18 Things San Jose is Known and Famous For

San Jose is in the southern portion of California’s Bay Area. While it tends to lie in San Francisco’s shadow, this sunny city is actually larger in population and size.

The region has changed drastically over the past century. Once an agricultural center, it is now one of the world’s most prominent innovation centers.     

San Jose is known for being the capital of Silicon Valley, boasting many top tech and financial companies. With more millionaires per capita than other U.S. cities, it has one of the most expensive housing markets as a result. It is famous for museums, Great America, and the Winchester Mystery House.

Urban landscape in downtown San Jose, Silicon Valley, California

While tech may be its biggest claim to fame, San Jose has more to offer than just high-paying salaries. Read on to discover what this quickly rising city is all about.

1. Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House has a story unlike any other. It was once the home of Sarah Winchester, who inherited the Winchester Arms Company. It’s said to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. 

But its true quirkiness lies in its fascinating yet disturbing construction. After Sarah lost her daughter and husband to diseases, a medium convinced her to flee west. She was encouraged to continuously build a home for her and all these spirits to reside. 

Once seven stories tall, the Winchester Mystery House now stands at four. The eerie establishment has 161 rooms with some staircases and doorways leading absolutely nowhere. Since Mrs. Winchester enjoyed architectural embellishments, expect to see elaborate chandeliers and stained glass windows throughout the home.    

The architectural oddities are too many to name, and descriptions don’t do them justice. Tour this mysterious house for yourself to really soak in the puzzling history. For an extra spooky experience, take their Friday the 13th or Halloween tours.

2. Capital of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley sign

San Jose is famous for being the capital of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley encompasses the Southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose is the largest city in this area.

This renowned tech and financial hub boasts companies such as Paypay, Cisco, Adobe, FICO, and eBay.  

San Jose is a center of entrepreneurship and innovation and puts out more patents than any other U.S. city.  

3. Most millionaires per capita

Stack of money

San Jose has the most millionaires and billionaires per capita. If you’re looking to casually bump into an ultrawealthy individual, your best chances are here. 

Successful tech and financial industries with high-paying salaries contribute to this fact. Housing prices are also high, making it affordable for the uber-wealthy and less so for lower and medium-income families.  

4. Expensive housing market

A group of closely-spaced tract homes in San Jose, California.

San Jose is known for having an expensive housing market. It is one of the highest-priced markets in the country and globally. 

Increased demand, rising employment, and high-paying tech industries drive these prices up. The concentration of millionaires doesn’t help either. Almost half of the homes are valued at $1 million or more.

5. Going green

Lyft electric assist Bay Wheels bike next to San Jose sign.
Editorial credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

San Jose is very future-forward. Along with being scientifically innovative, they’ve also gone green. 

If you’re heading to the grocery store, you better bring your own shopping bags. One of San Jose’s environmental initiatives includes a Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.

San Jose also has 60 miles of trails, encouraging walking, running, and cycling. With a relatively flat terrain and cycling options, it is a big promoter of green commuting. The surrounding parks are well-kept and outdoor activities are plentiful. 

6. World’s largest monopoly board

Monopoly in the Park - the Guinness Book of World Records record holder for world's largest permanent Monopoly board - in Discovery Meadow Park.
Editorial credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

The world’s largest Monopoly board is in San Jose. You can find it in Discovery Meadow near the Children’s Museum. 

The square structure was built from granite and measures 9.44m x 9.44 m. It is an accurate depiction of the popular board game. It’s a fixed structure so expect it to stick around for some time.  

Feel free to hop around the colorful, life-sized board. Take a walk to Park Place and the Boardwalk– just be careful not to land yourself in Jail!   

7. Santana Row

Street lined up with cafes in the European style inspired shopping district Santana Row
Editorial credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Santana Row is an upscale neighborhood in San Jose. It’s a leisure-based area with shops, restaurants, cafes, and a movie theatre. Outdoor parks and venues in the area host live music and yoga classes. Some of the city’s high-end boutiques, such as Gucci, can be found here.

It’s an excellent place to take a leisurely stroll, window shop, or people-watch. Grab a seat on an outdoor patio to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine on a sunny day.

8. Earthquakes

Crack is road to demonstrate earthquake

San Jose is known for earthquakes. It sits on the northern San Andreas Fault Line, making it very vulnerable to these risky natural events. 

Earthquakes can happen anytime here. More minor earthquakes happen frequently, but residents usually only feel the shaking from larger ones about twice a year.  

9. San Jose Flea Market

Vendor selling at the San Jose flea market
Editorial credit: Dragan Jovanovic / Shutterstock.com

There are several different markets around the city. One of the most popular is the San Jose Flea Market. This colorful, lively market has been happening here for over 60 years. 

It has everything from antiques to local produce. Wander the aisles to find unique artwork, collectibles, and vintage treasures. Taste freshly made cuisine from a food truck or grab a pint at a craft beer stand. The kid-friendly market has a few amusement rides, including a Ferris Wheel. 

The market is open most Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Come on the weekends to catch some live music.  

10. Great America

California's Great America Halloween Theme entrance with Merry-go-round behind it 
Editorial credit: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, head to Great America! Although technically in nearby Santa Clara, it’s a top-rated experience in the area.

This theme park has rollercoasters, a water park, concerts, fireworks, and live shows. It really is a full day of fun.

It’s a great family destination with slower rides for little kids and adventurous rides for older ones. Its Carousel Columbia is the tallest carousel in the world. Thrill-seekers will enjoy the Gold Striker or Flight Deck– some of the fastest rides at the park and in the state.

11. SAP Center

SAP Center building close to downtown San Jose
Editorial credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

San Jose is famous for the SAP Center. This large indoor arena hosts everything from concerts and performances to Olympic sporting events. 

It’s cleverly referred to as the “Shark Tank” by locals because it hosts the San Jose Shark’s hockey team. 

12. The Wave

San Francisco Giants Vs. Oakland Athletics
Editorial credit: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Have you ever been to a sports game and experienced ‘the wave’? Well, you have San Jose to thank! 

Although disputed, the idea was said to come from a San Jose State football game. A cheerleader named ‘Krazy George’ Henderson came up with it while watching groups of fans cheer from the stands. 

After some practice, Henderson presented it to the world in a televised playoff game between the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees in 1981. 

13. Steve Wozniak

Apple corporation co-founder Stephen Wozniak performs at business conference
Editorial credit: Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock.com

While Steve Jobs gets most of the credit for inventing the Apple company, he wasn’t alone. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were both college dropouts who co-founded the highly successful Apple Computers, Inc. 

Jobs quickly became the face of the company, while the shier Wozniak stayed out of the spotlight. Wozniak hails from San Jose and continues to live in the area. He is a pioneer of technology, with many more technological and philanthropic contributions under his belt.  

14. Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph

Interior of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, a large Roman Catholic church located in Downtown San Jose, San Francisco bay area
Editorial credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

San Jose is known for the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. This Roman Catholic Church is the center of the city’s Roman Catholic Diocese and a prominent spot of worship downtown. 

Aside from its religious purpose, it is a beautiful addition to San Jose’s architecture. You are greeted by tall pillars and archways topped with crosses as you approach the building.

Peek inside to glimpse the sun shining through stained glass windows. And don’t forget to look up to see colorful ceilings with ornate domes.  

15. Museums

San Jose Museum of Art is an art museum in Downtown San Jose, California, USA.

The city is home to several different museums that represent the city’s history and culture. 

The Children’s Discovery Museum is one of the largest interactive kids museums, with over 150 exhibits to tinker with. You can design, experiment, and innovate at Tech Interactive. It is also a hands-on museum but geared more towards the whole family.

It also wouldn’t be Silicon Valley without a Computer History Museum to document this region’s technology over time.

But San Jose is more than just science. Many art and culture museums are spread about. One of which is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, with a vast collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

16. Japantown

San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin with evening glow

Japantown, also referred to as J town or Nihonmachi, is particularly special in this city. It is one of the last authentic Japantowns in the country. 

You can learn about Japanese immigration at the Japanese American Museum or visit the San Jose Buddhist Church.

Enjoy a variety of Japanese dishes such as donburi, udon, noodles, or bento boxes. Sing some karaoke at the local bar or grab a coffee at Roy’s station – a gas station converted into a solar-powered coffee shop.

17. International Cuisine

San Pedro Square Market - dining and entertainment destination for locals and tourists in downtown. People ride electric scooters - San Jose, California,
Editorial credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for international cuisine, San Jose is a good place to go. You can find food from all over the world in this diverse city. 

Head to Adega, a Michelin-rated Portuguese restaurant, for a fine-dining experience. For more casual vibes, hang out at San Pedro Square Market, which serves up various dishes from Peruvian street food to banh mi. 

San Jose is also famous for its burnt almond cake. It originated at Peters’ Bakery over 70 years ago and was handed down to family members who continue the tradition. The recipe for this local specialty is kept partially secret– so pop into Peters’ to taste the original.

18. Parks

Japanese Friendship Garden is a walled section of Kelley Park in San Jose, California, USA

San Jose is famous for its parks. There are a multitude of green spaces within and surrounding the city. Whether you are looking for natural beauty or carefully landscaped gardens, this city has it all. 

Alum Rock Park and Almaden Quicksilver Rock Park offer hiking and more natural landscapes, serving as a habitat for wild animals in the region.  

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a zen refuge from the city’s hustle and bustle. Its classic Japanese design includes cherry blossoms, waterfalls, and ponds with koi fish. 

San Jose at sunset

The development of Silicon Valley really put San Jose on the map. Besides that, not many people know much about this city. 

San Jose’s best-kept secrets are found in its markets, museums, parks, and food. With such a warm, sunny climate, these can happily be enjoyed all year round. And if mystery or adventure calls your name, this city has some token places. 

Uncover what this wealthy, green city has to offer. Head to San Jose to check it out for yourself!

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