Best Things to do with Kids in San Jose, California

I recently took a trip to San Jose, California and discovered that it was a hidden family-friendly destination. I’ll cover everything from family-friendly hotels in San Jose, what to see in San Jose with kids with tips on downtown San Jose things to do, my favorite kid-friendly activities in San Jose, and places to visit near San Jose. Read the post to find out the best things to do with kids in San Jose, California.

As a mom worldschooling her two kids, my days are most often spent at home, making sure my kids are studying, getting on skype with tutors for their e-lessons, doing homework, taking them to their extracurricular activities, planning our next family worldschooling adventure, writing blogs…the list goes on and on and on. It’s very easy for me to get bogged down with our daily activities as a family that I forget to take time for myself.

And, it’s not just me that suffers from the lack of me-time as a mom. My girlfriends are victim to it, too. Which is why a couple of years ago we decided to start planning an annual all-girls trip to take the time to relax…for ourselves, and for our families, too.

This year we set our sights on a trip to the Redwood forests of Northern California for some forest bathing and getting back to nature. The practice of forest bathing was first developed in Japan in the 80’s as a means of taking in the atmosphere of the forest. The benefits of forest bathing are numerous; it can lower heart rate, blood pressure, decrease stress, elevate the mood, and even increase memory capacity.

Our trip started off with a couple of days in San Jose before heading to the coast where we spent the rest of the trip glamping in nature. Did you know that San Jose was originally home to one of California’s oldest civilian settlements, founded in 1777?

With over 300 days of sunshine every year, San Jose, is the perfect yet unlikely family-friendly California destination. Read on to find out where to go in San Jose with kids, things to do in downtown San Jose, and what makes San Jose the ideal base for exploring the San Jose area and surrounding Northern Californian towns.

Family-Friendly Hotels in San Jose, California

Accommodation NameStar RatingCheck Prices
The Fairmont San Jose****Click here to check the latest prices for the Fairmont
DoubleTree by Hilton, San Jose ****Click here to check the latest prices at DoubleTree by Hilton
San Jose Mariott****Check the latest rates & availability
Dolce Hayes Mansion***Check the latest rates & availability

One of the (many) highlights of our trip was staying at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose. Located 12 miles from downtown San Jose, this 100-year old former private estate is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the perfect introduction to everything San Jose and all the places to visit near San Jose have to offer.

Click here to check the rates and availability for the Dolce Hayes Mansion.

During our girls retreat in the Redwood forest, we chose to stay in an eco-friendly yurt just so we could be one with nature. We had a great time glamping and forest bathing…though getting used to showering outdoors takes some getting used to!

Click here to get $25 off your first AirBnb rental

The 10 Best Things to do with Kids in San Jose, California

Children’s Discovery Museum

The Mammoth Discovery exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Photo Credit Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose via Flickr

There are a number of San Jose museums worth visiting, but one that stands out in particular is the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. We find that museums are a great, hands-on way for our worldschooling kids to switch up their environment and have their homework lessons in an enriching space, conducive to learning. With interactive exhibits and programs encompassing science and arts, the San Jose kids museum always has new education exhibits on offer. Their outdoor learning exhibit, Bill’s Backyard, opened in October 2017 allows children to connect with nature by going outdoors, climbing sky bridges, and learning about the animals that exist outdoors.

Watch a Show on Broadway

Whether your thrill is opera, theater, classical music, or a noise-thumping outdoor rock concert, the area vibrates with great shows and iconic venues from one end to the other. I got tickets to see Love Never Dies, which is based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s renowned, The Phantom of the Opera. If musicals aren’t you’re thing, then you can always catch an outdoor show at the historic Mountain Winery, perched atop a hill above Saratoga with sweeping valley views. San Jose has plenty of theatrical groups to offer something for everyone in the family!

Spend the day at California’s Great America Theme Park

There’s a ride and attraction for everyone in your family to enjoy at California’s Great America theme park. Since Hawaii doesn’t have any theme parks, we love taking the kids to theme parks, and as they get older, the more thrilling the parks and rides become. Located just 12 minutes from Downtown San Jose, a trip to Great America with the kids is the perfect way to spend a vacation day day in San Jose.

Hit the Trails

San Jose is a great base for exploring the open spaces and tens of thousands of acres of wilderness preserves in the surrounding Bay Area. There are public trails that wind through the preserves allowing hikers to enjoy a variety of terrains; everything from bayside marshlands to hills with oak trees and red-wood forests. A couple of parks to check out Big Basin State Park, Henry W. Coe State Park, Castle Rock State Park, Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, and Mount Madonna State Park

Family-Friendly Wine Tasting

There’s plenty of family-friendly things to do in San Jose but this next one is not the first suggestion that might come to mind. We first discovered the option of family-friendly wine tasting when we were at a Saint-Emilion in vineyard in France. Northern California is home to some of the best wineries in the USA, and thankfully there are a number of them that welcome kids. Some of the wineries and vineyards offer activities and attractions just for kids while others have an open space for the kids to run around in while us parents sip on some vino.

We recommend checking out J Lohr Vineyards and Wines for a wine tasting in Downtown San Jose, David Bruce & Ride in the Santa Cruz mountains, and Bonny Doon on the Santa Cruz coast.

Get a Taste of Europe at Santana Row

Located in West San Jose, Santana Row is the location for shopping and dining. The area has a very European-feel with its tree-lined avenues, flowers, and wrought-iron balconies of town houses. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from – from Indian to Italian and even a Brazilian steakhouse, the culinary choices are endless.

San Pedro Square Market

The San Pedro Square Market located in downtown San Jose is the perfect destination for any foodie family. In addition to an open-air plaza and sidewalk cafe, the market offers everything from sushi to tapas and home goods. If you’re looking for free things to do in San Jose, then the space is also home to daily nighttime entertainment with live musical performances and even Karaoke on Thursday nights.

Visit Levi’s Stadium

Opened in 2014, the shiny new and environmentally Levi’s Stadium is home to the San Francisco 49ers. Located in the neighboring town of Santa Clara, the stadium offers tours on non-game days which is fun thing to do in San Jose with kids. They get to experience the stadium (without the game-day crowds) from the grassy football field, get a chance to look at the team lockers, and even explore the 20,000 sq ft 49ers museum.

Explore the Foothills

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Spanish for “The Cats” the town of Los Gatos acts as a natural gateway between the greater Santa Clara basin and the beautiful Pacific Coast of California, while still possessing its small town feel and charm of its rich history. With a population approaching 30,000 and a high median household income Los Gatos is one of the nicest and most prestigious towns in Santa Clara County. When you’re there with the kids in tow, don’t forget to grab breakfast from Los Gatos Cafe.

Visit the Coast

If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do near San Jose, take a drive to Santa Cruz. Just 30 miles from San Jose, the Santa Cruz coastline feels like a world apart with dramatic scenery and a slow-paced, casual California life. Home to the world-renowned beach boardwalk, the surfing and college town of Santa Cruz is a popular family destination. Ride the Roaring Camp’s steaming train rides, spend a day at the beach or try some of the best clam chowder, there’s plenty to do with the family.


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