What Makes San Jose Like No Place Else
This list of local San Jose tourist top spots will make your visit a memorable one.
By: Kim Boatman Nauman
The city just up the road might have cable cars, stunning views of the Pacific and the Bay and a certain bridge, but San Jose proudly claims a handful of attractions, too. Only in San Jose will you find:
- The Winchester Mystery House, 525 S. Winchester Blvd., Plenty of locals deny having ever visited the rambling 160-room Victorian, considered an endearingly hokey attraction. But it’s the first place to which they direct visitors. An heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune began construction on the home in 1883 and kept carpenters toiling until her death. Legend has that construction continued 24 hours a day to foil the spirits of those slain by Winchester rifles. The resulting house is a wacky hodgepodge, with stairs leading to ceilings, windows that opened onto brick walls and 40-odd bedrooms.
- San Jose Giants, 588 E. Alma Ave. San Jose is the biggest city with a Class A baseball team. And despite the city’s close proximity to big league teams in San Francisco and Oakland, San Jose loves its little baseball team, bandbox ballpark and legendary Turkey Mike’s barbecue. The ballpark can most kindly be described as weathered, but the seats are near the action. And the fresh-faced kids playing in the California League are willing to sign autographs. It’s also easy to chase down plenty of foul balls. Hanging out at the ballgame while chowing on Turkey Mike’s is considered a cool way to spend a summer evening.
- The Tech Museum, 201 S. Market St. The mango-colored museum occupies center stage in downtown San Jose, and it’s a tribute to the innovation and vision that drives the valley. Exhibits allow for plenty of hands-on fiddling. Particular draws are the excellent traveling exhibits that pass through, such as a recent detail-rich look at the innovations and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and his peers.
- The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, 1664 Park Ave. In a neighborhood of stately early 20th century homes and rambling roses sits a rather odd tribute to ancient Egypt where mummies abound. The Rosicrucians are a centuries-old order centered on a fascination with ancient Egyptian teachings. The museum, a San Jose fixture, stands out with its Egyptian-influenced architecture and park. It’s a field trip must for kids from all over the Bay Area, who come to check out the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the western United States.
- Lick Observatory. Standing sentinel on 4,200-foot Mount Hamilton east of San Jose since 1888, the Observatory is a familiar landmark from everywhere on the valley floor. Operated by the University of California, the observatory is open for tours. Although snow is a rarity in San Jose, the occasional winter rain leaves Mt. Hamilton and nearby peaks capped in snow. And excited San Joseans will sometimes brave the journey up the winding mountain road for the chance to throw a snowball or two.
- The Shark Tank, 525 W. Santa Clara St. HP Pavilion, San Jose’s downtown arena, is affectionately known as the Shark Tank or the Tank when the NHL San Jose Sharks are in town. Depending on the team’s fortunes, the city can be surprisingly hockey-crazy for California. The excitement bubbles over to nearby restaurants and bars before and after games.
- Christmas in the Park. For an area obsessed with the latest tech innovations, San Jose sure harbors a fierce obsession for a homey tradition known as Christmas in the Park. Each year, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, smack in the middle of downtown, is given over to musical and animated holiday exhibits and lights. Some date back to the tradition’s beginnings almost 60 years ago. It’s all shamelessly small-town and wildly popular, with families strolling by exhibits and kids perched on dads’ shoulders. Right across the street each holiday season, ice-skaters take elegant turns under the Circle of Palms between the Fairmont Hotel and San Jose Museum of Art.