Must-Visit Attractions in and Around San Jose, CA

The view on the north part of the downtown of San Jose, California, the capitol of Silicon Valley, high tech center of the world, on a sunny day.
The view on the north part of the downtown of San Jose, California, the capitol of Silicon Valley, high tech center of the world, on a sunny day. | © Dreamframer / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Bryony Hatherley
28 April 2021

“Do you know the way to San Jose?” Once you’ve figured it out, you’ll need to plan something to do for when you get there. Luckily, whipping up an itinerary for this California city is a cinch. From thrilling water parks to luxurious shopping districts and a generous supply of natural beauty, there’s something for everyone in the capital of Silicon Valley.

Winchester Mystery House

Building, Museum
Map View
Winchester Mystery House,San Jose,California,USA
© Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo
In 1881, William Wirt Winchester – whose family created the Winchester rifle – died. He left behind a widow, Sarah Winchester, who was so distraught that she began to believe the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her. She attempted to appease the ghosts by continuously building on her home. Escapologist Harry Houdini referred to it as The Mystery House when he visited one Halloween, hoping to dispel stories of paranormal activitym and left baffled. The mansion still stands in San Jose, and is full of mysterious passageways, peculiar rooms and stairways that lead nowhere.

SAP Center

Stadium
Map View
No trip to San Jose is complete without stopping by the SAP Center. Locally referred to as The Shark Tank, this arena is where the San Jose Sharks NHL team practise and host their home games. They’ve been around since 1991 and never won a Stanley Cup, but many Bay Area residents are diehard fans nonetheless.

Great America

Amusement Park
Map View
aerial photograph California's Great America amusement park, Santa Clara, California
© Aerial Archives / Alamy Stock Photo
Looking for a way to keep the entire family entertained? The Great America amusement park is one of the top things in San Jose for people of all ages. Hop on death-defying coasters, get soaked at the South Bay Shores water park, or meet Snoopy himself in the furry flesh. However you choose to spend the day at Great America, bring a camera to capture the memories.

Santana Row

Market, Shopping Mall
Map View
San Jose's Santana Row Shopping Mall where there are over 70 Shops 20 Restaurants and 9 spas. Urban Outfitters store
© John Crowe / Alamy Stock Photo
Santana Row is more than just an outdoor mall – it’s a lifestyle. The luxury shopping outlet is home to posh brands such as Ted Baker and Kate Spade, as well as mid-range favorites and beloved local companies. You could spend hours strolling through the shopping district with an iced coffee in hand, or stop at one of the many comfortable outdoor seating options and spend the day people-watching.

Mountain Winery

Winery
Map View
Minutes down the road from San Jose is the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, which has been around since 1905. Not only does the outdoor venue offer some quality wines for a day of leisurely tasting; it’s also hosted some of the biggest musicians around (we’re talking UB40, Steely Dan and B-52s big). The winery looks out over Silicon Valley, so you could even just sit back with a glass (or bottle) and decide what to do next in San Jose.

Municipal Rose Garden

Botanical Garden, Park
Map View
Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose, Silicon Valley
© SiliconValleyStock / Alamy Stock Photo
Despite occupying nearly 6 acres (2.4ha) and being named the best rose garden in America, the Municipal Rose Garden is one of the lesser-known attractions in San Jose. Fortunately for you, that means you get to escape the Silicon Valley bustle as you stroll through bright blooms and soak in the sunshine. Equally relaxing are the sights and scents of more than 4,000 rose shrubs, interspersed with green lawns.

San Pedro Square Market

Bar, Market, American
Map View
San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, California CA
© Stars and Stripes / Alamy Stock Photo
The San Pedro Square Market is the best dining option if you can’t make up your mind. The plaza hosts a variety of different shops and restaurants, which means you can stroll through and sample everything from wood-fired pizza to tacos. The market also frequently hosts events such as karaoke and trivia nights to keep you entertained long into the night.

San Jose Flea Market

Market
Map View
On Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends, the San Jose Flea Market is the place to be if you’re looking for things to do on a budget, or if you believe in turning trash to treasure. Wander through colorful aisles dominated by shopping stalls, and then stop for a bite to eat at one of the food vendors. If you’re traveling with kids in tow, check out the arcade, vintage carousel or mini Ferris wheel.

San Jose Museum of Art

Market, Museum
Map View
New Wing of the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, United States of America.
© Jason O. Watson (USA: California photographs) / Alamy Stock Photo
Looking for a peek inside modern and contemporary art in the Bay Area? The San Jose Museum of Art showcases a variety of exhibits, guaranteed to intrigue people from all walks of life. From painting and photography to sculptures and light installations, you’ll want to carve out a few hours from your trip to take it all in.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

Cathedral, Church, Market
Map View
Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in downtown San Jose, Santa Clara County, California, USA
© Ian Dagnall Commercial Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
Found in Downtown San Jose, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is a magnificent structure that’s a registered California Historical Landmark. Originally built in 1803 to serve Spanish settlers, the Roman Catholic house of worship that stands today has undergone major renovations and rebuilding. Regardless of your spirituality, there’s something calming and inspiring in the intricate architecture, decorated ceiling and stained glass.

Japantown

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Arguably the most authentic Japantown in the country, this cultural base in San Jose draws is a perpetual tourist hotspot. Offering fantastic traditional Japanese restaurants, specialty shops and countless art galleries and theaters, as well as the all-important karaoke bar, a day in Japantown always promises tons of fun. If you want something more serious and enlightening, the Japanese-American Museum on N Fifth St. tells the stories of immigration and World War II internment, as well as displaying art and cultural objects.

The Tech Interactive

Museum
Map View
Check out The Tech Museum of Innovation if you’re looking for San Jose things to do with younger members of the family. Your kids will love exploring the hands-on science and technology exhibits. Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Tech is renowned for its forward-thinking installations and commitment to knowledge. There is also an IMAX theater showing educational documentaries.

Downtown Los Gatos

Architectural Landmark
Map View
North Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street in Los Gatos California
© John Crowe / Alamy Stock Photo

While you’re technically in Santa Clara, Los Gatos provides a woodsy small-town feel to your getaway. With brick-fronted buildings, homely coffee shops and unique boutiques, you can spend the day tasting your way through town and window shopping like a local. Alternatively, explore one of the parks or the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

Raging Waters

Park, Amusement Park, Architectural Landmark
Map View

This water park is ideal for thrill-seekers. As Raging Waters is only open during the summer months, the venue makes sure to pack in a lot of fun for the entire family. At 23 acres (9ha), it’s the largest water park in Northern California. Slip into your favorite swimsuit and soar down whitewater slides with your loved ones.

Children’s Discovery Museum

Concert Hall, Museum
Map View
Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, California CA
© Stars and Stripes / Alamy Stock Photo
The Children’s Discovery Museum is, as you might have guessed, designed for children. The colorful and entertaining institution specializes in hands-on exhibits that get kids excited about learning. If you’re traveling with little ones, don’t miss out on the many art, science and garden installations at this family-friendly attraction.

Montalvo Arts Center

Museum
Map View
A view of the front entrance to the Montalvo Art Center in Saratoga, California.
© Bernard Barcos / Alamy Stock Photo
Montalvo Arts Center, also known as Villa Montalvo, is a beloved NorCal landmark. Built in 1912, a former mayor of San Francisco once owned the property, but today, it offers locals and tourists a spectacular place to picnic and hike. The grounds also include two theaters and 10 live/work studios for artists.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Park
Map View
Although the Japanese Friendship Garden sits inside Kelley Park, its Eastern-inspired beauty makes it an uncontested stand-out. Constructed as a symbol of good relations between San Jose and the sister city of Okayama, Japan, the spot is a green gem within urban confines. It’s the perfect place to sit in quiet contemplation, thanks to the soothing presence of koi ponds, bridges and a tea house.

Downtown San Jose

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, Santa Clara County, California, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

If you haven’t been downtown, have you really been to San Jose? This is the political HQ of the city, with a tightly-packed cluster of Silicon Valley tech companies. There are also several small breweries, as well as plenty of restaurants and shopping options. The heart of the city is the place to come to find things to do on your trip.

These recommendations were updated on April 28, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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