It would be super easy to write San Jose off as just another tech city in the Bay Area — maybe the less interesting cousin of mighty San Francisco — but that would be a crying shame. San Jose is much more than just the “Capital of Silicon Valley.” It’s home to some pretty amazing sights, with the South Bay on one side and the Santa Cruz Mountains on the other.
It also has a rich history, the largest Vietnamese population anywhere in the world — other than Vietnam, of course — and some quirky cool attractions you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you only visit for a quick weekend getaway or a two-day stay mid-week, you’ve got time to see some of the city’s best. Get the 411 on some of San Jose’s top sights within about five miles of downtown.
Play the World’s Largest Monopoly Game
That’s right. There’s a ginormous Monopoly board just waiting for you to play in Discovery Meadow, just outside downtown near the Children’s Museum. The board was one of the star exhibits at the 1992 San Francisco Landscape and Design Show, and it spans more than 900 square feet and has huge ornamental dice installed nearby. It might give you the eerie feeling you wandered into the land of giants, but it’s so cool! Best of all, hop on the website to rent the board and play a round of Monopoly like you’ve never played it before.
Get Spooked at Winchester Mystery House
Love history and architecture? Definitely stop at this notorious home in West San Jose. One of the largest private homes in the country, it was built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester firearms fortune. Before the earthquake of 1906, the estate had more than 200 rooms, with trap doors, spy holes, and roughly 10,000 windows — yep, 10,000.
The house is nice to look at, but it also has a spooky side. According to legend, Winchester built the house to get rid of the ghosts of victims killed by Winchester rifles. She also blamed the curse for the death of her husband and infant daughter. The interior has stairways that lead to nowhere, skylights in floors, cabinets that open to walls, and other oddities Winchester designed on purpose to confuse the spirits haunting her.
Eat at Santana Row
Santana Row isn’t the quirkiest spot in the city, but it’s definitely worth a stop when you’re in West San Jose. It’s just minutes from the mystery house and has a weird game oddity of its own: an oversized chess board. Go shopping nearby, and grab a bite to eat at one of many Santana Row restaurants.
At Oveja Negra in the Hotel Valencia, relax by the fireplace while watching a spectacular sunset, or head downstairs for tapas. Locals love dishes like the Palacios Spanish chorizo poutine and the signature Oveja Negra barbacoa.
Get a Taste of Little Saigon
This is one of those cool spots that usually flies under the radar, but if you want a glimpse of the neighborhood with more Vietnamese residents than anywhere outside Vietnam, this is the spot to do it. And eating your way through the neighborhood just might be one of the most satisfying ways to experience the culture. The food court at Grand Century Mall is a great place to start, especially if you’re not sure what you feel like having. From pho to spring rolls and banh xeo, there’s a little bit of everything on the menu.
Explore San Jose’s Past at History Park
This park within a park — nestled inside Kelley Park — has 14 acres of exhibits, including 32 original and reproduction historical buildings that bring the city’s past to life. History Park has an old hotel, gas station, homes, and more on paved streets with nice landscaping and a working trolley. Along the way, check out art galleries and museums, like the Chinese American Historical Museum.
Told you there’s much more to see in San Jose than technology. Want to learn more? Head over to Facebook for more travel inspiration