What are the best things to do and see with kids in San Jose?

Krista Canfield

Bringing the brood to San Jose? Here are our picks for the best things do with kids in the city:
 
1. Great America. Kids of all ages are bound to have a blast at San Jose’s premier theme park. Little ones can have fun buzzing around Planet Snoopy, while others may prefer to lounge in the area’s largest lazy river, Castaway Creek. If high-speed twists and turns are more your style, thrill seekers can give The Grizzly or Flight Deck a whirl.
 
2. Winchester Mystery House. The mysterious and marvelous Winchester Mystery House is worth adding to your family’s to-do list. Sarah L. Winchester built the beautiful, bizarre Victorian-style home after the death of her child and her husband. The heir of the Winchester rifle fortune spent nearly 38 years building the 160-room mansion, which comes equipped with mazes, strange secret passageways and even a staircase that leads to a ceiling.
 
3. Gilroy Gardens. With over 40 rides, gardens, exhibits and even its very own railroad, the Gilroy Gardens can be wonderful stop for the wee ones. Tiny tots are sure to get their fill of fun on rides like the Banana Split, the Garlic Twirl and the Strawberry Sundae.
 
4. The Tech Museum. Since you’re in the heart of Silicon Valley, use your visit as an opportunity to unleash your inner innovator. The Tech Museum has hands on exhibits and IMAX presentations that will help your family uncover the spirit of the Bay Area’s tech scene.
 
5. Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. If you happen to have kids that are interested in exploring and experimenting, you may want to consider bringing them to this excellent museum. CDM is one of the largest museums of its kind in the country, with 150 exhibits providing kids with an ample opportunity to learn and play.

  • On November 12, 2012
    Krista Canfield answered the question: Krista Canfield

    What is the best way to see San Jose in one day?

    While some of the locations in downtown San Jose, from the HP Pavilion to a few of the museums and galleries, are within walking distance of each other, your best bet for seeing San Jose in one day is to rent a car while you’re in the area. This ensures you’ll get a good overall feel for all the great experiences the city has to offer, from riding roller coasters at Great America to strolling around beautiful downtown Los Gatos and sampling wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains — plus you can do it all on your own schedule.
     
    Begin your day by fueling up at Psycho Donuts or Stacks, then head to the Santa Cruz Mountains for an afternoon of wine tasting. Once you’ve found a favorite and picked up a bottle or two to take home with you, head to Santana Row to squeeze in a little shopping. Afterwards rejuvenate with a massage at Burke Williams Spa, refuel with a delicious dinner at Blowfish Sushi or the Yard House and if you still have enough energy afterwards, cap off your day with cocktails at Parisian-themed brasserie The Left Bank.
  • On November 12, 2012
    Krista Canfield answered the question: Krista Canfield

    What are the best things to see and do in San Jose?

    Here are our picks for the best things to see and do in San Jose:
     
    1. Stroll downtown Los Gatos. This is a wonderfully relaxing way to experience a different side of San Jose and the towns that surround it. Los Gatos has a plethora of local shops perfect for browsing and plenty of restaurants you can stop in for lunch or dinner.
     
    2. Wine Country. Napa and Sonoma tend to get most of the attention when it comes to breathtakingly beautiful wine country, but the Santa Cruz wine region remains a bit of a hidden gem for most tourists — and many locals would love to keep it that way since the lines are shorter, there tends to be less traffic and you rub elbows with fewer wine snobs in the tasting rooms. While the wineries may be a bit farther apart than those in Napa and Sonoma, the drive is lovely and it’s not too far from downtown San Jose by car.
     
    3. Horseback riding. In addition to wine tasting, you may want to experience the Santa Cruz Mountains by horseback. Garrod Farms offers both horseback-riding lessons and easy access to the Cooper Garrod Estate Vineyards, allowing you to kill two birds — exercise and wine tasting — with one stone.
     
    4. Live sporting events. Sports fans will have plenty of live events to choose from throughout the year in San Jose. The NHL’s San Jose Sharks and MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes are probably the area’s best-known teams, but the minor-league baseball San Jose Giants are another outfit worth catching while you’re in town.
     
    5. Live music. The Bay Area is known for a great music scene, and San Jose is no exception. The Mountain Winery is a fantastic venue with awe-inspiring views, while Shoreline Amphitheater is another venue that draws in some fairly impressive bands and performers; it’s also right by Google’s headquarters.
  • On November 9, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best restaurants in San Jose?

    San Francisco might have the reputation for culinary greatness, but like the tech companies based in San Jose, the most populous city in the Bay Area buzzes with its own special collection of restaurants. Here’s a list from our Forbes Travel Guide editors on where to eat in San Jose.
     
    1. Manresa. The intimate restaurant in Los Gatos helmed by chef David Kinch focuses on daring French- and northern Spanish-influenced cuisine. Like many Bay Area restaurants, the emphasis is on local ingredients, and many of the ones used here come from an exclusive partnership with a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The exquisitely presented dishes —duck roasted in salt crust, fig and wild fennel confit; garden beignets with crispy leaves — are served in a cozy dining room, and there’s both a prix fixe menu and a “seasonal and spontaneous” tasting menu.
     
    2. Tamarine Restaurant & Gallery. The millionaires in the valley might be super tight-lipped when it comes to their prototypes but at this contemporary, vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese restaurant in Palo Alto, they’re all about sharing the tasty small plates. Dishes such as Massaman short rib curry and lemongrass sea bass can be paired with five different types of rice, including jasmine, coconut and garlic-fried rice, and specialty cocktails like Tamarine’s “anti-oxidant mojito” with Myers silver rum and fresh berries. Designed by a top design firm, the walls of the perennial hotspot are covered in rich colors and feature current exhibits of Vietnamese art.
     
    3. Emile’s Restaurant. While Silicon Valley has seen its share of start-ups and busts, Emile’s has been a San Jose fixture since 1973. Hand-sculpted brass work and fresh flowers on every table complement the French cuisine. In addition to the a la carte menu, the restaurant offers a tasting menu (with a vegetarian option), as well as a daily three-course prix fixe menu that’s a score at $35. The classic dishes include rack of lamb with a pomegranate sauce and gratin dauphinois, fruits de mer in a puff pastry shell, and rhubarb soufflé for dessert.
     
    4. La Pastaia. Located within the hip downtown Hotel De Anza in San Jose, La Pastaia serves rustic Italian dishes—roasted chicken with polenta and broccoli rabe; pork chop with white bean cassoulet—in a charming dining room with a fireplace, Italian posters and colorful tiled floors. The nice wine list is exclusively Italian and offers tasting pours, wines by the glass and carafes.
     
    5. Palacio Restaurant. Located inside the historic Coggeshall Victorian Mansion in Los Gatos dating back to 1891, this upscale Mexican restaurant features fresh takes on traditional Latin American dishes. Start with a heaping bowl of cilantro mussels before tearing into the seared duck breast with tamarind peanut mole. A special tequila menu with a selection of flights helps you wash it all down.
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  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What’s the best way to get a sense of the tech scene in Silicon Valley?

    If you’re visiting San Jose with kids, the best way to get a sense of the tech scene in Silicon Valley is to head over to the Computer History Museum or The Tech Museum, both of which feature a number of interactive exhibits that help explain the spirit of Silicon Valley. If you have a car, our Forbes Travel Guide editors say can easily drive by and snap pictures of various tech giants’ offices, too, with Adobe and PayPal both being based in San Jose, the headquarters for Google and LinkedIn in nearby Mountain View, Apple in Cupertino and Netflix located in Los Gatos.
  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What is the best thing to bring home from San Jose?

    A delicious bottle of your favorite zinfandel or pinot noir is hands down the best thing you can bring home from San Jose as a gift for friends and family, or to keep for yourself. You can of course always stop by a wine shop, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest heading to Ridge Winery’s Monte Bello tasting room for gorgeous views of Silicon Valley and delicious zinfandels to boot, while Cinnabar Winery and David Bruce Winery are also both great spots to swing by for a tour and tasting. Check the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers’ website for more information and to get a fairly comprehensive list of wineries in the San Jose area.
  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What are the best San Jose food experiences?

    If there were five things you had to eat or drink while you’re in San Jose, our Forbes Travel Guide editors say they’d have to be sushi, sake, wine, burritos and doughnuts.
     
    You can check the first two items off your checklist at either Blowfish Sushi in Santana Row or TGI’s Sushi in nearby Campbell. As for wine, you’ll want to head for the hills as the wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains rival those found in Napa and Sonoma. If you can’t make it to the wineries, Vintage in Santana Row has some lovely flights of wine well worth a swirl and a sip. El Jardin and La Victoria are both recommended spots for California-style burritos.
     
    While the state isn’t typically known for its doughnuts, Psycho Donuts is the exception to the rule. Try the “Canadian morning squeal meal,” which, in case you’re wondering, is a hearty buttermilk bar topped with maple icing, bacon bits and chocolate drizzle. With funky doughnut names like the doh-nilla — topped with Nilla wafers — and the raspberry road rash — covered with cheesecake icing and real raspberry dust — you’re sure to try at least one tasty treat you’ll never find anywhere else.
     
  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    Where is the best nightlife in San Jose?

    Whether you’re looking for a relaxed dinner with drinks or a margarita and live music, Santana Row offers the best nightlife in San Jose and is sure to have a few spots to suit your needs and mood. If people-watching on the patio of a Parisian-themed brasserie sounds tempting, we suggest stopping by The Left Bank. Vintage is a lovely spot for wine tasting and light bites, while El Jardin is a Mexican-style tequila bar and restaurant covered by the shade of a huge California oak.  If pub grub and live music is more your style, look no further than Rosie McCann’s.
  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What is the best way to see San Jose in one day?

    While some of the locations in downtown San Jose, from the HP Pavilion to a few of the museums and galleries, are within walking distance of each other, your best bet for seeing San Jose in one day is to rent a car while you’re in the area. This ensures you’ll get a good overall feel for all the great experiences the city has to offer, from riding roller coasters at Great America to strolling around beautiful downtown Los Gatos and sampling wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains — plus you can do it all on your own schedule.
     
    Begin your day by fueling up at Psycho Donuts or Stacks, then head to the Santa Cruz Mountains for an afternoon of wine tasting. Once you’ve found a favorite and picked up a bottle or two to take home with you, head to Santana Row to squeeze in a little shopping. Afterwards rejuvenate with a massage at Burke Williams Spa, refuel with a delicious dinner at Blowfish Sushi or the Yard House and if you still have enough energy afterwards, cap off your day with cocktails at Parisian-themed brasserie The Left Bank.
  • On October 26, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in San Jose?

    Figuring out which are the best places to stay in San Jose largely depends on what you plan to do while you’re there. Here are our picks for the best hotels:
     
    1. CordeValle, A Rosewood Resort. This Four-Star hotel is 30 miles outside of the city, but it’s worth making scenic CordeValle your base. It sits on 1,700 hilly acres at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The intimate bungalows are enough of a reason to stay (all rooms come with fireplaces), but there’s also an 18-hole golf course, the Four-Star Sense Spa, CordeValle and the onsite Clos La Chance winery and 85-acre vineyard.
     
    2. Hayes Mansion. This hotel is a solid bet if you’re looking for lodging that comes equipped with a bit of history. This 100-year-old estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has lovely landscaping and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
     
    3. Hotel Valencia Santana Row. If you’re planning to engage in some productive pampering during your trip to San Jose, then Hotel Valencia Santana Row is the place to stay. It’s about as close as you can get to the chic shopping and hopping Santana Row nightlife. Booking a massage at the nearby luxurious Burke Williams Spa spells pure bliss if you shopped till you dropped on Santana Row.
     
    4. Hotel De Anza. You may want to stay in downtown San Jose if you’re heading to HP Pavilion, which hosts concerts throughout the year and is also affectionately known as the Shark Tank when the NHL’s San Jose Sharks hit the ice. The 100-room Hotel De Anza is within walking distance of both the HP Pavilion and the San Jose Convention Center.
     
    5. The Fairmont San Jose. Another downtown option, The Fairmont sits at a central location for those visiting Silicon Valley on business. It’s only three miles from Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport and a five-minute walk from the convention center. Though the San Jose hotel offers its own meeting spaces — totaling 65,000 square feet — and a 24-hour business center.
  • On October 26, 2012
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    Where is the best shopping in San Jose?

    Some of the best one-stop shopping in San Jose can be found in Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair Mall, since these two retail hot spots are located right next to each other. Santana Row’s well-manicured plazas and relaxing fountains make for a lovely stroll while you peruse the likes of Burberry, Gucci, Kate Spade, Lululemon Athletica and Ted Baker. We suggest signing up for Santana Row’s free rewards program at the concierge desk before you get going. Westfield Valley Fair Mall is home to all of the usual suspects like Forever 21, J.Crew, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Co. and even Nordstrom, which just started carrying British fashion favorites Topshop and Topman in September 2012.
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