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A Family Day Out in San Jose - a mini-Tailor-Made Adventure

Updated: 5 days ago


family day out in San Jose

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Regardless of this, please be advised that all opinions expressed in this blog post are genuine and authentically my own.**

Author: Barry Pickard 


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San Jose, California is a city that is often overlooked by travellers, but it is a hidden gem that should not be missed. The drive from San Francisco to San Jose takes just under an hour, so this city is perfect for a day trip and offers an abundance of family-friendly activities. In this blog post, we will explore three of the most unique activities in San Jose: the Winchester Mystery House, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area. These three locations offer a variety of educational and interactive experiences that are perfect for families with children.  


Large, rambling centuries old mansion enjoyed on a family day out in San Jose
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

San Jose is at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay Area, and is also the heart of Silicon Valley, making it a blend of modern innovation and rich history. Known for its sunny weather, diverse cultures, tech giants, and a vibrant arts scene, San Jose can also claim to be the first city to be founded in the Californias. Established in 1777 and initially known as Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe


Modern, Egyptian-style building in a green garden with palm trees enjoyed during a family day out in San Jose
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Planning an independent trip to San Francisco and San Jose? 

All information in this post is based on my own experience travelling around the Bay Area, backed by extensive research to bring you everything you need to know to have your own amazing experience. 




Don’t forget that at Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these attractions appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements, creating a family day out in San Jose that will delight all ages, or indeed, designing other family-friendly tours of California for you. 


family day out in San Jose

A Family Day Out - Activities in San Jose


Travel from San Francisco to San Jose by Car

 

We travelled to San Jose from San Francisco by rental car, taking US-101 South. This route takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes without traffic. San Jose is a city of just under a million inhabitants and you really need a car to get around the city, especially if you are looking to visit the three attractions that we did. 

 



Winchester Mystery House 

 

The Winchester Mystery House is a historic mansion located in San Jose that was once the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William W. Winchester. The house is known for its strange and mysterious architecture, which includes doors that lead to nowhere, stairs that go up and down, and rooms that are oddly shaped. The house was built in a constant state of renovation for 38 years and is said to have been built to confuse the spirits that Sarah believed were haunting her. We took the guided Winchester Mystery House tour and learned from the highly informative docent about the fascinating history of the house and the family who lived there.  


Three people in the foreground enjoying a family day out in San Jose, with a large Victorian mansion in the background.
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

The Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion is renowned for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of any master building plan. Since its construction in 1886, the property and mansion were claimed by many to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. Under Sarah Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around the clock, by some accounts, without interruption, until her death on September 5, 1922, at which time work immediately ceased.     


Large, rambling centuries old mansion enjoyed on a family day out in San Jose
Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

After her infant daughter died of an illness known as marasmus, a children's disease where the body wastes away, and her husband died of pulmonary tuberculosis, a Boston medium—supposedly channelling the spirit of her late husband— told her that she should leave her home in New Haven and travel West, where she must continuously build a home for herself and the spirits of people who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles.    



In 1884, she purchased an unfinished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley and began building her mansion. Carpenters were hired and worked on the house day and night until it rose to seven stories. Eschewing architects, she directed the additions herself, augmenting the building in a haphazard fashion. As a result, contains numerous oddities such as doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms, and stairs with oddly-sized risers.   



Tailor-Made Top Tips:  


Visits inside Winchester Mystery House can only be made by booking the tour. The online booking process is straightforward, and it is a good idea to book as soon as possible to ensure that you can secure your booking date and time, since this is quite a popular attraction. The Mansion Tour takes you through 110 of the 160 rooms and I would recommend this one if you want to do a Winchester Mystery House tour.



One of the most fun things to do in San Jose is to take one of the Winchester Mystery House regular special tours, such as their Flashlight Tour. It is worth keeping an eye on the website to see what interesting tours become available. 


The house has a large souvenir store, which is an ideal place to pick up your San Jose keepsakes.  



The restroom facilities are very good, and you should remember to use them before going on your tour, since there won’t be a chance once you are in the house itself. 


Plan to spend at least two hours at the house and grounds. 


There is a large carpark adjacent to the house, which is complimentary for visitors. 




Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum 

 

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is dedicated to ancient Egyptian culture and history. The museum features a collection of over 4,000 artefacts, including mummies, sarcophagi, jewellery, and pottery, making the museum a unique place of interest in San Jose. The museum was an excellent place for me to teach my son, Ythan, about the history of ancient Egypt and its people, as well as the religion, art, and daily life of the ancient Egyptians.  


Path leading up toa building with Egyptian columns seen during a family day out in San Jose
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum holds the largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the Western United States and is located next to the Rosicrucian headquarters. The highlight of the museum is a composite replica of an ancient Egyptian rock-cut tomb, based on photos and sketches taken by Rosicrucian expeditions to tombs at Beni Hasan.  


Wall painted with Egyptian figures and hieroglyphics viewed at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum during a family day out in San Jose
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Tailor-Made Top Tips:  


The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum parking is free and can be found at the rear of the museum for visitors. 


The complex that hosts the museum has beautiful, peaceful gardens which can be enjoyed during your visit. 


Garden and fountain in front of a building with Egyptian columns seen during a family day out in San Jose
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Plan to spend at least an hour at the museum and gardens. 


The Rosicrucian society are building a museum about alchemy next to the Egyptian Museum, so watch out for that opening and adjust your plans to combine a visit to the two museums together. 




LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area 

 

The LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area is an indoor attraction that is perfect for families with children. The attraction features interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that are designed to educate and entertain children of all ages. It was a great chance for us to play with giant LEGO structures and build our own LEGO creations. 


A LEGO version of the Golden Gate Bridge seen during a family day out in San Jose
The LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area

The Legoland Discovery Centre has a number of attractions, such as Miniland Bay Area (an interactive Bay Area created with 1.5 million Lego bricks); a 4D cinema; an interactive train ride; and a pirate themed soft play area.  

 


Tailor-Made Top Tip:  


The center is located within the Great Mall, one of the best malls in San Jose, so there is plenty of opportunity to indulge in some retail therapy after you have finished with the Lego. There are also a variety of food options at the mall, as well as ample parking. 



It is advisable to book your tickets to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center online prior to your visit. 


The San Francisco skyline made out of Lego viewed during a family day out in San Jose
The LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area

Note that children must be accompanied by at least one adult age 18 and over to enter, and adults must be accompanied by at least one child aged 17 and under to enter. 


If you are enjoying this list, remember and subscribe to our mailing list to receive our latest blog posts. 

 



Other Family Activities in San Jose


You should find that these three attractions will easily fill your day, but if you happen to have more time to explore this area, then there are several other options for your family to visit. In the city centre, you can combine visits to the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, which has more than 150 interactive exhibits including a full-size fire truck, and The Tech Interactive, which is an exciting, hands-on science and technology museum. The Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is also close by. Nearer the bay is California’s Great America, a fun-filled amusement park, and just a short trip to Palo Alto will take you to the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

 



So how many days would you need to spend in San Jose if you were to fully experience all of the city's family-friendly attractions? Well, I’d suggest that a long weekend would be sufficient to fully tire out both the young and the old in your family.  



Where to Stay in San Jose 


San Jose has a wide range of hotels to cater for all tastes and needs. For a touch of luxury, consider the Sonesta Silicon Valley or the AC Hotel by Marriott San Jose Santa Clara.


Meanwhile a mid-price option would be the Aloft Santa Clara – San Jose or the Hilton San Jose (which also happens to be one of the best downtown San Jose hotels), and a budget suggestion would be the Valley Inn San Jose (one of a number of hotels near San Jose airport) or The Domain Hotel


If you are looking for hotels close to the Winchester Mystery House, then you should check out the Hotel Valencia Santana Row or the Row Hotel.

Click on the underlined weblinks above to review these hotels and make your reservation.



When to Visit San Jose 


San Jose has a pleasant temperate climate and arguably the best weather in the Bay Area. The months either side of Summer (May, which is when we visited, and October to December) tend to be warm enough for outdoor activities, but not too busy, so we would recommend visiting then. Summers are hot, but not too hot, but attractions can get crowded. January to April, is cooler and wetter, but accommodation is cheaper. 



Conclusion 


San Jose, California, is a city that offers something for everyone, from history buffs to families with children. The Winchester Mystery House, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area are three of the most unique things to do in San Jose, and they are sure to provide a memorable experience for visitors of all ages. So, if you are looking for a family-friendly day trip from San Francisco or a long weekend in the near, consider visiting San Jose and exploring these fascinating attractions. 

 

Comment below and let us know what your favourite San Jose attraction was. 



Related Blog Posts

If you are interested in finding out more about San Francisco and the Bay Area, please view the Tailor-Made Itineraries posts below:



Don’t forget that at Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these attractions appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements, creating a family day out in San Jose that will delight all ages, or indeed, designing other family-friendly tours of California for you. 



Join us next time on our family adventures when we discover the delights of Marin County, just north of San Francisco. We post every two weeks, and you can subscribe to our latest blog and newsletter here. Until then, happy reading and safe travels. 

 

Barry  

 

 

Tailor-Made Itineraries creates one-of-a-kind bespoke self-guided travel itineraries for adventurous and curious travellers.  

  

These self-guided tours deliver a personalised and exciting holiday experience that takes the effort out of trip planning. 


San Jose California Map


family day out in San Jose

family day out in San Jose

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