Top 22 San Jose Attractions & Things To Do You Just Can't Miss

Last Updated on January 04, 2024 by Nikki Jain

Created in 1777, the city preceded the actual settlement of northern California and became its first capital in 1850. There is much history to explore among San Jose attractions, but that is just the beginning. Visitors can revel in dozens of museums, including the San Jose Museum of Art, the Children's Discovery Museum, and the amazing Tech Museum of Innovation. In addition, there is plenty of incredible 19th-century architecture to explore.

There is even a steam engine railroad to entertain everyone. One of the state's oldest cities, San Jose proudly displays its history while embracing the new and improved, from electrifying amusement parks to top-level dining.

There is never a lack of things to do in San Jose for both young and old. The song asks, "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" When you get here, below are just a few of the city's top attractions.

Things To Do in San Jose

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1: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

One of the best things to do in San Jose is visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.

Historians and Ancient Egypt enthusiasts will find this museum to be a real treat.

The museum has 4,000 fascinating artifacts. If it's Egyptian, the museum probably has it – except for the elusive Cleopatra.

Visitors will see a huge collection of Egyptian mummies before strolling through the Rosicrucian Peace Garden, an authentic replica of an 18th Dynasty Peace Garden of ancient Egypt.

The planetarium, with its Moorish design, was built in honor of Arab astronomers and screens several space movies.

This building is probably the only one in the state of California designed in the architectural style of an Ancient Egyptian building.

The entry fee to the museum is $10.00 for adults over the age of 18. It is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Address: 1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA 95191

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2: Municipal Rose Garden

Municipal Rose Garden

The Municipal Rose Garden is truly one of the attractions in San Jose that comes up smelling like a rose all year long, with 3,500 blooms and 189 different varieties.

There are climbers, miniature blooms, and shrubs. The garden, known as "America's Best Rose Garden," draws thousands of people with its gorgeous pink and red roses.

The most colorful time is between April and November. In May, the flowers are at their most fragrant.

This is also a great place for amateur photographers to take stunning photographs.

The Rose Garden can be visited from 8:00 a.m. until just after sunset.

The Rose Garden is also a favorite wedding site. A two-hour wedding by the Redwood trees and fountain can be decorated for $810 for non-residents. A three-hour ceremony is $1,135.00. Talk about getting married in the Garden of Eden.

Address: 1649 Naglee Ave, San Jose, CA 95126

3: Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

There are so many reasons to visit one of the fun San Jose attractions, namely the Winchester Mystery House.

Not only is it reputed to be haunted, but it is also an authentic 19th mansion with 110 incredible rooms to view. And it has a charming, beautiful garden, as well.

The landscaped garden has the original trees and hundreds of colorful plants. Self-guided tours are available. Whether or not you believe in spirits, the Winchester House seems to be filled with them.

The Ghost tour includes a wake for one of the ghosts, a real Victorian séance, and the basement, which may or may not house more ghosts. It's time to let go of preconceived notions and simply have fun.

A tour of the mansion (sans ghosties) brings visitors through the 110 rooms with some iconic architectural designs, such as staircases leading nowhere and secret passageways.

Daily tours begin around $35.00 for adults and $19.99 for children.

Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

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4: The Tech Interactive

The Tech Interactive
The Tech Interactive

The Tech Interactive is a must-see in San Jose for parents wishing to broaden their children's horizons to our technological future.

Everything at the museum is about technology and allows plenty of hands-on exploration for young minds. Here, everyone (parents included) can learn more about alternative energy sources.

For tech-enthusiastic adults, this serves as a sci-fi-themed wedding destination, and for youngsters, it's a favorite birthday party site.

One of the purposes of the museum is to foster greater interest among young people in the sciences with activities such as learning about DNA, finding solutions to real problems, as well as special field trips.

Both parents and children enjoy the documentaries in the 8-story high IMAX theatre.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.

Entry for adults is $27.00 for adults and $22.00 for children.

Address: 201 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113

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5: Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

One of the best San Jose attractions for architectural lovers is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph.

Its aesthetic beauty consists of striking dome ceilings (think Michelangelo) and 39 panes of colorful stained-glass windows.

Equally as important, the Cathedral is a place of peace and tranquillity open to all. It is breathtaking, with marble steps at the altar and a huge holy water font. The church is surrounded by lovely statues.

A great and magical time to visit this spiritual and mystical site is around the time of mass.

Mass is held daily in English and Spanish, and an in-depth tour of the basilica is also available. A small donation is appropriate if taking the tour.

Address: 80 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113

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Also Read: Most Beautiful Churches in America

6: Santana Row

Santana Row
Dreamstime/Steven Cong

Chic and elegant, the Santana Row is the Northern California equivalent of Rodeo Drive and one of the best places to visit in San Jose.

Upscale chic rules here, with 70 elite boutiques such as Kate Space, 10 spas, and 20 restaurants.

After a hectic day of shopping and pampering, indulge in Happy House at the El Jardin Tequila Bar. For wine lovers, the Vintage Bar has a huge selection of wine and even offers sample sips before you purchase.

Be entertained by live music throughout the Row or take part in outdoor yoga in one of the parks.

For a bit of romance, visit the Cielo Rooftop Bar at the Hotel Valencia for an incredible view of the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains while enjoying a drink and light dinner around a fireplace.

Address: 377 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

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7: San Jose Museum of Art

San Jose Museum of Art

One of the best spots in San Jose for contemporary culture and broadening one's thinking is the San Jose Museum of Art ("SJMA").

The SJMA has a collection of 2,500 artworks, many of major significance. This is not the place for Rembrandts or Monets. Here, visionary and modern ideas are emphasized and valued.

The contemporary collection includes paintings, abstracts, sculptures, and photographs, many created by regional Bay Area artists.

It also emphasizes modern artistry using computer graphics, digital art, robotics, and 3D printing. It's a museum with a collection whose time has come and whose future is now.

The museum is known for sponsoring family-friendly events such as salsa dances and First Friday concerts. The museum store is an innovative shop filled with art books and unusual jewelry, and the café offers drinks, soups, salads, and sandwiches.

SJMA is open Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Admission is $10.00 for adults. Children under the age of 17 are eligible to enter for free. Fridays through Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., SJMA offers free tours starting in the lobby.

Address: 110 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95110

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Also Read: 20 Best Art Museums in the USA

8: Raging Waters San Jose

Raging Waters San Jose
Raging Waters San Jose

When the temperature rises, one of the destinations in San Jose is Raging Waters. A cooling haven during the summer months, this 23-acre venue is Northern California's largest water park.

There are comfortable, shaded cabanas and a picnic area, and guests are surrounded by watery fun, from amazing water slides, pools, children's rides, and a lazy river.

The cabanas are spread around the park and offer a variety of food services, tables, and chairs. The Ultimate Cabana seats 12 and couldn't be more perfect for families.

Visitors have a large choice of eateries, most of them geared toward children craving pizza, hot dogs, barbeques, ice cream, and cold drinks.

Tickets to Raging Waters begin at around $30.00.

Address: 2333 S White Rd, San Jose, CA 95148

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9: Children's Discovery Museum

Children's Discovery Museum
Children's Discovery Museum

The Children's Discovery Museum is a fun San Jose attraction designed to satisfy children's curiosity.

Children rightfully know that the world around them is filled with infinite possibilities that they desperately want to discover.

The CDM has replicas of giant pre-historic mammoth, fire engines, and Wells Fargo coaches that can be explored, and several areas dedicated to the performing arts.

Child's Magazine has included CDM in the country's top ten children's museums. The London Observer has deemed it to be one of the top five science institutions worldwide.

The outdoor area teaches children about tree climbing, digging with a shovel, jumping from the Look Out Tower, and building with nature's own materials, such as branches and leaves.

They also tend to the museum's garden by planting seeds and minding the growing plants – especially fruits and vegetables.

So many children, especially those from urban areas, are under the impression that potatoes and carrots come from aisle 2 at the market. This teaches them life's realities and truths.

The museum is open Wednesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On weekends, it remains open until 4:30. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Admission for adults is $15.00 and $14.00 for children under 17.

Address: 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110

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Also Read: The Best Children's Museums in the USA

10: San Jose Flea Market

San Jose Flea Market
Dreamstime/Dragan Jovanovic

This Flea Market is one of the top San Jose tourist attractions for the simple reason it literally has everything. Thirty vendors sell fresh food. And that is just the beginning.

There are several stalls that sell jewelry, crystals, fossils and tons of other interesting and exotic products.

Bands and Mariachi dancers lighten up the market every weekend. The largest entertainment is in the Garden at the Flea section, with live Salsa, Reggae, and dancing every Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Youngsters can enjoy the rides and 90 or so arcade games or simply entertain themselves on the playground.

The Flea Market is open from dawn to sundown year-round on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There is no charge for parking on Wednesdays.

Address: 1590 Berryessa Rd, San Jose, CA 95133

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11: Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose
Dreamstime/Richard Mcmillin

During the 18th century, Spaniards traveled north from Mexico to the US to establish missions along the Pacific Coast and convert the local Indians.

Mission San Jose, one of the historical attractions in San Jose, was destroyed in 1868, and the original structure has been replicated.

The mission developed a good relationship with the local tribes by teaching them music. Its 31-piece orchestra was famous throughout the state.

The relationship with the Indians was not, however, always harmonious. While the music was undoubtedly enjoyed by all, the religious teachings of the missionaries didn’t always go over well. Today, the mission exhibits its religious artifacts as well as its splendid organ.

Many of California’s original settlers are buried in the mission’s graveyard. With its original fountain, the rose garden is a relaxing place to contemplate life and history during the missionary era.

Mission San Jose offers self-guided tours of the mission, the cemetery, and the lovely garden for $10.00 per adult and $7.00 for children over the age of 6 years old.

Address: 43300 Mission Blvd., San Jose

Looking to visit other amazing places in California? Check out our lists of things to do in San Diego & things to do in San Francisco!

12: Great America

Great America
Dreamstime/Jay Boncodin

The Great America Amusement Park, located four miles from San Jose in Santa Clara, is one of the premier things to do in San Jose for families.

It has its own waterpark, live entertainment, and 6 heart-pounding rides, such as the RailBlazer, dropping 106 feet at 52 mph.

In addition, there are 13 family rides, and for the younger visitors, there is Planet Snoopy with all his Peanut friends.  

The park has an abundance of restaurants and treats for the kids. For adults, the Game Time Sports Bar provides an opportunity to sip cold margaritas and keep up with the games. Live entertainment is provided throughout the park.

Single daily tickets are $44.99, two-day tickets are $69.99, and a summer pass costs $94.00 for unlimited seasonal admittance.

The park also has a $31.99 all-day-all-you-can-eat plan. The hours can vary, but during the summer, the park is usually open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Address: 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara

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13: Castle Rock State Park

Castle Rock State Park

Castle Rock State Park is one of the majestic San Jose attractions just 20 minutes outside of the city.

Visitors will find over 5,000 acres of stunning greenery and awe-inspiring redwoods designed for picnicking, hiking, climbing, birdwatching, and horseback riding.

The higher you climb, the more incredible the view. There are 34 miles of splendid trails.

Hikers may spot deer, lizards, coyotes, and the occasional mountain lion.

There are two camping sites with picnic tables, toilets, and access to fresh water. However, the park has no nearby stores or visitor centers, so come prepared.

The camping sites have basketball and volleyball courts and a 70-foot swimming pool. For complete information, call 888-327-2757.

Address: 15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA 95033

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Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US

14: Kelley Park

Kelley Park
Dreamstime/Yuval Helfman

One of the places to go in San Jose is Kelley Park, the city’s version of Manhattan’s Central Park on a smaller scale. This 163-acre bit of lovely greenery provides the opportunity for a plethora of activities, such as disc or regular golf (no fees).

The Japanese Friendship Garden within the park is a model of the Korakuen Garden in Japan – its sister city. Stroll around the koi ponds connected by colorful bridges.

Visitors can breathe in the surreal tranquillity here on their way to the Japanese Tea House. The Friendship Garden is also a favorite area for wedding photographs.

The History Park guides visitors through the past with an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, a café, and historic artwork at the Pasetta House.

The petting zoo is home to creatures from around the world, such as pandas, lemurs, tortoises, jaguars, and meerkats, among others. There is also a puppet theatre and a playground.

For a complete park tour, take the old trolley car and view all the charming sights. The entrance fee is $6.00 per car.

Address: 1300 Senter Rd, San Jose, CA 95112

15: Monopoly In The Park

Monopoly In The Park

One of the more unusual attractions in San Jose is playing Monopoly. But not just any ordinary monopoly.

Monopoly in the Park, a 930 square-foot game board, is located near the Children’s Discovery Museum and has games pieces weighing from 140 lbs. to 236 lbs, placing it in the Guinness Book of World Records.

This huge game is surrounded by a lovely park, benches, and sculptures. No way to lose by coming here.

The space can be rented, including the game pieces and inflatable dice, and you can work your way across the board. Going to jail is real, and offenders must put on jailhouse clothes in public.

Address: 330 W San Carlos St, San Jose, CA 95110

16: Roaring Camp Railroads

Roaring Camp Railroads
Dreamstime/Yuval Helfman

Whether you are a couple or a family, one of the San Jose attractions you don’t want to miss are the Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, just half an hour out of San Jose.

These 19th-century steam locomotives were once used for moving redwood logs. Now, the rides celebrate special occasions. Click below for specific information.

Examples include a ride through the forest with a Western movie and a spaghetti dinner. The Harvest Faire brings people to Bear Mountain to gather from the local pumpkin patch.

The daylong Brewgrass Festival Ride features visits to local breweries and music along the way. Greet the holidays by riding the steam train through the redwoods while sipping hot chocolate, greeting Santa, and participating in holiday activities.

The Camp Railroads has many more themed rides and activities, including Easter and New Year’s Eve celebrations, as well as the Great Train Robbery ride.

For that touch of romance, couples can ride a moonlit dinner party train that begins with a barbeque followed by a romantic ride with music and line dancing.

There are daily rides, and time and cost will differ according to the occasion. For specific information, check their website here.

Address: 5401 Graham Hill Rd, Felton, CA 95018

17: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Dreamstime/Ken Wolter

One of the marvelous San Jose attractions is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, just half an hour away and worth the drive. The Boardwalk is a buffet of eateries, carnivals, and other things to do, all with a fantastic view of the coastline.

Endless game opportunities include arcades, pirate-themed miniature golf, bowling, and more. There is live music Thursday evenings.

Entry onto the boardwalk is free, but each activity has its own scheduled time and cost. Click below for more precise information.

Visitors can gather around fire pits in the evening and chill for a while with snacks and drinks. Friday evenings in the summer is family movie night. Bring a blanket and be ready for the movie to begin at 9:00 p.m.

Take advantage of the summer discount and purchase a $19.95 ticket for unlimited rides after 5:00 p.m.

Address: 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz

Also Read: Best Beach Boardwalks in the USA

18: Alum Rock Park

Alum Rock Park

San Jose attractions can be heart-pounding. Or they can bring much-needed relaxation amid stunning nature.

The 718-acre Alum Rock Park has close to 150 picnic tables, plenty of barbeques, two playgrounds, and restrooms for a great day out of doors. Some of the picnic tables are reservable ahead of time.

It is one of California’s oldest municipal parks and is the go-to place for hiking, biking, picnics, and horseback riding.

Designated riding trails are six miles, and there are three miles of special bicycle trails. Hikers can take any trail and may stumble across deer, rabbits, and overhead hawks.

Or, just relax and let nature’s beauty wash over you, especially during the spring when fresh wildflowers come into bloom and scent the fresh air.

Parking costs $6.00 per car.

Address: 15350 Penitencia Creek Rd., San Jose

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19: Japantown

Dreamstime/Dragan Jovanovic

If you love anything Japanese, including delicious food, one of the things to do in San Jose is to visit Japantown.

Historically, this area has been known for fantastic dining, shopping, and – of all things – karaoke. For some tranquillity, the San Jose Buddhist Church is the place to go and relax.

Visit 7 Bamboo for one of the oldest and most well-known karaoke bars in northern California. Grab that mike and some attention, and learn to shine. Being able to sing is optional. Finish with a sake cocktail and applause.

On Sundays, Japantown’s Farmer’s Market is all about organic produce and pastries from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Visit the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, which chronicles more than 100 years of Japanese history in America, from immigration, and World War II, to the tremendous contributions to American communities.

Address: Japantown, CA

20: Hayes Mansion

Hayes Mansion
Dreamstime/Harris Shiffman

One of the San Jose attractions filled with pure romance is the 62-room Hayes Mansion, built as a lavish family residence in the 19the century.

It is a great and rare San Jose example of Queen Anne-style architecture and is now a luxury hotel surrounded by exquisite gardens.

The rooms and suites are all royal-worthy, as is the dining in the on-site restaurant, which serves an award-winning Champagne brunch with a view of the elegant grounds.

Best yet, the Hayes Mansion is the ideal San Jose wedding destination, blending bygone grand style with modern convenience.

The staff will help with all details of the big day, from the ceremony to the reception, giving you options for an indoor or outdoor feast.

Guests can stroll the gardens, enjoy a game of golf, or dance the night away in the indoor nightclub.

Address: 200 Edenvale Avenue, San Jose

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21: Mountain Winery

Mountain Winery
Wikimedia Commons/Sanfranman59

The Mountain Winery is one of the San Jose attractions just 14 miles outside of town. Their wine-tasting schedule is Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from noon to 5:00 p.m.

The vineyard has 3.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 2.5 acres of Chardonnay. Guests have to be over 21 years of age to taste test.

The winery’s wines are all available for purchase.

The fun doesn't stop at the wine tasting. The Mountain Winery offers a three-course dinner and a show overlooking the vineyards.

Each dish is paired with the perfect wine companion. Arrive early and enjoy an extra cocktail before the show.

Depending on the seating for the show, the show and dinner package ranges from $20.00 to $100.00.

Address: 4831 Pierce Rd, Saratoga

22: San Jose Semaphore

San Jose Semaphore
Dreamstime/Michael Vi

The San Jose Semaphore is one of the artistic San Jose attractions that is also a puzzle waiting to be solved.

On the top of the Almaden Tower, four glowing wheels are visible for miles and are attempting to transmit information.

But what is the message? Only two have been solved since its installation in 2006. Whoever solves the third puzzle will have many bragging rights once the encrypted message has been decoded.

The four wheels can assume four different positions with a possible combination of 256 positions – or messages.

The wheels are in constant motion and turn every 7 seconds, only to stop when a plane is within its path. The message shines out its lights from 7 a.m. until midnight.

Who wants to be the one to solve the mystery?

Address: 151 S. Almaden Blvd., San Jose

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1. What is San Jose famous for?

Despite its historical value, San Jose is best known for its modern influence on art (check out the San Jose Museum of Art) and the tech industry. It has been given the nickname "Capital of Silicon Valley" for a good reason.

2. What is the best time to visit San Jose?

The best time to visit San Jose is from May to September when the weather is driest and warmest. However, even in winter, the temperature usually remains above freezing, although December through February can be chilly. The Christmas decorations at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez are seasonal favorites.

3. What are the top 3 attractions in San Jose?

Undoubtedly, the Great America amusement park is the top San Jose attraction for families. For adults and children, Santana Row and its many shopping and dining offerings are a wonderful draw for the entire family. For adults looking to encounter a lost, romantic era, the Hayes Mansion and its garden are perfect.

4. What is the most unique thing to do in San Jose?

Visiting the uniquely designed 19th-century Winchester House and its lovely garden is certainly fun. Add the potential of meeting a few ghosts from the past, and you have one of San Jose's most unique experiences.

Plan your trip to San Jose soon!

San Jose can sometimes be overlooked in favor of its larger neighbor, San Francisco. But not everyone knows about the incredible San Jose attractions, from great wilderness trails, camping, and its museums filled with an abundance of world history and one of northern California's most vibrant art scenes. It is one of the most walkable cities in the US, so there are always nearby things to do in San Jose. With 300 days of beautiful sunshine and a plethora of cultural landmarks, San Jose may be one of the most overlooked destinations in the country.

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