So much to see, so little time! Make the most of your short stay in San Jose with this checklist of must-see places and must-try restaurants. Your 48-hour adventure starts now.
Start the morning with a leisurely stroll down Paseo de San Antonio and fuel up with a cup of coffee at Philz Coffee, a Bay Area institution. Choose your brew from a selection of over 30 unique blends and watch as the baristas work their magic. Just next door, get breakfast at La Lune Sucree and choose from savory crepes, buttery croissants and tasty pastries, made from scratch.
Walk off breakfast on your way to The Tech Interactive and prepare for a hands-on experience with the latest and greatest technology in Silicon Valley, not yet available to consumers. Design a real robot using sensors and controllers at Social Robots, understand your physical and emotional state with wearable technology at Body Metrics and experience a simulated earthquake on the Shake Platform with varying magnitudes from actual earthquakes. After roaming the museum, escape reality with a cinematic adventure in the largest IMAX dome screen in the West. IMAX movies average about 45 minutes in length and it’s very easy to lose track of time playing with the gizmos and gadgets in the museum, so give yourself a few hours here.
Walk to the Convention Center light rail stop, pay $4 for an eight-hour pass, and hop on any northbound rail car for a short trip up North 1st Street to explore one of three remaining historical Japantowns in the U.S. Get lunch at Minato, a favorite among foodies, including Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain, for authentic Sushi, udon and katsu. After, wander through an enticing blend of traditional Japanese stores and modern boutique shops throughout well-groomed streets. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Shuei-Do Manju Shop for handmade Japanese pastries or visit Nichi Bei Bussan for vintage Japanese décor.
Use your day pass and catch light rail back to the Convention Center stop for a short walk to SoFA District, San Jose’s visual arts and entertainment district. Cappuccinos at Caffé Frascati are a perfect afternoon pick-me-up while you explore a wide range of galleries along this eclectic urban strip. Depending on your artistic interests, visit Anno Domini to see art from emerging artists around the world, MACLA for a contemporary arts space grounded in the Chicano/Latino experience, the Quilts and Textiles Museum - devoted solely to quilts and textiles as an art form - or the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art for rotating exhibits of contemporary art.
Your next stop is Mezcal for regional Oaxacan cuisine. This adventurous dining experience is known for homemade moles and Chapulines (fried grasshoppers) sautéed with garlic, lime and salt. On your walk to dinner take a moment for a photo op as you pass through the site of California’s first state capital at the Circle of Palms.
Before heading back to the hotel, indulge in a nightcap along First Street and select from a cluster of spots like 55 South and Paper Plane for signature craft cocktails, Nomikai for sake and Original Gravity Public House for unique craft brews.
Sleep in a bit and begin your day with a lovely breakfast at The Fountain in the Fairmont Hotel where you'll find an extensive a la carte menu plus a hearty buffet. Then head west out of downtown to visit the world-famous Winchester Mystery House to tour the marvelous Victorian mansion of Winchester rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. Discover an extravagant maze of architecture with puzzling twists, like stairways to nowhere and windows opening to walls. It’s said that Ms. Winchester designed her mansion intending to confuse the spirits of Winchester rifle victims that haunted her. Keep an eye out - many visitors have claimed to have paranormal experiences.
Insider tip: If you get the chance to visit on Friday the 13th or around Halloween, you can take a special flashlight tour after hours.
Cross Winchester Blvd. to Santana Row and explore the European-inspired, pedestrian-friendly village in West San Jose, known for high-end shopping, dining, nightlife and spas. Amongst the 70 retail shops, you’ll find several name brand options like Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Ted London and Gucci.
If you’re not in the mood to shop take a spa day at Burke Williams, or snap a selfie behind the wheel of the latest Tesla models inside Tesla’s original showroom. After you’ve filled your shopping bags, take a lunch break at one of the many incredible restaurants here or head down the street for casual and walk-up-to-order food at Falafel’s Drive-In, a San Jose institution and featured on the Food Network’s Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives. Be sure to pair your gyro or falafels with their signature banana milkshake.
Next up, head to the beautiful Rose Garden neighborhood for a visit to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum where you can view the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in western North America. Among the 4,000 exhibits on display see authentic objects from pre-dynastic times through Egypt's early Islamic era. Step outside and wander through the replica 18th dynasty Rosicrucian Peace Garden. Just one block from the museum, smell the beautiful rose blooms at America’s Best Rose Garden, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, a 5½ acre park with 4,000 roses and over 250 different rose varieties.
Insider tip: Your ticket also gets you into a show at the Rosicrucian Planetarium, with showings every day at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Before heading out to dinner, enjoy a peaceful moment back inside the Fairmont Hotel lobby lounge while being serenaded by the sounds of classical piano, or unwind at the pool deck overlooking downtown, while taking in gorgeous views of the sunset over the Santa Cruz Mountains.
San Jose is fortunate to have warm evening weather, so don’t bundle up, but bring a light sweater for your 15-minute walk to San Pedro Square Market, a lively evening in a social dining atmosphere. Choose the cuisine that suits your mood from hefty tri-tip sandwiches at Bray Butcher Block & Bistro, sushi tacos at Blush Raw Bar Lounge, mouthwatering burgers with an Asia Pacific influence at Konjoe Burger Bar or fresh banh mi at On a Roll. Once you’ve made your entrée selection head to the outdoor patio and have a seat next to the Peralta Adobe to admire San Jose’s oldest building.
Insider tip: Hit up The Market on a Friday or Saturday night for live music from local bands and check their event calendar for other fun activities happening regularly.