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Seven Kid-Friendly Activities in San Jose

San Jose:  A Great Place to Play with the Kids

Photo of the Winchester Mystery House, by HarshLight on Flickr.com

Bet you didn’t know San Jose boasts an average of more than 300 sunny days per year. That fact alone makes San Jose a great weekend getaway for many Bay Area families. Just an hour south of San Francisco, a short car ride has all the makings for a great long weekend.

Winchester Mystery House
160 rooms. 10,000 windows. 2,000 doors. It’s so bizarre, it’s fascinating. The Winchester Mystery House was built by Winchester rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. But it’s her design that gives the house its fame. A window built into the floor, staircases that lead to nowhere, and doors that open to walls. Winchester spent millions on the mansion, employing a team of carpenters who worked day and night for 38 years. The mansion was still unfinished when she died at 82.

No one knows why Winchester did what she did, but the common belief seems to be she was convinced the spirits of those who were killed by the Winchester rifle were after her. The crazy construction techniques may have appeased or simply confused the spirits.

Guided tours are offered daily. Leave the stroller in the car, with so many steps, twists and turns, little ones have to walk or be carried. If it works with your schedule, the flashlight tour is fun for all. Spooky fun, but not too scary for kids.

Santana Row
If you get hungry, or like to shop, Santana Row is just across the street. The huge chess set in the middle of the shopping paradise is always a hit and the milkshakes at The Counter will get the kids to agree to whatever you say.


The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum is a hands-on technology and science museum that will inspire kids and their parents. Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, you could easily spend the entire day here with the family. Get a feel for what it’s like to be an astronaut at the Jet Pack Challenge. Design your own roller coaster then take a ride. There are so many choices, you won’t be able to do it all.

Don’t leave without seeing a movie at The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater.  It’s the only domed theater in Northern California. Along with educational films, the theater sometimes also offers feature films.

Children’s Discovery Museum
Whether it’s exploring the mammoth discovery of a Wooley Mammoth a few miles away in the Guadalupe River, the properties of water at Waterways, or the magic of Bubbles, be ready to have fun and possibly get wet at the Children’s Discovery Museum. It’s all about learning while having fun at CDM’s 150 interactive exhibits. The museum is geared toward children under 10, but it’s not unusual to see older siblings happily tagging along.



Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Travel back in time to ancient Egypt at the Rosicrucian (rose-uh-KRU-shun) Egyptian Museum. The Rosicrucian houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in western North America, including four human mummies and numerous mummified animals. This is a traditional museum best suited for the older elementary aged set. It’s a quiet place where kids look, not touch, but the rare artifacts on display will catch their attention and maybe even jumpstart an interest in Egyptian history. Don’t miss the guided tour of the full-scale rock tomb replica. Complete with hieroglyphics on the wall, you’ll feel like you’re in an actual tomb.

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo
If the weather is cooperating (remember those sun statistics, chances are in your favor) consider a stop at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. You can do a little of everything here with the kids. There are rides and amusements especially designed for the younger elementary set, an accredited Zoo with a variety of animals such as meerkats, lemurs and a jaguar and an Animal Barn petting zoo. There’s also plenty of shady places to play or simply stop and take a break on a warm day.

California’s Great America
Northern California’s largest theme park, Great America is good place for families with a wide age range of children. There are family attractions and mellow rides for youngsters to enjoy, while older, braver siblings can go for the thrill rides. An added bonus is the complete waterpark inside, included with park admission. So don’t forget that swimsuit, and you might even want to bring along an extra set of dry clothes.