San Jose: Make Your Dollar Go Further

San Jose, CA, has lots of affordable attractions for your next family vacation – use this budget-friendly guide to learn more.

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Smack in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, has a lot more going for it than housing a bunch of tech companies. A vibrant city with historical architecture, hillside views, and near-perfect weather, it’s a great spot to explore with your family. Cool activities include hip museums, a zoo, and San Jose Sharks and Earthquakes games — that’s hockey and soccer if you’re not already a fan. When planning your trip, add a few of these stops to your San Jose family vacation list.

Scrambl’z

Start off your day right with a hearty breakfast at Scrambl’z. You can tell right away from the bright furniture and the VW bus in the dining room that this isn’t your typical breakfast joint. Go for the San Francisco Scramble with grilled mushrooms, spinach, roasted tomatoes, and cheddar cheese, or head straight for the pancakes. Pro tip: Your kids are sure to love the Cheesecake Waffle!

An exterior view of the entrance to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose on a sunny afternoon.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is one-part amusement park, one-part zoo — and a million parts fun. In other words, it’s kid heaven! Spend a fun-filled afternoon taking them on the carousel and the roller coaster, and paying a visit to the puppet theater. See the jaguars, lemurs, and miniature horses, and don’t miss the petting zoo.

Japantown

Visit busy Japantown to experience a little piece of San Jose’s diversity. Browse chic clothing and gift shops, hip art galleries, and the not-so occasional karaoke bar. It’s one of the last three remaining Japantowns in the U.S.

Hungry? Pick up a sweet treat at Banana Crepe. Dig into a bowl of tempura goodness at Happi House Teriyaki, or maybe try one of the district’s top-notch sushi or Hawaiian joints. Are you kids picky eaters? There’s also an IHOP and a Wienerschnitzel in the neighborhood for kid-approved classics that are sure to hit the spot.

Back A Yard Caribbean Grill

If sushi and tempura aren’t your thing, then walk over to Back A Yard Caribbean Grill. The menu is a blend of BBQ and Jamaican Jerk meat dishes as well as a few fried seafood plates. Locals rave about this place for its smoky, spicy jerk chicken, pork, oxtails, and salmon served with heaping portions of beans, rice, and plantains — all at ridiculously reasonable prices. Try the Jerk Salmon Sandwich. Yum!

An external view of the purple Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose on an overcast morning.

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

How much time do you have? San Jose’s Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the best in the U.S., according to local moms — and Mom always knows best, right? With so much to do, you could easily spend a whole weekend here.

Explore 150 interactive, brain-stimulating exhibits along with kid activities appropriate for ages 1 to 16. Kids can tinker with everything from fossils to circles to rainbow colors. They can even climb aboard a real-life fire truck.

The San Pedro Square Market water fountains sit beneath a bright sky on a sunny day.

Downtown San Jose

While you’re downtown exploring the museums, take time to duck into the shops and cafes in San Jose’s vibrant downtown area. Grab a bite at San Pedro Square Market. Check out the vendors at the SoFA Market, or stop in another museum, like maybe the popular Tech Museum of Innovation.

Alum Rock Park

Founded in 1872, Alum Rock Park has a whopping 720 acres of open space. It’s great for picnics, horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking, and it doesn’t skimp on playground space for little ones. The vistas are a little more rolling and dry than what you find north of San Francisco, but it’s a great spot to experience some of California’s natural beauty. Don’t miss the historic mineral springs.

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

If you like pretty, colorful things, then stop and smell the roses at this historic garden. The park features miniature roses, roses that climb up fences, roses as shrubs, and roses of various colors and sizes. So, you’d better like roses! Stop by the tiered water fountain and the reflection pool before you go.

Pizza Antica

After a full day or more of San Jose sightseeing, you’re bound to work up an appetite. What better way to satisfy a bunch of growling bellies than with a wood-fired, topping-packed pizza. Pizza Antica serves some of the best thin-crust pies in town, all made with local ingredients. While you munch on an amazing fennel sausage pizza, your kids can dig into their own cheese pizza, pasta, or grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t forget dessert!

So, are you ready to make some new family memories in San Jose? If you’re looking for even more tips and ideas on how to make your upcoming trip the best one yet, check out our other budget-friendly San Jose Guides.

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