San Jose
San Jose

San Jose

California, United States
Even if you haven't been here yet, your gadgets have: the birthplace of microchips, personal computers, and smartphones isn't done innovating yet, as you'll see at the Tech Museum of Innovation and San Jose Museum of Art. Keep your wits sharp as Google's self-driving cars stay cautiously behind you as you drive from Los Gatos billionaires' hilltop homes to sleek office parks radiating outward from Stanford University in Palo Alto.
Getting Around San Jose
The best way to get around San Jose and Silicon Valley is by car. If staying in downtown San Jose, public transportation is effective. CalTrain connects San Jose to Palo Alto and San Francisco. Parking in the area is generally plentiful and inexpensive.
Nearby Airports
  • San Francisco International Airport-SFO
  • Oakland International Airport-OAK
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport-SJC
Airport Taxis
  • From SFO-$120
  • From OAK-$120
  • From SJC-$17
Things to Do and See in San Jose
SaratogaWest San JoseNorth San JosePalo AltoWillow Glen
Tucked into the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills, Saratoga appears more of a quaint cowboy town than California's wealthiest, most educated suburb. But look closer: inside those Western storefronts are wine-tasting rooms featuring high-end local cabernets, pristine cuisine at Michelin-starred Plumed Horse, and a diverse concert lineup (Latin jazz, Philip Glass, Soul Asylum) uphill at neoclassical Montalvo Arts Center. Saratoga may look like a Western set, but you'll find antique shops, day spas, and chocolate-making classes here. Head to the hills for hikes at Montalvo or ropes courses at Saratoga Springs, and descend for happy hour at The Bank, Saratoga's sole saloon.
To see how San Jose earns its reputation for the most patents, highest disposable income, and highest cost of living in the nation, head to the western suburbs. Cupertino was a farming town amid cherry orchards until defense contractors moved in and Apple devices became the cash crop. Suburbs encircled office parks, and Cupertino morphed into a corporate Farmville with shiny new everything. Cupertino occasionally connects offline via the farmers market, Fine Arts League, and its own Diwali Festival. Patented millionaires live uphill in the quaint Victorian cottages and custom contemporary mansions of Los Gatos, which has over 100 high-end boutiques and the double-Michelin-starred Manresa. Today, it's hard to believe John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in Los Gatos. Campbell is a more affordable mid-century suburb. Just down Highway 17 is Santana Row, an upscale outdoor mall with Mediterranean pretensions, a popular multiplex, and tasty tandoori at Amber India.
Whistle stops along the San Francisco-San Jose Caltrain line have grown into splinter cities, thanks to Silicon Valley megaliths like Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel, and Mozilla. The historic adobe left over from Mountain View's early days as a 19th century stagecoach stop has been overshadowed by Googleplex, a 47,000 square-meter behemoth with parks, fountains, and a life-size bronze T Rex. Mountain View keeps new technologies in perspective at the Computer History Museum and hosts the Peninsula's biggest music events at Shoreline Ampitheatre. Once known for its orchards, Sunnyvale is better known among geeks for such early technology launches as Pong video game, Yahoo, and Palm. Santa Clara started as a Spanish mission in 1777, but now it's on a mission to train future tech moguls at Santa Clara University, entertain families at Great America amusement park, and serve as a new home for San Francisco's defecting football team, the 49ers. South of Santa Clara is the eco-minded Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, and the allegedly haunted 160-room Winchester Mystery House.
Silicon Valley corporate parks are typically called "campuses" and can be hard to distinguish from local colleges, with their manicured lawns, bicycle racks and onsite caféterias and gyms. The exception is Stanford University, whose historic Palo Alto campus stands apart with its signature bell tower, 17 Nobel Laureates, an endowment larger than the economy of Bolivia and the massive Linear Accelerator physics lab. Stanford's international arts galleries, Papua New Guinea sculpture garden and arcaded halls teem with future doctors, writers and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The campus scene spills into downtown cafés and bookstores along University Avenue, but Palo Alto still has its own quirks: a donkey pasture in Bol Park, a bus named Marguerite and the newly expanded and ever-adventurous Palo Alto Art Center. Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, Pinterest, Mashable and Tesla Motors are headquartered in Palo Alto.
Picture San Jose in simpler, pre-digital times, and you're halfway to Willow Glen already. The Brady Bunch would fit right into this family-oriented neighborhood, where streets are shaded with trees and mom-and-pop shop awnings. The neighborhood's 1920s-50s bungalows seem worlds away from supersized McMansions in surrounding communities. Driving down the main drag of Lincoln Avenue is a nostalgia trip, with its candy stores, coffee shops, delis, and diners. The chains are mostly local, though the fare is oddly middle American for California—on the upside, parents won't need to ask twice for booster seats in these family-friendly joints. If you need your mustache trimmed or updo hairsprayed, look no further: barber shops and storefront salons abound in Willow Glen.