A trip to San Jose and surrounds is about so much more than just goggling in awe at Google, says Cliff Hsia, owner of family travel blog Live Family Travel. He and his two girls Emily (5) and Chloe (2) say Silicon Valley with kids is not just for nerds – there are plenty of great family-friendly activities in San Jose. Here are his insider secrets to a family holiday in San Jose with kids.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in San Jose?
San Jose is blessed with great weather almost the entire year. It’s the heart of Silicon Valley which makes it a melting pot of people from different cultural backgrounds. Because there’s such a wide distribution of different people across the city, you’re able to find all kinds of great food and festivals throughout the year.
Where is your favourite place to take kids in San Jose?
Valley Fair Shopping Mall. It has pretty much everything under one roof with an indoor toddler playground, Disney store, Apple store, Gap and a great food court.
Where are your kids’ favourite place in San Jose to hang out?
[Theme Park California’s] Great America. For a couple of years we had season passes and the kids loved it. It’s the Bay Area’s version of Disneyland with a dedicated area of rides for the younger kids. When it gets hot in the summer we also take them to the water park located in Great America, called Boomerang Bay, for swimming and playing on the water slides.
[To read more about family-friendly theme parks for kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with The Theme Park Guy.]
What is the best free activity to do with kids in San Jose?
Anything outdoors. Because the weather is normally really nice, we take them to the local parks. Most notable is the Emma Prusch Farm Park which has a huge playground along with a petting zoo and a cow barn.
[For more ideas on free activities for kids available in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where is the best place to take kids in San Jose when the weather is bad?
We keep it local by going to the Great Mall if it’s too hot or too cold. It’s the largest outlet mall in Northern California. It’s one big indoor loop and there are plenty of areas for kids to play, so it makes a nice way for parents and kids to spend a few hours together.
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in San Jose?
There’s one area that makes a nice day trip with three attractions that are located right next to each other. The attractions are Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, Japanese Friendship Garden (Senter Rd and East Alma Ave., San Jose, California, USA), and History Park. Each of these attractions are worth visiting for different reasons. At Happy Hollow, your kids will have the chance to have a half day of fun seeing the animals and riding the kiddie rides.
At Japanese Friendship Garden, you can take a breather from the city and relax in all the nature and flowing water of the beautiful garden. And finally, at History Park you can take a trip back into the past and see some of the old buildings and trains of San Jose.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic San Jose experience?
Experience all that San Jose has to offer with it’s multi-cultural background. Go to [the neighbourhoods of] Japantown, visit Koreatown, and stop by Little Saigon. There are pockets of different ethnicities throughout San Jose, so have fun embracing all the different cultures.
Which is the best place to stay if you are on family vacation in San Jose with kids?
We like the area where we live in Northern San Jose/Milpitas. There's a well-located Embassy Suites right in our neighbourhood in Milpitas. The Embassy Suites has a combination of big suite rooms, complimentary breakfast and evening receptions and indoor swimming pools.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to San Jose with kids?
One week would be the bare minimum but, if you can, stay at least two or three weeks. San Jose is part of the greater Bay Area which includes San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and other cities. These cities are all within an hour or so of driving, so it’s worth it to see all of it if you can. If you have more time than a couple of weeks, you can also make some day or weekend trips to places like Monterey/Carmel, Napa/Sonoma and Marin.
Where are your top 3 family-friendly restaurants in San Jose?
Pho 909 (72 S Park Victoria Dr., Milpitas, California, USA, +1 408 946 1937), L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and Chipotle Mexican Grill. All located in Milpitas, just north of San Jose, these restaurants offer fast service and healthy, affordable and delicious food.
[For more travel tips on identifying healthy food on restaurant menus for kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with the nutritionist from Eat Good Nutrition.]
What are your tips for kids' shops in San Jose?
Shop at the Great Mall for good deals. We also like to shop with the kids at our local Target.
When is the best time of year to visit San Jose?
I like mid-February to end of March as the best season to visit San Jose. In most parts of the United States it’s still cold but in San Jose spring comes early and the days get warmer, sunnier and longer. However, because San Jose gets relatively great weather all year long, any time of the year would be a good time to visit.
What is the best way to move around San Jose with kids?
By car. You absolutely need to have a car in San Jose, especially with kids. Places are pretty spread out and public transportation isn’t as developed as it could be in San Jose, so renting a car would be your best bet for getting around.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to San Jose with kids?
· Bring a good stroller and/or baby carrier. There’s a lot of outdoor and indoor activities, so be ready for a lot of walking and nap times [in the stroller].
· Go early on weekends or on weekdays. Any popular place will have a ton of people during peak times. We like to go early in the mornings to shopping malls to avoid the stress of navigating parking, crowds and lines.
· Try something new. Dim sum in Milpitas or Cupertino. Korean barbecue in Sunnyvale. A half day in downtown Campbell. San Jose has anything one could ever ask for, so be open to trying new things that you wouldn’t normally do at home.