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Ultimate San Jose, CA, Bucket List: A City Explorer’s Guide

February 20, 2024 by Jeremy Steckler

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose is known as a good place to live for technological innovation, cultural diversity, and breathtaking sights. Rich in attractions, food, and beauty, it’s hard to not be captivated by San Jose’s charm and imagine renting an apartment or buying a home in the city.


From farmers markets to Buddhist temples, strap in for Redfin’s San Jose, CA, bucket list to begin the journey of uncovering all that your new home has to offer.

Downtown San Jose, CA
Downtown San Jose, CA


1. Visit the farmers markets

An essential to any San Jose bucket list is a visit to the local farmers markets. Abundant throughout the city, these markets are a treasure trove of fresh produce from local farmers and unique creations from local artisans. They also give a great indication of what it’s like to live in San Jose.


“Our favorite thing about San Jose is the farmers markets that operate every week throughout the city – almost every neighborhood has one nearby!” shares Laura deTar of Fresh Approach, a local non-profit that aims to connect California residents with food grown by Californian farmers. “San Jose is unique in farmers markets, too, because it also has mobile farmers markets that provide high-quality local produce to neighborhoods that don’t have traditional farmers markets.”


2. Take a stroll around San Pedro Square

Home to one of the oldest buildings in San Jose, the Peralta Adobe, San Pedro Square is a must-stop while in San Jose. Built in 1797 by one of the founders of San Jose, José Manuel Gonze, the Peralta Adobe is the last remaining structure from El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe and is open to the public for tours. 


San Pedro Square doesn’t just offer a history lesson: Just listen to Robby Torres of Breakout Studios, a local escape room company. “San Pedro Square offers a one-of-a-kind experience to witness delivery robots on sidewalks, people on e-scooters, and band performances inside an international food court.” Maha Mohamed, owner of Sweet Treats SJ, agrees, saying “San Pedro Square offers a vibrant atmosphere with opportunities to eat, drink, listen to music, hang out and relax with your family or friends.”


Maha Mohamed also recommends checking out the local shops, like Moments, surrounding the square to support local small businesses.


3. Experience the local cuisine

“San Jose, with its vibrant Latin roots and melting pot of creativity, is one of the best foodie spots in all of California,” says Mike Galindo of San Jose Bachata Nights. “Nothing is better to wrap up the night than stopping by Sushi Confidential San Jose for some of the best sushi in the Bay Area.”


Mike seems to share that opinion with other local experts. Jennifer Echeverri of Habana Cuba Restaurant adds, “We love San Jose’s authentic cultural cuisines and communities.” Habana Cuba Restaurant is just one example of the hidden gems located all over San Jose. For Habana Cuba Restaurant, their recipes were used by the chef of then President Batista. Their recipes continue to enchant thousands in the valley with their slow-roasted dishes that transport you to the Cuban capital.

“One of the things that I absolutely love about San Jose is its diverse and thriving restaurant scene.” says Prince Yubraj Karki, CEO of Everest Cuisine. “From trendy eateries to hidden gems, there is always something to satisfy every palate.” Joanna Torres, owner of Arepas Latin Cuisine agrees, “San Jose is notable for its innovation and cultural diversity. Arepas Latin Cuisine is proud to bring Venezuelan and Colombian food to the area.”


Maha Mohamed has you covered with the commendations. “This region boasts a wide range of authentic restaurants and cuisines from all over the world that allow you the privilege to indulge in your favorite or try new ones if you like, such as Petiscos for Portuguese, Paesano Ristorante ItalianoLuna Mexican Kitchen, and Naglee Park Garage for American food.”


4. Cool off with a pint

Featuring a blossoming craft beer scene, grabbing a pint is a perfect way to cool off when the sun in San Jose gets a little too intense. “San Jose boasts fantastic breweries, including ours, Clandestine Brewing, where locals and visitors alike can savor unique and delicious brews in a welcoming atmosphere,” shares Adrian Kalaveshi, owner and brewer with Clandestine Brewing. “The camaraderie among fellow beer enthusiasts and the innovative spirit of the brewing community make this aspect of San Jose truly special.”


5. Experience San Jose’s outdoor playground

“With a pleasant Mediterranean climate, San Jose enjoys mild winters and warm summers, making it an attractive destination for outdoor activities,” shares local Thai restaurant Oros Thai. So what better reason to experience your new home than to get outside? 


“A quick car ride and you are in the quiet of a beautiful area with no one around, and you feel like you are a million miles from civilization.” shares Susan J Weiand of Susan J Weiand Photography. “My favorite parks with multiple hiking trails are Almaden Quicksilver ParkCalero County Park, and Sierra Vista Open Space. Each offers different hiking experiences for the beginner or advanced hiker.”


One of the main draws of San Jose is the variety of terrain and climates. “As a photographer, I feel so blessed I am near a wide variety of nature settings, from the wheat-filled hills of Alviso to the desert fauna at the Stanford Arizona Cactus Garden in Palo Alto.” shares Carla Dano-Arango of Carla D.A. Photography.


6. Explore San Jose’s stunning murals

While strolling through your new home to get a lay of the land, keep an eye out for some street art. “We love the murals that decorate the whole city,” says Yori Seegar, Executive Director of the School of Visual Philosophy. “It makes San Jose so colorful and gives the creative artists in our community a place to showcase their work so residents and visitors can get a sense of what makes San Jose so unique! Color, Culture and Creativity abound in all of our neighborhoods”


7. Visit San Jose’s expansive Japantown

Next on the San Jose bucket list is a visit to one of the three remaining Japantowns in the United States. “We have historic shops, amazing food and restaurants, and a tight-knit community that hosts festivals like Nikkei Matsuri and the Obon Festival,” shares Tamiko Rast, President of the Japantown Business Association.  “Last year, the San Jose Obon Festival broke a record of the most Bon Odori dancers in the continental United States with 1,636 dancers!”


For a taste of Japanese culture while in San Jose, a stop at Japantown is essential. 


8. Experience one of San Jose’s Buddhist temples

For a reflective and enriching experience, check out the Đức Viên Buddhist Temple in the heart of Little Saigo. Operated by Buddhist nuns, this temple features beautiful grounds, eclectic gardens, colorful lanterns, and delectable vegan food.


“The center is open to everyone, so plan your visit on a Sunday, burn some incense, send your prayers to the heavens, and top off your visit with vegan specialties under the shades,” recommends Trami Cron of Chopsticks Alley Art


9. Take a trip to Chopsticks Alley Art

If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and say hi to Trami, head to Chopsticks Alley Art to discover San Jose’s newest art gallery. Highlighting Southeast Asian cultural heritage, Chopsticks Alley Art offers classes, exhibitions, and cultural events to create an engaging environment of celebration, understanding, and support between communities. 


10. Try your hand at an escape room

If the sun is a little too intense for you while exploring the city, pop inside to explore one of San Jose’s many escape rooms to test your problem-solving and teamwork. Consider visiting Justin at EDscapade Games, Robby at Breakout Studios, or PanIQ Room.


Located right in the heart of Silicon Valley, PanIQ Room offers plenty of rooms to choose from and a more immersive experience than most other escape rooms you’ve tried. Eszter Cseh of PanIQ gives an overview, “Bust out of an old west jail while the sheriff’s away. Free yourself from being some mad scientist’s guinea pig in an old insane asylum. Challenge yourself to solve what seems to be the perfect crime. No matter your flavor, PanIQ Room delivers an immersive experience like nothing you’ve seen in an escape room before.”


11. Experience the people and cultures 

San Jose is widely known for being at the heart of Silicon Valley, so normally tech and entrepreneurship would be the first thing locals mention when asked about their city. However, overwhelmingly, locals choose to highlight the people and energy of San Jose. 


“The best thing about San Jose is that it embodies the American Dream, where anything and everything is possible” shares Marcus Araiza of Atlas Studios Portfolio. “San Jose is a mecca of diverse cultures supporting the growth and needs of the community within. San Jose is a dreamer’s dream come true.” 


Greenlee’s Bakery has had a similar experience. “The people of San Jose and the Bay Area are the best thing about this place! We are reaching our 100th anniversary thanks to the love and support of this city. We feel blessed to have such an amazing community.” 


“Over the generations, we’ve witnessed a remarkable transformation in San Jose,” says Barry Timmins of Vidovich Vineyards. “The diversity has flourished over the years, enriching our communities and creating a vibrant tapestry of cultures and subcultural enclaves. It’s heartening to see the city embrace change while preserving its unique identity.”


For Justin Nguyen of EDscapade Games, observing his community makes him proud to live in San Jose. “It’s always a treat seeing people come together at Christmas in the Park, strolling down Santana Row, or mingling with their best friends at our many top-tier boba shops. It’s the perfect place to call home.”

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