From Art to History: San Jose’s Top Museums

San Jose may feature lots of tech-related museums, but there’s more to the capital of Silicon Valley. Try these 4 museums for a balanced mix of tech and culture.

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Look past the surface of big tech companies and Tesla sedans, and it’s easy to see the capital of Silicon Valley has a lot more going on. In fact, you couldn’t ask for much more if you’re an arts and culture buff. Okay, keeping it honest, some of the museums do have a tech focus — no surprise there — but there’s a lot of cool and classy stuff to go with the geek.

Astronaut moonwalk in space exhibit at San Jose Tech Museum in California

Tech Museum of Innovation

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Unless of course, you want the scoop on some of the biggest innovations that fueled science and technological breakthroughs — like that smartphone in your hand — in Silicon Valley and beyond. Downtown San Jose’s popular Tech Museum of Innovation pulls back the curtain to reveal a behind the scenes look at some of your favorite tech.

Exterior of Tech Museum of Innovation in the heart of San Jose, CA, on sunny day

Experience fun, hands-on exhibits, like a jet pack chair ride that resembles a NASA-manned maneuvering unit just like the astronauts use. Fly through the clouds, soaring over New York City skyscrapers while enjoying the wind in your face — hooked up to virtual reality, of course. You can also use augmented reality to explore human anatomy in the Body Worlds Decoded exhibit.

San Jose Museum of Art

Come for the Dale Chihuly exhibit, stay for the rest of the great art. If you don’t know who that is, you’ll learn the ins and outs of his work in glass making as you admire his creations. The San Jose Museum of Art, a post office turned museum, showcases big-name artists from all over the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The permanent collection of around 2,500 works includes paintings, sculptures, prints, digital media, and photographs — on top of the Chihuly glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling.

The exterior of San Jose Museum of Art, displaying a colorful and abstract sculpture in downtown San Jose, CA, on sunny day

And that’s not all. Admire the work of celebrated California and Bay Area artists like Robert Arneson, Jay DeFeo, and Richard Diebenkorn. Plus, you can spot famous international names like Willem de Kooning and Salvador Dali. When it comes to rotating exhibits, you never know what you might find. Past features include Ansel Adams and Joan Miro.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

You don’t have to “Walk like an Egyptian” to feel like you’ve traveled back thousands of years in time. At the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, explore dark passageways that lead to replicas of ancient Egyptian tombs, complete with hieroglyphs carved into door frames, wall paintings depicting Egyptian life (and the after-life), and a stone sarcophagus in the central chamber. Creepy but cool.

A brick fountain with blue and yellow tiles outside Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA

There’s a lot to see — more than 4,000 artifacts to be exact. After all, the museum houses the largest collection of authentic ancient Egyptian relics in the western U.S. Check out several human mummies and the collection’s original piece, a Sekhmet (lion goddess) statue from the founder of the Rosicrucian Order. Finish your visit with a stroll around the beautiful grounds. Where else can you find a reproduction of an ancient Egyptian grand temple, Sphinx statues, and a peace garden?

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Forget about a run of the mill museum or gallery experience. Be one with the art at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. This downtown institution is more of a cutting-edge art space and gallery than a museum. Best of all? You don’t just look at art on the walls. The exhibits transform the space into an art-scape that actually surrounds you. If you time your visit right, check out one of the artist presentations, panel discussions, workshops, or demos.

Did this leave you feeling excited to start exploring San Jose’s cultural side? Find more travel ideas in San Jose and beyond by following us on Twitter.

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