Arts and Culture Bloom Year-Round in San Jose


The San Jose arts scene is blossoming as never before—you can catch a Broadway-style musical, watch a first-rate opera cast with rising young stars, enjoy the premiere of a new American symphony, or visit acclaimed museums. The city's rich mix of performing arts and cultural attractions is pure Silicon Valley—marked by growth and innovation, with a nod to history.

The splendid California Theatre, beautifully restored and acoustically magnificent, is a prime example of San Jose's attitude toward the arts. The stylish and historic 1927-movie palace is now home to Opera San Jose, Symphony Silicon Valley, Cinequest Film Festival and other top events.

Much of the fun is free, like Starlight Cinemas in the Park, but even the most sophisticated entertainment—opera, symphony, and the theater—is affordable. Accessibility is no problem, since museums, clubs, galleries, and theaters are within walking distance of downtown hotels. And parking? Not to worry—there are abundant lots and on-street sites to choose from.

An Artful Downtown

Take a stroll downtown and you'll get the picture. Start on West San Carlos Street at the Center for the Performing Arts. Outside, it's graced with a host of outdoor sculptures. Inside, the stage is home to Broadway San Jose and Ballet San Jose.

Just across the street is the Children's Discovery Museum, often ranked among the top ten children's museums in the nation, and a center for creative play and expression. Over on South Market Street you'll find the mango-colored Tech Museum. Its vivid and innovative hands-on exhibits will make you a science convert even if you avoided the subject in school. Near the leafy Plaza de Cesar Chavez and imposing Cathedral Basilica de St. Joseph sits the San Jose Museum of Art. The old section of the building is a graceful, 1892 Richardson-Romanesque building that was once San Jose's post office. Gaze at some 1,400 works—20th-century American paintings, sculpture, and photographs. Or check out their innovative hands-on gallery activities, imagination stations, and reading galleries that make the artwork more engaging and accessible for both children and adults. A short drive away is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, featuring the largest collections of Ancient Egyptian antiquities in the Western U.S.

Head west on W. Santa Clara Street and you'll see a building that is itself a work of art. The SAP Center San Jose rises like a giant crystal bowl, with its sparkling glass entrance and skylight ceiling. Locals have dubbed it the Shark Tank (it's home to the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks), but it also hosts other teams like the San Jose SaberCats, plus A-list concerts, circuses, touring shows, and ice extravaganzas.

SoFA, So Good

It doesn't get cooler than San Jose's artsy South of First Area, aka SoFA, which centers around South First Street between San Carlos and East Reed Streets. You'll find everything from art galleries to cafes, clubs, and ultra lounges. Ultra lounges are the latest smokin' hot places where the hip and beautiful go to be seen, nibble from the late-night menu, and groove to the DJ's spins. Check out hotspots like Motif, and watch the bartender twirl bottles and set the drinks on fire; or Agenda Lounge (, which offers fine dining, live jazz on the patio, pool tables, and dancing that ranges from salsa to hip-hop in both the upper-level "lounge" and the lower-level "cellar."

Just down First Street, flamboyant and colorful artworks splash across the walls of galleries like MACLA/Movimiento De Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, which merges the traditional with new art forms (like poetry slams), focusing on emerging artists. At the San Jose Institute Of Contemporary Art, the annual fall auction brings together the work of some 150 of the Bay Area's hottest artists. Textile art transcends cultural boundaries and encompasses traditional as well as contemporary forms—that's clear when you visit the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. It's a serious venue for all artists working with textiles. The best time to check out new works at galleries like Anno Domini and Works/SanJose is during South First Fridays. The first Friday of every month, the galleries stay open late, sometimes serving up live music and beverages. It's emblematic of how the district is exploding. Brian Eder, co-owner of the Anno Domini gallery, says "In the SoFA, we feel like we can help create a scene and a culture, be a part of the momentum and innovation."

Spotlight on the Performing

The performing arts are where San Jose really shines. Opera San Jose, for example, doesn't import stars but creates them in its resident company. In 2013, Opera San Jose celebrates its 30th remarkable season; look for a host of special events to mark the occasion. And tickets remain affordable, with a season subscription to four operas starting at only $120. Each May, the company holds the annual Irene Dalis Awards Vocal Competition, in honor of their general manager and former New York Metropolitan Opera star.

The San Jose Repertory Theatre is the only fully professional regional theatre in San Jose, CA, presenting seven mainstage shows annually offering a variety of contemporary, classic and new work. Ballet San Jose is the second largest professional ballet company in California. The company stages four grand productions each year, often including world premiere productions. Matinee prices start at just $21, making it very accessible.

Want something more intimate and edgy? The City Lights Theater Co. dubs itself "living theatre for thinking people" and presents both progressive and traditional programs in a 108-seat theater. Through its New Play Readers Series, the Company actively develops new pieces, some of which are produced during the regular season. For more of that off-Broadway feel, check out the San Jose Stage Co., presenting five plays by contemporary playwrights every season.

From long-established groups like Broadway San Jose to fast-growing companies like Teatro Visión, the breadth and scope of creativity here shows how this town encourages the arts to bloom.

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Team San Jose (TSJ)

Team San Jose, Inc. is an innovative partnership unifying the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels, arts, labor and venues to deliver an exceptional visitor experience and serve as the gateway to San Jose as a destination. Our company manages the San Jose Convention Center and Arts and Entertainment venues including the California Theatre, the Center for the Performing Arts, Montgomery Theater, Parkside Hall, City National Civic and South Hall. For more information about San Jose and Team San Jose, please visit the new