The Top Things To See And Do In San Jose, California

By: Jack Choros

California isn’t just for surfers, actors and wine connoisseurs, despite what the commercials promoting tourism will suggest to you. If you want proof of that, visit San Jose. The city boasts some of the most beautiful park lands in the country and offers plenty of family friendly tourist spots that are worth checking out. If you want an exciting opportunity to get close to nature, you can do that. If you want to see beautiful architecture and learn all about the history of the city and the state, you can do that too.

Between the fun and excitement of checking out the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion and the serenity of places like the Los Gatos Creek Trail, you’ll be able to experience a wide variety of excitement and relaxation when you visit. The number one spot to visit in the city appeals particularly to those interested in classical music, but if that’s not your thing, check out one of the other 11 Things To See And Do In San Jose, California.


11. The Tech Museum Of Innovation

The Tech Museum Of Innovation has something for everyone. It’s got an amazing 3-D IMAX theater that plays Hollywood movies…something not too many science/tech related exploration venues can lay claim to. As of this writing, you can watch the hit sci-fi film Interstellar inside. Apart from the theater, there are plenty of cool exhibits to check out, including an earthquake experience that mimics what it would be like to feel the ground shake under your feet all of a sudden. All in all, you and the kids can spend at least 2 hours there with lots to see.

Like most tourist attractions, if you plan to eat a meal with the family at the Tech Museum Of Innovation, be prepared to spend or otherwise pack your own snacks. There are also hands on workshops available that teach you all about science, however you should know that most of them are geared towards children. That said, if you need to keep the kids busy and they’ve complained that they’re bored of doing adult stuff, a visit here will re-invigorate them and make them love mom and dad again. As an adult, if you just want a way to kill some time and have fun for a while, there are definitely worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Tech Museum Of Innovation San Jose


10. Alum Rock Park

If you’re looking for a park with all of the regular amenities you’d normally see available in a park, you’ll want to check out Alum Rock Park, one of the oldest parks in California. It was founded in 1872. It offers approximately 13 miles of different trails that you can walk, hike or run around. When you’re walking around Penitencia Creek, you’ll find strolling around fairly casual and if you’re looking for something more challenging, you can hit the South Rim Trail or the North Rim Trail, both provide their share of peaks and valleys for you to take a run at.

When you get down to the narrow valley area, things culminate in the center, offering a small museum and animal rehab center. There’s also plenty of room to sit down and have a little picnic, enjoy the playground, play some volleyball in a sandpit and even have a group camping experience if you really wanted. The creek is a beautiful sight to see and there’s also lush plant life and plenty of wooded areas to explore too. Depending on which trails you choose to take on, you can find plenty of room to get up to a steady speed on your mountain bike, or find peace of mind on trails that are for hikers only.

Alum Rock Park Trail


9. Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Almaden Quicksilver County Park covers over 4,100 acres, giving visitors plenty of room to enjoy nature to the fullest. It also gives you a glimpse of some old mercury mines that are adjacent to San Jose. When you visit, be prepared not only for adventure, but for a lot of ups and downs. The park’s elevation moves between 600- 1,700 feet above sea level. It’s owned by the County Of Santa Clara, which extracted just under 84 million pounds of gold from the mines. Back during the California gold rush, mercury was used to separate gold from ores, but rest assured this park is safe to walk through now.

The mines played an important role while they were in operation from the mid 1800s all the way until 1976. Now, there are a variety of buildings and structures left over, including old housing for miners. It wasn’t until the late 70s that the grounds were converted into a public park that tourists can use. If you don’t want to spend money at the museum and still get a dose of history along with a nice walk through nature, the Almaden Quicksilver County Park is a great place to check out.

Gold panning


8. Los Gatos Creek Trail

If you like running, hiking or mountain biking, there’s no question you can do a lot of that at Los Gatos Creek Trail. The paved trail cuts through parks, ponds and the downtown core of Los Gatos. The main trail goes back up into the mountains beyond the Lexington dam. You can bike your way all the way to the top of the highest peak and enjoy the view along with a thrilling ride all the way back down. It’s a cooler than an everyday bike ride and you don’t have to be an extreme biker to pull it off.

Much like a lot of activities that involve nature, going through Los Gatos Creek Trail is free. On a beautiful day in the spring or summer, it’s a great place to go for lunch too if you feel like being in the outdoors and putting together a small picnic for you and yours. There are also plenty of shaded areas available to protect when the sun is really beating down on a hot day. You can walk, run or bike off of the path to take a break near the creek anytime you want and also go fishing at Los Gatos Creek if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Los Gatos Creek Trail


7. Heritage Rose Garden

The Heritage Rose Garden is a beautiful piece of serenity amid a fairly busy area. It’s one of the most amazing sites in all of California boasting close to 4,000 plants and 3,000 varieties of heritage. You can walk through it and find both miniature and modern roses that were initially planted by over 750 volunteers. All in all, if all you want is to stop and smell the roses, you can literally have that experience at the Heritage Rose Garden.

One of the cool things you can do at the garden is try your hand at pruning and even take professional lessons, so if you’re one of the many homeowners out there who secretly dreams of walking out onto the front lawn to get the paper while spotting a mirror image of yourself, you can be the Michelangelo of your plants and bushes! In all seriousness though, the lessons actually teach you all about the right way to prune roses specifically, so rather than create your own statue out of your bushes, you’re probably better off impressing your significant other on a special occasion with roses pruned exclusively by you.

Rose Bush


6. Happy Hallow Park And Zoo

There really is nothing like a trip to the zoo to spark fun for you and the whole family, and Happy Hallow Park and Zoo is no exception. It offers all kinds of exhibits that allow animal lovers of all ages to get close including regular meet and greets and information sessions that tell you all about the friendly tenants of the zoo. Kids can also be entertained by the zoo’s puppet theatre, which is full of funny commentary that is sure to make kids giggle. Since the family operated Happy Hallow Park and Zoo first opened its doors in the mid 1950s, a dedication to conservation has led the establishment to host some of the most unique animals from all around the world.

The organization that runs the zoo is non-profit, meaning that all of the money generated by admission fees and concessions goes back into conservation efforts. That’s a big reason Happy Hallow is one of the coolest places to visit in all of San Jose. Think about it, you can see protected cheetahs, mountain gorillas, jaguars from Belize and orangutans for one admission price. That’s an amazing opportunity no matter where you are, so if you happen to be in San Jose you’ve got to check it out for sure.

Jaguar in zoo


5. SAP Center

The SAP Center is otherwise known as “The Shark Tank”, and that’s because it’s home to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. They have been a strong contender in the league’s Western Conference for the better part of the last two decades, which is a big reason the team sells out most of its games. To say the least, watching fast action hockey at the SAP Center is one of the more thrilling attractions in the city. The best part about it is that the team has some of the lowest ticket prices across the league, so if you’re a big time fan from the Northeast who’s used to paying an arm and a leg to go to a game, you’ll enjoy watching the Sharks at a pretty good discount.

Of course much like any other large-scale arena, the SAP Center has also played host to its share of major concerts, conferences and conventions. You never know who will be in town while you are, but it’s definitely worth checking the facility’s website as history has shown no star is too big to make an appearance on stage in San Jose. Naturally, the facility is located in the downtown area and close to all sorts of bars, restaurants and hotels so after the event, you can keep the good times rolling at any number of spectacular spots.

Katherine Welles /
Katherine Welles /


4. Children’s Discovery Museum

Aside from what to see and what to do, how to keep one’s children entertained is always a big question mark that comes up when making the decision to take a vacation or get away for a while. If you’re one of those travelers that needs to keep your kids busy for a day, there’s no question you have to take your little ones to San Jose’s Children’s Discovery Museum. It combines arts, technology, culture and science that keeps kids intrigued and excited about learning. The best part is there is also something for adults to enjoy and admission is reasonably priced.

The Children’s Art Museum also has all kinds of toys and gadgets that will keep toddlers entertained. There is absolutely no doubt that little kindergartners in your family will have the time of their lives at the venue. There are new traveling exhibits to look at throughout the year, which means that even if you go back there on more than one occasion there will be something for your kids to enjoy. It offers enough entertainment in the form of interesting exhibits that you’ll spend at least a few hours of your afternoon there and position you and your family perfectly for a nice evening out for dinner afterwards once all the fun is done.

Children’s Discovery Museum


3. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

If you’re a history buff or faith is really important to you, or you take a lot of joy out of seeing beautiful architecture right before your eyes, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is a must-see. The church itself was built in 1876 and intended to serve the Roman Catholic community. Its architecture and beautiful designs actually compare to cathedrals in Rome, Paris and other parts of the world believe it or not. Who would’ve thought you could see such a site in San Jose of all places?

It’s frequently open for public viewing and prayer and is widely accessible physically to anybody with limitations, meaning that no matter who you’re traveling with, everybody can visit the Cathedral and experience how amazing it truly is. The church dome and glass paintings are a sight to behold, and the quiet and serene nature of the whole environment will fill you with a peaceful feeling that you won’t experience anywhere else in the city. While a lot of the great attractions in San Jose can get you quite an experience, Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is proof that no matter what anyone says, some of the best experiences in life are indeed free.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph San Jose


2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

If you want to have your breath taken away by the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, you’ll experience that before you even walk through the doors. The outside of the building is absolutely amazing and it’s worth taking some time to walk around and explore it. Once you do walk inside, you’ll definitely want to take the tomb tour. You will be absolutely captivated by what you see and quickly find out that there are so many more exhibits for you to check out. Even your children will have a great time here.

The museum is located pretty close to the downtown core and there are a number of original mummies and full-scale replicas to take a look at. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum also boasts a replicated version of a crypt. You can go down into it and ‘dig’ for all kinds of different, cool discoveries. While some of the tourist destinations on this list are intended more so for adults, the museum definitely contains enough within its exhibits to please both you and your children during your visit. It’s a chance to go deep inside an Egyptian pyramid without actually having to be standing in front of one.

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz /
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz /


1. California Theatre

If you believe there’s nothing better than an evening at the opera, you have to check out the California Theatre. The theater was originally built in 1927 and renovated in the early 2000’s. It started out as a movie palace type of facility but has now been transformed into a state-of-the-art performing arts venue. One of the best parts about the California Theater is that you can get a season ticket to see all the shows that the venue hosts throughout the year, so if you happen to be traveling through San Jose from an adjacent state, you can become a regular visitor.

It’s conveniently located right next to the Hotel St. Clair, which makes it a perfect weekend getaway spot if there’s more than one performance you’d like to see. It’s simply a beautiful location that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in America. Well known performances that take place at the venue include the Symphony Silicon Valley. The close-knit environment, ambience and great sound that you will experience when you go there is second to no other theater in all of California. It’s the best place to visit in downtown San Jose.