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San Jose is a wonderful city. For the first time tourist, the list of must sees include:
The Tech Museum/iMAX: This is wonderful science/technology musuem for the entire family. iMax shows also play here. Art fans can check out the local scene by visiting the San Jose Museum of Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art and Works as well a host of smaller galleries.
Winchester Mystery house is an amazing house - many rooms, mysterious staircases, thought to be haunted - that the entire family will enjoy.
For a little bit of wine tasting, J. Lohr Winery is the place to go. Nice place to sample some delightfully good wines.
For spectacular shopping (70 shops), dining (18 restaurants), movies, spa (5) , and outdoor walking and fun, head over to Santana Row - great place to spend a few hours and across the street from Winchester Mystery House and Valley Fair Mall.
For evening activites, in the summer head on over to San Jose Giants baseball game - this is real fun for the entire family and one of the best barbecues in town. Or catch in the summer the free movie and concert nights in downtown San Jose. In the winter, American Musical Theater puts on some top notch performances. And at Christmas, the magic of Christmas is amazing in San Jose. There is ice skating and Christmas in the Park. In end July, San Jose is host to the San Jose Grand Prix. This is a top notch racing event that is held on the San Jose streets; fun time for all.
If you like gardens, San Jose also has the lovely Heritage rose gardens to visit and see.
Also, a very pretty and unique area of San Jose is Japantown - this has many shops, restaurants, and several times in the year festivals to go to and enjoy Japanese Heritage. It is one of the three remaining authentic Japantowns in America.
For those first time visitors with families, two fun places to go include: Happy Hollow - zoo, kids theater, and zoo. Also, the Childrens Discovery Museum of San Jose is a fun "hands-on" museum for children to enjoy exploring and play.
With San Jose being the third largest city in California, there is a lively night scene downtown with several great bars/music and dance places.
San Jose Downtown is serviced by Cal Train and Light rail, so transporation is good to explore both the San Jose area, but also to use San Jose to explore the entire Bay Area. Several wonderful hotels (Fairmont, Marriott, Hotel de Anza) are downtown. If you'd like to explore some of the surrounding environs, you'd do well to rent a car. Santa Cruz is a great town on the beach (featured in "Lost Boys") only 30 minutes drive south. On the way, you'll pass through the quaint Town of Los Gatos with it's shops and restaurants. If hiking or running trails is your thing, check out the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District for a long list of managed open areas dedicated to runners, hikers and sometimes cyclists. Up the peninsula a bit toward San Francisco is Palo Alto, home of Stanford University (with the Cantor Center) and Stanford Shopping Center.
There is also the San Jose Arena (i.e. HP Pavillion) which hosts many music, sports, and other special events throughout the year.
Also, if you like Flea Markets, San Jose has one of the best Flea Markets in the entire state of California. One can spend several hours exploring the markets and enjoying the food at the market.
There is also a zoo downtown called Happy Hollow. It's located close to Spartan Stadium and the Stadium where the San Jose Giants play. Animals, Petting Zoo and Rides. Great place for young children.