With its sunny weather, multicultural population and strategic position in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose offers residents a pleasant and rewarding lifestyle. It might not be as glamorous as neighbouring San Francisco, but for those looking for a modern city that still retains something of a small-town atmosphere, San Jose is definitely worth considering.
The lifestyle in San Jose appeals to every taste and interest. From wineries to museums, theatres, parks and markets, there is always something to enjoy in the city. Further afield, mountains and national parks offer day and weekend getaways for those wanting to explore the wider California region.
Shopping in San Jose
Shopping opportunities are abundant in San Jose, with many large, modern shopping malls, like Westfield Valley Fair, the largest mall in San Jose. Other popular malls include Westgate, Westfield Oakridge, Eastridge Mall and Almaden Plaza Shopping Center.
Santana Row is an upscale shopping district that offers luxury brands and high-end boutiques alongside premium restaurants. For those looking for something more unique, there are older, eclectic shopping districts, such as in the Downtown Historic District, along Paseo de San Antonio and at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue.
Eating out in San Jose
Although San Jose's dining scene may not be as well known as neighbouring San Francisco's, there are plenty of excellent restaurants in the city. With the warm climate, diners can enjoy many lovely al fresco dining options.
As can be expected in such a multicultural and ethnically diverse region, there's a wide variety of cuisine available. From budget takeaway outlets to fine dining establishments, from traditional American steakhouses and seafood specialists to Italian, Mexican and Asian fare, there is something to suit every taste and budget.
Downtown San Jose is particularly popular for eating out, with many restaurants, bars and coffee shops lining the streets. Santana Row also has many dining establishments; it's best to book if you want to eat in this upmarket area.
Nightlife and entertainment in San Jose
Newcomers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to nightlife and entertainment in San Jose. Downtown is arguably the most happening area with restaurants, bars, theatres, museums, live music and comedy venues catering for people from all walks.
San Pedro Square, in particular, has many popular pubs and restaurants and even a microbrewery to enjoy. The area also hosts an outdoor cinema and a farmer's market. The SoFA District (South of First Area) is the centre of visual arts and entertainment in downtown San Jose. Known for its eclectic and creative crowd and venues, there are many coffee shops, theatres and galleries.
Sports and outdoor activities in San Jose
As with most of California, outdoor activities are a major part of the lifestyle in San Jose all year round. From the San Jose Rose Garden to the Japanese Friendship Garden, the city has many outdoor parks and gardens for families to enjoy a relaxing day out in the sun.
Walking and running are also favourite pastimes in the city, particularly along the city's established trails. A network of bicycle trails also makes it relatively easy to cycle around the city.
Lake Cunningham offers opportunities for fishing and boating, while national parks such as Yosemite National Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park are great for those wanting to explore the wilderness for a weekend of camping or hiking. California's beautiful beaches are also not far away, and a drive along the Pacific Highway offers an opportunity to explore the state's magnificent coastline.
See and do in San Jose
San Jose is packed with things for people to do in their leisure time, so we've put together a list of some of the most popular things to see and do in San Jose.
The Tech Interactive
This science and technology centre offers hands-on activities, experimental labs and design challenges that are intended to empower innovation and give visitors a taste of how technology can be brought to life. The Interactive's IMAX Dome Theatre also provides a one-of-a-kind movie experience with the use of the world's first laser projector in a domed theatre.
San Pedro Square Market
The San Pedro Square Market houses an impressive collection of food vendors offering cuisine from all ends of the earth. It also hosts live music, film showings, book signings, comedy shows and the odd sports game for visitors to watch. Open every day of the week, this dog-friendly market offers al fresco dining spots from which new arrivals will be entertained while enjoying a meal.
Winchester Mystery House
Built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, this beautiful but bizarre Victorian-style mansion is open to the public for guided tours. Mrs Winchester built the house with many odd features, including doors and stairways that lead nowhere, in order to confuse the spirits of the victims lost to the Winchester Rifle that had returned to haunt the house, as she believed. Along with newcomers having an opportunity to explore the mysterious estate, they can also attend numerous events held there annually.
San Jose Museum of Art
Housing an impressive collection of works from West Coast artists, this museum is a favourite among art lovers in San Jose. While many of the exhibits showcase Californian artists, art from the Pacific Rim is also gaining traction. New arrivals can expect to view a wide selection of works using many different styles and mediums.
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
Situated in Kelley Park, Happy Hollow is an amusement park and zoo for the whole family to enjoy. It offers thrilling rides, a petting zoo, a puppet theatre and animal exhibits, among other attractions. Those looking for educational fun will discover that the Learning LODGE holds camps and classes that focus on conservation and sustainability.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
History buffs in San Jose will enjoy a visit to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Its architectural style is inspired by Ancient Egypt, and visitors will spend some time fully immersed in their culture. The museum houses the most extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the western US. Shows are also hosted at the museum's planetarium on the weekends.
What's on in San Jose
It may be better known for its tech industry, but there are a variety of exciting annual cultural events in San Jose. The Bay Area's robust craft beer culture is celebrated along with music, art and, as can be expected, technology festivals and conferences. Aside from major events that take place at specific times of the year, there is always something going on in the city for locals and expats from all walks of life.
Here are some recommended yearly festivals.
Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival (April)
Held at Memorial Park in Cupertino, the Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates Japanese culture and the arrival of springtime. While the centre of focus for the event is the beautiful cherry blossom trees, new arrivals can also take in cultural performances, food and carnival games, making it a great day out for the family.
SubZERO Festival (June)
Newcomers looking for something a little outside the norm are sure to find it at this exciting festival, which prides itself on representing San Jose's various subcultures. Entertainment is provided by a host of artists, musicians and performers representing a wide variety of genres and styles.
San Jose Jazz Summerfest (August)
One of the most popular music festivals on the West Coast, the San Jose Jazz Summerfest started as a small event in 1990. It has since grown into a multi-stage cross-genre extravaganza lasting for three days. Attendees get to see a range of international stars and up-and-coming artists in a variety of music styles, including jazz, salsa and Latin.
Luna Park Chalk Art Festival (September)
Over the course of a day, San Jose's artists take to the sidewalks of Backesto Park, filling them with more than 250 pieces of vibrant chalk-based art. Food and drink stalls cater for hungry attendees, while the festival's main stage hosts local musicians to entertain visitors.
Beerwalk Willow Glen (October)
Lager-loving expats can get to know some of their fellow beer connoisseurs while exploring the neighbourhood, as this festival sees craft beer tastings being held at local art studios, boutiques and bars.
►For information on finding the perfect home in the Silicon Valley, see Accommodation in San Jose
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