Downtown San Jose CA
Best Things to Do
Best San Jose things to do? Even though San Jose does not have the glamour of San Francisco it continues being ranked every year by national magazines as one of the top 10 best cities to live and work. San Jose is also the tenth largest city in the U.S. (SF is #14) so there is plenty to do.
Below are a few things locals enjoy doing in the downtown San Jose area. They are also shown on the San Jose attractions map.
- Santana Row, 3055 Olin Ave, San Jose, is a higher-end multi-use complex, in an outdoor Spanish street motif making it a pleasant place to hang out and dine.
- Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Mall, just across the street at 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara. It used to be two malls which were merged into one of the largest malls in Northern California with over 225 stores and with the highest sales volume in the state.
The combination of Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair across the street, along with good access from both Hwy 17 & Hwy 280, has made this one of the most popular shopping areas in San Jose.
Across Winchester Blvd is our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the SF Bay area Khanh’s Garden Restaurant, 335 S Winchester Blvd. My personal recommendations are beef stew pho soup with noodles (beef stew pho is a tasty Americanized version) and Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk over ice. Prices are reasonable, decor pleasant, food and service excellent.
Also across the street at 525 S Winchester Blvd, is the Winchester Mystery House($28/adult for tour). This “haunted” house was owned by the heiress of the Winchester rifle fortune. Until her death she continuously added to a maze of rooms to appease evil spirits. We haven’t been there for decades but it is worth seeing once.
For a very different look at San Jose try this little known but interesting neighborhood. From Santana Row at Winchester Blvd/Stevens Creek Blvd take Winchester Blvd north a couple of blocks to Forest Ave and turn right (east) . After several blocks Forest Ave turns into Naglee Ave and you are in the Rose Garden Neighborhood. Here are some of the nearby sights:
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium,
1342 Naglee Ave/Park Ave
Old but a very nifty museum well worth visiting. It houses “the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in North America” including real mummies which are very rare (many museums use reproductions). The surrounding Egyptian themed gardens are neat too! Excellent for both kids ($5) and adults ($9).
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, west corner Naglee Ave/Dana Ave
One of San Jose’s nicest parks with about 190 different varieties of roses to admire. They bloom mainly from April through November. Small (5.5 acres), flat, enclosed, great for a low key walk or picnic.
San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, Spring St/Taylor St
Dedicated to the study and preservation of heritage roses, this garden has a world-class collection of over 3500 varieties maintained by over 750 volunteers. It is claimed to have more different rose varieties than any other public rose garden in the western hemisphere.
The layout is interesting, like a Greek amphitheater, but not fancy at all. It is within 4000 feet of the end the San Jose Municipal Airport runways so planes are constantly flying overhead … making it great for plane watching. But the real stars are the roses themselves. Rosarians love it!
Guadalupe River Park Garden, W. Taylor St/Spring St
This long narrow park is basically a 2.5 mile bike/walking pathway. It goes from Guadalupe Gardens & the Heritage Rose Garden at W. Taylor St/Spring St south along the river past the HP Pavilion to the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose near Woz Way. It is a bit rough around the edges but still a nice urban park (and flood control basin) right in the heart of town.
Hellyer Park Velodrome (995 Hellyer Ave off Hwy 101)
This is the only velodrome in northern California, one of 24 in the U.S. Special bicycles can get up to 52 mph on its banked oval track. The atmosphere is very low key and races are often free.
Years ago the San Jose State students used to like these funky eating places. You decide for yourself :).
The Old Spaghetti Factory,
51 N San Pedro St, San Jose
Not a gourmet place at all but we still enjoy the basic Italian food at good prices for full course meals. E.g., try the “Meat Lovers Treat” full-course dinner for $11.75. Often crowded with families but, except on Saturdays, you can call (408)288-7488 up to one hour ahead to get on their waiting list. By the way, the Old Sphaghetti Factory in Redwood City strikes us as much less appealing but that may just be nostalgia talking.
As an aside, The Old Spaghetti Factory is in the San Pedro Square area where one of the oldest Spanish settlements was built. You can still see the Peralta Adobe, San Jose’s oldest building constructed in 1797, nearby at 175 West Saint John Street/San Pedro St. San Pedro Square also has many local restaurants and good paid parking (except when filled during San Jose Sharks games about 50 nights/year).
Henry’s World Famous Hi-Life, 301 W St John St, San Jose
A unique dark grungy dive bar featuring good but expensive BBQ meat. Decades ago it was much cheaper, funkier, and sometimes filled with water when the Guadalupe river overflowed. Today Shark’s fans keep it hopping.
Treat Ice Cream Company, 11 S 19th St, San Jose
Buy the best ice cream in San Jose directly from the factory. Sorry, but weekdays only.
Yes, we definitely know the way to San Jose. It’s suburban, it’s inland, it’s the Capital of Silicon Valley and the largest city in Northern California. It is nothing like San Francisco but there are still some interesting things to do. :)