When people think of Northern California, their minds typically go to San Francisco or Napa Valley. While less iconic than San Francisco and home to fewer wineries than Napa, San Jose holds its own as one of the top cities in the region. Thanks to the rise of the tech industry, San Jose is now considered to be the economic and cultural center of Silicon Valley. It’s also a city that is larger than San Francisco, both in terms of population and geographic size, and boasts a vibrant arts scene, rich history, and proximity to many of the area’s famous parks. Jean Chen is an immigration lawyer whose career has spanned over 20 years. As a longtime resident of San Jose, she is perfectly poised to share her insight into what makes the city so special. Below, Chen divulges her top six favorite attractions in San Jose, California.
1. Bing Concert Hall
The newly opened Bing Concert Hall is the current home of Stanford University’s Symphony Orchestra. It was completed in 2013 and features vineyard-style seating, all within 75 feet of the conductor. Bing Concert Hall plays host to some of the biggest classical music concerts and events in the San Jose area. Jean Chen says that tickets for shows are available on Stanford’s official website, with multiple events happening each week.
2. San Jose Museum of Art
A self-professed lover of modern art, Jean Danhong Chen asserts that no trip to San Jose is complete without a visit to the San Jose Museum of Art. Located in downtown San Jose and founded in 1969, this museum consists of a permanent collection of modern and contemporary works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of the pieces on display were completed by West Coast artists, such as Milton Avery, Frederick Spratt, Joan Brown, Jim Campbell, and Deborah Butterfield. Over 2,000 works are on display at the San Jose Museum of Art, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and drawings.
3. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Jean Danhong Chen counts Big Basin Redwoods State Park as one of her favorite spots in the region (it is roughly one hour west of San Jose). The park is the oldest state park in United States’ history and was founded in 1902. It is home to the largest forest of ancient redwood trees in the country. Visitors are constantly amazed by the size and volume of the trees. The park has over 130 kilometers of hiking trails, as well as multiple campsites. The Berry Creek Loop, Redwood Nature Trail, and Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail (which also goes through part of Castle Rock State Park) are among the most popular hikes in the park. Whether hiking or camping, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Big Basin’s resident deer, raccoons, herons, and woodpeckers — you might even spot a bobcat if you’re lucky!
4. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is a specialty museum devoted entirely to Ancient Egypt. It can be found in the Rose Garden borough of San Jose and houses the largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts in the Western United States. The museum receives over 100,000 visitors annually and is divided into exhibits, ranging from “Kingship and Palace” to “Afterlife and Rock Cut Tomb.” It provides a fun and interactive glimpse into this fascinating historical era, shares Jean Danhong Chen.
5. Santana Row
If you love shopping, Santana Row is the place to do it. This high-end shopping area is home to a variety of luxury international brands and local favorites. Jean Danhong Chen states that Santana Row also features a wide selection of cafes and restaurants so you can sit down and relax in between all the shopping. Whether window shopping or people watching, a Saturday morning spent at Santana Row is an experience not to be missed.
6. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph
If you’re a fan of beautiful buildings, be sure to stop by San Jose’s very own Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. Registered as a California Historical Landmark, this basilica was completed in 1803. The church is in the city’s downtown core and holds mass daily, with services offered in both English and Spanish. Jean Danhong Chen urges all tourists to visit this cathedral, regardless of your religious beliefs, owing to its architectural beauty.