25 under $25: San Jose
Friday, 23 February 2018
Originally inhabited by Ohlone tribe, the town of San Jose was founded in 1777 as a mission and California's first “civilian" settlement.
The Bay Area community quickly grew from a farming town to a suburb for growing families. In 1943, IBM moved in, the first of many tech companies that would transform the area into today's Silicon Valley hub filled with technorati, artists, and students.
Despite the area's well-documented high cost of living, there are many ways to experience San Jose and the surrounding areas for less than $25 per person. Many are even free.
Visit this celebration of innovation filled with interactive, hands-on galleries. Robots? Biotech? Cyber detectives? They're all here. Admission is $19-$24, and BioIMAX movies cost $8-$10.
Hikers, bikers, and horses are all welcome in this rustic wonderland with panoramic views and 13 miles of trails. Parking is free or $6, depending on where you go.
Immerse yourself in the deep history and vibrant culture of San Jose's Japanese community with a self-guided walking tour. If you can, check out the farmers market on Sundays. Free.
Fancifully flavored popsicles such as Thai ice tea, mint Oreo, and Nutella are made onsite, dipped in toppings (cereal, candy, nuts, coconut), and drizzled with chocolate. $5.
Go for old-school style Italian at Original Joe's, which hasn't changed much since the 1950s. You won't be disappointed with the service or house specialties like the meatball sandwich or the eggplant parm. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees run about $15- $25.
The Muji store is the ultimate destination for people interested in design and a bargain. The San Jose location is packed with household goods, apparel, food, and gadgets you didn't even know you needed. For example, pens of every kind and color (about $2) plus an array of notebooks (under $5) will satisfy even the most finicky doodler.
Guests can unwind in the Korean-style hot tubs and saunas, then relax on the warm jade floor. Unlimited admission costs $10 for kids under 12 and $20 for adults. Services such as scrubs and massages are extra.
A fun, fresh, and un-stuffy museum with a nice balance of world-renowned and local works. Admission is $10. Children under 6 can get in free. Before you go, check online for advance-purchase discounts and free events.
The University of California's San Jose star-gazing facility high atop Mt. Hamilton is all about astronomy — and educating the public. Free.
This 10,000-acre expanse is a paradise for hikers, campers, anglers, bikers, or just folks who love nature. Parking is $6.
This 1917 brick building features a comfy, rustic bar and casual back patio. Get your groove on while sipping an artisanal cocktail, which will run you about $13.
There's nothing vanilla about My Milkshake, where you'll find hero- and villain-named shakes including the Spiderman (Kit-Kat and Ferrero Rocher candy), the Superman (peanut butter cups and brownies), and The Dark Knight (dark chocolate and cheesecake). As the name implies, you can also create your own for less than $6.
An intimate community space “where artists, audience, and ideas interact to expand the scope of cultural and artistic experience." Admission varies. A recent performance, for example, cost $8 for non-members.
When the Vietnamese residents of San Jose long for the flavors of their homeland, they head to Vung Tau. Here you'll find truly authentic food that goes way beyond the familiar pho. Most (shareable) entrees are in the $15 range.
There's some serious Oaxacan authenticity happening here. Grab a seat, learn about tequila's cousin, mezcal, and have your guacamole made right at your table. Mezcal shots start at $15, and table-side guacamole is $8.25.
Twenty miles (about an hour) outside of the city you'll find Big Basin Redwoods State Park where you can explore some of California's legendary old-growth forests. $10 parking.
Care to parlay with parrots? Make friends with animals and learn about conservation at this city-run park. $14.25 admission and $10 parking.
Billed as the largest open-air market in the nation, the San Jose Flea Market is in full swing every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can pick up your dinner ingredients from the farmers market and browse for treasures from up to 1,500 vendors. Parking is free, and per-person admission is free on Wednesday, $1.50 on Friday, $2.50 on Saturday, and $3.50 on Sunday.
Make art! Blow bubbles! Dig for “artifacts"! This hands-on children's museum uses play to teach kids about health, science, conservation, and how things work. $13.
Stop and smell the roses. This 5.5-acre garden is home to more than 4,000 rose bushes of nearly 200 varieties. The garden is open April through November, but May is the ideal month to visit, as the roses are in full bloom. Free.
Bring your gloves — and skates if you have them — and get ready for some icy fun at this open-air ice skating rink. Admission is $10 when you bring your own skates, and $17 if you need to rent them. Open mid-November through mid-January.
Study up on your hieroglyphics and take a tomb tour. You can also journey to the stars in the Planetarium. $5-$9.
Local high school students lead tours of downtown detailing how this city evolved from a Spanish pueblo into a technology hub.
A perfectly preserved 86-acre farm transports visitors back in time. Have a picnic, fly a kite, and bring a few quarters so you can feed the chickens and goats. Free.
Summertime concerts fill San Jose's parks and plazas. Hear national headliners (the 2016 lineup included Los Lobos, Tower of Power, and Ozomatli) as well emerging musical talent. Tickets vary from free on up.
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