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Introduction

Often called "the Capital of Silicon Valley", San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, 3rd largest in California, and the 10th largest city in the United States. It was named the 6th safest big city in the US in 2015. This clean, sprawling metropolis has sports, beautiful vistas, ethnic enclaves, and bleeds into the greater Bay Area for travelers who want to take their time in Northern California.

El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (literally, The Town of Saint Joseph of Guadalupe) was founded by José Joaquín Moraga in 1777 near the present day intersection of Guadalupe Parkway and West Taylor Street. In 1797, the pueblo was moved to the Plaza Pueblo (now Plaza de César Chávez), around which San Jose grew. And the rest is, as they say, history.

True to its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is now home to the headquarters of many "tech" companies such as Cisco Systems, eBay, and Adobe Systems.

There are so many different neighborhoods in the large geographic area of San Jose that, depending on where you are, you might not know if you're still in the same city. Like most Bay Area towns and cities, San Jose is an expensive place to live (many basic houses easily top $1M in price). Some of the hip areas to live these days are in San Jose's downtown area, for those who prefer urban living, or Santana Row for a mixed living, shopping and dining community. You can find vintage California charm in the neighborhoods of Willow Glen and Rose Garden. The woodsy area of Almaden Valley is known for its excellent schools, and Silver Creek is known for its subdivisions of sprawling "McMansions." Evergreen is in East San Jose, right at the foothills of the city. Evergreen has some more affordable housing and is very residential. Since it is at the foothills, east San Jose is not as accessible as the other neighborhoods. Evergreen has excellent views of the foothills and many parks and recreational areas. Groseprick Park is located right in the heart of Evergreen and offers a mile long loop, basketball courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, and hiking trails.

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Sights and Activities

Downtown San Jose is a mix of offices, shopping, hotels, numerous restaurants as well as a convention center and the SoFA (South of First Area) nightclub district. Check out the San Pedro Square Farmer's Market on Fridays for local and organic produce, or visit the new City Hall (2005) and the nearby San Jose State University campus. The new main library (2003) is a prestigious, award-winning, joint-use library combining resources of the city and San Jose State University. Get outdoors and take advantage of San Jose's invariably sunny weather on the Guadalupe River Trail or in one of the many city parks. You'll always find a wealth of cultural events at theaters, art galleries, and museums.

  • The Tech Museum of Innovation (Museum of Science and Technology), 201 S Market St (near Park Ave), ☎ +1 408 294-TECH (8324). A great interactive experience for all ages and backgrounds. The Tech Museum allows visitors to see how technology affects their daily lives. Permanent exhibits focus on the Internet, the human body, and exploration. You'll also find an IMAX Theater, a cafe, and a retail store featuring merchandise unique to the Silicon Valley. $16 (museum and IMAX).
  • San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S Market St (at W San Fernando St), ☎ +1 408 271-6840. Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. Recognized for its contemporary collection of modern art, which highlights movements on the West Coast as well as national and international pieces. The museum started as a small civic art gallery in 1969 and has grown in step with its city. $8 general admission, $5 seniors/students.
  • San Jose City Hall, 200 E Santa Clara St (near S 4th St), ☎ +1 408 535-3500. Designed by architects Richard Meier & Partners, the new City Hall, opened in 2005, consists of a free standing glass rotunda at the center, a council chambers wing to the south, and a separate tower to the east. Tours are available.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, 150 E San Fernando St (at S 4th St), ☎ +1 408 808-2000. M–F 8AM–6PM, Sa 9AM–6PM, Su 1–5PM. Expanded hours during SJSU semesters.. A partnership between the City of San Jose and San Jose State University, the King Library opened in 2003 as the largest new library west of the Mississippi, with 475,000 sq. ft. and 1.5 million items. No ID is needed to use materials within the library, but if you want to check them out, or use public-access computers or WiFi, you must apply for a free library card (available to residents and non-residents alike, but you need a photo ID). Special non-circulating collections on the 5th floor (with limited hours, M–Sa) include, among others: Beethoven Center, housing historical keyboard instruments and the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside Europe; Center for Steinbeck Studies, with more than 40,000 items—manuscripts, letters, films, photos, etc.— of writer John Steinbeck. Free.
  • San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, 520 S 1st St (near E William St), ☎ +1 408 971-0323. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. The first museum in the US to focus on quilts and textiles, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles has an outstanding collection on a rotating display. Exhibitions change quarterly at this exciting and modern museum. $6 general admission, $5 seniors/students with ID (free for everyone on the first Friday of the month).
  • Paseo de San Antonio. A four-block pedestrian-only space, running between SJSU and Plaza de Cesar Chavez, lined with shops, hotels, casual and fast-food restaurants, and the Camera 12 Cinemas, At the Market Street end, an oversized bronze table features memories and writings of Mexican immigrant, activist, and SJSU professor Ernesto Galarza.
  • Quetzalcoatl statue, south end of Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. Robert Graham's 1994 sculpture of the Mesoamerican feathered-serpent deity was criticized for its $500K price tag, its composite-cement construction, its unimpressive 8-foot height, its religious significance, and its resemblance to coiled excrement.

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Weather

San Jose, like most of the Bay Area, has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb). San Jose has an average of 301 days of sunshine and an annual mean temperature of 15.8 °C. It lies inland, surrounded on three sides by mountains, and does not front the Pacific Ocean like San Francisco. As a result, the city is somewhat more sheltered from rain, giving it a semiarid feel with a mean annual rainfall of 401.8 millimetres, compared to some other parts of the Bay Area, which can receive about three times that amount.

Like most of the Bay Area, San Jose is made up of dozens of microclimates. Because of a more prominent rain shadow from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Downtown San Jose experiences the lightest rainfall in the city, while South San Jose, only 10 mi (16 km) distant, experiences more rainfall, and somewhat more extreme temperatures.

The monthly daily average temperature ranges from around 10 °C in December and January to around 21.1 °C in July and August. The highest temperature ever recorded in San Jose was 42.8 °C on June 14, 2000; the lowest was -7.2 °C on December 22–23, 1990. On average, there are 2.7 mornings annually where the temperature drops to, or below, the freezing mark; and sixteen afternoons where the high reaches or exceeds 32.2 °C. Diurnal temperature variation is far wider than along the coast or in San Francisco but still a shadow of what is seen in the Central Valley.

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Getting There

By Plane

San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about 4 kilometres from downtown San Jose. It mainly has domestic flights and some international connections to Mexican places like Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo.

Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) operates the Airport Flyer which makes a continuous loop between the Metro Light Rail Station, the Santa Clara Caltrain Station and the Airport Terminals. A new shuttle departs each designated stopping point approximately every 10-15 minutes from 4:30am to 11:30pm.
There are also several buses a day with connections to Santa Cruz, San Francisco International Airport and Monterey.
Taxis, rental cars, limousine services and shuttles are available as well.

By Train

Two Amtrak trains travel to and from San Jose:

There are two regional (commuter) rail systems which serve San Jose:

  • Caltrain, +1 510 817-1717 operates a regional rail service from San Jose to its San Francisco terminal at Fourth and King in SoMa. The service also runs between San Jose and Gilroy during rush hour. Caltrain is very useful for travel between San Francisco and communities on the Peninsula, Silicon Valley or South Bay. On weekdays Caltrain provides two trains per hour for most of the day but run more during commute hours, including "Baby Bullet" limited services that cruise between San Francisco and San Jose in 57 minutes; on weekends and public holidays trains run hourly, except that after 10PM only one train runs, leaving at midnight. The Diridon Station is the nearest station to downtown San Jose which is a shared facility with VTA (local bus and light rail), Greyhound and other intercity bus lines (see below under 'By bus'). Fares vary depending on how far you go. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train from ticket vending machines at any of the stations or from ticket clerks at staffed stations. Tickets are checked on the trains and anyone found without a ticket is liable to a substantial fine. Cyclists should use the designated car at the northern end of the train, and be aware that bike space is often limited during commute hours.
  • Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) runs from Stockton, Livermore, and Pleasanton into San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley in the morning and then returns in the late afternoon and evening. Passengers can also transfer to the San Joaquins Train from Stockton as well. Check the schedules beforehand, as there are only a handful of trains per day.

By Car

San Jose is connected to San Francisco by two major freeways, US-101 and Interstate 280. From Los Angeles, take Interstate 5 North to CA-152 West to US-101 North. From the East Bay, use either I-880 or I-680 South.

Travel time from San Francisco and Oakland is about an hour, but the trip is much longer during rush hour on US-101 and Interstate 880. Taking Interstate 280 from San Francisco is a scenic alternative, and consider a detour westward on Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay and the coastal Highway 1, which leads north to San Francisco and south to Santa Cruz. From Santa Cruz, take Highway 17 through the mountains.

By Bus

Most of the intercity bus lines connect San Jose to the Los Angeles Metro area and to the San Joaquin Valley (Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, etc) with some buses continuing south to San Ysidro and Tijuana. With the exception of Greyhound, Flixbus, Amtrak & CalTrain the other bus lines do NOT sell tickets for travel between San Jose and San Francisco and/or Oakland in the north or anywhere in between in the Bay Area. All northbound buses continuing to San Francisco and Oakland only drop off while the southbound buses only pick up in the SF Bay area.

The bus station for VTA, Santa Cruz Transit Hwy 17 Express, Amtrak Thruway, Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) and the CalTrain Weekend Dash is in the lot north of the Diridon Station building. The Greyhound, Megabus and Boltbus stops are along Stover St between Cahill and Montgomery in front of the Diridon Station building while the taxi stands are on Crandall St, on the opposite side of the grassy divider from Stover St. Other long-distance bus carriers such as Intercalifornias, Hoang Express & Tufesa pick-up and drop-off passengers in different locations.

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Getting Around

By Car

Outside downtown, things are spread out in San Jose, so a car is the most convenient mode of transportation. Interstate 280 is the fastest route East–West, for example from the Valley Fair Mall or Santana Row, to the West, to Downtown, or from Downtown to Alum Rock Park. California 87 (to and from the airport) and Interstate 280/California 17 (from Rose Garden to Campbell and vice versa) offers fast North-South travel.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA), does offer serviceable transit around town. The frequency and hours of buses vary depending on the route and your location, so it's best to check a schedule beforehand. The Light Rail system (primarily the Mountain View-Winchester route and the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa route) also provides quick service to, from and around downtown and Diridon Station; a single fare, $2, is good for 2 hours.

A VTA day pass lets you use buses and Light Rail lines all day and costs $6 for an adult, and $5 for a youth as of 2014. VTA Route #10 serves as a free shuttle between the SJC airport, Santa Clara CalTrain Station and the Metro/Airport Light Rail Station. DASH (Downtown Area SHuttle Rt#201) is another free service connecting downtown San Jose to the San Jose Diridon Transit Center.

The 511.org website is a wonderful resource for trip planning, whether by car or public transit (or a combination of both). Its Trip Planner spans all Bay Area transit systems. On the go, you can call VTA Customer Service at +1 408 321-2300 and listen to bus schedules on their automated system or download an app on your iPhone or Android Phone.

By Foot

The downtown area is compact and rather easy to get around on foot. Most of the streets are arranged in a grid, but the grid is not strictly aligned with north (more like north–northwest). Street address numbers increase (by 100 every 2 or 3 blocks) radiating from Santa Clara Street (an east/west street) or First Street (a north/south street). Furthermore, Santa Clara Street (and other east/west streets) carry the prefix East or West radiating from First Street; and First Street (and other north/south streets) carry the prefix North or South radiating from Santa Clara Street. This makes it somewhat easy to locate a downtown facility given its street address.

Downtown Willow Glen, Campbell and Japantown are also easy to navigate on foot. Going from one neighborhood to the other on foot is not easily feasible except for some neighborhoods directly adjacent to Downtown (such as Japantown and the Alameda area).

By Bike

Many roads in San Jose have designated bike lanes and/or wide shoulders. A map of the city's bikeways is available on VTA's website. This, along with typically favorable local weather, makes biking a viable means of transportation within the city. Bus lines, light rail and Caltrain all accommodate bikes, making mixed-mode travel a simple affair.

There are a limited but growing number of Bay Area Bike Share stations around Downtown and Japantown (but, as of 2018, not in other neighborhoods) which allow anyone to rent city bikes for 30 minutes at a time (time above that costs extra). As of 2018, a 24-hour pass offers an unlimited number of 30-minute-long rides and costs $10. A 3-day pass costs $20, so if you will be staying longer than three weeks in a year, then the $149 annual pass might make financial sense.

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Eat

  • Arcadia – Modern American Steakhouse, 100 W San Carlos St, ☎ +1 408 278-4555. A 130-seat modern American Steak House with a cuisine of classic American Dishes. Wine from California and Europe. The Private Dining Room can accommodate up to 40 people.
  • Henry's Hi-Life, 301 W St John St, ☎ +1 408 295-5414. Lunch: Tu-F 11:30AM-2PM. Dinner: M-Th 5PM-9PM, F-Sa 4PM-9:30PM, Su 4PM-9PM. Special hours during NFL and NHL seasons.. A brick BBQ and steakhouse popular with local guys on their way to or from a Sharks game. Located close to the Shark Tank as well as the Guadalupe River, the restaurant has survived floods of both hockey fans and water. $15-30.
  • Amato's Restaurant, 1162 Saratoga Ave (in Maple Leaf Plaza), ☎ +1 408 246-4007. M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. This tiny shop in West San Jose specializes in cheese steaks and hoagies. 35 sandwiches on the menu and sizes from 7 to 24 inches. $6-30.
  • A Slice of New York, 3443 Stevens Creek Blvd, ☎ +1 408 247-5423. Tu-Sa 11AM-midnight. This establishment specializes in New York pizzas/slices, Calzones and Strombolis. $3.25-30.
  • Gordon Biersch Restaurant Brewery, 33 E San Fernando St (downtown, half a block from VTA Santa Clara Light Rail stop, the Camera 12 theaters, San Jose Rep, and various night clubs), ☎ +1 408 294-6785. Su-W 11:30AM-11PM, Th 11:30AM-midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-2AM. California fusion cuisine and a wide variety of freshly-brewed Gordon Biersch beers. Eat inside or at a courtyard table. Recommended: Garlic Fries: French fries smothered in garlic, and parsley. $12-28.
  • Dia de Pesca, 55 N Bascom St (A short block north of W San Carlos St and the VTA 23, 61, and 62 bus stop), ☎ +1 408 287-3722. Su–Th 10:30AM–8PM, F–Sa 10:30AM–8:30PM. Mexican-style seafood with a few meat dishes. Casual: you order at the cash register and then sit inside or outside. The Caldo de Mares (Seven Seas Bouillabaisse) is delicious, though you may need a friend to help you eat it. It is served with the kind of tortillas that you can buy at a supermarket. The seafood tacos and burritos are also quite good. $3–21.

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Drink

Nightlife in the Downtown area is a mix of lounges, clubs, and bars which, according to locals, have either greatly improved the scene or marked the beginning of its decline. Santana Row has a number of upscale clubs and bars and has been the new hotspot since 2005.

  • Goosetown Lounge, 1172 Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 408 292-4835. 9PM-2AM daily. Willow Glen's neighborhood bar and cocktail lounge; if you're into a late night pops and enthusiastic renditions of 'YMCA', this karaoke hotspot may be for you. $5-10.
  • The Lobby Lounge, 170 S Market St (in the Fairmont), ☎ +1 408 998-1900. Noon-midnight daily. An upscale piano bar inside the Fairmont Hotel, with an impressive wine list, over 500 different cocktails and martinis, and an array of single malt scotches. They offer weekly wine tastings, live jazz and piano nightly, and free dance lessons on Fridays. $10-20.
  • The Vault, 81 W Santa Clara St, ☎ +1 408 298-1112. Th-Sa 9PM-2AM. This hot spot for dancing and drinking is inside a renovated 1920s bank building, mixing historical architecture with a very contemporary club scene. Bottle service, pounding music, and usually a $20 cover on weekends. $10-30.
  • San Jose Bar & Grill, 85 S 2nd St, ☎ +1 408 286-2397. M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa 1PM-2AM, Su 5PM-2AM. Since one Happy Hour just isn't enough, the Grill offers all kinds of specials on wings, burgers and drinks throughout the week. It's a good place to watch sports, especially Sundays during football season. Weekly karaoke and DJs on weekend nights. $5-10.
  • JJ's Blues, 3439 Stevens Creek Blvd, ☎ +1 408 243-6641. M-Sa 5:30PM-2AM, Su 4PM-2AM. One of the most popular places in the Bay Area to hear live blues music, and one of the few San Jose clubs with live music every night of the week. JJ's has been around for two decades and hosts jam nights, unsigned acts and big names. There's a vintage Steinway that's up for grabs during intermissions, so you too can get the blues. $5-10.
  • Splash, 65 Post St, ☎ +1 408 993-0861. Th-Sa 9PM-2AM. San Jose's downtown gay video bar, nightclub and lounge is friendly to people of all persuasions. $5-10. edit
  • Tanq, 301 S Market St, ☎ +1 408 280-1300. 11:30AM-midnight daily. Downtown San Jose's newest hip bar with a great aquatic theme,located on the corner of Market and San Carlos. Great drink menu (try their signature "Kiss the Fish")and to die for small plate menu. Must trys are the Ahi Tuna Poppers and the Angus Beef Slider. Tanq is also open for lunch and has some really great dishes, the Skirt Steak Salad is a favorite.
  • Single Barrel, 43 W San Salvador St, ☎ +1 408 792-7356. Tu-Su 5PM-2AM. Speakeasy Style, without the passwords and gimmicks.

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Sleep

  • Hyatt Place San Jose, 282 Almaden Blvd (at W San Carlos), ☎ +1 408 998-0400. Ultra-modern decor, event facilities, and a fitness center are available in downtown San Jose, near the west end of the Convention Center.
  • Hotel De Anza, 233 W Santa Clara St (near San Pedro Square), ☎ +1 408 286-1000, toll-free: +1-800-843-3700. A restored historic hotel set in the midst of all the dining and entertainment of the downtown area near San Pedro Square.
  • The Fairmont San Jose, 170 S Market St (near W San Fernando), ☎ +1 408 998-1900, toll-free: +1-800-527-4727. Two tall buildings connected by a skywalk over the Paseo de San Antonio. On the Plaza of Cesar Chavez and near the east end of the Convention Center, this large luxury hotel offers a day spa, fine dining in several restaurants, a fitness center and a rooftop pool.
  • Four Points by Sheraton San Jose Downtown, 211 S 1st St (at pedestrian only Paseo de San Antonio), ☎ +1 408 282-8800. One of the more intimate Four Points in a classic 1911 building, with a lounge, outdoor patio, bocce ball courts, business and fitness centers. Near the east end of the Convention Center.
  • Hilton San Jose, 300 Almaden Blvd (at W San Carlos), ☎ +1 408 947-4450. Attached to the west end of the Convention Center, this non-smoking hotel is very convenient for convention attendees. It's on the Light Rail route. Pool and jacuzzi, high-speed internet and fitness room. Smaller pets allowed.
  • Sainte Claire Hotel, 302 S Market St (at W San Carlos), ☎ +1 408 295-2000. Stately hotel in the heart of downtown San Jose, near the east end of the Convention Center. Member of the Historic Hotels of America.
  • San Jose Marriott, 301 S Market St (at W San Carlos), ☎ +1 408 280-1300, toll-free: +1-800-314-0928. Attached to the east end of the Convention Center. The Marriott is a AAA Four-Diamond hotel in the heart of Downtown San Jose that offers facilities and technology for meetings and presentations, high-speed internet, a pool, a fitness center and a smoke-free environment.

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Keep Connected

Phone

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 20. Last edited at 9:52 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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