Besides being home to a large number of technology companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Netflix, Silicon Valley is also culturally rich with leading museums, beautiful parks and gardens, as well as shopping! There are tons of things to do and enjoy whether you want to take in a quick break or make it a day out. Here is our guide to some of the best things to see and do in our very own back yard.
The San Jose Museum of Art
The San Jose Museum of Art is a museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art in downtown San Jose. Founded in 1969, the museum has a permanent collection of over 2,600 artworks including sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs, digital media and drawings. The primary focus of its permanent collection is West Coast artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum regularly holds special exhibits of its permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibits. Visit the SJMA website to see what is on view now. Admission is free for youth, college students, and teachers with valid ID.
The museum is located at Circle of Palms Plaza, adjacent to the Plaza de César Chávez in downtown San Jose. It has a pleasant museum café with soups and sandwiches, and a museum shop.
Covid-19 Update: The museum opened March 12th, 2021 for in-person visits. Their updated hours are Friday–Sunday, 11am–5pm, with the first hour dedicated to seniors, those who are pregnant, and those with underlying health concerns. Through April 9th, 2021, the museum is offering free admission to essential and frontline workers with a current work ID or pay stub (see list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers put out by Governor Gavin Newsom).
Address: 110 S Market St, San Jose CA 95113
Phone: (408) 271-6840
The Tech Interactive
The Tech Museum of Innovation, now known by the name The Tech Interactive or just The Tech, is a science and technology center in downtown San Jose. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon for both kids and adults alike. The displays cover topics as diverse as energy efficiency, space exploration and genetics. They are all interactive, and designed to teach as they engage and entertain. You are invited to build and program a real robot using sensors, controllers and actuators, as well as explore the ethics of Artificial Intelligence. The possibilities for exploration are endless!
One of the more intriguing experiences is Body Worlds Decoded. This special exhibit of plastinated human bodies is not for everybody. Those that do wish to visit can explore the smallest organs to the most complex systems of the human body, including nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive, digestive and locomotive.
In addition to exhibits, The Tech also hosts an IMAX Dome Theater, Northern California's only domed IMAX theater and the world's first laser projector. The theater seats up to 280 people and shows commercial movies as well as educational films.
Covid-19 Update: The museum is planning on opening Saturday, May 29th, 2021. Check their website for upcoming updates and Covid-19 protocols.
Address: 201 S Market St, San Jose CA 95113
Phone: (408) 294-8324
The San Jose Flea Market
The San Jose Flea Market, located in the Berryessa neighborhood of San Jose, is where you can go to play, shop and eat all in one place! The flea market grew out of a noble idea to limit the number of usable items from ending up in landfills. George Bumb, while working in the solid waste and landfill business, thought it might be possible to sell those items for a profit instead of disposing of them. Inspired by the success of swap meets in Los Angeles, he organized the first flea market on the site of a former meat-packing plant in March 1960. The original market had only 20 vendors and drew roughly 100 customers per day. Now it hosts more than 2000 vendors, and attracts as many as 4 million visitors a year.
Some of the items sold include furniture, clothing, shoes, collectibles, toys, books, cars, arts and crafts, tools, jewelry, cosmetics, and cookware. There are also a number of permanent restaurants as well as traveling food carts that sell beer, soda, and churros. One section of the Flea Market is devoted to the Farmers Market, which sells fruit and vegetables from surrounding farms.
Besides items for sale, the market features live entertainment on weekends. It also has a vintage carousel, arcade, carnival rides and 3 playgrounds for children.
Covid-19 updates: The market is open every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Indoor dining is currently prohibited; however all food vendors and truck are open for takeout. All playgrounds, rides, and arcades are closed.
Address: 1590 Berryessa Rd, San Jose CA 95133
Phone: (408) 453-1110
Hakone Estate and Gardens
Hakone Estate and Gardens, one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the Western Hemisphere, stands on an 18-acre site in Saratoga, CA. The land was originally purchased in 1915 by San Francisco arts patrons, Oliver and Isabel Stine, with the intention of building a summer retreat. After travelling to Japan in 1916, Isabel Stine hired Japanese landscape artists and architects to design the gardens using Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park as inspiration. Construction proceeded between 1917 to 1929.
The estate features a variety of gardens including a bamboo garden, Zen garden, and tea garden. You may also explore the hillside garden with its multi-tiered waterfall and Koi pond. The path takes you past unique Japanese lanterns and stonework to the Moonviewing House, the original house built by the Stine family in 1918. Finally, stop in at the Lower House, built in 1922 and the Cultural Exchange Center, an authentic reproduction of a 19th-century Kyoto tea merchant's house and shop.
Covid-19 updates: The Hakone Gardens are currently open. See Visitor Info for hours. From March 22nd to April 11th, the gardens are holding special evening viewings for Hanami or cherry blossom viewing. You must purchase tickets for this event in advance.
Address: 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga CA 95070
Phone: (408) 741-4994
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is an historic rose garden in the aptly-named Rose Garden District of San Jose. The garden was established in 1927 when the San Jose City Council set aside 5.5 acres of a prune orchard for the garden. In 2010, it was named "America's Best Rose Garden" in a nationwide competition. It's a great place for a stroll along the many pathways between the more than 3,500 rose bushes representing 189 varieties, and for a photo at the garden fountain. Any time of the year is a good time to visit, but early May is when most of the roses are at their full bloom and fragrance. The garden is open daily from 8 am to half hour after sunset.
Address: 1649 Naglee Ave, San Jose, CA 95126
Phone: (408) 794-7275
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Who would think that the largest collection of Egyptians treasures in Western United States is right here in Silicon Valley! The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is located in the Rose Garden District of San Jose. You can learn about the rituals and culture of ancient Egyptians, as well as the gods and goddesses of Egyptian mythology. Since 2015 the museum has hosted the Alchemist Exhibit, which features a full-size reproduction of an alchemist’s workshop. Of course don't forget to check out the mummies! Adjacent to the museum and on the museum grounds you will also find a planetarium, peace garden, temple and research library.
Covid-19 updates: The museum will be reopening on Friday, April 23, 2021. Visit their website for admission hours, and to purchase tickets.
Address: 1660 Park Ave, San Jose CA 95126
Phone: (408) 947-3635
Rodin Sculpture Gardens at the Cantor Arts Center
The Cantor Arts Center, or The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, is a extraordinary art museum located on the campus of Stanford University. The museum was founded when the university opened in 1891. It was created to make the extensive art collection of the Stanford family obtained from their travels around the world available to students and the public. The museum first opened its doors in 1894. It was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor, who donated over 38,000 works of art from around the world and spanning 5000 years, including one of the largest collections of sculptures by Auguste Rodin. The 199 works of art by Rodin can be found inside the museum, as well as outdoors in the Rodin Sculpture Gardens. With 24 galleries and more than 15 special exhibitions each year, the museum is a must-see in the of Silicon Valley. It charges no admission.
Covid-19 updates: The Cantor Arts Center will be reopening to the general public at 25% capacity on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Visit their website for their covid-19 protocols, and to pre-register for free timed tickets.
Address: 328 Lomita Dr, Palo Alto, CA
Phone: (650) 723-4177
Kelley Park is a beautiful 156-acre park in San Jose, CA. It's an ideal spot for a picnic or just to explore. You'll find many attractions including History Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Portuguese Historical Museum, as well as Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. The History Park has 32 historical buildings or replicas designed to look like a small US town in the early 1900s. It includes a doctor's and dentist's office, blacksmith shed, a print shop, an old-fashioned ice cream shop, and the homes of early settlers. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a great destination for families with kids. It has a petting zoo, puppet theater, carousel, roller coaster as well as all kinds of animals like parrots, lemurs, meerkats, red panda and jaguars. The staff are attentive and friendly, and eager to make sure you have a good time.
Address: 1300 Senter Rd, San Jose CA
Phone: (408) 277-2757
Winchester Mystery House
No list of local attractions would be complete without the Winchester Mystery House. The house was the iconic former home of Sarah Winchester, the reclusive widow of firearms magnate William Winchester, who thought the mansion was haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. She was advised by a psychic to continuously build onto the house to confuse the spirits. From 1886 until her death in 1922, construction proceeded around the clock, resulting in the sprawling 24,000 sq ft mansion with 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors and 160 rooms! Today you are free to explore its many rooms and passageways, many of which lead to nowhere, as well as other oddities. It's a fascinating house with an equally intriguing story.
Covid-19 updates: Self-guided Mansion Tours and Garden Tours are available at limited capacity. You must purchase tickets in advance. You may also tour the mansion online with their Video Access Tour or Immersive 360 Tour.
Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose CA 95128
Phone: (408) 247-2000
Ardenwood Historic Farm
Ardenwood Historic Farm is a working farm in Fremont, CA where you can take part in many of the activities common to a 19th-century farm. The farm was originally purchased by the Patterson family in 1850 after George Patterson came out west to search for gold in 1849. Instead he settled in Alameda county. Over the next year, his family built a beautiful Victorian mansion with elaborate Victorian Gardens. Interpretive staff and volunteers, dressed in period costumes, guide you through the Victorian house, and explain what life was like in the early 1900s. Learn how to cook on a wood stove, and watch demonstrations of the use of antique farm machinery. Take a train through the farm's fields and the North woods of the farm. Finally stop in at the Farmyard Café for light lunch and refreshments.
There are special events taking place throughout the year. Visit their website for a list of all activities and events. From December to February, you will find monarch butterflies overwintering there. Also, Ardenwood farm is also known as a bird refuge with over 99 species having been spotted around the farm.
Covid-19 update: The farm re-opened on February 18, 2021. To visit the farm, you must register in advance. Animal feedings are currently cancelled.
Address: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555
Phone: (510) 544-2797