There is nothing quite like a San Jose holiday. If you’ve been, you just know. And if you haven’t, you should go! Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose has some stellar stats that make it stand out as a great travel destination, not the least of which is its free augmented reality app that matches photos to locations and interjects interesting city tidbits to give you the ultimate self-guided tour. The fabulous Scan Jose mobile app (available on both iPhone and Android phones) makes exploring San Jose a breeze.
One of the wealthiest cities in the nation, San Jose boasts a huge population decorated with advanced degrees. It has a big slice of the venture capital pie on its plate as well. That combination, along with the incredible Northern California backdrop of wonderful weather, wine and local food, provides for some wonderful amenities and vistas that make this relatively small city a terrific, trendy travel choice.
To kick off a San Jose trip you should absolutely start with the museums. The Tech Museum of Innovation lets you design and build a robot, explore The Tech Studio to beta test new exhibits, work in the Hands-On Science Workshop with STEM projects, grow jellyfish bacteria and experiment with genetics in the Health and Biotech Gallery, or play around in the Tech Test Zone. A scannable Tech Tag keeps track of your experience, giving you an online souvenir of your visit. A favorite of school groups on weekday mornings, the best option is a weekend or weekday afternoons. Plan for at least two hours to allow yourself time to play with everything fun.
Walk like an Egyptian? San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum gathers more artifacts than any other in the American West. With a rare cuneiform library, planetarium, Peace Garden and research library, this stylish museum pleases on both an intellectual and an aesthetic level. Modeled after the Temple of Amon at Karnak, even the architecture is authentic.
The Museum of Quilts & Textiles offers a similarly elevated experience for those engaged in fiber arts, clothing, quilting and experiments with costume through the ages. Temporary exhibits add flavor to the mix. Closed for holidays and during installation of some exhibits, check the website for dates and hours that accommodate your stay.
To round out the museums, the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose is perfect for toddlers, with a variety of art, nature and urban exhibits. From the Crawl Space for infants, to the Wonder Cabinet geared toward kids 4 years and younger, the Discovery Museum gives youngsters plenty to be excited about. The Kids’ Garden, Rainbow Market and WaterWays teach older children through colorful, entertaining, hands-on builds. Closed most Mondays and busy throughout the week during the school year, pick a weekend for a more relaxing visit.
San Jose has gorgeous outdoor activities as well, with hiking, cycling, horseback riding and picnic areas galore. The oldest municipal park in the nation, Alum Rock Park, has welcomed visitors since 1872. Tucked into the foothills beneath the Diablo Range, there are 720 acres with 13 miles of trails, six trails of which are designated equestrian, and three for bikes. Bike rentals are available in town.
Lake Cunningham Park is a matrix of outdoor activity with its 50-acre lake, marina, playgrounds and California’s largest skateboarding park — boasting the biggest cradle in the world. Rent a pedal boat, rowboat or sailboat for a quick cruise, then head back to dry land for a picnic on the grounds. After lunch, you can practice your bump, set, spike at the volleyball courts, toss some iron at horseshoe pits and scope out one of the park’s BBQ grills to cook your dinner.
The creative, forward-thinking environment of the tech industry spills over into San Jose’s culinary scene, with a modern mix of ethnic restaurants and a fistful of new organic, farm-to-table menus. Choose Le Papillon for French, Paolo’s for Italian, Grill on the Alley for steak, and 71 Saint Peter for Mediterranean cuisines. Check out Original Joe’s for Italian comfort food, Good Karma for vegan and the Original Gravity Public House for tasty brews and locally made sausages and duck fat fries — you can even keep track of their huge craft beer selection on Twitter or Facebook.
San Jose knows how to eat, without a doubt, but it also knows how to shop. The SoFA or South First Area, is a stylish district with shops, restaurants, exclusive condominiums, comfortable hotels, the desirable Santana Row neighborhood and an acclaimed nightlife. Check out SJMADE, featuring local labels, brands, small businesses and artists, exhibiting pop-up style in a moving venue of downtown buildings with vacancies, making the space vibrant and useful while showing off fabulous local talent. Antique Row on West San Carlos, and 1st St. near the convention center, offer eclectic, boutique and unique finds. Japantown is a great stop for unique Asian streetwear boutiques, sprinkled with culinary delights.
Smart, fun, interesting and beautiful, San Jose is a great place to visit, whether you are vacationer or businessperson. Truth be told, it’s often hard to tell the difference which is which by the attire here, so you’ll fit right in dressed for casual Friday. Pack your bags, update your apps and get ready for high tech and high activity, Silicon Valley style.