Things to do in San Jose

Experience the Best San Jose Museums

In San Jose, there’s a world of wonders to explore. And you don’t even have to leave the city.

When the mountain air mingles with the beachy mists and innovation is everywhere, you might just be in San Jose. This crackling California city specializes in what's new and next, but that doesn't make its affinity for the past any weaker.

If you're looking for an escape through time and space, plenty of things to do in San Jose fit the bill. The city's museums house a wealth of fascinating art and information.

For curious minds, there's no time like now to start exploring. Here are the San Jose museums worthy of an expedition.

Science and Technology

Catch the inventor's bug in a city that runs on tomorrow's tech.

1. The Tech Interactive

International innovators have long flocked to San Jose, not for its sunny skies or proximity to the beach, but for its decidedly inventive energy. Here, clever minds band together to make scientific strides. And it's hard not to share their enthusiasm when you're in the city.

To the aspiring, the dabblers, and the tech-curious, The Tech Interactive is the place to be. Science and technology are on display, helpfully broken into easily grasped elements. And what better way to learn than to get your hands dirty? Fortunately, all the exhibits in this museum are interactive.

Whether you're interested in robots, animation, or interstellar exploration, you'll find an exhibit for it here. Virtual roller coaster engineering, music-making cubes, and telescope viewings are just a sampling. More than a museum, this is where learning and wonder become one.

2. Computer History Museum

When you carry something around in your tote bag every day, it can lose its luster. But the truth is, computers have come a long way to get where they are now. See for yourself at the Computer History Museum.

This museum houses one of the world's largest collections of computer-related artifacts. Over 2,000 years of computing history, dating back to the abacus, are cataloged here. The massive gallery space is divided into an assortment of amazing collections, each with a special focus.

Get lost in the enticing world of computer marketing brochures, handwritten lab notes, and dramatic oral histories. This fascinating information is easy to absorb, even if you're not a tech whiz.

3. Intel Museum

It's fitting that a company so integral to computer growth is memorialized in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Intel Museum tells the story of that champion of the microprocessor. Founded in a nearby California city, Intel has long remained a giant in the industry.

But those groundbreaking achievements mask a fascinating history, and it's all laid out for viewing at this museum. The sleek, self-guided space offers a behind-the-scenes peek into a high-tech wonderland. Take a gander at the automated chip factory, and dive deep into semiconductor technology.

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Art and Culture

From the minds of San Jose's creatives come gallery halls blooming with life.

4. San Jose Museum of Art

History is a creative herald at this gallery in the heart of downtown. Once a post office, then a library, this beloved city building is now a hub for imagination. Today, the San Jose Museum of Art is an exceptional showcase of West Coast artists.

Its archaic facade gives way to a chic, glossy gallery space. Visionaries exhibit their craft in many mediums. The museum's core collection is an amalgamation. Singular self-portraits and clever sculptures make the space a maze of innovation.

A city intertwined with science naturally produces a wave of science-inspired art. Special exhibits center around everything from STEM to a hall of deliberately low-tech pieces. Of all the rooms, the atrium is a must-see. Suspended 30 ft. high, Pae White's Noisy Blushes makes an ethereal sun catcher at midday.

5. Institute of Contemporary Art San José

As storytellers, we appreciate wholehearted dedication to a visual tale, and the Institute of Contemporary Art San José is a kindred spirit. Sparse in size, this space packs a punch to the senses with engaging exhibitions.

A stalwart supporter of community artists, it remains a popular museum among modern art fanatics. This three-gallery space keeps it minimal — until the artists step in, that is. Rotating exhibits keep the collection fresh, leaving viewers wondering what's to come.

Past displays included a shadowy study of extinction and survival and a wacky dissection of color and perspective. Each round of exhibits comes with an aptly decorated museum facade, so even passersby can add a little art to their days.

6. The Lace Museum

You might be a lace connoisseur when you leave The Lace Museum. This cozy gallery space is run by a splendidly enthusiastic staff, nobly dedicated to preserving the lace-making craft. It's a historical, cultural, and art museum all in one.

Each exhibit is a masterful display of delicate intricacy. Stunning pieces depict entire scenes immortalized in cloth. Dainty doilies and vintage clothing trace lace's role through the centuries. Keep the craft going with on-site workshops, where you can learn the art of tatting and make some lace of your own.

History and Heritage

Uncover the secrets lurking below San Jose's surface.

7. Winchester Mystery House

Of all the San Jose landmarks, the Winchester Mystery House is undoubtedly the most enigmatic. In 1886, rifle heiress Sarah Winchester moved to San Jose. Allegedly haunted by the spirits felled as a result of her father-in-law's firearms company, she proceeded to build her mansion. The eight-room farmhouse became a renovation that lasted a lifetime.

This might be the world's largest home-turned-museum. For perspective, the house boasts 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, and six kitchens. Regal Victorian architecture frames oddities such as stairways to nowhere and séance rooms.

Outside, the hulking structure looms over a pleasant, flower-decked garden path. The result is a unique blend of beautiful, unsettling, and downright weird — all elements we approve of.

A house so large naturally warrants hours of exploration. Spend the day snapping pictures and enjoying the on-site activities. Costumed tour guides provide a historically accurate experience for visitors. For the brave-hearted, a paranormal tour tracks the strange happenings recorded throughout the years.

Photographer: kavika2014

8. New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum

San Jose has always been a magnet for industry. High up in the Capitancillo Hills resides the ghostly remains of the city's past exploits. Mining booms and clinks echoed here when cinnabar, a mercury ore, was still plentiful. Cinnabar is the red-hued sister of the gold that prompted a rush of go-getters to Cali's hills.

But when the deposits dried up, the people dispersed. Today, the preserved New Almaden ghost town offers a clear glimpse into this frenzied past through the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.

Tucked in a timely revival-style mansion is a fascinating collection of artifacts from the era. Think dusty photographs, mine dioramas, and long-lost remnants of a mining family's livelihood. It's an in-depth look at local history that many residents have not noticed.

9. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

When we're not weaving tales or soaring across stages, we seek inspiration in the fantastical corners of the world we share. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is an excellent place to start. This massive collection has stood for nearly a century.

As soon as you cross the Karnak-style entrance, you'll feel as if you've been transported to another place and time. The museum is a mystical maze of relics from a far-off land. A rock-cut tomb provides a peek into the afterlife, while alchemical objects revive a lost art.

Educational value aside, this is an otherworldly spot for an afternoon walk. Tiled fountains and tranquil rock gardens prompt thoughtfulness and introspection. Wander around on your own, or take a Peace Garden tour, complete with walking meditation.

Photographer: Miguel Á. Padriñán

10. Japanese American Museum of San Jose

The history of San Jose's Japanese American residents is closely tied to the city's legacy. This chronicle is laid out in full at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, which covers over a century of historical records.

Fascinating artifacts detail early immigration stories and the growth of a vibrant San Jose community. Although not without hardships, this is a memorable tale of adaptation to a dynamic West Coast landscape.

Art also has a place here. Exhibits range from the iconic kimono to pieces crafted during the mass incarceration of the 1940s. A sharp study of culture, this museum strikes an emotional chord in every visitor.

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11. History Park

The many faces of Kelley Park are familiar to San Jose locals. With wildlife, disc golf, and streetcars, it has all the makings of a jolly day out. But stray to its southern side, and you'll find yourself in another age. History Park is pulled straight from the past and carefully preserved for immersive viewing.

This outdoor museum is brimming with places to explore. Historic buildings with old but well-kept brick facades line the streets. Grab a coffee at the Pacifica Hotel for a pick-me-up.

With its old-school charm, History Park is ideal for quaint, tranquil strolls. While you're here, sneak a peek at the Electric Light Tower. This relic of the best viewpionts of San Jose is rumored to have inspired a more famous tower currently residing in Paris.

Children and Family

Curious spirits of every age find fulfillment in San Jose's immersive exhibits.

12. Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

No one is ever too young or too old to marvel at the world around them. The folks behind the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose are the keepers of this knowledge, and they use their powers for good. What's mundane to tired eyes is offered a fresh new look within these purple, playful halls.

The "oohs" and "aahs" start in the parking lot, where a massive rubber duck looks out onto the palm-lined streets below. Beneath its watchful gaze lies a treasure trove of ideas to explore. Inquisitive minds take great pleasure in uncovering mammoth fossils and tackling the AirMaze.

An open-ended art studio and adjoining gallery offer spaces for creatives to appreciate art and make some of their own. Plan your visit to entwine with events led by cheery staff members, or let the halls lead you to a spontaneous discovery.

Special Interest

No hobby is too niche for the San Jose museum scene.

13. Lee Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum

The lush rolling hills and tree-flecked ponds of the Cinnabar Hills Golf Club look like they were pulled straight from a scenic postcard. But playing golf, chatting about golf, and thinking about golf can only take up so much time.

This course offers an immersive experience steeped in the sport, with the Lee Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum located within its clubhouse walls. The museum's founder, an avid collector, gathered most of these pieces over 6 decades.

Although Brandenburg has since passed, his collection of beloved artifacts remains, and it's free to view. It's an eclectic assortment, but one that will excite any fanatic. With captain's jackets, trophies, and personal memorabilia from your favorite players, this museum will have golf lovers squealing with delight.

14. San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Thread usurps the paintbrush in this gallery space. San Jose's Museum of Quilts & Textiles enshrines fiber art in a viewing space all tied up in dimension and texture.

This museum, the first of its kind, reveals the often hidden side of textiles as the creative outlets they've long been. For a medium closely tied to human expression, these pieces are threaded with culture and imagination.

Classical and contemporary works share the walls. Centuries-old quilts establish a hidden history of textile tradition. The 20th-century fiber arts revival is recounted here in all its glory, tightly connected to the Bay Area artist's scene.

Modern weavers are also given plenty of attention. Their pieces drape the exhibition space in gauzy, color-shocked displays alive with movement — just the kind of vibrant work we like to create onstage. Aspiring textile alchemists can attend in-house workshops and start creating their own fibrous masterpieces.

Photographer: MrsBrown

Getting to the Heart of San Jose Through Its Museums

There's no better place to embark on a journey of discovery than San Jose. Where engineering and creativity collide, the city is a portal to the future on a bed to the past. But escapism is best served otherworldly. So it's a good thing you've found us.

High-flying, awe-inspiring adventures are within reach when you're under our wings. We strive to dazzle while spinning a tale the only way we know how. Music and color meld into a sparkling show of visual splendor. And as the story surges, our cadre rises to the occasion with an unmatched performance filled with aerial triumphs.

Take your seat, and give yourself over to total immersion. As characters soar from the stage and brave perils flash before your eyes, another world comes to life. With our performers steering the craft, you won't forget these stories anytime soon. The circus awaits. Snag your tickets for one of our shows in San Jose today.

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