5 Reasons why San Jose is great for family days out

Courtesy of the Tech Museum of Innovation

When you’ve got to cater to a group of kids who range in age, it can be tough to plan family days out. You want to entertain all of the children at once, while not being bored out of your skull yourself.

That can be a huge ask in some places, but luckily not in San Jose, California. There’s a tonne of great, interesting and fun things to do, interactive museums to visit and open spaces to enjoy.

Here’s my compilation of the five best ones.

THE TECH MUSEUM OF INNOVATION

Have you ever stared up at the birds soaring high above you and wondered what it would be like to have that same freedom? The wind in your hair while you’re tilting and gliding over the city.

Then you need to get to the Tech Museum of Innovation. It’s a playground of all things technological and it’s guaranteed to have something that will blow your mind.

Virtual Reality

But getting back to being a bird. It might not look like much from the picture, but this is how you’ll soar over New York city and see the Empire State building from a completely different angle. Birdly is a fully-immersive experience, down to the fan blowing wind in your face.

San Jose family day out. The Tech Museum of Innovation

As you tilt your body, flap your arms and twist your hands, the virtual reality shows all of the turns and dives you make. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on terra firma during your family days out why not try a different kind of virtual reality?

The Reboot Reality section is all about VR and how it is shaping our lives. It’s got a bunch of great activities to choose from, like using a computer to create paintings which can be printed to mimic the textures of an oil painting.

If you’ve always wanted a unicorn, make one using #Tiltbrush! πŸ¦„ #RebootReality

A post shared by The Tech Museum of Innovation (@thetechmuseum) on

My favourite was the Tilt Brush, designed by Google, which uses a VR headset to place yourself in a world you create. Once you’re inside you can build a spacescape, landscape or any other scape you can think of. It’s not just in front of you either – it’s behind, above and below you.

Cyber Detectives

That’s enough mind-bending VR. Have you got any little cyber detectives in your family? Why not get them learning about internet security and safety now?

This is where the museum’s “tech tag” comes in. Everyone gets a tag with barcode that you scan as you walk through and interact with the museum. In the case of the Cyber Detectives section, you collect skills as you wind through the training zone, honing your digital privacy and protection skills.

cyber-detectives
Picture: Courtesy of the Tech Museum of Innovation, as is the feature image for this post.

Once you’re done training it’s time to head to the mission zone, where you’ll fend off cyber espionage, sabotage and a financial breach.

For the Tots

If this all seems a little much for your younger children, fear not, there’s heaps for them to do downstairs! Children can build robots, design their own creature by mixing and matching bits of DNA and take part in all sorts of workshops.

dna-robots
Picture: Courtesy of the Tech Museum of Innovation.

They can experience the Ninja Walk – a maze that’s a little different. It’s got bells, squawking rubber chickens and bubble wrap. Children are tasked with getting through the maze as quietly as possible and their paths are plotted on a graph afterwards.

Details & Sensory Friendly Hours

Visit the Tech Museum of Innovation website for ticket prices, hours and all the details! It also offers special “sensory friendly” hours on certain days for children who have mobility challenges, become easily overwhelmed or struggle to communicate.

For discounted prices, the sensory friendly sessions mean lower volumes on audio exhibits, brightly-lit areas and quiet rooms complete with calm-down kits. Staff members are also trained to help make kids with sensory issues feel welcome and included.

SOUTH FIRST FRIDAYS ART WALK

The SoFA District (South of First Area) hosts a self-guided evening tour through art galleries, museums and performance spaces each first Friday of the month.

First Friday Art Walk

It’s coupled with a street market where artists will show their pieces and sometimes work from booths. Live performances by bands and artists give it a real celebratory feel, and you can taste test the best food trucks for dinner as well!

It’s a win/win situation really.

There are a great range of participating art galleries and museums that are open all evening with free admission. Check the map for all of them, but my favourites were MACLAΒ and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

MACLA

Family days out in San Jose
Picture: Courtesy of MACLA.

MACLA is a contemporary arts space that supports and promotes the Chicano/Latino experience in the US and beyond with visual, literary and performance art.

San Jose family days out MACLA
Foreground: “I Do Not Consent To You Coming Into My Home” (2017) by Sergio De La Torre and Christ Treggiari.Β Background: “No Vacancies” by Sergio De La Torre.Β Picture: Courtesy of MACLA.

It sounds like a mouthful and a little tough to imagine, but it’s really a great space for seeing the world through the eyes of the Latino community or seeing your own experiences reflected back at you.

MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana) supports new and developing artists.

Bronx Lives by Elena Guzman
“Bronx Lives” (2016) by Elena Guzman who was homeless while studying for a masters degree.

Elena Guzman’s story of struggling with homelessness in New York’s Bronx district, while studying for her Masters Degree is an especially sobering one but necessary to understand that homelessness can affect anyone at any time of their life.

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is on my family days out list because of its size and range of art on display. It’s not particularly large, making it easy to get through before younger kids lose interest.

Apart from that, this non-profit gallery featured a nice mixture of media. There was a collection of paintings inspired by the sea, by artist Healther Wilcoxon. A great spread of pieces collectively called Detritus, which are the offcuts, scraps and byproducts of the process of making art.

Detritus San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

And lastly a video animation by Oakland artist Kate Rhoades, titled Karen, made entirely from pieces found at San Francisco’s solid waste and recycling center. It’s based on the “junk lady” character from Jim Henson’s film Labyrinth.

CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY MUSEUM OF SAN JOSE

What good are family days out without including a hands-on children’s museum that gives kids the opportunity to roam free in familiar surroundings?

And so we come to the Children’s Discovery Museum, built in the early 1990s to foster and inspire creativity, curiosity, and lifelong learning. It caters for newborns all the way up to 16-year-olds with dedicated spaces to keep everyone engaged.

It’s also a great place to stop for lunch – the museum’s cafe, called the FoodShed, focuses on healthy, nutritious food instead of the usual chips and pizza fare. It serves fresh seasonal foods that are low in added sugars, free from additives, chemicals and artificial ingredients. But don’t worry, it’s still stuff that your kids will want to eat!

childrens-discovery-museum

The Crawl Space

Don’t be worried about tweens and teens running around if you’ve got toddlers and newborns, the museum has a special spot just for them.

The Crawl Space is a fully enclosed room partitioned into different sections for babies and those that are still getting around on all-fours. Apart from the self-guided activities, kids can get involved in story time, songs, and other activities designed for children up to four-years-old.

For the Older Kids

There’s so much to do – from discovering Mammoth fossils, to seeing the giant reconstructed beast towering over you. There’s art and crafts, a dance and theatre room and face painting. With a difference. The kids get to paint their own faces.

San-Jose-Childrens-Museum

Who can resist climbing into a carriage used in wild western times? Or sitting in a fire engine pretending you’re on the way to expertly fight a blaze just like Fireman Sam? If I’m honest, the Children’s Museum had a lot of stuff that I wanted to do. Now I just need to borrow a child so that it doesn’t seem so strange! Anyone need a babysitter?

The bubble blowing room also gets my stamp of approval. Not only can parents help their kids make bubbles but there are lots of different ways that kids can learn to make bubbles as well.

Lunada Familiar

The museum also hosts community cultural celebrations to help everyone get to know and enjoy Vietnamese and Latino traditions. We were lucky enough to visit during Lunada Familiar.

It carries on the tradition of gathering with family and friends on the night of the full moon to share stories, poetry, music and of course food. This is usually done in small towns around Mexico, but San Jose’s version is just as lively and colourful.

Lunada-familiar

And there’s plenty of opportunity for the kids to grab hold of the microphone and join in. We witnessed a particularly spirited rendition of Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen, that put a smile on everyone’s faces.

Details & Sensory Friendly “Play Your Way” Sessions

The museum has set up special “Play Your Way” sessions for children aged two to 15 with autism. The session set up is guided by an Autism Advisory Group and staff are trained to help with hands-on learning.

The Pin Screen
Kids and adults create their own designs and body sculptures at the pin screen. Picture: Courtesy of the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

It’s a great way of getting to know other families and learn about local Autism resources. You can also prepare your kids for the museum trip by checking out the museum’s online resources.

For details on tickets, prices and hours, please visit the museum website.

SHARKS, EARTHQUAKES, GIANTS & SPIDERS

They’re an odd bunch but they’ve got one thing in common: sports. That’s right, they’re all San Jose sporting teams in respective disciplines.

We’ve been through a lot of art and play-based activities but if you’ve got some avid sports fans in your midst, a trip to watch one of these teams battle it out on the field (or ice) might just be the boost your family days out need!

San Jose Sharks

Being from Australia, where the sun beats down fairly mercilessly, I’m not very accustomed to ice hockey. But having been to a Sharks game before, I can tell that they’re not joking when they say that San Jose bleeds teal for their team.

the-shark-tank

Get down to the SAP Center (AKA the Shark Tank) to spend the evening with 17,000 fellow hockey enthusiasts. I hear SJ Sharkie is the best mascot in the business.

Check the season schedule here.

San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer is my sport of choice and what better team to support than one that shakes the ground they play on? The Earthquakes play at Avaya Stadium and have been playing round ball football (as we sometimes call it in Australia) since 1974. Just in different incarnations. Yes, it used to be the San Jose Major League Soccer club, amongst other things.

Check the season schedule here.

San Jose Giants

The Giants are a minor league pro baseball team and play at the historic Municipal Stadium. As their name suggests, they’re affiliated with the San Francisco team, and are a farm team for them. So if you’re lucky you can see the next major league rising stars before the hit the big time! And for a fraction of the price.

Check the season schedule here.

San Jose Spiders

I’ve arguably saved the best for last. I give you the San Jose Spiders, in a game that we play on the beach and that I didn’t realise was a legitimate sport – frisbee. To be precise, Ultimate Frisbee. For the low, low price of $10 you can watch the Spiders play in the American Ultimate Disc League.

They’re no slouches either – the Spiders won the 2015 Championships and are always looking for another victory. They play at the Foothill College in Los Altos.

Check the season schedule here.

HAPPY HOLLOW PARK & ZOO

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a real San Jose community project – funded by sponsorships and donations, named by a local and it even boasts trees planted by the Campfire Girls. All this was back in the 1950s so it closed its doors in 2008 for a much-needed renovation and is back bigger and better than ever.

jaguar-happy-hollow-park-and-zoo
Yes, the zoo does have Jaguars.

The zoo doubles as an amusement park that includes a roller coaster, puppet theatre and a petting zoo amongst its animals. I’d actually never heard of some of them – the capybara, fossa and collared peccary are all new to me.

If you’re hoping to learn a few new things, visit the education center, which focuses on sustainability and conservation. And if getting the kids to leave is a challenge at the end of the day you can always plan to stay for the “Howl-o-ween” family sleep over. Camp out in the zoo and learn all about what happens after dark.

For all the details on ticket prices and operating hours, please visit the Zoo’s website.

family days out | San Jose | Things to do with kids in San Jose | Children's Museum | Tech Museum of Innovation | San Jose | Art experiences | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life

45 thoughts on “5 Reasons why San Jose is great for family days out

  1. I would love to visit the Tech Museum of Innovation and experience the virtual reality gadgets. I do have a set at home but just the helmet and it’s nothing like flying over New York and actually feeling the breeze because of the fan. The art walks also sound something that I would love to do.

    1. It is AMAZING! I had the best time there. To be honest I wanted to try everything there, but I am a bit of a kid at heart. The other part I liked about the VR thing was tilting your body around so when you tilt forward you really feel like you’re diving. It’s an awesome experience!

  2. We flew home from our road trip out of San Jose. We arrived in time for the Anime convention. Hahah…that made for lots of interesting discussion with three young kids! We had a great time, though and really enjoyed the Tech Museam. Obviously, as with most of our time in California, there was so much more we didn’t have time to do!

    1. You aren’t the first person to tell me that story! The anime convention would definitely have raised a few eyebrows. The Tech Museum was one of my favourite spots – there’s just so much to see and experience!

  3. Wow these all sound fantastic! The Tech Museum of Innovation really peaked my interest; I’m not a huge fan of museums unless they’re interactive. This one looks like there’s so much to do!

    1. And I think they have to be interactive to be of real benefit to kids since otherwise the information goes in one ear and out the other mostly. But these museums are fantastic!

  4. I drove through San Jose but I wished I had an opportunity to explore. I am so loving the cyber security musem. It seems so cool

    1. Hahaha, I’m sure if you took them to a few of these spots, you’d quickly become a favourite aunt. If you’re not already!

  5. I love that you included cultural and art museums as part of a family friendly list of activities! They really get kids asking questions and thinking critically about the world around them.

    1. When my brothers and I were young, my dad would take us to the NSW Art Gallery and the Australian Museum once a year. It was a great experience, even if I didn’t always appreciate it.

  6. San Jose looks like a great place to explore with kids! I live in SoCal and never considered it, but now would definitely visit. I felt the same about Sacramento and had no idea there was so much to do until we got there.

    1. Oh that’s great Maggie! I’d love to hear what you think of it when you go.
      I’ve never been to Sacramento, I’ll have to put it on my list. My boyfriend is a native Californian and turns up his nose when I mention visiting Sacramento.

  7. Every time I see the name San Jose I want to burst into song with “Do you know the way to San Jose?” Especially now that I know there’s a whole heap of awesome stuff to do there. And don’t the San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara too which according to my terrible sense of direction is almost San Jose anyway πŸ™‚ So cool!

    1. You are about the fifth person to say that to me. I have to listen to this song now, it doesn’t seem like it’s familiar. I need to get you a bunch of ideas for your trip which is fast approaching! Hahaha, don’t worry, with my terrible sense of direction, Santa Clara is almost San Jose. I’m going there this weekend so I’ll report back on proximity πŸ˜‰

    1. I didn’t realise that my taste in attraction was a little off-kilter until I started this blog! But it’s always good to have alternative ideas, right?

  8. There really is so much to do in San Jose and the surrounding area! I personally need to make a point to spend more time taking advantage of what San Jose has to offer since I’m so close by.

    1. There is a whole street in the SoFA district that is peppered with art galleries. It’s great that they’re all in one spot and you can just wander between them.

  9. These 5 things to do in San Jose look very interesting! I’d love to visit MACLA and experience Latino contemporary art πŸ™‚ And it’s good that children can take part in many fun activities in San Jose too.

    1. I love that everyone’s interested in MACLA, I wish I had more time to spend there. I’ll have to visit again soon πŸ™‚

    1. It was so much fun! It was my first time experiencing it too. I did get a little dizzy afterwards but otherwise it was awesome.

  10. I’d love to try Birdly – that looks like a great experience. I love visiting contemporary art galleries when we travel so I’m intrigued by San Jose’s offerings. That evening art tour sounds a blissful way to appreciate art too.
    #farawayfiles

  11. That brought back some memories. Great tips here and I have to say my favourite is going to see the San Jose Sharks as frankly a whole crowd yelling “pizza! pizza!” on the hunt for pizza vouchers was one of the most American experiences I have ever had. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  12. Love, love, love this post about San Jose Kat! I’m always in San Fran, Sacramento, Oakland or Napa but never in San Jose. It’s nice to see that there’s so much to offer! I follow my boys (Detroit Red Wings) when they’re out playing against the West Coast teams and have considered watching them up at SAP too – maybe I will this year and do all the fun things you mentioned! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday! Hope to see you again this week. xo

  13. San Jose sounds like it has a wealth of things to do for all ages! I will need to include it on one of my next trips πŸ˜‰ Hope to see you this week on Fly Away Friday!

  14. Do you know the way to San Jose? I do! But I seriously didn’t know about all those cool options to explore. I’ve never done any VR, but that video is so amazing! I love the art walks and celebration of local cultures. Thanks so much for sharing all this awesome with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  15. Great list! Id love to go to all of these!! The Tech museum sounds incredible and who knew you could go watch frisbee! I like the healthy food in the children’s museum . Gets my vote! I need to visit San Jose with the family! Thanks for linking #citytripping

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *