With year-round sunshine and an advantageous location amidst lovely valleys just south of San Francisco Bay, San Jose is a wonderful destination for a memorable getaway. This city in Northern California boasts numerous fascinating little-known attractions. Situated close to most San Jose vacation rentals are beautiful parks, unique museums, fun activities, and eclectic shopping opportunities. That said, here are the most noteworthy hidden gems in the city of San Jose.
1. Guadalupe River Park
The Guadalupe River Park lies along the banks of the Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose. Visit the Visitor and Education Center to pick up trail maps, view wildlife displays, and learn about the public art scattered around the park. Amenities include a picnic area, a playground, and a community garden. The 2.6 miles of trails are ideal for walking, running, cycling, and skating. These trails connect to the larger Guadalupe River Trail system, which runs for 11 miles along the edge of the river. While you’re enjoying the trail, don’t miss having a look at Lupe the Mammoth, a large sculpture marking the spot where the remains of a mammoth were found along the river bank.
2. Winchester Mystery House
Located near vacation rentals on the west side of San Jose, the enigmatic Winchester Mystery House is one of the strangest architectural curiosities ever built. Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester, who made a fortune selling rifles, constructed and devised additions to the strange labyrinthine mansion for 38 years from 1884 to 1922. The house has more than 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 40 bedrooms, and two basements. Among the mysterious features are numerous secret passageways, stairways that lead into ceilings, doors that lead to drops into gardens or other floors of the house, and a cabinet that goes through 30 rooms. Guided tours take you through over 100 of the rooms, and periodically you can join flashlight or candlelight tours through this supposedly haunted house.
3. Monopoly in the Park
Originally created for the 1992 San Francisco Garden and Landscape Show, Monopoly in the Park at San Jose’s Discovery Meadow is the largest permanent Monopoly board in the world. The board spreads over more than 900 square feet and features 140 and 250 pound granite slabs as well as a huge set of ornamental dice. To play a game on the board, contact the city of San Jose, and book the site in advance. The city supplies large working dice, Monopoly token hats, and game referees.
4. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
The fascinating Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum lies on the western edge of downtown San Jose. Established by the Rosicrucian Order in 1928, the museum features over 4,000 artifacts, including real mummies of humans, baboons, cats, and sharks. The site also has a replica of an Egyptian rock-cut tomb, a special exhibit on Rosicrucian alchemy, a research library, and a planetarium. The museum is housed within Rosicrucian Park, which encompasses an entire city block and offers lovely gardens, an ornate temple, and a central fountain plaza.
5. San Jose Flea Market
Located in the northeastern part of the city, the San Jose Flea Market is the largest open air market in the United States. Over eight miles of shopping aisles, vendors sell an amazing variety of items, including clothing, furniture, jewelry, collectibles, and artwork. The site also has numerous restaurants and food carts offering American and international cuisine. The farmer’s market section displays fresh fruits and vegetables from the surrounding countryside. For entertainment, the flea market provides live music, playgrounds, an arcade, and carnival rides.
Japantown San Jose, one of only three authentic Japantowns in the United States, lies a few blocks north of downtown. This unique and fascinating ethnic neighborhood comprises three square miles of predominantly Japanese shops, restaurants, and professional services. The area also houses the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, which highlights Japanese history, art, and culture. Japantown frequently hosts special events such as cultural festivals.
7. San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
Founded in 1927, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is in the downtown area. On its five and a half acre spread, the garden features over 4,000 shrubs of almost 200 varieties of roses. These include rose clusters, single-bloom stems, climbing roses, and miniature roses. All-American Rose Selections, a national rating organization, declared the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden to be America’s Best Rose Garden in its first annual contest in 2010. Besides the endless vistas of colorful roses, the garden offers walking trails, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and a children’s playground.
8. Deer Hollow Farm
Family-friendly Deer Hollow Farm is a free educational center and working farm in the southwestern corner of Rancho San Antonio County Park just west of San Jose. The farm houses cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, and other animals. Farm buildings include a ranch house, a caretaker’s cottage, and an open air barn. The nature center is an interactive museum with exhibits on local plants and wildlife. Take a self-guided tour of the farm complex, and enjoy a picnic on one of the numerous wooden picnic tables. On guided tours, kids can pet and feed farm animals and watch milking demonstrations.
9. Alum Rock Park
The 720 acres of Alum Rock Park lies in eastern San Jose in the foothills of the Diablo Range. The park has 13 miles of beautiful trails that are ideal for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. Animals that you may observe in the park include black-tailed deer, bobcats, gray foxes, and many species of birds. The park contains numerous mineral springs and grottos. Facilities include picnic areas, barbecue pits, playgrounds, and volleyball courts. The Alum Rock Science and Nature Center has exhibits on local natural history as well as live rescue animals.
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