Looking for things to do for families in San Jose? Whether you enjoy picnicking, learning about history and science, petting farm animals or getting an adrenaline rush at a waterpark, San Jose caters to all interests and budgets.

    San Jose may sit in Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean tech is the only talk of the town. With terrific weather and an abundance of museums, parks and other kid-friendly attractions, there are tons of things to do for families visiting the city. Most of the sights are nearby downtown, so you could combine several activities for a whole day of family fun. Check out our picks of the best family-friendly places in San Jose below.

    1

    Raging Waters

    Soak up the warm California sunshine

    • Families

    Raging Waters is an exceptionally family-friendly aquatic park at the San Jose foothills. It covers 9 hectares and offers high-speed slides, brave drops, a phenomenal 350,000-gallon wave pool, the Lazy River, an interactive Pirate Cove, and much more.

    Little ones can tug ropes, squirt water and crank wheels at the Wacky Water Works, as well as test their bravery on the slides at the Little Dipper. When you and your thrill-seeking family need to refuel, there are several onsite food options available.

    Location: 2333 S White Rd, San Jose, CA 95148, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 408-238-9900

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    2

    History Park

    Explore a bygone era

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Visit History Park to discover what life was like in the Santa Clara Valley at the turn of the 20th century. Located at the southern end of Kelley Park, this fascinating open-air museum features paved streets, 32 original and replica historic buildings from the late 1800s, 2 museums, running trolleys, and a scaled-down copy of the Electric Light Tower constructed in 1881.

    After strolling through the charming streets, treat your family to locally made ice cream at the O’Brien Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop. Plan your visit on a weekend when you can enjoy a trolley ride around the park.

    Location: 1650 Senter Road, San Jose, CA 95112, USA

    Open: Monday–Friday from noon to 5 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 408-287-2290

    Map

    photo by HarshLight (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

    Check out wildlife and enjoy a puppet show

    • Families
    • Photo

    Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is a 6-hectare zoo and family-friendly amusement park in the north corner of Kelley Park. Although the puppet shows, rides, ropes, and climbing areas are great fun, children will adore strolling the grounds and observing over 140 animals, including American alligators, jaguars, lemurs and meerkats.

    At the petting zoo, young ones can touch and feed goats, sheep, and miniature cows and horses. With a focus on conservation and sustainability, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is a terrific mix of both education and fun for the whole family.

    Location: 748 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95112-2626, USA

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +1 408-794-6400

    Map

    photo by Don DeBold (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    The Japanese Friendship Garden

    A peaceful spot for a picnic

    • Families
    • Couples
    • Photo

    The Japanese Friendship Garden is a tranquil, well-maintained garden in San Jose’s Kelley Park where you can pack a picnic and spend a relaxed afternoon. The garden is modelled after the famous Korakuen Garden in Okayama, Japan – one of San Jose's sister cities – and is a fun area for kids to explore.

    The manicured landscape features waterfalls, Japanese bridges, a beautiful rose garden, and 3 interconnected ponds that are home to koi carp – a beloved attraction among younger visitors. Admission is free.

    Location: 1300 Senter Rd, San Jose, CA 95112, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 408-794-7275

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    5

    Los Gatos Creek Trail

    Get out into nature

    • Families
    • Budget
    • Couples
    • Adventure

    Los Gatos Creek Trail extends 18 km from downtown San Jose to Lexington Reservoir in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, meandering mostly alongside Los Gatos Creek. Flat, paved and easy to navigate on foot, bike or rollerblades, the trail is ideal for parents with children of all ages seeking a day out in nature.

    Vasona Lake Country Park is an excellent place for families to stop. This green space offers beautiful mountain views as well as kayaking, paddle boarding and a miniature railway that operates on weekends and during school summer breaks.

    Location: San Jose, CA 95126, USA

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    6

    Broadway San Jose

    Watch an epic musical

    • Nightlife

    Broadway San Jose in downtown offers a fantastic lineup of kid-friendly shows each season. Productions include Broadway’s fan favourites, classics and biggest hits, such as Wicked, Les Miserables, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    Performances are held at the Center For Performing Arts, and there are seats available for every budget. You can book tickets for a show a year in advance, so check out the website to reserve you and your family’s place. Matinees take place on weekends for children with early bedtimes.

    Location: 255 Almaden Blvd, San Jose, CA 95113, USA

    Phone: +1 408-792-4548

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    7

    Rotary PlayGarden

    An inclusive playground for all children

    • Families

    The Rotary PlayGarden at San Jose’s Guadalupe River Park allows children, especially those with special needs, to be able to play alongside their friends and siblings. The interactive playground has safe, accessible slides, a wheelchair-friendly merry-go-round, adaptive swings, plus sensory experiences and spaces that inspire quiet and imaginary playtime.

    Furthermore, the entire play area is covered with a padded surface to soften any falls. There is plenty of shaded seating for watching, resting or enjoying a picnic lunch.

    Location: 438 Coleman Ave, San Jose, CA 95110, USA

    Phone: +1 408-298-7657

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    8

    West Wind Capitol Drive-In

    See a movie under the stars

    • Families
    • Couples
    • Nightlife

    West Wind Capitol Drive-In is a family-owned movie theatre where you and your family can experience a slice of old-school Americana. The drive-in is located just 10 km from downtown San Jose and screens both classic and the latest films, with sound available via FM radio in your car.

    You can bring your own food or grab some refreshments from the on-site snack bar. Between the double feature, kids can play at the playground or game-filled arcades. Tuesdays are Family Fun Night with reduced prices on adult tickets – entry for children 4 and under is always free.

    Location: 3630 Hillcap Ave, San Jose, CA 95136, USA

    Phone: +1 408-226-2251

    Map
    9

    Children's Discovery Museum

    A great outlet for toddlers and young kids to explore

    • Families

    The Children's Discovery Museum in downtown San Jose is an engaging and smartly designed environment that encourages kids to learn through hands-on exploration.

    Children can explore palaeontology at the Mammoth Discovery, engage in water play and learn about physic principles at Waterways, and climb, build and dig outside at the impressive Bill's Backyard. Visit the Rainbow Market to let your young ones experience shopping at a fresh market and create an imaginary healthy meal afterwards. The museum is best suited for children 10 years and younger.

    Location: 180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 408-298-5437

    Map

    photo by LPS.1 (CC0 1.0) modified

    10

    Emma Prusch Farm Park

    Spend a day exploring a farm in the middle of the city

    • Families

    Emma Prusch Farm Park is a fabulous park situated only a 10-minute drive from the city centre. Once a working dairy farm, the 19-hectare park is now a lovely spot for a family day out. Children will have fun getting up close to farm animals such as geese, chickens, sheep, pigs, and rabbits, exploring the fruit orchards or letting off steam on the jungle gyms.

    Be sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy under the grassy areas shaded by trees. The open spaces are also great for kids to run around safely, play games or fly a kite.

    Location: 647 S King Rd, San Jose, CA 95116, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 408-794-6262

    Map
    Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer

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