Drive an hour south from San Francisco to San Jose for a quick side-trip in the heart of Silicon Valley. Stop for a selfie in front of the Google and Facebook campuses along the way. San Jose is surrounded by the Santa Cruz Mountains and the South Bay. It’s northern California’s most populated city and a major technology hub with a rich history. Here are five things not to miss.
Discover your inner tech nerd at this interactive, family-friendly museum. Eight exhibits keep everyone busy with activities like building your own robot at Social Robots or experiencing an earthquake simulation at the Exploration Gallery. Be sure to stop at Reboot Reality, A Digital Experience Lab where you can create 3-D paintings and sculptures with virtual reality headsets and digital paintbrushes.
See what San Jose was like before Facebook and Google by visiting History Park. The 14-acre replica “town” in Kelley Park has 32 original and reproduction buildings. Ride the trolley to the sites, which include a 127-year-old, one-room schoolhouse and an 1880 home once owned by prominent orchardists. Get a sweet treat at O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop before you leave. Entry to History Park is free.
The 127-year-old Japantown district is one of only three remaining authentic Japantowns in the United States. On Sundays, stop by the year-round farmers’ market to browse Asian fruits and vegetables, tea and handmade jewelry. For dinner, get in line with locals outside Gombei Restaurant to eat traditional Japanese teriyaki or udon (it’s worth the wait, but bring cash) then belt out some karaoke at 7 Bamboo.
Sarah Winchester, the widow of a wealthy firearms manufacturer in the 1800s, spent 38 years turning a small farmhouse into a 160-room mansion now known as the Winchester Mystery House. She believed she was cursed by the spirits of those killed by her husband’s business and was following their wacky instructions. Today, you can visit 110 of these rooms on a guided tour that includes her seance room and bedroom where she died as well as a staircase and doorway that lead to nowhere. Try the Explore More Tour to see additional rooms newly opened to the public.
To taste local beer, wine and food all in one place, head downtown to the San Pedro Square Market. It surrounds the open-air Peralta Adobe Plaza and is home to San Jose’s oldest building built in 1797. The indoor-outdoor marketplace has more than 20 restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. Sip California brews at Market Beer Co. and munch on braised beef tacos at Loteria Taco Bar. Tuesday through Sunday evenings, pair these with free live music in the plaza.