San Jose is full of surprises, beginning with the fact that it’s actually the 10th largest city in all of America. In keeping with its status as a major metropolis, the Bay Area city hosts plenty of things to do that range from the educational to the supernatural.
The Winchester Mystery House certainly ranks among the latter. Built by eccentric multi-millionaire Sarah Winchester over the course of 38 years, the seven-story mansion has a rich paranormal back story. After losing her infant and husband, Sarah sought solace from a local medium. This medium attributed the untimely deaths to spirits murdered at the hands of Sarah’s ancestors. To appease these malicious spirits and protect her own life, the widow hired a crew of carpenters to build a house in their honor and asked them to continue construction indefinitely. The resulting estate continues to baffle visitors with its 160 rooms, each interspersed with bizarre details such as a window in the floor, a staircase that leads to nowhere, and more than a few secret passageways.
History Park delves into less morbid aspects of San Jose’s past. Within the park’s 14 acres, you’ll find a running trolley, rotating art and history exhibits, and a 115-foot replica of San Jose’s legendary Electric Light Tower. The original tower was constructed in 1881 with the hopes of illuminating all of downtown. Though the glowing 237-foot pillar never quite achieved its goal before collapsing, the replica symbolizes San Jose’s central role in technological innovation.
Other examples of innovation reside at the San Jose Museum of Art, home to 1,400 contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs. The Tech Museum of Innovation offers a more hands-on experience with scientific exhibits designed by partners such as NASA and Stanford University, located in nearby Palo Alto. The Children’s Discovery Museum also facilitates active engagement with its 150 exhibits and an Art Loft where kids can create their own masterpieces.
On the opposite side of the museum spectrum is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. It’s best to keep a safe distance from the bronze, wooden, and mummified cats that populate some of the museum’s galleries, as these creatures were revered in ancient Egypt as household protectors. Some of these felines don fine jewelry, and many were buried according to the same customs as their human owners.
Resurface in the modern age at Santana Row, a hub of upscale fashion boutiques, spas, and restaurants. Between stops at BCBG and Gucci, grab a bite to eat at Pizza Antica, where crusts bake to a delicious golden-brown in stone ovens. Downtown, Waves Smokehouse & Saloon offers a unique dining experience. The saloon’s colorful history dates back to the Old West, and it actually served as a brothel when it was built in 1873.
Just minutes outside the city, California’s Great America entertains the whole family with thrilling rides and a village of 18 kid-specific attractions. In the hot summer months, head to nearby Raging Waters, which ranks as Northern California’s largest water park at a whopping 23 acres.