When many people think of San Jose and coming up with 10 things to do in the area, they probably think of visiting Silicon Valley’s epicenters of innovation and high-tech everything. Sports fans might think of the San Jose Sharks, Northern California’s home hockey team. Nature buffs probably think of Yosemite National Park, and Trekkers may specifically call to mind the famous scene in Star Trek V of Captain James T. Kirk free-climbing the face of El Capitan while being drily but good-naturedly harangued by Mr. Spock in a pair of antigrav boots.
At Gruber Painting, San Jose, CA is literally our home and backyard, and we know a thing or two about it. We think San Jose is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we love to talk about San Jose’s history, architecture, and the hidden gems only locals and the rare lucky tourist ever discover. Because we love the area so much, we thought it would be fun to get our staff together and throw out our picks for the top 10 things to do in San Jose. Many of these 10 attractions cost $10 or less to access, which we think is important anytime you’re talking about things to do with the family. So, to start 2022 off right, here is our staff list of the 10 must-see attractions and best activities in San Jose, from your friends at Gruber Painting!
Parks in San Jose, California
San Jose Fans are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to spend time in the great outdoors, either within the city limits or a short drive away in Santa Clara or Santa Cruz. All the parks on the list are wonderful places to enjoy the natural beauty of Northern California by yourself, with a special someone or the whole family—but one really stood out. Here’s the list of the places we talked about, and we’ll do a deep dive into our staff favorite!
- Almaden Quicksilver County Park
- Alum Rock Park
- California’s Great America
- Heritage Municipal Rose Garden San Jose
- Japanese Friendship Garden
748 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95112
10 am-4 pm Thursday through Saturday
Reservations are recommended; face masks and 6’ social distancing are required within the park
Located in Kelley Park, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo covers 16 acres and offers a fun, educational experience the whole family can enjoy, from marveling at the zoo’s exotic animal species to rides, games, and activities geared toward children. Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is a working conservation facility that houses and cares for endangered and threatened species like the fennec fox, the red panda, and the Parma wallaby, among others. Click the header to take a virtual tour and get ready for a day of walking on the wild side!
San Jose Museums
Like parks, San Jose has plenty of museums dedicated to everything from quilting and textiles to the bleeding edge of technology to the ancient Egyptians—and a whole lot more! Our staff had a hard time picking out just one from all the wonderful museum offerings. Here’s a list of some of San Jose’s museums, and then we’ll dive into our staff pick!
- Children’s Discovery Museum
- Computer History Museum
- Intel Museum
- Japanese American Museum
- San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
- San Jose Museum of Art
- San Jose Museum of Quilts
- Tech Museum of Innovation
Staff Favorite: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
1600 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95191
Hours: 10am-5pm Friday; 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday
Reservations are recommended; face masks and 6’ social distancing are required
It’s only natural that a company like Gruber Painting would be interested in the history of paint and painting—and no ancient culture contributed to the science and technology of painting quite like the Ancient Egyptians! The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is an exciting, family-friendly environment to learn about 6,000 years of Egyptian history, including the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts and artwork in California, hands-on exhibits, and workshops for everyone from the youngest budding Egyptologist to the lifelong scholar of ancient and modern Egypt. Click the link above to find out more about the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and even take a 360 virtual tour before you make your reservations!
San Jose Markets and Dining
If there’s one thing San Jose loves, it’s our markets! From the open-air farmers’ markets in downtown San Jose to Santana Row to the San Jose Flea Market, San Joseans know how to elevate shopping from a chore to an event. But for us at Gruber Painting, there was really only one place that captures all the best of San Jose dining and nightlife. Let’s take a look at the spot we all agreed on!
Staff Favorite: San Pedro Square Market
Corner of San Pedro and Market Street
Hours: Sun: 10am – 10pm; Mo & Tu: 11am – 9pm; We & Th: 11am – 10pm; Fr & Sa: 11am – 12am
Masks and 6’ social distancing are required by county ordinance
Less than half a mile from the famous Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, the San Pedro Square Market packs a ton of dining, entertainment, and nightlife into an open-air market fronted by restaurants, brewpubs, gastropubs, and a handful of boutique shops. Limited indoor seating due to the pandemic is offset by the spacious alfresco dining area, making San Pedro Square Market a great place to people-watch over a cold microbrew, enjoy the best of Japanese American fusion cuisine for date night or take the whole family for burgers, tacos, and elevated pub grub. Click the header to find out more about San Pedro Market Square and plan your international dining experience!
San Jose and Silicon Valley Technology
Of course, you can’t really talk about San Jose these days without talking about technology. It’s everywhere! From the Intel Museum, and the TECH Museum of Innovation across the street from Cesar Chavez Park to the world-renowned NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, San Jose sits right at the epicenter of global technological innovation. But there was one place which stood out to our entire staff as one of the must-see attractions, because it’s a place where technology and the wonders of the universe meet!
Staff Favorite: Lick Observatory
7281 Mt Hamilton Rd, Mt Hamilton, CA 95140
Call for hours
Masks and 6’ social distancing are required by county ordinance
Although it’s about an hour from San Jose, Lick Observatory is a favorite getaway for starstruck San Joseans and tourists alike. Founded in 1888, Lick Observatory is the first mountaintop observatory in the United States and operates under the auspices of the University of California. In 2020, Lick Observatory was threatened and damaged by the devastating summer wildfires but is currently open to the public. You’ll want to call ahead if you plan to go to the Visitors’ Center because they keep sporadic hours, but parking and admission to the grounds and the Visitors’ Center is always free. While you’re there, you can check out the huge 36” reflector telescope and the exhibit of some of the key discoveries Lick Observatory astronomers have made, reshaping our understanding of the cosmos and our place within it! Click the header above for more information!
Natural Beauty in San Jose
Many people who aren’t from the area are often surprised to find that side-by-side with tech and culture, San Jose and the Bay Area, in general, is genuinely a beautiful place. The Guadalupe River, fed in large part by Los Gatos Creek, runs through it on its way to the San Francisco Bay. Also, San Joseans are passionate about preserving and protecting the environment and safeguarding the fragile ecosystems it sustains. We considered Lake Berryessa or any of the many bridges around the area, but ultimately we determined there could be only one top choice for us. And here it is!
Staff Favorite: Los Gatos Creek Trail
Running north from Lexington Reservoir to San Jose, a distance of 11.2 miles, the Los Gatos Creek Trail is a great place to spend some time communing with nature. Take your bicycles and enjoy a leisurely biking trail ride, go for a nature hike along a portion of the trail and see what kinds of wildlife and native California flora you can spot, or take a picnic lunch and settle in at one of the parks along the trail for a quiet date or some “me time” away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city!
San Jose Sports and Events
San Jose has long been one of Northern California’s sports capitols. Hosted out of SAP Center, we even have our own NHL team, the San Diego Sharks, and of course the American Hockey League Barracuda, both of which were named for our proximity to the San Francisco Bay and the aquatic wildlife that call it home. We also host the San Jose Quakes soccer team and our college basketball team, the San Jose Spartans. So it’s only logical, while we’re talking about the best of San Jose, to consider the best sports and events venues—and after some impassioned wrangling, we settled on one!
Staff Favorite: PayPal Park/Earthquakes Stadium
Formerly known as Avaya Stadium when it was constructed in 2015, the stadium was rechristened Earthquakes Stadium in 2020, although it’s also called PayPal Park in homage to its owners. Earthquakes Stadium hosts MLS soccer games, concerts, and other events throughout the year, even in the off-season. It’s also a great venue for expansive concessions menus and memorabilia. Be sure to click the header for more information about upcoming matches and other special events!
Architecture in San Jose
We really wrestled with this one, because San Jose incorporates so many different kinds and styles of architecture from postmodern to Brutalist to Spanish. The debate was fierce, but we finally settled on one place that we feel truly has it all: beautiful architecture, real craftsmanship, and absolutely amazing execution in every step.
Staff Favorite: Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
80 S. Market Street, San Jose, CA 95113
Just a one-minute walk from the San Jose Museum of Art is the architectural gem honoring San Jose’s Catholic patron saint, St. Joseph, for whom the city is named. From the Odell Tracker pipe organ built in 1886 to the sweeping colonnades, vaulted ceilings, and breathtakingly crafted artwork and architectural details, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is well worth a visit for its sheer, breathtaking beauty, no matter what your personal faith is. This California historical landmark is one of San Jose’s must-see attractions, even if you decide to admire it from outside!
San Jose Odds and Ends
With opinions split and hotly contested on how to round this list out, we decided it would be better and easier to pick out a few unique things and places to see that people simply cannot find anywhere else. These three were the most popular attractions by staff acclamation, and we hope you enjoy the rundown on them!
Staff Favorite: California Theatre San Jose
345 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113
The Golden Age of the movie theater may be behind us, but here and there you can still find places with the old-timey care and attention to detail and comfort that made the movie theater such an integral part of the American leisure experience from the 1920s onward. The California Theatre is one such jewel. Built during the silent movie era, the theatre still maintains the 1925 Wurlitzer 4-manual organ used to accompany silent films and has lovingly preserved the elaborate flourishes, such as the gilt and velvet on the walls which made the old-time theaters an elevated experience for all who entered. Today, the California Theatre is a live performance venue featuring concerts, live plays and private events. Be sure to stop by and take a tour of yesteryear at the California Theatre!
Staff Favorite: Winchester Mystery House
525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
The mansion at 525 South Winchester Boulevard has a long history—and an eerie one. Built by Sarah Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to the fortune earned by the legendary Winchester repeating rifle, the house’s construction, and architecture is the stuff of legend all on its own. According to some accounts, Sarah, who picked up her erudite contemporaries’ fascination with the Spiritualism movement after the death of her infant daughter and the loss of her husband to tuberculosis, consulted with a number of psychics and mediums. In doing so, she became convinced that she and her family were haunted and being punished, by the spirits of those killed by the invention pioneered by her husband. In an apparent effort to either appease or thwart these vengeful lost souls, Sarah continued construction on the mansion right up until the day she died in 1922.
Today, the Winchester Mystery House is an architectural wonder with a gorgeous façade, curb appeal that’s off the charts, and a number of innovations designed by Sarah herself, some of which only came into popular use in home construction years or decades later. Visitors are confounded by doors with no destination, stairways that lead nowhere, and seemingly blank spaces which seem to imply the presence of rooms with no way in or out. Reports of paranormal activity abound. But whether you’re a true believer or a hardened skeptic, few people visit the Winchester Mystery House and emerge with fewer questions than they entered!
Staff Favorite: Japantown
One of America’s oldest and largest Japanese American settlements, San Jose’s Japantown, or “J-Town” as San Joseans affectionately call it, is an enduring symbol of the resilience and adaptability of the Japanese people, the beauty and grace of their culture, and Japanese American friendship. Among the many eateries, sushi bars, and shops, you can also find the Ikoi No Ba, places for meditation on the five core virtues of Japanese culture in a foreign land, along with various sculptures and landmarks commemorating both the infamous Executive Order 9066 and the endurance of San Jose’s Japantown as one of only three such settlements still existing in the United States. Many visitors are surprised to find the 6-acre Japanese American Friendship Garden, modeled after the Korakuen Garden in Okayama and stocked with real Japanese koi, is located several miles away and not within the bounds of Japantown. Be sure to check out the Sunday Farmers’ Market, as well as the other cultural and business events in J-Town!
So there you have it, folks: the Top 10 Things to Do in San Jose from your friends at Gruber Painting. We hope visiting these iconic locations makes your world a little brighter, broader, and more colorful.
Speaking of making things more colorful, if your home or office needs a new look or an update on its paint, Gruber Painting is here to help. Simply click here to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation site walk and estimate for services, and be sure to keep an eye on our website for current and coming deals and special offers!
Or, for the most up-to-date information, you can always call us at (408) 791-1971!