Things to Do on a Budget in San Jose this Summer


Nestled in California’s tech heartland of Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to a huge choice of great things to see and do – including plenty that won’t break the bank this summer

A view of downtown San Jose (Photo: Will Buckner via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Many visitors to California choose to leave San Jose off of their itinerary, under the misapprehension that the city is monopolised by its technology and innovation scene. In fact, the city and its surroundings have plenty to offer when it comes to tourist attractions. And if, like most of us, you’re not on a Silicon Valley salary, you’ll find lots of affordable options too. Here are 10 of the best to discover over the summer months.

Coyote Creek Trail

Coyote Creek Trail is a 30 kilometre trail that winds from the southern
tip of San Francisco Bay to the city’s southern boundary. Designed for joggers,
hikers and cyclists, it’s one of the longest trails in the city. The route starts in Hellyer
County Park, a 178-acre urban park in the heart of Santa Clara County, then
meanders through Selma Olinder Park, Tully Road and Morgan Hill. It’s the perfect
blend of waterways, urban and rural settings with diverse flora and fauna to enjoy
along the way. It’s particularly popular in the summer when birds including wood
ducks, red-shouldered hawks, acorn woodpeckers and Stellar’s Jay head here for

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

For world-class contemporary art exhibitions, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary
Art is a must-visit. The gallery was founded in 1980 and has since become one of
the most prestigious art venues in the region. The building houses three different
galleries, each hosting different exhibitions throughout the year. This summer,
visitors can enjoy the first major solo exhibition from Ebony G. Patterson on the West
Coast. The exhibition, titled …’when the cuts erupt…the garden rings…and the
warning is a wailing’… features a large-scale five-panel work, displayed with custom

560 South 1st Street, San Jose / Fri-Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon-Thurs

A Crater Bay Area installation with lunar colonies at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (Photo: San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Winchester Mystery House

There are few mansions anywhere in the world that have generated quite the level of curiosity as Winchester Mystery House. Both an architectural wonder and (so it is believed) a hive of paranormal activity, the sprawling home was once the personal residence of the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune. For several decades, she embarked on a renovation project that resulted in a truly unique property – featuring over 160 rooms, multiple elevators, and endless quirky design features such as a door that leads to an 8-foot drop to a kitchen sink. Many have grown convinced that her vision was guided by other-worldly forces that had possessed her. The mansion and victorian gardens are open daily for tours.

525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose / Open Daily, Check website for hours

Picchetti Winery

Set in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains, the Picchetti Winery is a beacon for wine enthusiasts, hikers and picnickers. Boasting an extensive wine list of award-winning small batch releases that include whites, reds, sparkling, and dessert wines, the winery grounds are beautiful with wild peacocks and buildings dating back to the 1880s. This historic setting is complemented by moderate hiking trails offering scenic views every which way you turn. For an affordable way to enjoy the winery this summer, bring your favourite picnic foods then grab a bottle of the award-winning 2019 Mattie Rose. As a special bonus, when you order a bottle for picnicking the winery provides an ice bucket to keep your wine cool during the summer heat. Come mid-week for a more relaxed experience.

13100 Montebello Road, Cupertino / Mon-Sun 11am-4pm

(Photo: Picchetti Winery)

Municipal Rose Garden

San José’s Municipal Rose Garden is one of the most famous in the world – and
summer is when it looks its best, when the blooms are at their fullest. Founded in
1927, thousands of visitors flock to the 5.5-acre estate to explore more than 4,000
rose shrubs every year. There are over 189 different varieties on the site, from
grandifloras and climbers to miniature roses and shrubs. With a picnic area and
room for barbeques, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a lazy lunch in the summertime.
Admission is free.

1649 Naglee Avenue, San Jose / Mon-Sun 8am-12pm

The floral environs of San Jose Municipal Rose Garden (Photo: John Menard via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

San Jose Brew Bike

If you’re looking to explore San Jose’s burgeoning beer scene, San Jose’s Brew Bike
offers something a little different – a pedal-powered party. Led by a professional tour
guide, the 15-passenger bike pedals its way around some of the best breweries and
bars in Downtown San Jose. There’s an option to enjoy either a two-hour or three-
hour tour, with stops at local breweries like 55 South and Camino Brewery. You can
choose to book a solo seat or book the whole bike of 15 seats. Drinks are discounted
at each stop.

A Brew Bike tour in full flow (Photo: San Jose Brew Bike)

The Bloody Mary Festival

The biggest festival of the most beloved brunch tipple, The Bloody Mary Festival,
takes place every summer. Now in its eighth year, it’s become so popular that you’ll
find it in a few other states too. The ticket includes a 2.5-hour tasting of San Jose’s
most creative and innovative Bloody Marys from local bars, restaurants and stalls.
Attendees get to taste every single one, then vote for their favourite to receive the
coveted People’s Choice Award. There are street food stalls, photo opportunities and
live music to enjoy too. The Bloody Mary Summer Edition Kit can be purchased here and you’ll also find everything included in each ticket plus all of the virtual festival details.

Online only / 26 June

(Photo: The Bloody Mary Festival)

California’s Great America

Opened in 1976, California’s Great America offers thrills of all size, for all ages. It
boasts over 40 rides, including the Gold Striker, recently ranked as one of the world’s
best wooden roller coasters, and Rail Blazer, a ground-breaking single-rail
rollercoaster from the Rocky Mountain construction. Nothing smacks of summer like
a water park though, and this year visitors can enjoy the South Bay Shores
waterpark as part of the combined ticket price too. Enjoy extreme waterslide like the
six-storey drop on the Pacific Surge or just beat the heat by floating on one of its
many streams. If it all looks a bit familiar, you may have seen it on TV – the park
featured in Beverly Hills Cop III and Getting Even with Dad in 1994.

4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara 

A rip-roaring coaster at California’s Great America (Photo: Jeremy Thompson via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

San Jose is home to a large number of country parks that offer the very best in outdoor Californian living. Among them is Almaden Quicksilver Country Park, once a vast mercury mine but today a magnet for hiking enthusiasts and fans of other adventurous activities best enjoyed in the open air. Hikers can even traverse the terrain between tunnels and tracks that remain as a permanent legacy to the park’s former life as a mining operation.

21785 Almaden Road, San Jose

A scenic view of the bucolic Almaden Quicksilver County Park (Photo: Allie_Caulfield via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Since 1958, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo has been promoting conservation and
sustainability to the local community. The family-friendly amusement park and zoo
offers sixteen acres of entertainment, with carousels, roller coasters, a petting zoo
and a beloved Puppet Castle Theatre too. Friendly animals living on the grounds
including lemurs, meerkats and goats, as well as fiercer characters, like jaguars and
alligators. Throughout the summer you can enjoy special events, as well as
dedicated kids camps for children aged between 5-13 years old.

748 Story Road, San Jose / Tues-Sun 10am-4.30pm Closed Mon

By Paul Joseph