Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, and with a tech-heavy atmosphere, San Jose, California might seem like a strictly grown-up place to visit. But, surprisingly, San Jose boasts wonderful spots for kids to be kids and parents to be thrilled to have some quality family time. Read on to discover 10 of the best kid-friendly things to do in and around San Jose, California.
1. West Wind Capitol Drive-In: big screen action under the stars
A night spent at a drive-in movie is a childhood right-of-passage that is quickly becoming non-existent for today’s kids. Luckily, there are still a few of these movie establishments dotting the US landscape and one is in San Jose. The West Wind Capitol Drive-In offers not only a unique movie-going experience, but fun arcades and a fantastic playground to entertain kids before the movie begins. Admission for children 4 and under is always free. In addition, Tuesday is Family Fun Night with reduced price admission on adult tickets.
West Wind Capitol Drive-In
Address: 3630 Hillcap Ave, San Jose, CA 95136
Website: West Wind Capitol Drive-In
2. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo: a child's nirvana!
A 16-acre (6.4-hectare) zoo and amusement park, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo opened its gates in 1961 and has been entertaining kids and their families ever since. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo offers many fun, popular, and eye-catching attractions that include a carousel, roller coaster, puppet theater, and so much more. The zoo features lemurs, meerkats, jaguars, and miniature horses, just to name a few. Don’t forget to check out the Education Center, created from hay bales!
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
Address: 748 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95112
Website: Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
3. Raging Waters San Jose: top spot for die-hard tadpoles of the family!
With 23 acres (9.3 hectares) of water slides, wave pools and a host of other aquatic-filled rides and activities, Raging Waters San Jose is a great way to spend a family afternoon. Pile your brood onto a raft and float down the Endless River. Or let the little ones loose at Wacky Water Works, where they can explore a water play area with an interactive-themed water fort. There’s also Little Dipper, a spot comprised of various junior-size water slides. Raging Waters San Jose displays wonderful panoramic views of Lake Cunningham, a scenic man-made body of water, and the San Jose Foothills.
Raging Waters San Jose
Address: 2333 S White Rd, San Jose, CA 95148
Website: Raging Waters San Jose
4. Rotary Playgarden: inclusive play for kids of all abilities!
Opening in 2015, Rotary Playgarden is a centennial gift from the Rotary Club of San Jose to its citizens. What’s different about Rotary Playgarden is that it is equipped with unique structures that afford special needs children the opportunity to play alongside other kids. One of Rotary Playgarden’s big lures are the slides. There are extra wide slides, so kids can slide next to their caregiver, and shorter slides for the younger tykes. All slides are wheelchair accessible. Also, check out nearby Guadalupe River Park, where kids can marvel at the larger-than-life-sized version of the classic Monopoly board game. Encompassing 30 square feet (2.7 square meters), the attraction has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records!
Address: 438 Coleman Ave, San Jose, CA 95110
Website: Rotary Playgarden
5. Who's your mummy? Exotic exploring at Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Devoted to displaying the treasures of ancient Egypt, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum boasts the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities on the West Coast. Kids will thrill at the row of ram-headed sphinxes and massive columns that greet visitors when they enter. The few replicas of famous objects, like King Tut’s golden sarcophagus and the Rosetta Stone, as well as a baboon mummy, will also have kids transfixed. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum offers guided tomb tours and an alchemy exhibit that displays a complete replica of an alchemist’s workshop.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Address: 1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA 95191
Website: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
6. Winchester Mystery House: ultimate hide-and-seek setting!
Supposedly haunted, Winchester Mystery House is a sprawling landmark that features a staircase leading to nowhere and other odd visages designed to confuse ghosts. Winchester Mystery House was once an eight-room cottage that blossomed into 200 rooms, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, and 2,000 doors, trap doors, and spy holes. Folklore states that the house’s owner, an heiress, believed evil spirits haunted her. This prompted the woman to build the elaborate mansion. Though rooted in no actual facts, Winchester Mystery House makes the most of the tall tale by conducting one of its more popular offerings, midnight flashlight tours. However, if you have kids that scare easily, stick to the standard daytime tour.
Insider tip: wear comfortable shoes and dress light during summer months; there’s no air-conditioning, and only a few fans throughout the house.
Winchester Mystery House
Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
Website: Winchester Mystery House
7. California’s Great America: child's premiere playground!
Located a quick 15 minute drive from San Jose, in Santa Clara, California, is California’s Great America amusement park. Spanning 100 acres (40.4 hectares), California’s Great America offers top-rated family fun with thrill rides, water attractions and live entertainment. Rides, like Character Carousel and Logger’s Run, have the excitement covered for kids of all ages. Boomerang Bay offers water-packed action that keeps you cool on hot days. Special events, like The Great Pumpkin Fest and Halloween Haunt, create wonderful family vacation memories.
California’s Great America
Address: 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Website: California’s Great America
8. Next stop, exploration station at Children's Discovery Museum
Designed to help young people explore, enjoy and understand the world, Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the largest and well-respected museums of its kind in the country. With 150 interactive exhibits, Children’s Discovery Museum places kids in the driver’s seat of a life-size fire truck and provides an awesome dig for dinosaur bones. Though best for toddlers and children under 10, Children’s Discovery Museum does offer some great hands-on stuff for older kids.
Children's Discovery Museum
Address: 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110
Website: Children’s Discovery Museum
9. For budding innovators, The Tech Museum is the ticket
Open your kid to a whole new world at The Tech Museum. One of the top science and technology museums in the nation, The Tech Museum offers fun hands-on exhibits and unique floor programs, several supported by NASA and Stanford University, that will spark the imagination of your young one. A virtual reality exhibit unleashes a kid’s creativity, and the “jet pack chair” simulates the experience of a NASA astronaut’s movement through space! The Tech Museum also houses the largest IMAX dome screen in the West, an eight-story high screen and digital surround-sound system.
The Tech Museum
Address: 201 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113
Website: The Tech Museum
10. "Days of yore", not a bore at History San Jose
History San Jose is a 14-acre (5.6 hectare) site that offers a wholesome and charming ambiance of a bygone era. Comprised of thirty-two original homes, landmarks and businesses, along with a working trolley car of yesteryear, History San Jose displays the area’s long and rich history. But the real draw for kids is the old-fashioned ice cream shop, O'Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop. Erected in 1868, O'Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop offers tasty ice cream, sodas and other refreshments, as well as retro candy. History San Jose also presents family-friendly activities throughout the year.
History San Jose
Address: 635 Phelan Ave, San Jose, CA 95112
Website: History San Jose
Lots of pint-size stuff to do
Even though San Jose boasts close to 7,000 tech companies, don’t think the city must be all adult business and no “child’s play”. San Jose has created fun playgrounds, interesting museums and dynamic amusement parks, making it the perfect city to entertain all members of the family. So, if your family wants an eventful getaway, San Jose, California is the non-stop family fun center.
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