San Jose Weekend Guide

The Agricultural Past Meets Technology's Future


Kent Steffens

Though its neighbor to the north, San Francisco, gets more attention, it's well worth your time to find your way to San Jose. California's third-largest city (and the country's tenth), San Jose celebrates America's agricultural past as much as its technological present and future.

But it's not just a town for foodies and techies; it also celebrates its huge Vietnamese population at The Museum of the Boat People. And there's plenty of family fun at Great America, a 100-acre theme park, and the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. Consider the town's 300 days of sun per year, parks, shopping and cultural events at the California Theatre, and you'll be tempted to stay for a week -- or forever.

Where to Stay

Dolce Hayes Mansion
Live the grand life at this 100-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival hotel. Surrounded by lush gardens, you'll be forgiven if you choose to spend the entire weekend on the property. It's peaceful, quiet and offers guests the perfect excuse to do, well, pretty much nothing. Start the morning with a swim in the 25-meter heated outdoor pool before sauntering over to the Being Spa for their signature hot-stone massage. If the massage leaves you in a perfect jelly-like state, take to the lounge chairs on the pool deck. Free Wi-Fi in the guest rooms makes it easy to send e-brags back home.

Fairmont San Jose
A hotel chain known for its outstanding service, Fairmont San Jose ensures you'll feel like the only guest in the world. Since the property caters to the business traveler, it's the perfect place to check into if you're planning to tack a weekend's adventure onto the end of a work trip. The hotel also offers some of the best beds in the hotel world. It won't be easy to get up in the morning -- but you won't mind.

Hotel Valencia Santana Row
Leather club chairs. High thread counts. Wooden plantation shutters. It's the bedroom you wish you had at home -- and here, at least for the weekend, it's all yours. This masculine and modern hotel looks out over the chic (and shopping-heavy) neighborhood of Santana Row. Up on the fifth floor, the Ayoma LifeSpa offers treatments based on the ayurvedic alternative medicine principles of India.

Where to Eat

Bun Bo Hue An Nam
With one of the world's largest Vietnamese populations, skipping out on one of San Jose's numerous Vietnamese restaurants would be a crime. A local favorite for its fabulous pho, Bun Bo Hue An Nam's signature dish is the spicy beef noodle soup, bun bo hue.

Falafel's Drive In
It's an unusual combo: old-school drive-in style meets Middle Eastern chow. But they've got it going on in San Jose. Open for more than 4 decades, Falafel's serves up all the hummus, Middle Eastern goodies and, yes, falafel, you crave. And if you're craving American fare, there's a full menu of hamburgers and corn dogs, too.

Yes, we're recommending a food court. With just 5 Mitsuwa Marketplaces around the US, the San Jose outpost is a must-go if you've never been (and, if you've been, you know you want to go back). The Japanese market's food court offers all the ramen, udon, sushi, tonkatsu and sweets your heart could ever desire. Kids will love the candy aisle.

What to See & Do

The Tech Museum
San Jose is Silicon Valley. Period. Celebrate the area's history at this museum, which has plenty on offer for wee ones and oldsters who remember the days before smart phones. Hands-on exhibits take visitors inside everything from genetics to microchips.

The Winchester Mystery House
Built by Sarah Winchester, widow of the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, after her husband and children died, this 160-room mansion offers up more questions than answers -- but you and your family will have lots of fun puzzling them out. Where does the disappearing staircase go? Why the 2-inch steps on the 7-flight switchback staircase? And what was going on in all those secret passageways?

Downtown Farmers Market
Even if you don't have a kitchen to cook in for the weekend, you'll want to get in on the peaches and other local produce at this farmers market. Long before there was tech here, there was a whole lot of growing going on in the surrounding farmlands. If you're in town on the last Friday of the month, don't miss the Cookin' the Market demonstrations.

After Dark

California Theatre
Now a performing arts (and movie) center, this former movies-only spot reopened in 2004 after a major renovation. Originally opened in 1927, it's the home of Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley.

San Jose Repertory Theatre
With 30 years under its belt, the San Jose Rep is still going strong with 6 main-stage shows every year. It's also one of the best places to catch a performance's West Coast premiere. During the 2010-2011 season, the Rep will debut everything from musicals to romantic comedies.

Sino Lounge
The restaurant's dim sum menu pairs perfectly with the impressive cocktail menu. Hang out in the lounge, and chat up the locals while sipping an Asian pear martini. Once you've made some new friends, order a carafe of the lychee sangria.

Travel Channel Insider's Tip: San Jose loves a good festival. Whether you're up for celebrating the blues, mariachi, some fine wine or the tapestry arts, they have an event to suit your taste. Check the city's festival calendar to find out what they offer throughout the year.

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