26 Jan Stepping Out: San Jose
By Mariette Williams
Considered the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is among the most populous cities in California, trailing only Los Angeles and San Diego. Founded in 1777, the former farming town—and before that, home to Ohlone peoples—has been transformed into a tech and financial hub. Along with boasting some of the most innovative companies in the world—think Adobe, Cisco, eBay, PayPal, Roku—the city also offers great restaurants, outdoor activities, and a laid-back nightlife scene.
Museums exploring future and past
Take a deep dive into what Silicon Valley does best—technology and innovation—at The Tech Interactive, an entertaining, hands-on museum. Its newest and largest exhibit, Solve for Earth, shows the impact of climate change through interactive data visualization revealing, with the twist of a knob, a progression of the Earth’s carbon emissions correlated with global temperature.
The San José Museum of Art displays a fantastic collection of work emphasizing West Coast artists primarily from the 20th and 21st centuries. Currently on view is a film by Sky Hopinka, Seeing and Seen, reflecting on colonialism and Native resistance. At Stanford University, just 30 minutes from San Jose, the Cantor Arts Center has an impressive group of Auguste Rodin sculptures along with one of the largest collections of paintings by Jacob Lawrence, vibrant depictions of 20th-century Black experience and history.
For something spooky, head to the Winchester Mystery House, built by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. The 160-room Victorian mansion is a testament to the former owner’s eccentricity, and some of its guests have claimed to have experienced paranormal activity. If ancient history is more your thing, stop by the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in western North America.
Shopping indoors and out
Whether you’re in need of some serious retail therapy or just want to window-shop, Santana Row makes for an enjoyable afternoon. The tree-lined streets are filled with cafés, restaurants, and clothing and jewelry boutiques like Vince, Kate Spade, and Kendra Scott.
For something more casual, there’s the San Jose Flea Market, which dates back to 1960. The sprawling, 120-acre market—open Wednesdays and Fridays through Sundays—features thousands of vendor booths, food trucks, craft-beer stations, and, on weekends, live music.
Eclectic wining and dining
San Jose’s varied restaurant scene provides top-notch restaurants. Among the standouts are Minato, a Japanese restaurant with stellar service and even better sushi; Mezcal, a locally loved Oaxacan eatery specializing in mole; and Adega, a Michelin-starred Portuguese restaurant with a seven-course tasting menu.
More casual options include food halls like SoFA Market and San Pedro Square Market. Both brim with selections like wood-fired pizza, handmade pasta, and gourmet doughnuts. When the sun goes down, consider an inventive cocktail or a glass of wine from one of San Jose’s sophisticated bars, like Paper Plane, with an extensive wall of bottles, or Haberdasher, with its speakeasy vibe.
San Jose’s average temperature hovers around 60 degrees, which means that the outdoors beckons year-round. The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is one of the oldest rose gardens in the country, with over 200 varieties of the flower. Just a short drive from town, Big Basin Redwoods Park offers 80 miles of trails, and nearby Alum Rock Park and Almaden Quicksilver Park are also fantastic options for hiking or biking. DW