If one was to look closely, they'd find that there's a lot more to the city of San Jose than just tech innovation and high-cost living spaces. The capital of Silicon Valley, this bayside city is a seriously underrated vacation prospect. Starting from an ultramodern city centre with endless entertainment options to quaint outer suburbs with lush mountains and open seas, San Jose sure has it all! And it only takes a short weekend trip to uncover all of this Californian city's best kept secrets.
And despite the competitive tourism industry and ever increasing footfall of travellers from across the globe, San Jose does remain an extremely expensive place to be at. Planning your trip ahead would be a wise decision, and it all starts with placing yourself in an ideal neighborhood. But don't worry, we've got you covered in that department. Here, we have listed some of the best neighborhoods of San Jose and what they might have in store for you traveller!
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The bustling city centre makes for a nice weekend microcosm of all the things that make San Jose a great vacation prospect. The central Plaza de César Chávez is a good starting point for sightseeing tours. The venue for many outdoor concerts and multiple fountains, it lies in close vicinity to all major San Jose landmarks. While the Tech Interactive remains a major highlight, venues such as the San Jose Civic and Museum of Art are also popular for their performances and late 20th century exhibits.
Outside of the major city landmarks, Downtown has a uniquely eclectic vibe. All major avenues are lined with a good mix of casual restaurant, fine dining options and take out joints. There's also plenty of drinking holes that stay up till late in the night, contributing to a lively nightlife as well. Head over to the San Pedro Square Market if you wish to have it all in the same space!
Northwards in Downtown, you find quieter streets by the side of the Guadalupe River. Most of these are lined with lush trees and make for great walking routes. Talking of which, a large stretch of the popular Guadalupe River Trail also runs along both banks of the river. They lead up to the expansive green space (also named after the river), where you can find a rose garden, children's playgrounds and lawns that double up as picnic spots.
As the major business centre of the city, Downtown has the best hotel options that San Jose has to offer. Top names in the hospitality industry have set up shop in the neighborhood, so the prices can be on the higher end of the spectrum. Downtown is also fairly close to the International airport so you wouldn't have to worry about long drives through traffic either.
Nihonmachi is located in the area that lies a little north of Downtown, where Santa Clara Valley's first Japanese immigrants had settled about a century ago. Today, the thriving neighborhood holds the distinction of being one of the last remaining "Japantown" in the States and is an unforgettable experience altogether.
The biggest draw of the neighborhood is the abundance of Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean) and Hawaiian eateries; Jackson, Taylor, 5th and 6th Streets, in particular, have the best ramen and sushi bars as well as restaurants serving big-plate lunches like no other. Family-run Santo and Nijiya Markets also sell fresh produce and special ingredients that go into the making of all local delicacies!
Japantown's appeal as a major culture enclave transcends its gastronomy. The neighborhood has been developed as a small heritage town in itself, with plaques marking establishments and businesses that date back to the early years. It is a great idea to just walk around the neighborhood streets and uncover all the history for yourself. Among the must-visits are the magnificent San Jose Buddhist Church Betsyuin and the Japanese American Museum; make sure that you make regular stopovers at the home-grown boutiques and ice cream businesses!
Japantown's proximity to Downtown provides it easy access to all major landmarks. North 4th Street runs straight into the neighborhood, connecting it to the city centre. Hotels are largely concentrated around the southern and northeastern parts of the neighborhood, but you can always look for homestays and Airbnb's elsewhere.
The city's other cultural enclaves, Alum Rock has been home to immigrants from Latin America for decades now. The Mexican Heritage Plaza, a central attraction is known for hosting cultural events and theatre productions in a modern hall. Around the grounds, you are bound to find taco stands, coffee shops and a variety of other Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants. Murals and street art don the neighborhood's walls, outlining its association with subcultures from as far back as the 1980s.
Outside of the cultural appeal, Alum Rock is also a great place for an outdoorsy vacation. Lying right at the foothills of the Diablo Range, which are home to vast grasslands and the once-endangered tule elk, the neighborhood offers plenty for adventure seekers. The eponymously named Alum Rock Park is one of the largest parks in the country, and offers mineral springs, biking/walking trails and a couple of more challenging hikes. Other parks including the Emma Prusch Farm and Lake Cunningham are worthy alternatives.
Alum Rock lies in the eastern end of San Jose and is connected to Downtown by a couple of major city roads including the Alum Rock Avenue and McKee Road. The neighborhood offers relatively cheaper accommodation, as several midrange hotels can be found in the vicinity.
The expansive neighborhood of North San Jose blends the modern entertainment venues from Downtown with the outdoorsy appeal of Alum Rock to provide a wholesome vacation experience. Home to major sporting venues such as the Earthquakes Stadium and San Jose Golf Course, as well as other parks with tennis and volleyball courts, this is the place to be for sports lovers. Stadium grounds also host festivals and live events during off season further rounding up their appeal.
Other big attractions include the Intel Museum, known for its exhibits outlining the history of the renowned silicon chips; the San Jose Flea market, a weekly outdoor market with carousels, ferris wheels and warm fairy light-lit stalls selling handicraft and snacks; and California's Great America, the city's biggest theme park. Dining options in North San Jose are many and among some of the finest that the city has to offer!
From among all the neighborhoods on this list, North San Jose is closest to the International airport, making it a go-to choice for in-transit travellers and the ones looking to stay close to the major transport hub. Hotels are in plenty, so take your sweet time choosing the right place for yourself. There's also a few big resorts that offer complete vacation packages that are worth checking out. In short, the neighborhood is just right for travellers looking for a luxury stay in the city.
The artsy center of San Jose, Willow Glen is the go-to choice for travellers looking for a charming suburb away from the busy city streets. Interspersed in the upmarket residential colonies are lush avenues lined with indie boutiques and fashion stores that will draw you in with their immaculate windows. Art studios, vintage book stores, dance companies and shops selling music records also do streets such as Lincoln Avenue, furthering the neighborhood's appeal for the artistically inclined.
Willow Glen also has a free-spirited vibe that remains unmatched in most other parts of the city. Locals throng the popular street markets for fresh produce and local crafts, while public plazas host many music and gourmet festivals that attract travellers form the world over. And what better place to capture the absurd than the Winchester Mystery House, a National Register of Historic Places landmark known for its winding corridors and staircases, many of which lead up to nowhere. In short, you are unlikely to run out of things to do in Willow Glen.
Willow Glen is located a little southwest of Downtown, but is only a short van ride away. The streets and residential colonies here are quieter than the ones that you're likely to come across in the city centre. That, added with the charming outdoors, are big draws for couples and travellers seeking a more private vacation. While in Willow Glen, try and look for a nice homestay for the best experience.
Sitting atop the San Francisco bay, the outer suburb of Alviso best encapsulates the lesser talked about side of San Jose: the natural landscape. But before we get into that, here's a quick mention of Alviso's collection of low-key Mexican eateries and taquerias. Nowhere in the city centre will you get such generous and indulgent portions of chimichangas and chalupa meals so make sure you check them out.
Onto the neighborhood's quaint seaside then! Picturesque boardwalks make for photograph-worthy spots around the Alviso Marina County Park, a popular spot for all outdoor activities ranging from birdwatching to picnic lunches. The surrounding marshes add to the minimalist scenery and are popular with fishing enthusiasts. And yet, most attractions might fade in comparison to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, an urban park that is home to migratory birds, local flora as well as a few old salt ponds!
Alviso is a little farther out from the city centre than most other neighborhoods. But don't let the extra 20 minute of freeway driving time discourage you from going for a hotel here. There are several fantastic bayside hotels and resorts, perfect for a relaxing getaway vacation. While selecting your rooms, take some extra time to make sure that you have uninterrupted views of the open sea right out of your window!
That's our complete list of neighbourhoods from San Jose traveller. Take your pick and get packing for your next vacation; the bustling capital of the Silicon Valley awaits!