Set in the heart of the Silicon Valley, San Jose may be a thriving technology hub but you don’t have to follow the IT crowd to have fun. If you prefer beaches and burgers to bytes, Danny Baggott suggests how best to enjoy this Californian city.
It’s great for tech
San Jose - home to the offices of Yahoo, eBay, Netflix and Google’s HQ, the mammoth Googleplex - is undoubtedly the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley. Thousands of start-up companies have begun life here, attracting people from across the globe and making it one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. It’s little wonder then that the city’s Tech Museum of Innovation – known locally as ‘the Tech’ – is a mind-blowing way to spend a day. Showcasing the power of technology, there’s everything from biodesign and body metrics to design-your-own-robots. Kids will love the animated video games, which allow virtual butterflies to land on your arm.
The fun of the fair
Located in Santa Clara, California’s Great America amusement park offers 100 acres of non-stop entertainment with over 40 rides and attractions including Patriot, a new floorless roller coaster, and Boomerang Bay, the ultimate water park.Choose a California fly-drive
Room with a view
Perched high on a cliff above the Californian coast, Pigeon Point Lighthouse has been guiding mariners since 1872. Stay at the hostel next to the lighthouse for glittering vistas, whale-watching and the chance to explore the cove beaches below.Plan a Californian adventure
It has serious foodie credentials
Whether you want to eat in a smokehouse or by the side of a food truck, San Jose’s dining options cover every price range. Follow the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and wood-fired pizza to San Pedro Square Market, which bills itself as the perfect ‘meet-up place for foodies’. With over 20 unique vendors, selling everything from sushi to tapas, it’s easy to see why. Don’t miss the futuristic ice-cream vendor Treatbot – the flavours change daily, but the 408 (caramel, Oreo and vanilla ice cream) is one not to miss. A few blocks away you’ll find the Smoking Pig BBQ Company which serves some of the best pulled pork in town. If tacos are more your thing, the annual Taco Festival of Innovation pays homage to this humble Mexican dish with food trucks, live music and craft beer.
San Jose is surrounded by rolling hills and blessed with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year
The scenery is magnificent
San Jose is surrounded by rolling hills - and blessed with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year - so those who like to hike or bike (or fish, ride and climb) will want to make a beeline for one of its parks, scenic trails or the vast Lake Cunningham. A popular spot with the nature-loving crowd is Alum Rock Park. Founded in 1872, it’s nestled in the foothills of the Diablo Range and is one of the oldest municipal parks in California. Amongst its 720 acres of natural beauty are walking trails and natural springs, plus an impressive array of wildlife to spot including red-tail hawks, grey foxes, blacktail deers and bobcats.
Ideal for sun worshippers
OK, so the southern shores of San Francisco Bay don’t have swathes of sand, but some of the best beaches in California are on the Pacific Coast just a short drive from San Jose. The closest are in Santa Cruz, but they’re worth the journey. While some beaches here do get busy, there are plenty more desolate stretches of sand (like the more rugged Fern Grotto Beach in the Wilder Ranch State Park). Head north on Highway 1 and you’ll come to photogenic Davenport Beach and, further still, Pescadero State Beach, a 1.6km-long shoreline with sandy coves, cliffs, tide pools and picnic facilities. Take a short walk across the highway to the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a popular spot for bird watchers.
There’s plenty for the family
The ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’ might not sound kid-friendly, but San Jose is surprisingly well kitted out for little ones. Great America is a theme park and water park rolled into one with rides, rollercoasters and Boomerang Bay for slides and splashing. Also worth a visit is the Children’s Discovery Museum, which inspires creativity and learning through art, theatre and bubbles.