Those who are looking for a weekend getaway from LA LA Land but are strapped for cash should consider going 350 miles north to San Jose, The Capital of Silicon Valley.
Less talked about than other places along the California coast, this up and coming city still has many historical and high-tech attractions to offer and would be a city well worth exploring for a few days. With a little research and budgeting, money-conscious travelers can maximize their time here on as little as $300.
A roundtrip Bolt Bus ride from Union Station to Diridon Station will take 6 hours of travel time and costs approximately $80. Transportation comes with wi-fi, charging plugs, a friendly driver, and comfortable seats. From Diridon Station, tourists have access to taxis, rideshares, bikeshares, the VTA system, Caltrain, and AmTrak, as the station is right in the heart of downtown San Jose.
Public transportation here is quite accessible and easy to navigate, and for a short trip to this city, it might be cheaper and more efficient to purchase a day pass ($6) if travelers are planning to stay within the city.
Getting to know the locals is the best and cheapest way to get an authentic, inside scoop on a city, so try finding lodging with an Airbnb host or taking another similar route. With a little searching and some luck, a place to crash can cost as little as $35 a night. If the host is generous enough, they may even provide essentials and a complimentary breakfast, which are a few less necessities to worry about with a small budget.
Rose Heritage Garden (FREE)
The Heritage Rose Garden is a small part of the Guadalupe Gardens dedicated to education on and preservation of thousands of rose species. These roses are arranged in a concentric circle with rows and rows of colorful species you can smell and admire. Each one has its own name and may also have a message from a contributor.
Take the light rail to Santa Clara Station to get to downtown San Jose, where many of the must-see attractions are conveniently located. Among them is the St. Joseph Cathedral Basilica, which is the oldest seat of Christian worship in San Jose. This sacred place had been destroyed multiple times and the latest one built was in 1875. Inside are beautiful works of art including elegant marble statues trimmed in gold and a stained glass dome with beautiful cherubs curiously peering down at their audience.
San Jose Museum of Art ($8 for adults, $5 with student ID)
Right next door to the cathedral is the San Jose Museum of Art, which houses a large collection of works from West Coast artists from the 20th and 21st century. Glassworked chandeliers in cheerful reds, greens, and blues hanging from the ceiling greet every visitor, along with a very friendly receptionist. The museum is actually quite small despite being a two-story building, but taking time to admire each work of art and participating in the interactive exhibits could take well over an hour or two.
On the way out, don’t forget to check out the gift shop on the first floor. It houses typical souvenirs, but is still worth visiting for nifty post cards or even a bejeweled pen for travel journaling.
Tech Museum of Innovation ($15 for adults, $10 with student ID, half price in the last open hour)
Within the same area as the cathedral and art museum is the Tech Museum of Innovation. This place is hard to miss — it’s a bright orange museum with an equally bold purple dome on top. This museum has many interactive exhibits that are fun for young families and individuals alike. Some interesting, permanent exhibits include the jet pack simulator and earthquake simulator, but there are also a healthy amount of temporary installations to explore as well.
The REBOOT:music exhibition on the lower level is available for a limited time until August 17, 2014 and is a definite must-see and must-experience. This interactive showcase lets visitors unleash their inner musician with the help of 16 different installations created by artists from around the world. Rock out with notable instruments including the L’HA! Laser Harp, the Patatap, and the Light Orchestra.
Japanese Friendship Garden (FREE)
Take a 15-minute bus ride on the VTA straight from downtown San Jose to the Japanese Friendship Garden, which is a walled off section of Kelley Park. This well-sized garden will help you get in touch with your inner zen with its sloping walkways, wooden benches, majestic red bridge, and regal koi fish (which can be fed).
The Japantown in San Jose is one of three remaining historical Japantowns in the United States. Getting to this small town is easy by bus or light rail and most of the shops congregate along Jackson Street. Enjoy a manju bun or shaved ice, pick up a souvenir, enjoy poppy seed bread at Roy’s Station, and appreciate the public property which has been painted over with colorful, neo-traditional Japanese art.
San Jose Flea Market (free admission)
Love the outdoors, walking, and shopping for hours? Then the San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road can’t be missed! Sundays are the busiest days with the most vendors (hundreds if not thousands), all offering a huge selection of antiques, jewelry, food, clothes, and more to pick from. Make a morning, afternoon, or even day out of this event and bring sunblock, a water bottle, a good pair of sunglasses, and haggling skills.
As a side note, the restrooms here are very clean. There is a dedicated team of custodians constantly ensuring the sanitary soundness of the restrooms, an impressive feat considering the huge crowds at the flea market.
San Pedro Square Market (~$15)
San Pedro Square Market, located in downtown San Jose, is bustling with plenty of food stalls, bars, art, and a couple of gift shops to check out as well. There are also public restrooms here for those passing through the area. In the evenings there is live music and entertainment, and meals can be enjoyed in the plaza of the Peralta Adobe, which is the oldest building in San Jose.