20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in San Jose, California

San Jose is usually one of the forgotten destinations in the state of California. Most people are swept away by cities like San Francisco and San Diego that they forget that smaller gems like San Jose can be so much better. While there are multiple industrial tech parks in San Jose, you can still find plenty of things to do there. Days and nights offer thrilling activities in San Jose, CA. As you are sightseeing in San Jose, CA, you will discover history and culture you never knew existed in this area. And those are the reasons why a visit to San Jose, California must be close to the top of your list for future vacations.

Where is San Jose, California?

San Jose, California
Credits Wikimedia Commons

If you know where Silicon Valley is located, you are keenly aware of where San Jose is. This city happens to be the home of that technological destination. However, if you don’t know that, you will be happy to know that San Jose is up in Northern California and is part of the Bay Area.

Best Time to Visit San Jose, California

Avoiding the rain is usually at the top of the list for many people as they are planning their vacations. If this sounds like you, then you will want to avoid San Jose during the months of July and August. Those are the rainiest months of the year in San Jose, CA.

The best time to visit San Jose, California is during the months of December, January, February, March, and April. It is dry, warm, and simply perfect there at those times!

Weather in San Jose, California

San Jose, California.
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

It does get cool in San Jose, California during the winter months, despite the fact it doesn’t get below freezing. You will still want to be prepared with warm clothes if you decide to visit then. The spring brings warmer temperatures, while the summer months bring the heat and the rain. It starts to cool down again in the fall, which is a welcoming sight to those who live in San Jose.

20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in San Jose, California

1. Check Out the Downtown San Jose Farmer’s Market

Over in Downtown San Jose, you will find the Downtown San Jose Farmer’s Market during the months of May through November. It is only open on Fridays, so you must plan your visit carefully if you want to go. This is an excellent place to shop local, while listening to live performances.

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2. Wander Around the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
Credits Wikimedia Commons

This rose garden covers a little more than five acres of land. It originally opened back in 1937. Although it was a prune orchard prior to being transformed into the beautiful rose garden it is today. There are approximately four thousand rose plants showing off two hundred varieties. The flowers are normally in bloom between April and November, so please plan your visit accordingly. If you are looking for romantic things to do in San Jose, you may want to venture here and spend a little time by the reflection pool.

3. Visit the Visitor Center at the Lick Observatory

The Lick Observatory can be found at the summit of Mt. Hamilton. It is one of the attractions near San Jose, CA. The observatory is only open on Thursdays through Sundays, so it is another place you will need to plan your visit carefully for. Inside the visitor center, you will see many science and astronomy exhibits. You may even be able to participate in one of the astronomy talks that are given throughout the day and look through the telescope dome. It is important to note that due to the location of this observatory, you may not be able to visit on certain days due to the weather.

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4. Walk Along the Cesar Chavez Memorial Walkway

Cesar Chavez Memorial Walkway - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

This memorial walkway goes through the downtown area, as well as the eastern districts in the city. There are signs in seven locations sharing the significance of Cesar Chavez. While you can walk to all seven destinations, you can also drive to them. This is one of the family things to do in San Jose. But it can also be one of the fun things to do in San Jose for couples.

5. Spend Some Time at the Guadalupe River Park

This is one of the best parks in San Jose. If you are looking for things to do with family in San Jose, the Guadalupe River Park must be high up on your list. You can begin by hiking along any of the two plus miles of trails. From there, you can check out the Heritage Rose Garden, Discovery Meadow, and the Arena Green. One of the cool things to do in San Jose is play a game of Monopoly on the world’s largest Monopoly board located inside this park.

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6. Stop into the Apple Park Visitor Center

Apple Park Visitor Center - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

If you are a lover of all things Apple, then the Apple Park Visitor Center must be on your list of places to see in San Jose, CA. There are multiple exhibits inside that share the history of the company. The best feature though is the augmented reality experience and you can check it out during your visit.

7. Take One of the Japantown Walking Tours

A quick call to the Japanese American History Museum will have you securing a spot for one of their Japantown Walking Tours. During your tour, you will see the three Japantown urban neighborhoods that are left in the area.

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8. Visit Kelley Park

Kelley Park - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Kelley Park offers so many fun things to do with kids in San Jose. During your time there, you must stop into the History Park living museum. The kids may also enjoy seeing the pond filled with koi and the Japanese friendship garden.

9. Visit Alum Rock Park

The oldest municipal park in the entire state of California happens to be Alum Rock Park. This is one of the best things to do in San Jose for free. As a must-do in San Jose, California, you will quickly find there are more things to do there than you can squeeze into a single day. Thirteen miles of hiking trails can be a good place to start. However, you may prefer a guided nature walk or a visit to the Youth Science Institute Science and Nature Center.

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10. Visit the Emma Prusch Farm Park

Emma Prusch Farm Park - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Emma Prusch Farm Park has over forty-three acres. On the land, you will see the former Prusch farm. This is considered one of the best places to visit in San Jose, especially if you want to be outside. As one of the main San Jose, CA points of interest, you must be aware that this area can get slightly crowded at certain times of the year. Our favorite time to visit is during the month of October when the Harvest Festival is taking place. During that time, you can take a hay wagon ride, watch dance presentations, and see many different 4-H animals.

11. Check Out the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is an art gallery that has twelve exhibits that rotate throughout the year. You will also see unique works of art in addition to the permanent collections.

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12. Visit Rosicrucian Park

Rosicrucian Park - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

This five-acre park is home to the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, which is an organization that is similar to Freemasonry. Inside this park, you will find the English Grand Lodge for the Americas, Akhenaton Shrine, Rosicrucian Planetarium, and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. We recommend stopping at the Peace Garden too, as it is an excellent thing to do in San Jose this weekend.

13. Explore Almaden Lake Park

There are so many things to do at this San Jose, CA park. The lake is perfect for fishing and pedal boats. You can also walk along the almost four-mile-long Alamitos Creek Trail.

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14. Wander Through the Triton Museum of Art

Triton Museum of Art - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Triton Museum of Art has contemporary and classical works of art on exhibit. It is the oldest museum in the area that is not located on the campus of a college. While there are numerous works of art inside, most of them are by the Greater Bay Area artists.

15. Check Out the Cathedral Basilica

The Cathedral Basilica is a massive Catholic church that can be found in San Jose’s downtown area. This is the fifth Basilica and it sits in the same place the other four did before they were destroyed by earthquakes or fire. The dome and stained-glass windows are the best features. While you can visit at any time, you may want to avoid the times when mass is taking place. Unless of course, you want to attend the mass.

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16. Spend Some Time in the Sand and Water at Santa Cruz Main Beach

Santa Cruz Beach - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Santa Cruz Main Beach is one of the best things to do near Santa Jose, CA. If you are looking for things to do in San Jose without money, this destination should check off all those boxes. Plus, as one of the fun things to do in San Jose, CA with the family, you know you will all have a blast during your visit. You will find this beach approximately thirty minutes from San Jose. When you are not in the water or sitting on the sand, you can walk along the boardwalk. You can even watch the sea lions at the wharf.

17. Test Your Dirt Bike Skills at Calabazas Park

The BMX bike facilities at Calabazas Park will keep all members of your family entertained. There are plenty of dirt mounds to conquer, so everyone will feel challenged at least once during the visit. If dirt bikes are not your thing, you can ride along any of the other multiple traditional bike trails throughout the city. We have heard the Guadalupe Trail mentioned numerous times. That trail is eleven miles long and is paved for easy riding.

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18. Hike the Los Gatos Creek Trail

Los Gatos Creek Trail - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

There are multiple sections of the Los Gatos Creek Trail. The entire trail runs through the South Bay area, so you will have quite a bit to see during your hike. Depending on who you are hiking with, you may want to choose a flat section of the trail over one that is quite hilly.

19. Watch a Shakespeare Performance at Willow Street Park

Okay, so watching Shakespeare at Willow Street Park is definitely only something you can do during the summer months. But if you are a true fan of his works, you will love planning your trip so you can see the performances under the stars. We recommend taking a picnic dinner and blanket with you, so you can arrive early and get a good spot to watch the performance.

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20. Window Shop at the San Jose Flea Market

The San Jose Flea Market opened back in 1959. At that time, there were only about twenty people selling items. Nowadays, you will find more than six thousand vendors selling anything and everything. Of course, this is only one of the free things to do in San Jose, CA if you don’t buy anything during your visit!

Expert Tips for Traveling to San Jose, California

There are so many things you must know when traveling to San Jose, California. However, here are our top tips for traveling to San Jose.

Time Your Visit Right – There are so many things going on in San Jose, California throughout the year. We recommend planning your visit for the time when there is a special event going on that you will love. It will enhance your experience when you are vacationing in the area.

Caltrain - Free Things to Do in San Jose, California
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Choose Your Transportation Carefully – It is so easy to say that you will rent a car when you arrive in San Jose. However, that means you must find places to park when you go out sightseeing in San Jose, CA. If you want to avoid those headaches, you must consider using the Cal Train and Light Rail. Each one will take you to where you want to go in San Jose, as well as the surrounding Bay Area.

Check Out the Nearby Towns – There are so many other towns and destinations close to San Jose, California. During your visit, it is best to venture out to see as many of them as possible.

These are the twenty free, or nearly, free things to do in San Jose, California, as well as a couple expert tips you must be aware of. With so many free things to do in San Jose, you may find that you don’t need to spend any money to have fun and explore during your visit. This could be excellent news if you are on a budget. And if you are not, you can easily add many of the San Jose, CA tourist attractions to your list that are not free if you still have time available.

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