Things to do in San Jose

The Best Family Activities in San Jose

San Jose is a sun-soaked playground, beaming rays of joy onto mini-explorers and curious parents.

Sunshine does a happy dance on the streets of San Jose year-round. Intrigue fills the air, and high spirits and learning merge into a ball of happiness. Ready to laugh so loud you can practically be heard from the other side of the world? Want to know about the coolest, most interesting stuff ever? These family activities in San Jose are for you.

Let’s face it: There are a gazillion things to do in San Jose. We couldn’t cram them all into our list, so here are the 16 best options. Mom and Dad — forget meetings and spreadsheets and embrace sheer excitement. Hold onto your seats, kids. You’re about to discover jaw-dropping days out that will bend your mind.

Outdoor Adventures for the Whole Family

Dive headfirst into San Jose’s wild side. Here, you can take photos of the prettiest flowers ever. Gaze in awe at a capybara, say hello to a jaguar, and chill with a red panda. It's all in a day’s fun. Grab your curiosity hats, and lace up your exploring shoes. These experiences will leave your family with memories that bloom large.

1. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is far from your average zoo. The 16-acre extravaganza has been a San Jose staple since 1961. That means your parents and even their parents might have visited when they were small.

The zoo blends the wonder of close animal encounters with the heart-pounding thrill of coasters. Add in a sprinkle of puppetry and a dash of interactivity, and you’ve got yourself a treat of a day out.

While fun is crucial to Happy Hollow, it’s also on a serious mission to help save the planet. Participating in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan helps protect species at risk of extinction.

2. Municipal Rose Garden

The Municipal Rose Garden promises an escape to a land of fragrance and color. It’s a 5.5-acre expanse with a rich history. Since 1927, it has blossomed into a sprawling garden with more than 3,500 rosebushes and 189 species.

As you stroll through the manicured pathways, your eyes are not the only ones who feast. Breathtaking aromas waft through the air, transporting you into a world of peace and calm.

It’s a fantastic place for kids to explore their senses. They can play hide-and-seek among the bushes, run through the endless lawns, or simply admire beauty in its natural form. Beyond the rosebushes, there are giant trees to climb, and the garden hosts several family-friendly events and programs throughout the year.

Photographer: Michelle Myers

Educational and Cultural Experiences

Take your kids on a journey through space and time, and let their minds soar like acrobats in the grand spectacle. In San Jose, learning is an escapade. It’s a stage where your child’s imagination is the main act.

Bring your kids along, and watch them unleash their inner inventors, explorers, artists, and cultural detectives. So many stories, discoveries, and hands-on experiences await.

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

Ever dreamed of piloting a spaceship or climbing a giant bubble? Bring your dreams to life at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

You can crawl through a giant kaleidoscope, craft a masterpiece in the art studio, and explore the giant treehouse. Let your imagination blast off into space like a rocket ship. By the end of the day, you might have an idea — or two or three — about what you want to do when you grow up.

The museum is an interactive wonderland, brimming with exhibits that excite young minds. Parents marvel as they watch their little one's eyes light up with inspiration.

4. The Tech Interactive

Tech Interactive is a science and technology hub that has been captivating kids’ minds since 1998. If you’re bored with “Do Not Touch” signs and crave tactile stimulation, you might never want to leave.

In the activity center, you’ll tinker with robots, design and test bridges, and go on a simulated exploration of Mars. Head over to the exploration labs and immerse yourself in coding and biotechnology. To cap it off, you can catch a groundbreaking movie in the largest IMAX on the West Coast.

When you’re at The Tech Interactive, encourage your kids to ask questions, experiment, and embrace the unknown. Watch their passion for learning come to life before your eyes, and don’t be shy about trying out the exhibits for yourself.

Entertainment and Amusement

In addition to learning sprees and outdoor adventures, family activities in San Jose offer opportunities for laughter and excitement throughout the year. In and around the city’s confines, you leave the ordinary behind and claim your ticket to a realm where every moment is a celebration.

Big kids, little kids, and those who are kids at heart will make memories at these venues they'll look back on for years to come.

5. Mystery Spot

We’re no strangers to gravity-defying feats — and neither is Mystery Spot. This quirky roadside attraction has baffled and amazed visitors since 1940. Inside a seemingly ordinary cabin, everything appears to be back to front and upside down. Here, you can walk up walls, watch streams flow upward, and roll balls uphill.

Mystery Spot is located on a gravity hill near Santa Cruz, surrounded by towering redwood trees. Take photos, or your friends might not believe you can outwit the laws of physics!

6. Golfland Emerald Hills

Bring the family along to Emerald Hills Golfland for an all-out, classic amusement center experience. Tee off with loved ones in a game of mini-golf. The color-laden courses are filled with funky obstacles and playful props.

Don’t let the fun end there. Next, put the pedal to the metal, and zoom around exhilarating go-kart tracks, and feel the wind in your hair. Finish up the day at the arcade, which boasts an incredible mix of retro and brand-new games.

You’ll have to come back to try laser tag another time — maybe for a birthday party or group celebration.

Photographer: Kayla Farmer

Arts and Crafts for Creative Minds

San Jose is a hotbed for artistic expression and all-round creativity. The SoFa District is especially renowned for its artsy vibes, but there are plenty of areas with beautiful murals and whacky street art to admire. Grab a paintbrush, and prepare to craft a masterpiece.

7. School of Visual Philosophy

At the School of Visual Philosophy, an array of engaging art classes and workshops await, including painting, pottery, animation, and illustration. Experienced instructors teach you time-honored techniques while fostering a nurturing and empowering environment.

Come here to experiment, develop your skills, and express yourself. As a bonus, you’ll likely meet like-minded friends who enjoy creating as much as you do.

8. San Jose Museum of Art

Opened in 1969, the San Jose Museum of Art takes you on a contemporary journey through color, shape, and form. Budding artists and playful dreamers love this dazzling realm of imagination and its magnificent paintings, fantastical sculptures, and daring digital displays.

This is more than a museum; it’s a place where you’re free to dream, explore, and break boundaries. Everyone belongs. Here, you don’t just look—you do. With its special workshops, you can become an artist. Scavenger hunts and interactive games make it even more immersive for little hands and minds.

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Relaxing Family Time

Connect deeply with loved ones at San Jose’s most serene destinations. Whenever life feels like a loud symphony, retreat to these special spots to slow down and take in your surroundings.

Remember, when the world around you is quiet and still, your thoughts and insights get a volume boost. Peaceful places give young minds space to build castles made of dreams and explore their inner worlds.

9. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Does learning about long-lost ancient artifacts from Egypt make your heart happy? Are you mesmerized by pyramids and pharaohs? Then, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is the San Jose family activity for you.

Be sure to pack your detective hat and magnifying glass because you’re about to find treasure. Exhibits teach inquiring minds the secrets of mummification, hieroglyphics, and Egyptian palaces.

After a day of exploring, head to the peace garden, an oasis with glimmering fountains and lush greenery. Count the colorful fish in the garden’s pond before spreading out a picnic blanket and sharing your stories of discovery.

Photographer: Narciso Arellano

10. Japanese Friendship Garden

Escape the urban buzz and discover a land of whimsy and wonder at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Within its walls, you can watch fishy friends with sparkling scales chase each other around ponds as you weave around tiny yet perfectly formed trees.

Listen to the sound of waterfalls as you look for secret tunnels that lead to hidden surprises. Tell Mom and Dad to pack food and drinks, and prepare for a unique adventure for miniature samurais-in-training.

Unique Family Experiences

San Jose has a secret stash of unique experiences that are just waiting to sprinkle sorcery over your next family trip. Try them to break free from the expected and create memories you’ll reminisce over for years to come. Get ready to giggle and gasp as you step outside your comfort zone and discover a new world of fun.

11. Family Mystery Picnic by AmazingCo

Everyone loves a picnic. But have you had one where the destination is a secret and the only clue is a mysterious map? If not, it’s time to try the Family Mystery Picnic by AmazingCo.

Here's the deal: Start by choosing a theme, such as pirates, princesses, or outer space. Then, you’ll be whisked away on a themed treasure hunt filled with clues and riddles, where your picnic is the prize.

Try to contain your excitement as you unwrap the mystery picnic basket. It’s brimming with delicious goodies and cute decorations that match your theme.

Photographer: Kateryna Hliznitsova

12. San Jose Bike Party

Turn up the gears on family fun with the San Jose Bike Party. Decorate your bike and helmet with stickers and flashing lights. If you dare, wear wacky costumes as you cruise through the city streets as a family.

Cycling is one of the most eco-friendly ways to explore the city, and it gets your legs moving and heart thumping. And don’t forget, safety first. Always ride with a grown-up, and get ready for a wheelie good time.

Community and Seasonal Events

Throughout the year, San Jose comes alive with parades and celebrations. Picture the streets lined with dazzling floats and marching bands. Come Christmastime, festive lights twinkle, and the sound of carol singing fills the air.

More than entertainment, these events are opportunities to connect with your local community and build friendships that last a lifetime. We think it’s one of the best places in the world for a Christmas celebration.

13. San Jose Holiday Parade

On the second Saturday of December, the San Jose Holiday Parade rolls into town. A winter wonderland takes over the city, and giant helium balloons dance across the sky. Huge floats, featuring all your favorite Christmas characters, weave through the streets like moving storybooks.

Meanwhile, marching bands play uplifting music, and delicate dancers move in time. This cherished tradition brings families together and strengthens the community. So, bundle up in your warmest winter coat, and grab a cup of hot cocoa from one of the many stalls.

Does live music set your spirit alight? Live music in San Jose is thriving, with venues showcasing both established and upcoming talent.

14. Christmas in the Park

Prepare to be amazed by Christmas in the Park, a twinkling extravaganza in the center of San Jose. Four million lights transform Guadalupe River Park into a surreal dreamland, and the Christmas spirit warms your hands and heart. See illuminated snowmen, reindeer, candy canes, and even Santa himself as you fly through the sky on thrilling carnival rides.

Fear not, entertainment lovers. Christmas in the Park has you covered. Each day in late November and throughout December, singers and dancers line the streets, reveling in the Christmas spirit.

Outdoor Recreation and Parks

San Jose is an outdoor haven among California’s abundant landscape. The beaches in San Jose are unmatched, and the area's parks provide plenty of room for little ones to run around.

Green trails wind through redwood forests, and lakes beckon you to paddle in them. There are also plenty of meadows where you can spread out your picnic basket while the kids chase butterflies and build forts. Here are two of our favorite local parks and gardens.

15. Kelley Park

Imagine a park where redwood trees tickle the skies and a mini train takes you on a tour. At Kelley Park, you can explore hidden trails, eat picnic snacks under the sun, and enjoy the feeling of freedom as you run around its 172-acre expanse.

16. Guadalupe River Park & Gardens

Get lost in a maze of flowers and spot colorful butterflies at Guadalupe River Park & Gardens. It was opened in 2005 to boost the city’s flood defenses and uplift the local community through the joy of nature.

Embracing Family Fun and Adventure in San Jose

San Jose is a tapestry made from the threads of community, nature, industry, and innovation. From heart-pounding thrills to serene gardens, you’ll find something to suit your family’s mood on any given day. So, step into this vibrant canvas. Paint memories of laughter and discovery, and let the city bring out the best in you.

For a spellbinding finale, witness the captivating artistry of one of our shows in San Jose. Surrender your senses to our dazzling acrobatics, captivating designs, and inspiring music, and experience the joy of live entertainment. Never miss a chance to witness the extent of human potential unfold before your eyes.

Get your tickets, and bring the whole family along for an evening you'll be talking about long after you return home.

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