San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley and the third largest city in Northern California.
The city is home to many of the world's biggest tech firms and is considered one of the wealthiest major cities in the world, with the third-highest GDP per capita and the fifth-most expensive housing market.
It is home to one of the world's largest overseas Vietnamese populations, a Hispanic community that makes up over 40% of the city's residents, and historic Japanese and Portuguese neighborhoods.
San Jose sits at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara County and is considered a gateway to the city by the bay.
Here are some of my favorite attractions in the area:
Winchester Mystery House
This mansion tour is full of mystery and intrigue and is a must-see during a visit to San Jose.
The house is a 24,000-square-foot architectural oddity with 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, and stairs leading nowhere.
So who built this crazy house and why?
Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the inventor of the Winchester® Repeating Rifle.
Tragedy befell Sarah – her infant daughter died of a childhood illness, and a few years later, her husband was taken from her by tuberculosis.
She soon moved to San Jose, California, and started building the house. No one knows for sure what, but legends state she consulted a Psychic who told her:
"You are haunted by the spirits of those killed by your husband's rifles. To thwart their efforts, you must build a house and keep building until the day you die".
Rumors say that the sounds of hammers and saws never stopped until she passed away in 1922.
Nowadays, you can go on a 90-minute tour of the three-story mansion, experience lazy stairs, secret passages, doors to nowhere, antique furniture, and hear the sad history of Sarah and her home.
Or you can take the Flashlight Tours for some spooky tales, take up Ax Throwing, or even try an escape room.
The Tech Interactive
"The Tech Interactive" is a science and technology museum in downtown San Jose that offers hands-on activities, labs, design challenges, and other educational resources.
The center is mainly geared towards hands-on experiences and experimentation with some dedicated exhibits.
For example, at the Social Robots Hall, you can design robots for human interaction, while at Cyber Detectives, you can learn to crack codes, spot scams, and prevent crime like a cyber security pro.
At Body Motion, explore how your movement and interactions with others affect your physical, social, and emotional health.
The IMAX Dome shows mainstream movies as well as educational films. Some of the films shown recently are Everest, Wings Over Water, and Ireland. Find the movie schedule here.
The Tech offers in-person and virtual field trips to school groups and provides field trip scholarships to underserved schools.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
What a lovely find in San Jose. A museum with the largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the Western United States.
It was founded by the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC). The Rosicrucian Order continues to support and expand the museum and its educational and scientific activities.
The museum has four main galleries: Afterlife, Daily Life, Rulers, and Religion.
Expect many examples of mummies on display at the afterlife exhibit, including mummified animals.
The daily life exhibit is filled with items used in Daily Life by the ancient Egyptian people, including a game board, a mirror, and even a marriage contract.
And, of course, you have to meet the pharaohs at the Rulers exhibit.
Religion was at the center of every activity in ancient Egypt, and the Religion exhibit features many of the gods and goddesses worshiped in the ancient Egyptian religion.
The museum also has a children's play area with hands-on games. Kids can pick up a "Passport to Ancient Egypt" and collect stamps and write about things they learn as they make their way through the museum.
The passport also contains a great chart that deciphers the Hieroglyphic Alphabet.
Parks and Hiking
Municipal Rose Garden
The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden was opened in 1927 and has been a main attraction for generations.
It recently won the title of "America's Best Rose Garden" by the All-American Rose Selections in a Nationwide competition. The Garden is free and open to the public.
The gardens have more than 3,500 plantings and 189 varieties. You can find some blooming roses any time of the year, but the best time to visit is late May.
Ed R. Levin County Park
Nestled in the hills to the northeast of San Jose, this Santa Clara County park offers many outdoor activities.
The park's recreational facilities include a hang gliding and paragliding area, a dog park, horseback riding, fishing, hiking trails, and a kid's playground.
The park has two lakes, Sandy Wool Lake and Spring Valley Pond. Both of them are reservoirs that collect runoff water from the hills.
You can enjoy a leisurely walk around the lakes, take a more challenging hike through the hills, or just have a picnic.
Alum Rock Park
Alum Rock Park is California's oldest municipal park, established in 1872. It is located in a valley in the Diablo Range foothills on the east side of San Jose.
The park's age adds a fairy-tale atmosphere with its rock bridges, creeks, and mineral springs.
The 720-acre park offers 13 miles of trails, from the easy hike along Penitencia Creek to strenuous hikes along the ridges.
It has a visitor center, a small museum, picnic areas, playgrounds, lawns, sand volleyball pits, mineral springs, lush plant life, woodlands, creek play opportunities, and group camping.
The ridge trails offer views of Santa Clara Valley, the valley in which the park is located. Some trails in the park are a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail; the Todd Quick trail connects with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority's 1,600-acre Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve.
Some trails allow horses and mountain bikers, while others are restricted to hikers only.
Important Note: The park is closed in in early 2023 due to the California rainstorms.
Expect to see a lot of wildlife at this park, including several Hawk species, deer, foxes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lions.
Baylands is outside of San Jose in the City of Sunnyvale. This park uniquely blends naturally preserved wetland areas, with a traditional city park's picnic and playground areas.
Baylands Park provides over seventy acres of parkland, offering active recreation, pathways, and picnic areas for families and large groups.
An additional 105 acres of seasonal wetlands are protected as a Wetlands Preserve, providing habitat for plants and wildlife.
My favorite feature at this park is a bridge to nowhere – it is actually a boardwalk that jots into the wetlands. Walking along this path, you can enjoy the views and the many kinds of waterfowl.
This park comes up often when you look for things to do in San Jose, so we went to explore.
The idea of a walk along the river was appealing, but we were disappointed because 1. It was challenging to find, and 2. it was rundown and looked like a drug haven.
I would avoid this park.
I am not a great fan of shopping, but good malls can be fun anyway. You can find VR Games, Massage Chairs, Movie Theaters, and great dining.
I visit a few places with my wife to check them out.
Santana Row is a residential area with an open shopping mall with a mix of brand-name shops, local boutiques, restaurants, nine spas and salons, a theater, and a hotel.
On the main thoroughfare, Stevens Creek Boulevard, you can find name-brand stores like Crate & Barrel, The Container Store, Best Buy, H&M, Tesla, Nike, lululemon, and Madewell.
Walking around the pedestrian-only promenade, with its gardens, fountains, and statues, is a treat.
The Row hosts various events, from fashion shows to live music and outdoor yoga classes to the annual tree lighting ceremony.
While visiting, we had lunch at Mendocino Farms, one of my favorite healthy food places. This restaurant offers creative sandwiches and salads made with fresh ingredients.
And across the street on Winchester Blvd, we visited the Winchester Mystery House.
Westfield Valley Fair
Valley Fair is one of the largest malls in California and the thirteenth largest in the US. It has 214 stores and 58 dining options.
For fun and entertainment, you can visit Immersive Gamebox, Lego store, Young Art Lessons, and ShowPlace ICON theaters.
At GameBox, you can play immersive games with family and friends with motion tracking, projection mapping, touch screens, and surround sound.
Some of the stores found here are Forever 21, ecco, Bloomingdale's, Dockers, Banana Republic, Apple Store, Ann Taylor, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Get a complete store list here.
Great Mall of the Bay Area
If I really need to do some shopping, I always end up at an outlet mall, and the Great Mall in Milpitas has what I need.
It is a large indoor factory outlet with many famous brands like Adidas, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Burlington, Calvin Klein, Champs, and GAP.
Interesting Fact: The mall is laid out as an oval racetrack because the existing main structure was originally a Ford automobile assembly plant.
For fun, you can visit Dave & Buster's, Bounce-A-Rama, Century Theaters, and LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
My favorite restaurants at the mall are Dave & Buster's, Olive Garden, Kelly's Cajun Grill, Outback Steakhouse, and Sarku, Japan.
ÉLYSE is located in downtown San Jose and bills itself as a French Vietnamese restaurant.
The food and service were excellent, but I saw nothing Vietnamese or French except for the decor and one dish.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the decor, the food, and the service, but I would call this place fusion cuisine.
During our last visit, we tried the Roasted Lamb and Seared Salmon. Both were tasty and satisfying.
We finished our meal with a delicious Belgian Chocolate Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream.
Of course, we posed for pictures in front of the Eifel tower and pretended we were dining in Paris.
The downtown area is usually bustling with activity, but on a weekday after 5 it is almost dead.
Luna Mexican Kitchen
Luna is an excellent place for authentic Mexican cuisine made with fresh ingredients. It is located in the Alameda neighborhood of San Jose, with many stores and restaurants.
The restaurant is always crowded – a good sign - and does not take reservations, but you can check in on Yelp to get on the waitlist.
Parking is challenging, and if possible, use ridesharing services.
During our visit, we tried the Chile Relleno Picadillo, Salmon tacos, and Enchiladas Placeras. All were excellent and with huge portions - we had a lot of leftovers.
We enjoyed Luna Ritas and Prickly Pear Hisciscus Ritas with our meals, and we ended it with a mouthwatering Choco Flan.
I love Japanese cuisine and am always on the lookout for a good Sushi place, and Arashi fits the bill.
This Willow Glen restaurant has many rolls and nigiri to pick from. We ordered Ninja, Mango Crunch, Rainbow, and Unagi Lover rolls. My favorite was the Mango Crunch Roll.
We loved every one of the rolls. The sushi rice was perfect, and the fish was fresh.
You can also order combo plates and lunch Bento – and they deliver.
Sevens Grill, Sonesta
We stayed at Sonesta, Milpitas, and breakfasted at Sevens every morning. The breakfast buffet was well-stocked, and everything was perfect.
The service can use some help. They usually have only one server to take care of all customers.
Despite this shortcoming, I would recommend this place for breakfast whether you are staying at the hotel or nearby.