From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
San Francisco might be the best-known town in the Bay Area, but San Jose is actually the most populous. Get to know this incredible bayside gem a little better, even if you’ve called it home for ages! Here are our favorite things to do and places to explore in San Jose.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
One of the best parts about the Bay Area? Despite its reputation for urban adventure, it’s also a great spot to get outside. Here are a few of the best state and national parks set aside in the San Jose, CA area.
Although it’s a municipal park rather than a state-run greenspace, Alum Rock Park is well worth your attention — not least because it bears the distinction of being the oldest such preserve in the state. Established in 1872 but serving as a public land since its time as a pueblo back in 1777, this park is home to 720 acres of beautiful, unique geological formations and rugged California countryside beauty. Popular activities range from hiking and biking to horseback riding, bird watching, picnicking and more.
There’s a decent argument to be made that if you haven’t seen the redwoods, you haven’t really experienced California — and although there are many state and national parks in which to enjoy these towering beauties, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is one of the best known. An old-growth forest criss-crossed by more than 80 miles of trail, this is a perfect place to get acquainted with this uniquely coastal ecosystem. Be sure to take some pictures with your car (or another large object) for scale!
Covering more than 5,200 acres, Castle Rock State Park is characterized by its namesake sandstone rock formation — but it’s also home to a vast array of other geological oddities as well as redwood, fir, and madrone forests. Over 30 miles of hiking trails provide access to the interior of this land, which is also popular amongst rock climbing enthusiasts and other outdoor adventurers.
Another wonderful local spot to enjoy the redwoods, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has the added bonus of exhibiting the San Lorenzo River watershed. Its four distinct ecosystems, including sandhills and grasslands, are home to an array of wildlife it’s hard to find anywhere else, such as white-tailed kites, white-crowned sparrows, blue herons, coyotes, bobcats, and black-tail deer.
Even if you need a whole lot of room to stretch your legs, Henry W. Coe State Park has you more than covered. With more than 87,000 acres of wilderness to explore, chances are you won’t run out of things to do inside, whether you’re into hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, wildlife observation, or simply enjoying a picnic in the backcountry. It’s also a great option for both tent and RV campers!
Located just 30 miles southeast of San Jose, it doesn’t take long at all to get to Portola Redwoods State Park. A truly one-of-a-kind landscape, this park is characterized by a hill that drops steeply into an old-growth copse of redwoods tucked into a ravine, and is perfect for a hike, bike ride, equestrian trail ride, or even just a scenic drive.
You don’t have to get very far from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Jose to feel like you’ve gotten away from it all. Here are the best places to go hiking in the southern Bay Area.
Gentle enough for a beginning hiker — or someone who simply wants to meander for a few miles rather than doing anything super strenuous — the Penitencia Creek Trail runs just over three miles and sees a little more than 250 feet in elevation gain, which translates to a fairly gentle series of rolling hills as well as beautiful lakeside views, palm trees, and more. Accessible year-round, this trail is also known for its wildlife spotting opportunities; many hikers have waved hello to some deer along the way!
Looking to get familiar with the oldest municipal park in California? Alum Rock South Rim Trail is a venture of about four miles in length and 800 feet in elevation gain, meaning you’ll certainly see some undulation along the way, but nothing completely exhausting. Along with hiking and wildlife spotting, this trail is also popular amongst runners, so be sure to give them some space as they come hurtling by!
A beautiful footpath through Almaden Quicksilver County Park, the Senador Mine to Mine Hill Loop measures just over five miles long and rings it with just under 800 feet in elevation gain. Falling firmly into the moderately challenging category, this hike is a great one for folks in need of a sweat session — but who want some nice scenery to help distract them from their goal!
Part of the Rancho Cañada del Oro open space preserve, Mayfair Ranch Trail to Serpentine Loop Trail is a network of hikes that totals just under eight miles, and sees about 1,600 feet of elevation gain en route. While certainly a challenging trek, it’s a rewarding one as well; this hike is known for its beautiful wildflowers and panoramic hill-and-valley viewpoints. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, as shade is thin on the ground!
If you’re in the mood for something that will truly challenge you, the Figueroa and Cottle Loop Trail is worth a look. Just shy of 10 miles all told, this hike sees more than 1,600 feet in elevation gain along the way, making it both steep at times and a lengthy endeavor. However, those hill climbs will be worth the burn: in return, you’ll get beautiful views of the area’s reservoirs and surrounding hills.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied in San Jose — not the least of which is its epic range of restaurants. Here are some of the best spots to eat in town, regardless of what you’re craving.
Maybe it’s date night, or maybe it’s just a night where the only thing that will satisfy is pasta. Either way, Paesano Ristorante Italiano is a beloved San Jose institution known for its freshly-made range of carbs as well as cooked-to-perfection steaks, house-made range of desserts, and stellar atmosphere. Come by for coffee and sweets or stay for the full meal, and either way, keep in mind there’s a full bar and unique wine list available to help wash it all down.
Busy, cozy, delicious, inventive… all of these words are fair descriptors for LUNA Mexican Kitchen — The Alameda, one of the best Mexican restaurants in all of San Jose. Offering farm-to-table eats with a south-of-the-border influence (and with vegetarian and vegan options available as well), this is the perfect place to head for lunch, brunch, or dinner.
It’s no surprise that San Jose has more than a few options available for the plant-based set — but The Happy Hooligans serves up vegan comfort food that will satisfy even the most devoted carnivore. From buffalo cauliflower bites to a wide range of vegan burgers and burritos to breakfast options and more, be sure to come hungry, because as the name implies, you’ll leave happy!
The Bay Area is well known for its wide variety of Asian eateries, and choosing the best would be a project. That said, Minato Japanese Cuisine should definitely be towards the top of the list: offering freshly sliced sushi as well as udon, teriyaki, katsu, and other favorites, Minato is as loved for its friendly service as its delicious options.
The name may be playful, but the food is authentic, fresh, and absolutely delicious at Curry On, one of the best Indian restaurants in town. Offering family-style dining in a relaxed, casual atmosphere, the menu at this joint is influenced by both traditional Indian cuisine as well as street foods and innovative twists on classics.
You’ve wined, dined, and enjoyed a hike or two. Now what? So much more! Here are our top picks for staying occupied in San Jose this weekend — or whenever.
San Jose is full of fun things to do that the whole family will enjoy. Here are some of our favorites.
Show us a kid who doesn’t love a trip to the zoo, and we’ll show you… a kid who will probably change their tune when they head to Happy Hollow. Along with the wild animal environments you’d expect, this park also hosts a range of family friendly rides and entertainment options that will make even mom and dad giggle.
Kids are naturally curious, which is why they’ll love the opportunity to get some hands-on experiences and unlock secrets about the world around them at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Along with its permanent range of interactive activities, the museum also hosts events and celebrations year round that the whole family will enjoy.
Need to cool off from the powerful San Jose sun? Raging Waters San Jose is a waterpark offering tons of thrills, spills and chills, from daring, high-flying slides to more relaxed pool floats. The whole family will enjoy a wet and wild afternoon — but be sure to bring lots of sunscreen!
When the sun goes down, San Jose lights up! Here are the best after-hours options to hit.
Owned and operated by the University of California, Lick Observatory is set on the summit of Mount Hamilton, giving its high-powered telescopes just a little bit of an edge when it comes to viewing faraway astronomical objects. Ticketed night visits are open to the public, though they must be arranged ahead of time!
Known as much for its roster of world class events as its delicious and freshly-vinted wines, Mountain Winery is the perfect place to escape for a night of entertainment and tasting, and is also frequently used as an event venue for special occasions like weddings. Custom crafting beautiful chardonnays and pinot noirs, guests can also sit down to an exquisitely prepared three-course meal at the attached restaurants, Chateau La Cresta.
The Bay Area certainly isn’t known for its affordability… but there are plenty of cost-effective options to consider in San Jose!
Along with the seemingly endless rows of vendors, hawking home goods, arts and crafts, clothing, food, and more, the San Jose Flea Market is also home to a carousel and mini Ferris wheel — which means the kids won’t get bored and tired even if parents want to shop all day!
A diverse collection including both a permanent installation of more than 2,500 modern and contemporary artworks as well as a range of temporary, rotating exhibits, the San Jose Museum of Art is a worthy destination for amateurs and aficionados alike — and since it only costs $10 for adults to enter, it’s affordable no matter your interest level. Better yet, youths aged 7-17, children 6 and under, college students and teachers all get in for free!
Yes, it’s true: there are some fun things to do in town that don’t require you to pay a single dime. Here are a few to consider!
This 37 acres’ worth of well-manicured gardens include over 3,500 shrubs showcasing nearly 200 varieties of roses… and best of all, it’s entirely free to enter! Open year round from 8 a.m. until half an hour before sunset, there’s never a bad time to visit the Municipal Rose Garden, but the flowers are in full bloom around May. Definitely top of our list of things for couples to do in San Jose!
Originally opened back in 1895, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is as much a marvel of architecture as it is a long-surviving faith community. Although the original structure has been damaged by earthquakes over the years, extensive renovations mean it’s still one of the most stunning buildings to explore in San Jose, and its many weekly services are, of course, free to attend.
Need some pampering? There are plenty of places to pick from in San Jose! Here are some of the best day spas and salons when you’re in need of a pick-me-up.
The premier full-service oasis in San Jose, Silver Sea Day Spa offers a wide variety of both traditional and advanced services, including massage in a wide range of modalities, facials and skincare treatments, body scrubs and more. You can also choose from a range of treatment packages to help you get the most for your money.
Whether you need a new ‘do or a helpful, healing massage, Adrienne Michelle’s Salon & Spa is there for you. Offering comprehensive haircare services as well as nail services, skin care, waxing, and even a range of beautifying treatments specifically formulated for kids, this salon also features massage therapy — and monthly specials for those who make sure to treat themselves on a regular basis.
We don’t need to tell you how important it is to stay in shape! Here are the best gyms & yoga studios in San Jose for those in need of a quick sweat sesh.
The definitive gym in town, Forma Gym San Jose offers everything you need to meet your fitness goals and then some. Along with its full range of cardio and strength training equipment, members also have access to a lap pool, community classes, steam room, sauna, and more, and personal trainers are standing by to help formulate your custom-made fitness plan.
Yoga is all about balance… and not just the kind where you stand on one leg. Finding your center and your strength, both physically and mentally, can be challenging, but the professionals at Balance Yoga Center are there to help you do it. From hot yoga flow and pilates classes to more relaxed, slow-paced options, there’s something for everyone.
While you could clearly stay busy in San Jose for years, there are also some great day trips just outside of town! Here are our favorites.
The Bay Area’s first big player, San Francisco is well worth a trip into town. Its range of museums, restaurants, parks, and other attractions will make you remember why you settled here in the first place… and the traffic and crowds will make you grateful that after you’re done for the day, you get to come home to San Jose.
Who doesn’t want to wander away from the hubbub of the big city for a sip or three of wine in the scenic, terraced hills where it’s grown? Napa is less than two hours from San Jose, but you’ll feel that you’ve traveled much further… even if you limit yourself to just one glass. (Not that you will!)
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in San Jose that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in San Jose? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.