Nestled in the rolling hills of Silicon Valley, San Jose is a major technology hub that attracts travelers for both business and leisure. Thanks to its convenient location in California’s Bay Area, a historic downtown with Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and scenic surroundings, San Jose is the perfect destination no matter what your travel interests. Find out how to plan the perfect day in San Jose and discover the city’s must-see attractions and best accommodations.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

There’s nothing like waking up to endless breakfast options, and San Jose doesn’t disappoint! Check out The Breakfast Club on the ground floor of the Meridian at Midtown. Not only is breakfast served all day, but so are brunch and lunch, giving you plenty of options for breaking your fast! Choose from breakfast basics like pork chops, eggs, and sausage, or try one of the yummy benedicts. The California benedict, for instance, features bacon, avocado, and roasted tomatoes – a winning combination!

Other favorites at The Breakfast Club include breakfast enchiladas, banana coconut pecan waffles, raspberry cream cheese French toast, and a “garbage plate” omelet with all your favorite meat and veggies.

Another great option is The Table, a New American eatery boasting a seasonal menu with rustic-chic décor on Willow Street. The weekday brunch menu consists of scotch eggs, housemade granola, lemon ricotta pancakes, and a traditional breakfast with two eggs any style, griddled potatoes, toast, and sausage. Try the chilaquiles with pulled pork, poached eggs, queso fresco, and tomatillo sauce for a little extra kick in the morning, and don’t forget to order the bottomless mimosa for good measure!

Experience a local traditional that dates back to 1977 by eating breakfast at Bill’s Café. This local chain boasts diverse menu offerings the entire family will love, including egg scrambles, French toast, griddle pancakes, and south-of-the-border specialties. While the kids will eat up the café’s chocolate chip pancakes, you can kick back with a Bailey’s coffee or Bill’s famous bloody mary to start your day off right!

No matter which breakfast spot you choose, take a few minutes to download some apps that can help you get around San Jose and plan the day ahead. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) offers a variety of apps for residents and tourists alike. You may also want to download OpenTable to secure your dinner reservations for later this evening.

Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
The Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve in San Jose.

Midmorning: Stretch Your Legs

San Jose may have a reputation as a tech-lover’s dream, but the area is surrounded by beautiful scenery just waiting to be explored. Alum Rock Park on the east side was California’s first municipal state park. Today, it offers 740 acres of rugged beauty, including numerous outdoor activities. Hit the trails to do some hiking, jogging, or bicycling, or bring some snacks for a midmorning picnic. With 13 miles of unpaved trails to explore, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to burn off that big breakfast.

Just be sure to head to the top of Alum Rock Park to experience the breathtaking Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. The preserve itself offers the 3-mile Boccardo Trail that’s visited by more than 13,000 guests each year.

If nature isn’t really your thing, take a stroll through the San Jose Downtown Historic District. For more than 100 years, the downtown area has served as Santa Clara Valley’s financial and mercantile hub, making it a significant location both from a historic and architectural perspective. History buffs will appreciate the buildings dating back to the late 1800s, including the iconic three-story Italianate-style Oddfellows building.

To make the most of your adventure, take a student-led walking tour. San Jose Walks & Talks is a business created to employ students part-time and introduce them to running their own company. These local students serve the community by giving informative tours tailored to the experience you want to have.

Noon: Enjoy a Great Lunch

Since you’re sure to work up an appetite after exploring the sights, you’ll want to sit down to a yummy lunch at one of San Jose’s top-rated eateries. Café San Jose is a family-friendly spot on Meridian Avenue serving burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Try the guacamole burger for a true California favorite, or go Southwest with the cowboy burger and its pepper mayonnaise. Upgrade to garlic fries or substitute your beef patty for chicken breast or a garden burger to satisfy your craving.

For Mexican-fusion cuisine, head to Zona Rosa on The Alameda. This hacienda-style restaurant uses only the freshest local ingredients in an authentic Mexican atmosphere, with both indoor and patio seating available. Start your meal with house nachos or empanadas before savoring the entrees, which include blackened salmon, chorizo with black bean puree, chimichurri, carnitas, and carne asada. Enjoy a variety of creative cocktails such as the Salty Chihuahua or Chris’ Old Fashion.

San Jose also offers notable Asian-style eateries like Sushi Confidential on Market Street. Voted the city’s best sushi restaurant three years in a row, Sushi Confidential features a special lunch box combo for $12, which includes miso soup, a side salad, rice, and a meat or sushi option. Creative rolls you won’t find anywhere else include the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Roll, which features shrimp tempura, cream cheese, spicy crab and, of course, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and the RSM signature roll with a blend of crab, tuna, salmon, and albacore rolled with macadamia nuts.

The Tech Museum of Innovation
The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.

Afternoon: Hit the Museums

A visit to San Jose isn’t complete without a stop at one of the city’s museums. Luckily, San Jose has a diverse offering that includes subjects related to ancient history, art, and technology.

Be sure to visit The Tech Museum of Innovation downtown. This exceptional facility consists of hands-on galleries that encourage you to explore how technological innovation changes lives. Learn about cyber security, solve problems in the Tech Studio, see the latest wearable technology, and build a robot, all in a family-friendly space that encourages creativity.

Another must-see attraction is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium. Inspired by the Temple of Amon at Karnak, this museum houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in western North America. View a full-size alchemist’s workshop reproduction and meditation chamber, catch a planetarium show, learn about ancient Egyptian burial practices, and discover what daily life was like for ancient Egyptian craftsmen and farmers.

Art lovers should make it a point to visit the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art on South First Street. This nonprofit cultural space features awe-inspiring exhibitions from regional, national, and international artists. Exhibits include diverse works you won’t find anywhere else. You can even attend an auction or gala if you hope to purchase a piece.

Located in the heart of Japantown, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj) is a beautiful facility that houses a unique collection of exhibits chronicling more than century of Japanese-American history. Learn about Japanese immigration to America and the Japanese leadership in the local agricultural community. Experience the incarceration Japanese-Americans endured during World War II and the challenges they faced in adapting to West Coast communities. The museum even features a Barracks Room, which is an accurate recreation of a family’s living quarters at Tulelake internment camp.

The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is a unique art museum in downtown devoted solely to quilts and textiles. The museum’s mission is to celebrate the art, craft, history, and creators of quilts and textiles. Current exhibits include the 13th Quilt Nihon Exhibition, which features more than 30 quilts from the Japanese Handicraft Instructors’ Association, as well as artist Sabine Reckewell’s “Linear Intervention,” a large-scale art installation. Admission is just $8 for adults and members and children get in for free.

Santana Row
Santana Row in San Jose.

Late Afternoon: Shop ‘Til You Drop

There’s no shortage of places to shop in San Jose. Whether you’re looking for designer handbags or one-of-a-kind boutique finds, this city has it all. Start at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue, an outdoor plaza featuring a variety of retailers, grocers, and casual restaurants. For something a bit more upscale, you can’t go wrong with Santana Row, a noted outdoor mall that offers an elevated shopping experience.

For department store specialty shops, check out Eastridge. Not only does this facility include all your favorite stores and restaurants, but it’s also home to family-friendly events. Just be sure to check the calendar.

Other must-see shopping experiences in San Jose include Grand Century Shopping Mall, Westgate Center, and Plant Shopping Center.

Dinnertime: Enjoy an Award-Winning Meal

After some much-needed retail therapy, you’ll want to wind down with a glass of wine and a savory meal. The Grill On The Alley offers a romantic ambience perfect for date night. Choose from fresh seafood appetizers like oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, or jumbo lump crabcake before moving on to the entrees. The Grill serves up a variety of steaks and seafood, but they’re most noted for their pork chops with Washington blackberry sauce. Just be sure to save room for dessert, as the chef always features a daily special.

Make a reservation at Il Fornaio San Jose if you’re in the mood for upmarket Italian dining. Antipasti options include calamari served with spicy marinara, homemade flatbread with goat cheese, and classic bruschetta with chopped tomatoes and olives. In addition to a diverse range of pasta entrees, the eatery also serves thin-crust pizza crafted from housemade dough. The Cristina with prosciutto and white truffle oil is a must!

For something a bit more exotic, try Menara Moroccan Restaurant with its lavishly decorated rooms, comfortable cushions, and belly dancers. A la carte entrees consist of hummus, Moroccan salad, lamb b’stilla, couscous, and kebabs, but try a Moroccan feast to sample a little bit of everything. You’ll even get a slice of baklava with mint tea!

SAP Center
The SAP Center in San Jose.

Late Night: Catch a Show

If you’re still up for some entertainment after dinner, San Jose has plenty of options. See what’s playing at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Upcoming Broadway productions include “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” “Rent,” and “The King and I.” Another fun option is The Dinner Detective, the country’s largest interactive murder mystery dinner show.

Before coming to town, check the event listings at the SAP Center, the indoor arena primarily used for the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks. Headliners at SAP Center have included Neil Diamond, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Pepe Aguilar. Plus, since it’s used as a hockey rink, SAP Center frequently hosts figuring skating events, including Kristi Yamaguchi’s “Golden Moment” show.

If you prefer nightclubs to performing arts centers, San Jose won’t disappoint. Check out the popular Miami Beach Club, Club Rodeo, and Studio 8 to dance the night away. For dinner and dancing, check out Club Caribe, a lively spot featuring two dance floors, Latin music, and fresh Caribbean cuisine. Want something a bit more sophisticated? Loft Bar & Bistro has a rooftop patio with special DJ nights and a two-level social space, so bring all your friends!

No matter how you prefer to spend your afterhours, San Jose has the vibe you’re looking for.

Airport Guide

When visiting San Jose, chances are you’ll be flying into San Jose International Airport (SJC). SJC is the smallest of the three Bay Area commercial airports, however, as Oakland International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are close by. As such, you could save money by flying into one of the other airports; just be sure to check ticket prices carefully and consider ground transportation options.

If you’re flying into SJC, you have several transportation options. Take the VTA Airport Flyer to the Metro Light Rail Station and go from there, or rent a car at the rental center across from Terminal B. Hotel courtesy shuttles pick up passengers at the Ground Transportation Center from the Offsite Courtesy Shuttle Stop. Just be sure to arrange your hotel shuttle before arrival.

Other public transportation options in San Jose include the DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle), Greyhound bus, and the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). You can also grab a cab from the airport, rent a limo, snag a rideshare, or get a Lyft or Uber.

If you have some time to kill while waiting on your ride, or if you get to the airport early on the return leg of your journey, the SJC airport offers numerous passenger amenities. Try one of the massage chairs located throughout the terminal to relax after going through security, or enjoy the acclaimed Airport Public Art Program Audio Tour.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium in San Jose.

Where to Stay in San Jose

Since San Jose is such a popular destination for leisure and business travelers alike, you can have your pick of accommodations. Choose from the best San Jose hotels, hostels, and private rentals to make your trip to Silicon Valley memorable.

Top Hotels

San Jose offers a variety of hotel options suited to every budget, style preference, and location demand. Splurge on the Santa Clara Marriott for an upscale stay near the Santa Clara Convention Center. Sports fans will love this option, as it’s mere steps away from Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers.

Fairmont San Jose is another chic option boasting refined elegance everywhere you turn. The 20-story hotel caters to discerning travelers with luxury rooms and exquisite amenities, including a rooftop pool and gazebo.

Prefer a more budget-friendly accommodation? Consider Days Inn San Jose Convention Center, an affordable option that includes free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Motel 6 offers a similar experience with free morning coffee, coin-operated laundry, and an outdoor pool.

Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, San Jose International Airport, CA is a popular choice for travelers wanting a close proximity to the airport. This accommodation is perfect for visitors in town for events as it boasts easy access to the city’s light rail system and offers an airport shuttle service.

Best Hostels

Checking into a backpacker’s hostel is a smart way to save on your travels around San Jose. The nearby Hostelling International – Santa Cruz is a beautiful hostel by the beach that hosts more than 10,000 guests annually. Its grounds consist of five renovated Victorian cottages, which can accommodate up to 45 guests at once. Despite being further out from San Jose, it’s a good choice if you’re hoping to explore the greater Bay Area.

Coolest Private Rentals

Skip the traditional accommodations if you’re traveling with the whole family or a large group of friends and opt for a private rental. Most private rentals offer more space and additional amenities you won’t find elsewhere, including whole kitchens, laundry facilities, and that home-away-from-home feel. Depending on your budget, you may even score a private apartment with a secluded backyard pool or cabana.

Travelers on a budget should also consider renting a studio or a private room in a shared space. These options can help you get closer to downtown without paying the heftier hotel prices.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan your vacation to San Jose right here on GoDoTrip and take care of your transportation, accommodations, and itinerary before you even set foot in Silicon Valley.