoking public art installations nearby, such as the “Man of Fire” sculpture embedded in the pavement along the Paseo de San Antonio pedestrian mall.

This commemorative artwork unites San Jose State University and Plaza de Cesar Chavez, honoring Dr. Ernesto Galarza’s legacy as an educator, activist, and bridge between academia and community.

The plaza hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the San Jose Jazz Festival, Music in the Park, and Christmas in the Park.

37. Explore the Historic Roots and Iconic Landmarks at San José State University

As I approached San José State University on a rainy December morning, the iconic Tower Hall emerged through the mist, its architectural grandeur undimmed by the inclement weather.

San José State University (SJSU) is not only a top-notch educational institution but also a fascinating destination steeped in history and cultural significance.

As the oldest public university on the West Coast and the founding campus of the California State University system, SJSU has been shaping minds and making history since 1857.

One of the most iconic symbols of SJSU is the magnificent Tower Hall. This architectural gem is the embodiment of the university’s rich heritage, standing as a testament to its status as the oldest school of higher education in California.

Take a moment to admire its grandeur and reflect on the countless students who have passed through its halls over the years.

Another must-see landmark on campus is the powerful and thought-provoking Victory Salute statue. This awe-inspiring monument honors Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two SJSU students who made history at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

On a chilly December morning, I stood before the iconic Victory Salute statue, the misty rain adding to the solemn atmosphere. As I gazed up at Tommie Smith and John Carlos, their powerful stance seemed to defy the gloomy weather, their message of equality and justice resonating through the generations. The Olympic rings on the pedestal glistened with raindrops, a poignant reminder of the historic moment these two SJSU students fearlessly created on the world stage.

Smith, who won the gold medal in the 200-meter sprint, and Carlos, who claimed the bronze, stood on the podium with their fists raised in a profound gesture of unity and defiance against racial injustice, becoming an iconic symbol of the Olympic Games and the struggle for equality.

The statue captures the essence of their protest, with Smith holding an olive tree sapling as a symbol of peace and Carlos wearing beads to represent the lynchings suffered by African-Americans.

Their shoeless feet and black socks serve as a poignant reminder of the poverty faced by the African-American community at the time.

Together, they form an arch of unity and power that continues to inspire and educate visitors to this day.

Each year, SJSU celebrates the legacy of Smith and Carlos during Legacy Week, held next to the Victory Salute statue.

This event is a testament to the university’s commitment to social justice, diversity, and the power of individual action to create lasting change.

38. Honor a Legacy of Social Justice: César Chávez Monument

More than just a monument, the César E. Chávez Monument, a historical landmark, serves as a powerful tribute to the iconic labor leader and his lifelong fight for farmworker rights.

Designed by renowned artist Judith F. Baca, this thought-provoking arch invites visitors to embark on a journey of introspection and reflection.

As you pass through the monument, take a moment to absorb its profound message:

May all those passing through it experience the passage from hope and inspiration, to education, and finally, to action for social and environmental justice.

Judy Baca

The arch not only pays homage to Chavez but also acknowledges the vital roles played by his partner in the American labor movement, Dolores Huerta, and his source of inspiration for peace and unity, Mahatma Gandhi.

39. San Pedro Square Market

Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, the San Pedro Square Market is a food lover’s paradise.

San Pedro Square offers an expansive variety of cuisines from all around the world, including Mexican, Peruvian, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Italian, Continental, Hawaiian, and multiple Asian influences.

In addition to these flavors, you can also find brew pubs, retro American delis cafes, and more.

San Pedro Square is also home to the Peralta Adobe, one of Spanish California’s oldest settlements, and Fallon House.

The Peralta Adobe was built in 1797 and is the oldest building in San Jose. The Fallon House is a Victorian mansion built in 1855 by Thomas Fallon, one of San José’s earliest mayors. 

During your visit to San Jose, make time for this historical hangout in the heart of downtown San Jose and get a taste of the best that the city has to offer. This is one of the best places to hang out with friends.

40. Explore Downtown’s Event Hubs

San Jose’s downtown core offers two vibrant event spaces, each with its own appeal:

  • San Jose McEnery Convention Center This massive space is Silicon Valley’s go-to spot for large-scale events. Check their calendar for exciting trade shows, tech conferences, comic conventions, or even concerts. Even if your schedule doesn’t align with a major event, admire the “Idea Tree” sculpture at its entrance, a symbol of the region’s innovative spirit.
  • San Jose Civic For a touch of classic entertainment, step into the San Jose Civic. This historic venue offers a taste of Broadway, with touring shows, comedy acts, and musical performances gracing its stage. Be sure to see what’s playing during your visit!

Tip: Both locations are in downtown San Jose, making it easy to explore one or both depending on your interests and their event schedules.

41. San Jose City Hall

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, San Jose City Hall
San Jose City Hall

San Jose City Hall was completed in 2005 and designed in a Postmodern style by Pritzker Prize-winner Richard Meier of Getty Center fame.

If you’ve ever been to downtown San Jose, chances are you’ve seen, City Hall. San Jose City Hall is illuminated at night and is an impressive sight to behold.

I highly recommend seeing San Jose City Hall Rotunda at night.

If you’re looking for more excitement, Hellyer County Park is also home to the Hellyer Velodrome. This world-class cycling facility is open to the public and offers racing and training programs for all levels of cyclists.

So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, the Hellyer Velodrome is the perfect place to get your wheels spinning.

Hidden Gems

Discover San Jose’s off-the-beaten-path treasures – from unique sound art installations to vibrant murals and a beautiful, tucked-away art center.

42. San Jose Sonic Runway

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, San Jose Sonic Runway

At San Jose City Hall Plaza, you’ll find the San Jose Sonic Runway, an audio-reactive light-art installation that converts audio signals into patterns of lights that shoot down a corridor of arches at the speed of sound.

San Jose Travel Realizations
Pic by Benny Villarreal

Walk down the corridor of concentric arches, each with 554 addressable LEDs, that visualize the speed of sound.

Experience this unique public artwork if you are in the town.

Standing at the front of the Runway, you can see the beats of the music rippling away from you. As you walk down the length, no matter where you are, the sound and the light are in sync. Looking back from the far end, you can see the sound coming at you, hearing the beat just as the pattern reaches you.

sonicrunway.com

43. San Jose Murals

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, San Jose Murals
On the side of the De Anza Hotel is “Life Abundant in the Face of Death Imminent.” 

San Jose is home to many beautiful murals. You can find them in many different parts of the city, and each one is unique and tells a story.

Just wander around downtown San Jose, and you are sure to come across these beautiful pieces of art!

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, San Jose Murals
Mural – Afternoon! Beside Highway 87

44. Montalvo Arts Center

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, Montalvo Arts Center
Montalvo Arts Center

Montalvo, an oasis of arts and nature in the heart of bustling Silicon Valley is nestled in the foothills above Saratoga with 175 acres of woodland hiking trails and gardens. 

On the grounds, visitors are welcome to enjoy a picnic on the spacious great lawn, tour beautiful gardens, and see both temporary and permanent outdoor art installations.

It is accessible to the public 365 days a year and free of charge.

Shopping & Entertainment

Find the perfect mix of upscale shopping, delicious eats, and lively entertainment in this vibrant neighborhood.

45. Santana Row

Top Things to Do in San Jose - The Ultimate Bucket List, Travel Realizations, Santana Row
Standing in front of the beautiful Christmas tree at Santana Row, San Jose

Santana Row is one of the most popular spots in San Jose. It’s a shopping and dining center with a European feel, with fountains, cobblestone walkways, and a picturesque central square.

Santana Row has come a long way since its beginnings as an urban village envisioned by its original developers.

Today, it’s a premier destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment in the Bay Area. There’s something for everyone at Santana Row, from high-end boutiques to casual eateries.

You can also catch a movie or take a spin on the carousel. And don’t forget to check out the architecture—the buildings here are some of the most beautiful in the city.

Santana Row is one of my favorite places and more so during the holidays. The light decorations are beautiful, with a giant Christmas tree to melt your heart.

I love walking the streets at my own pace, watching people in their best attire, and taking in the sights and smells.

Also Read: Best Christmas Events and Lights in San Jose, California

Events and Festivals: Celebrate the Spirit of San Jose

San Jose’s festival scene reflects the city’s diverse culture and innovative spirit. Discover these annual highlights and mark your calendar:

46. Cinequest Film & VR Festival (March)

A renowned celebration of innovation and creativity, the Cinequest Film & VR Festival showcases independent films, cutting-edge virtual reality experiences, and technology-driven artworks.

It’s a meeting ground for filmmakers and tech enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into the future of storytelling.

47. San Jose Jazz Summer Fest (August)

One of the Bay Area’s biggest music festivals, the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest features a wide array of jazz performances spanning various genres, including blues, Latin, R&B, and more.

Staged in downtown San Jose, it brings together world-class musicians and jazz lovers from around the globe.

48. Silicon Valley Comic Con ( March/April)

Blending pop culture with technology, Silicon Valley Comic Con is a must-attend for fans of comics, games, movies, and technology.

It offers panels, autograph sessions with celebrities, cosplay contests, and exhibits that explore the intersection of tech and entertainment.

49. Dia de Portugal Festival (June)

This festival celebrates Portuguese heritage and culture with traditional music, dance performances, parades, and delicious Portuguese cuisine.

It’s a colorful and vibrant event that pays homage to the significant Portuguese community in San Jose and their contributions to the city’s cultural diversity.

50. San Jose Obon Festival (July or August)

A traditional Japanese festival honoring ancestors, the San Jose Obon Festival is one of the largest and oldest of its kind in the United States.

It features Bon Odori (dance), taiko performances, martial arts, and Japanese food stalls, bringing a piece of Japanese culture to the heart of San Jose.

51. Christmas in the Park (November-December)

Downtown San Jose transforms into a winter wonderland with festive lights, themed displays, holiday activities, and a lively Christmas market, one of the best places to see christmas lights in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bonus Tip: The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds is a great place to visit for a variety of events, from circuses to concerts and festivals. It is also home to the Santa Clara County Fair, which takes place every year in July and August.

Where to eat in San Jose, California

Craving a unique dining experience in San Jose? Head to this cozy Ethiopian restaurant I previously featured on my Instagram story. The traditional decor, communal dining setup, and mouthwatering dishes make for a memorable meal.
For more of my go-to spots, hidden gems and events in the Bay Area, follow my Instagram stories! I’m always sharing insider tips to help you explore the best of San Jose and beyond. 📍🌉

San Jose, the bustling capital of Silicon Valley, is not only a hub of innovation but also a melting pot of culinary experiences.

From trendy eateries serving up artisanal dishes to family-owned gems dishing out authentic flavors from around the globe, the city offers a feast for every palate.

Here’s a curated list of some must-visit restaurants in San Jose to tantalize your taste buds:

  • Falafel’s Drive-In: A San Jose institution – famous for its huge portions of delicious falafel, shawarma, and other Middle Eastern favorites.
  • La Foret: Stepping into La Foret, I was enveloped in an ambiance that whispers elegance and tranquility. It’s more than a dining destination; it’s an escape into nature’s serenity, paired with French cuisine that’s as exquisite as the setting.
  • Kategna Ethiopian Restaurant: During my culinary adventures in San Jose, I had the pleasure of dining at Kategna Ethiopian Restaurant, a place that not only serves food but also offers a slice of Ethiopian culture right in the heart of California. My experience at Kategna was nothing short of remarkable, allowing me to immerse myself in the rich flavors and communal dining traditions of Ethiopia.
  • El Jardín Tequila Bar: In the Heart of Santana Row, El Jardín pulses with the vibrant energy of Mexico. its open-air patio and colorful décor setting the stage for a lively experience. I had a delightful time dining here during the holiday season – the atmosphere was so festive!
  • Henry’s Hi-Life – A Barbecue Haven: At Henry’s Hi-Life, the aroma of barbecue greets you long before you step inside, a promise of the hearty feast to come. This restaurant is a testament to the timeless allure of American barbecue, serving up ribs, steaks, and chicken that fall off the bone and into your heart. The rustic setting, with its historic charm, adds to the experience, making every meal feel like a backyard celebration. Henry’s Hi-Life is more than a meal; it’s a slice of American culinary heritage, served with a side of nostalgia.

Exploring San Jose’s culinary scene is a journey through the flavors of the world, right in the heart of California.

Each restaurant offers a distinct dining experience that reflects the city’s rich cultural tapestry and innovative spirit.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, these spots are sure to provide memorable meals and a taste of San Jose’s diverse culinary offerings.

The Best Time to Visit San Jose, California

San Jose’s mild Mediterranean climate makes it a welcoming destination year-round. However, the ideal time to visit depends on your interests and preferences. Here’s a breakdown of what each season offers:

  • Spring (March-May): Blooming landscapes and pleasant weather make spring delightful. Enjoy outdoor activities without the summer heat, explore gardens in full bloom, and catch festivals like the Cinequest Film Festival.
  • Summer (June-August): The warmest season brings long sunny days and a buzzing festival calendar. Attend the iconic San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, Obon Festival, or Silicon Valley Pride for cultural immersion. Be prepared for occasional heat waves.
  • Fall (September-November): Cooler temperatures and vibrant fall foliage make outdoor adventures enjoyable. Hike in the nearby mountains, savor harvest season at wineries, and experience the city’s diverse Dia de Portugal Festival.
  • Winter (December-February): Enjoy the magic of Christmas in the Park, a downtown holiday extravaganza. Temperatures are mild, with occasional rain, making it ideal for museum hopping and exploring San Jose’s indoor attractions.

Where to Stay in San Jose, California

San Jose offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s style and budget. Here are some popular and highly-rated places to consider:

AC Hotel by Marriott San Jose Downtown: For the modern traveler seeking contemporary design and convenience, the AC Hotel by Marriott offers sleek rooms, a 24-hour fitness center, and a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city skyline. Located near major attractions and corporate headquarters, it’s an ideal choice for both business and leisure travelers. Book a stay here!

Hotel Valencia Santana Row: Nestled in the upscale Santana Row shopping and dining district, Hotel Valencia exudes European charm with its stylish décor and Mediterranean-inspired architecture. Guests can indulge in fine dining at the hotel’s renowned restaurants or explore the vibrant nightlife just steps away. Book a stay here!

The Westin San Jose: Housed in a historic landmark building, The Westin San Jose seamlessly blends old-world elegance with modern amenities. Guests can unwind in spacious rooms featuring plush Heavenly Beds, dine at the on-site restaurant, and explore nearby attractions such as the Tech Museum of Innovation and San Jose Museum of Art. Book a stay here!

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There you have it – 45 of the best things to do in San Jose! This city has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a fun night out or a day of exploring and learning.

So, what are you waiting for? Start ticking items off your bucket list and enjoy all that San Jose has to offer. Which activity do you want to do first?

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.