Things to Do in San Jose with Kids

Little girl on kiddie ride at amusement park


Keeping the Family Entertained on Your Silicon Valley Vacation

You may know the way to San Jose, but once you’ve arrived, for your own peace of mind, you’ll also need to find kid-friendly activities for your family vacation. The third-largest city in California, this sprawling metropolis features a variety of attractions for children, from quirky homes with looping labyrinths to amusement parks with major roller coasters. Known for its tech-savvy companies, San Jose also offers kids a glimpse into the future through museums with interactive exhibits.

Get Lost

Learn the fascinating tale of Sarah Winchester, the woman responsible for the Winchester Mystery House (525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose, CA), an oddly constructed mansion. According to legend, Winchester built the nonsensical home to confuse the spirits she believed were haunting her. Take a tour of the 100-plus-room mansion, in which windows are built into floors, stairs lead to ceilings, doors open to blank walls, and hallways meet dead ends. A series of bizarre motifs run throughout the house’s design as well, including homages to spider webs and the number 13. Special evening tours, led by candlelight or flashlights, take place during the Halloween season and on most Friday the 13ths.

The World of Tomorrow

Catch a glimpse into the inner workings and minds of Silicon Valley at the Tech Museum of Innovation (201 S. Market St., San Jose, CA). Junior scientists and engineers will enjoy the array of hands-on exhibits as they ride a compressed, air-powered jet-pack chair, experience earthquakes on a shake platform and build robots. No need to make reservations at the drop-in studio where kids create and test a variety of technological devices through simple workshops. The museum also features an IMAX theater that showcases short films with science and technology topics.

Learning and Playing

The Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose (180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA) encourages visitors of all ages to explore the facility’s hands-on displays. Let your children roam free as they dig for fossils, blow enormous soap bubbles, prepare meals in a pretend kitchen and hop aboard a full-size fire truck. Little artists are also given the opportunity to create original pieces in a variety of mediums at the Art Loft or join drop-in theatrical workshops covering activities such as acting, dancing, singing and stage combat.

Recreation and Wilderness

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo (748 Story Rd., San Jose, CA) is a combination amusement park meets animal sanctuary. Tiny tot adventurers will enjoy the park’s kiddie rides, including its family-friendly coaster, pint-sized free-fall and quaint carousel. The park also features multiple playgrounds and a puppet theater. The tiny zoo is home to such wild critters as lemurs, meerkats and jaguars, plus a petting zoo where kids are given the chance to interact with miniature ponies and sheep.

What a Ride

California’s Great America (4701 Great America Pkwy., Santa Clara, CA) is a popular amusement park based in Santa Clara, just 15 minutes northwest of San Jose. Quench your need for speed with the park’s wide array of roller coasters, from an old-fashioned wooden frame coaster to a suspended jet coaster with a zero-gravity roll. For those less-adventuress travelers, the kiddie play area features tame carnival rides, a splash pad and roaming costumed Peanuts characters. The park also has family-friendly stage shows and attractions, from water flumes to bumper cars.