Things to do in San Jose

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Spanish architecture, technology museums, space exploration and stylish shopping precincts are some of the things you’ll find in . Here are 10 things to do in San Jose.

things to do in san jose ca

1- Technology museums in San Jose

As the area around San Jose has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the USA, a visit to a technology museum should be at the top of the list.

At the Tech Museum of Innovation, you can view the world through webcams or try your hand at virtual arm wrestling.

This museum has an IMAX Dome Theatre and more than 250 interactive exhibits spread out over five themed galleries.

The Computer History Museum has the world’s largest collection of historical computing items.

Then there’s the Intel Museum, for a peep into Intel’s world of cutting edge technology and silicon chip-making. Admission is free and audio tour handsets are provided.


2- NASA Ames research centre


Interested in becoming an astronaut? Ever wanted to touch an original Mercury capsule? Or just merely fascinated with space exploration?

Visiting the NASA Ames Research Center to find out about the latest innovations in space exploration is one of the more intriguing things things to do in San Jose.

One of several NASA research centres in the USA, NASA Ames focuses on aeronautics, life sciences, computational field dynamics, earth sciences and robotics.

You can learn about NASA’s past and future missions through exhibits, displays, lectures and events.

Their 12-metre curved theatre is able to display high-resolution images of the planets. There’s a full-size reproduction of the Space Station Destiny module which is a showcase of the environment in which astronauts live and work in space.

3- Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a bizarre 160-room Victorian mansion built by an eccentric heiress.

There are doors that open into walls and staircases that lead nowhere, making it one of the more bizarre San Jose attractions.

The unconventional heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester, was told by a fortune teller that she would live as long as she continued to build her home.

Sarah took this prediction to heart and continually extended her mansion for 38 years.

Pop into the Winchester Firearms Museum and the Antique Products Museum to see the displays of Winchester rifles and family antiques. Guided mansion tours are available daily.

For the mechanically minded, there’s also a behind-the-scenes tour that visits secret places that make the estate tick over. S

tables, dehydrator, plumber’s workshop, the unfinished ballroom and basements are all on the itinerary.

4- Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Heart scarabs, cartouches, mummies and a recreated underground tomb are some of the things you’ll see at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium.

Originally founded in the 1920’s by the Rosicrucian Order, whose headquarters were in San Jose, the museum houses North America’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Set in a quiet tree-lined residential district, this museum is a portal into ancient Egypt with some 3000-plus objects housed in a Temple of Amon at Karnak-inspired structure.

One of the rarer objects is the mummy of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl from the Roman Egyptian period. It’s definitely one of the more mysterious places to visit in San Jose.

5- Santana Row

things to do in san jose ca

Shopaholics could go berserk in this chic designer shopping precinct.

Santana Row is lined with upscale international and North American brand-name stores like Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ted Baker and Anthropologie.

There’s a buzzy atmosphere with plenty of al-fresco eateries that are always packed with locals. You might not expect it but shopping is one of the fun things to do in San Jose.

6- Technology shopping in San Jose

One of the must-do’s when visiting San Jose is to wander through the aisles of a Fry’s Electronics warehouse.

A techno-geek’s heaven, Frys warehouses are packed with rows of the latest gadgets, electronic equipment, DVDs and most up-to-date software designed by local Silicon Valley programmers.

You’ll find an out-of-the-box software programme for everything from learning how to play music by ear to designing comic strips.

7- Japantown

Nibble on sushi or sip green tea at a tea house, take the self-guided historical walking tour of the town or just wander around the shops and soak in the atmosphere.

Japantown started when droves of single Japanese men flocked to California during the early 1900’s to find work in fruit orchards.

This historic neighbourhood is one of the last three Japanese-American neighbourhoods in the USA (most others vanished after the politic tensions between Japan and the USA during World War II).

Sunday morning is a good time to visit as there’s a farmers market with fresh produce and baked goods.

8- Plaza de César Chávez


When the Spanish colonised the Americas, San Jose (founded in 1777) was the first town of the Nueva California colony.

Established in 1797, when the city moved from its original location on the bank of the Guadalupe River to its current location, Plaza de César Chávez is California’s oldest public plaza. It’s a small patch of green in the city centre where festivals are set up and live music performed.

On one side of the plaza is the San Jose Museum of Art, one of California’s leading visual arts institutions.

Next to it is the five-star Fairmont Hotel (tel: +1 408 998 1900), a popular wedding venue.

As San Jose attracts technology brains from all over the world, it’s not unusual to find multicultural wedding parties parading around the plaza.

The most popular is the Indian wedding, where a train of musicians sing, beat on drums and ring bells around the plaza.

At one end of the plaza is the controversial Quetzalcoatl (plumed serpent) statue. Nearby is the striking Cathedral Basilica of St Joseph, a historical landmark listed on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places.


9- California Highway One

This scenic route hugs the California coastline. It’s a classic drive with sweeping ocean views and charming seaside townships.

Stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and brush up on the ecosystems of that area.

Permanent exhibits include an eye-catching wall-to-ceiling glass display with tuna, sharks, barracuda, sea turtles and rays.

There’s also a fascinating jellyfish gallery, a three-story kelp forest and an octopus gallery. Follow the coast along the 17-Mile Drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Clint Eastwood’s old stomping ground (Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel from 1986 – 1988) is filled with art galleries, boutiques and novelty shops.

10- Wine tasting around San Jose


Meander through the Santa Clara Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains, stopping at local wineries to sample the local wine. Known for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Zinfandel varieties, the area has some of California’s oldest vineyards. Wineries like J.Lohr, Bargetto, Testarossa and Byington lead the list.

san jose things to do


Discover USA

For more things to do in USA see:

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Driving The California Coast

Things to do in San Jose

Things to do in San Jose

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Christina Pfeiffer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.