Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, offers visitors a captivating blend of technology, culture, and natural beauty. With its diverse attractions and vibrant atmosphere, planning your visit to San Jose can be an exciting adventure. In this ultimate guide to San Jose, we’ll take you through the essentials of where to stay, what to eat, how to get there, and what to do, ensuring you make the most of your time in this dynamic city.
This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission for items purchased.
How to Get to San Jose
San Jose is conveniently accessible by air, road, and rail. The city has the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), which is located just a few miles from downtown. Several major airlines like Southwest and Alaska offer direct flights to San Jose from various domestic and international destinations.
If you prefer a scenic road trip, San Jose is easily accessible from major highways, including Interstate 280 and U.S. Route 101. San Jose is 48.4 miles from San Francisco and on a non-commute hour, takes about 54 minutes to get there.
You can also reach San Jose by Amtrak train or by Greyhound bus.
Getting Around San Jose
San Jose has a pretty good public transportation system called VTA. The light rail and bus system connects downtown San Jose with the rest of the city and surrounding areas. The light rail routes are clean, safe and efficient. You can buy day passes or clipper cards to pay your fare. This is the most affordable way to explore San Jose without a car.
Services like Uber and Lyft operate in San Jose, providing easy on-demand transportation. This is handy if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive yourself around. Taxi cabs are also available for hire if you hail them on the street or call a company to dispatch one. More expensive than public transit but very convenient.
If you want maximum flexibility in getting around, renting a car for a day or two is an option when visiting San Jose. There are rental branches for major companies like Enterprise, Hertz and Avis located right at the airport and around the city. Driving yourself allows you to see more surrounding areas at your own pace.
Bay Wheels is San Jose’s bike share system with stations located downtown and in some neighborhoods. You can pick up a bike at any station and return it to any other. Great for short trips and sightseeing. They also have electric bikes available for extra pedal power assist!
Electric scooter shares like Bird and Lime are popular in downtown San Jose for quick trips. Just locate one nearby, rent it through the app and zoom around. Fun way to get around if you don’t mind looking a little goofy!
Downtown San Jose is very walkable, especially in areas like San Pedro Square, SoFA district, and around the Convention Center. The weather is nice year-round so walking allows you to easily pop into shops and restaurants without relying on transportation. Just wear comfy shoes!
Where to Stay in San Jose
San Jose has a range of accommodation options to suit every visitor’s needs and preferences. Downtown San Jose is a popular choice, offering a central location and convenient access to attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
You’ll find a variety of hotels to choose from, including upscale options like The Fairmont San Jose or the Dolce Hayes Mansion or more budget-friendly choices like the Hotel De Anza.
If you prefer a more relaxed ambiance, consider staying in the surrounding neighborhoods, such as Santana Row or Willow Glen, where boutique hotels like the Sterling Inn await.
What to Eat in San Jose
San Jose’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of flavors from around the world. Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Bill’s Café, known for its mouthwatering omelets and fluffy pancakes or Mimosas San Jose for a rowdy brunch.
For lunch or dinner head to San Pedro Square Market, an urban marketplace featuring a variety of food vendors offering everything from artisanal pizzas to flavorful tacos.
Don’t miss the opportunity to savor authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the bustling Little Saigon neighborhood or indulge in the Santana Row offerings, where you’ll find Sauced BBQ or Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian churrascaria.
If Italian is more your speed, Pizza Antica and Maggianos are two solid choices at Santana Row.
If the Caribbean is more your style, Back-A-Yard is a popular choice where you can get plates of oxtail or jerk chicken.
And for dessert, treat yourself to the iconic treats at CREAM, a local favorite known for its delectable ice cream sandwiches. Another favorite is Sweet Retreat, where you can get huge scoops of ice cream for an affordable price.
What to Do in San Jose
San Jose offers an abundance of affordable attractions and activities to suit every interest. Begin your visit by stopping at a museum like Tech Interactive, an interactive science and technology museum where you can engage with hands-on exhibits and learn about the latest innovations.
San Jose Museums
Immerse yourself in art and culture at the San Jose Museum of Art, home to a diverse collection of contemporary works. If you have kids in tow be sure to stop by the Children’s Discovery Museum (CDM) or Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, two places that have fun exhibits for children to explore.
Shopping in San Jose
Take a leisurely stroll through the charming Santana Row, an upscale shopping district featuring boutiques, restaurants, and several open spaces made for lounging.
For nature enthusiasts, spend time at Alum Rock Park, a serene oasis with picturesque trails and picnic areas. If you prefer something more active the Silver Creek Sports Complex has sports classes and activities or stroll along the Guadalupe Trail in Downtown San Jose.
We have a complete roundup if you are looking for ideas for a romantic date night in San Jose!
And if you’re a sports fan, catch a hockey game at the SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks.
The minor league San Jose Giants play at the family-friendly Excite Ballpark located downtown, with tickets ranging from $8-25. The regular season runs April through early September and features evening games during the week plus some weekend day games, lasting around 2-3 hours.
Fans can enjoy typical baseball fare like hot dogs, churros, BBQ and peanuts, with fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights.
For the best views, sit along the first or third base lines, while the outfield bleachers offer a lively atmosphere.
Free parking is available in lots near the stadium, arrive early to get a spot. Between innings, enjoy in-game contests, the mascot antics, and other kid-focused entertainment.
Winchester Mystery House
Visit the iconic Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling mansion renowned for its weird history and architectural oddities.
The Winchester Mystery House offers daily guided tours of the bizarre 160+ room Victorian mansion that was once the home of Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune.
Tours allow visitors to explore the maze-like mansion with its stairs leading to ceilings, doors opening to walls, and other oddities.
General admission ticket prices start at $37 for a Mansion Tour, $27 for a reduced-scale Explore More Tour, and $15 for a self-guided Roaming Pass.
More in-depth specialty tours like the Hidden Passages Tour or Twilight Tour range from $50-$75. Discounts are available for seniors, students, children, and the military.
Parking at the Winchester Mystery House is $15 per vehicle and allows easy self-parking in their lot. Overflow parking can also utilize the nearby Santana Row parking garages. Tour tickets include parking.
J. Lohr Winery
Wine lovers will have a great time at the J. Lohr Tasting Room in South San Jose! J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines is one of the most prominent wineries actually based in San Jose. Founded by Jerry Lohr back in 1972, J. Lohr operates tasting rooms and vineyards in both the Arroyo Seco and Paso Robles areas.
The San Jose tasting room is located right off Blossom Hill Road in the southeast part of the city. It offers wine flights and pours of J. Lohr’s extensive collection including chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc.
The venue has an upscale yet welcoming vibe with a full bar and charcuterie menu.
You can stop by daily for a tasting or attend one of their special food and wine pairing events hosted throughout the year.
In addition to the San Jose tasting room, J. Lohr has a large production facility and visitor center in Paso Robles where guests can tour the vineyards and winery operations. As one of the most well-known wineries actually headquartered in San Jose, J. Lohr is a great option for learning about local wines.
Day Trips from San Jose
Venture beyond the city limits and explore nearby attractions. Drive to Santa Cruz and enjoy the stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, and the nostalgic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Livermore Wine Trail
For wine lovers, take a day trip to the nearby Livermore wine region, where you can sample exceptional wines and enjoy vineyard tours.
With its diverse attractions, vibrant culture, and convenient access, a visit to San Jose is should be enjoyable for people of all ages.