2024 San Jose Family Travel Guide
The epicenter of the famed Silicon Valley and the largest city in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose boasts a plethora of attractions, landmarks and interesting things to do throughout the year. Situated on the elegant southern shore of San Francisco Bay, the city is home to everything from interesting museums to diverse neighborhoods to some of the finest shops, nightlife spots and restaurants in Northern California. Whether you’ve visited the city on a regular basis or are taking your first trip, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time in this bustling and dynamic city.
San Jose Fun Guide
San Jose is located in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California and is among the largest and most influential cities in the state of California. The city boasts a rich history and one of the most diverse and multicultural populations in the country. The city of San Jose can be conveniently reached by car, bus, train or plane via Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Oakland International Airport. The city is also very walkable and boasts an extensive public transportation network. Its top attractions include museums, parks, theaters and a wide range of historical sites.
The city is home to a wealth of attractions and visitor destinations worth exploring. Downtown San Jose plays host to renowned museums and cultural institutions such as the Tech Museum and the San Jose Museum of Art, one of the finest art museums in Northern California. Other attractions in Downtown San Jose include the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and a huge variety of art galleries, boutiques, shops, performing arts venues, and acclaimed restaurants.
Even outside of Downtown San Jose, visitors will find a wide array of attractions and fun things to do at any time of the year. The city is also home to the infamous Winchester Mystery House as well as the distinguished Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium and the beautiful Alum Rock Park. Other great attractions and landmarks in the city include the historic Japantown district, the Heritage Rose Garden, Willow Glen, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, and the acclaimed shops and restaurants of Santana Row.
With its wealth of restaurants and shops, exceptional museums, and splendorous parks, San Jose is always a wonder to visit. Few cities in California can match its wide array of things to see and do throughout the year. Visitors seeking entertainment as well as culture and leisure will find plenty to love about this vibrant and energetic Northern California city.
San Jose Downtown Hotels
Situated on the beautiful San Francisco Bay of Northern California, Downtown San Jose serves as the epicenter of the city. Hosting great restaurants, fine shops and a growing array of museums and other attractions, it offers the perfect place to visit for those in the city and the San Francisco Bay Area. Always bustling with excitement and things to do, Downtown San Jose is always fun to visit. The district is very walkable and easily accessible by both care and public transportation. It hosts a wealth of places to shop, eat, and spend the night in the city as well as fun cultural events and other festivities. Downtown San Jose boasts many attractions and sites of interest to enjoy. The Tech Museum offers a fascinating look at technology and science while the San Jose Museum of Art boasts one of California’s most comprehensive artwork collections. Other great attractions include the San Jose City Hall, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Don’t forget to check out the district’s markets, shops, and eateries as well.
About Downtown San Jose
The downtown San Jose area is an important epicenter for businesses, including Adobe Systems and BEA Systems, and is well known for its museums, theaters, and university. The San Jose Museum of Art is acclaimed for its large collection of 20th and 21st-century West Coast artists and is located close to the Circle of Palms Plaza. Because of its location in the middle of Silicon Valley, a fair amount of its exhibitions interestingly focus on a fusion of art and technology. Theatre-goers will definitely enjoy productions at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, a large non-profit professional theatre company, and the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. This museum, in particular, is one of a kind that is predominately dedicated to quilts and textiles as a form of art. There are more than 550 quilts, ethnic textiles, and garments in its collection that focus on artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A fascinating amount of over 500 books related to the history and techniques of this craft are comprised in its research library.
Visiting the San Jose State University campus and perusing around its many sites is an enjoyable experience especially visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The library is a must for all book lovers and academics. It is acclaimed as the largest library building in the western United States that houses approximately 1.6 million volumes of work. For visitors wanting to enjoy a nice relaxing scenic walk then St. James Park is highly recommended and lies near the heart of downtown. It is easy and convenient to travel throughout the downtown area using San Jose`s VTA light rail system and for those wanting to connect easily to the Internet via laptop, many of the downtown areas include a public, free, WI-FI network. Downtown San Jose is a very technologically friendly city and full of interesting sites and attractions.
San Jose Weather
The outskirts of the city of San Jose, California, used to be covered in fruit orchards that thrived under the region’s 300-plus days of sunshine per year. The average high temperature of San Jose is a pleasant 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the city is surrounded by mountains on three sides, it’s somewhat protected from clouds and doesn’t receive nearly as much rainfall as nearby San Fransisco. The average rainfall for the San Jose area is just 14.4 inches per year. However, many different microclimates exist in this area. The downtown part of San Jose gets significantly less rainfall than the southern part of the city.
Like the rest of the Bay Area, San Jose enjoys a subtropical Mediterranean climate. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing, and the average low during the month of January is 42 degrees Fahrenheit with the average high temperature for that month being 59 degrees. Residents and visitors rarely have the need to wear heavy winter clothing for protection from the cold. However, the lowest recorded temperature in the region was 18 degrees Fahrenheit in January of 1884, which is certainly cold enough to warrant the wearing of cold-weather gear. More recently, the mercury has dropped to as low as 19 degrees Fahrenheit during December of 1990. The highest recorded temperature in San Jose is 114 degrees Fahrenheit during a heatwave experienced by the city in June of 1961. Most of the time, though, visitors to the city can plan for pleasant weather no matter what time of year. Snowfall in San Jose is an extremely rare occurrence, with the last instance taking place in February of 1976.
Most of the rain in the San Jose area occurs in the months of November through April. During the winter, the normally brown vegetation on the surrounding hillsides turns lushly green and vibrant. Most of the vegetation is in the form of wild grasses; beyond commercial and ornamental plantings, deciduous trees and shrubs in the San Jose area are rare. San Jose receives measurable precipitation on an average of 58 days per year. The record rainfall for one day was set in late January of 1968 when it rained 3.6 inches within a 24-hour period. The rainiest month on record is February of 1998 when 10.23 inches of measurable rain fell in the area. Most San Jose residents and visitors don’t use any special gear beyond light rain hats and an occasional umbrella, though, because the rain just isn’t that much of an issue in the city.
San Jose Transportation
As the third most populous city in California, San Jose boasts a well-developed transportation network to accommodate more than nearly 1 million residents and millions of visitors. San Jose’s transportation system is naturally intertwined with the San Francisco Bay Area. Interstate 280 links San Jose directly with San Francisco while Interstate 880 offers a direct route into Oakland. Interstate 680 leads to some of the northeastern parts of the Bay Area such as Concord and Pleasanton. These three short highways essentially form a convenient network for navigating the major parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Running for about 810 miles, U.S. Route 101 cuts through the heart of San Jose and offers a scenic ride along most of California’s Pacific Coast and also leads to the Los Angeles area. Running about 15 miles east of San Jose, Interstate 5 stretches between northern Washington state and southern California. I-5 offers a direct drive to major cities in California such as Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Diego. Additionally, Interstate 5 leads to Portland and Seattle, the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
Public transit in San Jose is provided by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The VTA operates more than 80 total bus routes throughout San Jose other suburbs within Santa Clara County. The bus service is categorized into Community Service, Regular Service, Express Service, and Limited Stop Service. The VTA also offers convenient service through 3 light rail lines. The light rail network consists of the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa, Mountainview-Winchester and Almaden-Ohlone/Chynoweth service. The VTA light rail lines are named after suburban communities. The rapid transit lines stop at major stations throughout San Jose such as Civic Center, Japantown/Ayer, St. James and the Convention Center.
The Mountainview-Winchester line stops at the Diridon Station, the main rail hub in San Jose. This train station is served by the Amtrak Coast Starlight and Capitol Corridor lines. Additionally, Diridon Station is served by the Caltrain commuter service to San Francisco.
The Norman Y. Mineta International Airport welcomes more than 8 million passengers each year into San Jose. This airport is one of the three major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mineta International Airport offers direct flights to more than ten cities throughout the United States thanks to carriers such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. The Metro/Airport station near the airport is served by the Mountainview-Winchester line and Alum Rock-Santa Teresa line. The VTA Route 10 (Airport Flyer) offers service between the Metro/Airport station and the terminal buildings at San Jose International Airport.
San Jose Attractions
The beautiful city of San Jose, California is the largest city in all of Northern California. San Jose is known for its beautiful scenery, legendary history, inviting landmarks and fine dining. As you read this article, you’ll learn more about San Jose and what makes it so attractive.
San Jose is noted for its gorgeous scenery, so visiting Kelley Park is a must. This spacious, serene park extends over 150 acres and includes various historical components including the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Portuguese Historical Museum and more. The Japanese Friendship Garden illuminates a tranquil vibe with an abundance of lush greenery, colorful plant life and more. This garden is also quite historical, serving as a representation of the close relationship between San Jose and Okayama. The garden also functions as a recreational area for family picnics and contains a playground, ideal for a family fun day. Kelley Park is also home to the Portuguese Historical Museum, which features a diverse display of exotic exhibits. With numerous areas to explore, Kelley Park certainly has something appealing to offer everyone.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
Another historical San Jose attraction is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. This library was constructed relatively recently and opened in 2003. This public library is located in the heart of San Jose’s downtown area and has an expansive cultural collection of items. In honor of its namesake, the library includes a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights Era collection. With such a plethora of essential, historical books and displays, this library is certainly an attractive landmark in San Jose.
Clearly, San Jose has several attractions, sure to please everyone. Whether you choose to explore the gardens, visit museums or enjoy a fine meal, you can be certain you’ll have a memorable vacation.
San Jose Dining
San Jose, as the third-largest city in California and the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley, has come into its own in recent years in terms of dining. Whether you’re looking for a business lunch, a celebration dinner, or just a quick bite, you’ll find plenty of unique and delicious choices.
San Jose is also loved for its intriguing culinary scene. This city has a diverse selection of restaurants and cuisine including Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, French and more. One of the most popular eateries in this city is undoubtedly Le Papillon. Le Papillon’s menu provides an amazing blend of textures and flavors and features items such as Burgundy snails with fennel panna cotta, hamachi tartar with avocado, salsify and duck soup, red deer with huckleberries, braised duck with pomegranate, pork tenderloin and a maple glaze, lamb with yogurt and more. The dessert menu showcases deliciously decadent items like a banana torte, white chocolate and passion fruit mousse, butterscotch pudding and more. There’s no denying that this restaurant offers a wide array of exquisite dishes to choose from, sure to satisfy any palate.
Le Papillion is where to go when you want to pull out all the stops. Customers rave about the seared scallops, the lobster, the pea soup, and the duck at this French restaurant, which features three- and four-course prix fixe meals.
Aqui Cal-Mex has two locations in San Jose, both of which feature their “swirl” margaritas, in which special ingredients such as sangria or bourbon are swirled into your margarita. Homemade guacamole gets many thumbs up here as well.
There’s often a line at Pizza Antica on the popular Santana Row, and with good reason. Best known for its specialty pizzas: fennel sausage and portobello mushroom pizza; potatoes and truffle oil pizza; and corn, arugula and bacon pizza are all favorites. But don’t miss the Brussel sprout salad in season!
Los Gatos Brewing Company
Los Gatos Brewing Company has expanded to San Jose and features house-crafted microbrew beers and homemade bread with a whole array of dipping oils to choose from. It’s a great place to watch the game, with TVs everywhere.
SJ Omogari Korean Restaurant
SJ Omogari Korean Restaurant brings you to comfort food from the far east, whether you crave bibimbap or bulgogi, and you’ll always get free green tea ice cream to top off your meal.
Chacho’s Restaurant in downtown San Jose is a great after-work stop for drinks and dinner. The restaurant handles restricted diets with ease, offering soy chorizo and plenty of vegetarian options.
If you’re looking for a business or weekend breakfast, Bill’s Cafe gives you four locations to choose from, and an enormous menu of unique breakfast options as well. You’ll find it hard to choose between the Eggs Cordon Bleu, the bread pudding French toast, and the enormous eggs Benedict menu (favorites include the California Benedict and the crab cakes Benedict).
Sam’s BarBQue is a casual dining joint in west San Jose with live music midweek. Pulled pork and the beef brisket are the stars of this home-style barbecue restaurant, with the meat cooked long, slow, and smoky.
El Patio Cafe
For just a quick bite, try the burgers or seared ahi at El Patio Cafe in east San Jose or ask chef Diego to create something special for you.
San Jose Events
Many believe that when the cherry trees of downtown San Jose bloom, spring officially begins. The Vietnamese citizens welcome all cultures of San Jose to join with them and enjoy the annual Vietnamese Spring Festival. The event commemorates the New Year, known as Tet. Every year, Vietnamese students from across the country participate in the parade, which features colorful costumes, traditional dance and a friendly dragon. The festivities continue with arts and crafts, native food, live cultural performances, martial arts demonstrations, and family-orientated activities.
Cinco de Mayo
The Hispanic culture celebrates Cinco de Mayo annually with a parade and various festivities held throughout the day. The free event begins with a parade along the downtown city streets and culminates in a gathering in the Guadalupe River Park. Hundreds of thousands arrive to commemorate the Mexican/American heritage of San Jose. Guests of all cultures listen to traditional live music, watch dance performances and indulge in the food provided by numerous vendors.
San Jose Jazz Festival
The tradition began in 1990, and since then, tens of thousands of journeys to the city for the annual San Jose Jazz Festival. Every year during summer, approximately 100 artists arrive and perform on one of ten different stages set up throughout the downtown region. Music fans also come by the droves to hear blues, jazz, and R&B along with Latin variations and other great sounds. Besides music, the event features a variety of foods, mural painting and the opportunity to attend music classes presented by experts in the field.
Occurring annually during the first week in July, the three days long Tahiti Fete attracts individuals of Polynesian descent from around the world. Though the main purpose of the event remains a traditional dance competition, the festival represents the largest and most comprehensive display of the Polynesian culture aside from festivities that take place on the islands. Guests have the opportunity of attending many different workshops that provide instruction for accessory and costume design, dance and language along with music and playing different types of traditional musical instruments.
Tapestry Arts Festival
Every Labor Day weekend from 1976 on, San Jose artisans hosted the Tapestry Arts Festival in hopes of heightening interest in the local fine arts programs. Hundreds of artists join forces to display their talent and crafts, which naturally includes handmade tapestries. Hundreds of thousands of interested visitors admire the handiwork while enjoying the music and other live performances. Food vendors offer beverages, snacks and meals. Various spots around the location provide youngsters with the chance to learn a craft. The event also has added attractions that may include a home and garden show, climbing wall and gliding simulator.
Shopping near Downtown San Jose
There are several amazing places to shop in the city of San Jose. Three of the most popular San Jose shopping venues are Santana Row Shopping Center, Eastridge Mall, and Oakridge Shopping Center. Santana Row Shopping Center is a very upscale shopping venue that is designed to look a lot like a European village. The architecture of the building is very unique and intricate. Some of the main stores there include Burberry, Gucci, Cole Haan, and several more. Because there are so many trendy stores there, this venue is a wonderful place to shop if one is looking for high-end merchandise. Santana Row Shopping Center stands out from other malls because it is so top-of-the-line in every way. It is very clean and new-looking. When shopping there, one also has to do a lot of walking outdoors. This makes the shopping center a fun place to spend a nice, sunny afternoon.
Eastridge Mall is the largest mall in the San Jose area. It is an inside mall and has over 145 stores. There is even a cinema in the mall. Anchor stores there include Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, JC Penney, and Barnes & Noble. Eastridge Mall, which is two levels, also has a food court that has many excellent places to eat. Oakridge Shopping Center is another nearby shopping venue. This center, which is conveniently located on Blossom Hill Road, is home to all different kinds of stores. Some of these stores are Charlotte Russe, Body Jewelz, Brookstone, Coach, and Champs Sports. There is also a large food court at Oakridge Shopping Center. Because there is such a wide variety of stores at this mall, there is a little something for everyone.
Antique shopping destinations
San Jose is also world-famous for its one-of-a-kind antique malls and stores. Some of the best antique shopping destinations in the city are Antiques Colony, San Carlos Street Antiques, and Briarwood Antiques. Silverleaf Antiques and Home Furnishings is another excellent store to visit. These antique stores sell both American and European antiques. Because of this, they are definitely great places to go if one is a lover of antiques or an avid collector. Many of the stores even have really nice sales from time to time. Because the city of San Jose has such a plethora of shopping destinations, it really is a great place for shoppers to spend time. Each mall in the city is a little different and offers patrons a unique shopping experience.
Map of Hotels in San Jose
- San Jose Inter Airport – Find hotels near Santa Clara & Hyde Park.
- San Jose Downtown – Find hotels near Paseo & Hensley
- San Jose State University – Find hotels near The Tech Museum & North Campus
- Winchester Mystery House – Find hotels near Burbank & Cypress/Jurado
- Plaza de Cesar Chavez – Find hotels near San Jose Museum of Art & Montgomery Hotel
- HP Pavilion at San Jose -Find hotels near Garden Alameda & Hotel De Anza
- San Jose Kelley Park 0– Find hotels near Rocksprings & Roberts/Walnut Woods
- San Jose Museum of Art – Find hotels near Hotel De Anza & San Jose Repertory Theatre
- Alum Rock Park – Find hotels near Piedmont Hills & East Foothills.