10 good reasons to visit San Jose (sponsored by British Airways, flying from 4th May)

During the first two weeks of February, British Airways is running a special ‘Visit California’ offer to promote three key routes to the area – Los Angeles, San Francisco and – launching on 4th May – San Jose.

Rather than buy some advertising space on Head for Points, British Airways wanted us to work with them on three sponsored articles to highlight some of the new attractions the area has to offer.

In the first post we looked at Los Angeles and the second one focused on San Francisco.  This final article is about the newest addition to BA’s California routes – San Jose.

Looking at the BA Low Fare Finder tool, you can reach San Jose with British Airways for as little as £619 return in World Traveller and £901 in World Traveller Plus. The lowest current fare of £3,278 for Club World is a bit steep for the leisure market, but there should be good deals on this route in the regular BA sales.

It is also worth taking a look at Club World fares starting in other parts of Europe, such as Dublin, and of course looking out for Avios availability.  Until Lufthansa starts its own San Jose service later in the year, there are no other direct flights from Europe.

The former agriculture centre San Jose has seen a lot of changes over the last few decades thanks to the rapid growth of Silicon Valley. But high-tech corporations are not the only reason why people want to explore this part of California.

You may struggle to name a single San Jose attraction off the top of your head, but there is a lot to see and do.  Here are 10 ideas of where to start.  Most of them are outside the city centre and you will need to hire a car, but that is generally taken for granted in this part of the world.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

Being famous for its tech advanced Silicon Valley, San Jose might be the last place you’d expect to see the biggest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in Western North America.  This is exactly what you can find in the Rosicrucian Park with its Egyptian Museum, Peace Garden (with labyrinth) and Planetarium. The museum is also planning on opening the largest Alchemy Museum in the world once funds have been raised. The entrance fee is $9 and the museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

rosicrucian egyptian museum

Hiller Aviation Museum

If you are interested in learning more about the development of aviation, head to the Hiller Aviation Museum. It opened in 1998 and features over 50 aircraft from more than a century of airline history. The museum has a strong focus on key aviation pioneers whose creativity helped turning the dream of flying into reality. Admission costs $15.

Hiller

Aero Dynamic Aviation

Looking at aircraft in a museum is great.  But how about flying one? I bet most HFP readers have thought about it before and Aero Dynamic Aviation helps making this dream become reality by offering introductory sessions – or just a scenic tourist flight.  If you don’t get sick easily, you could even try the introduction to aerial acrobatics.  Tip: last time I checked there were some great offers for this on Groupon.

Aero Dynamics 2

Lick Observatory/Mount Hamilton

It takes about an one hour to get from the centre of San Jose to Mount Hamilton, but its definitely worth the drive and not only for the beautiful scenery and nature with a spectacular view once on top of the mountain.  Mount Hamilton is also home to the Lick Observatory – an active research facility with visitors centre.  There is no entrance fee and the guided tours are free of charge. If you love nature or have an interest in astronomy, this is the place to visit.  Be warned that drivers are advised to take caution as the roads to the summit are partly very narrow and it can get windy.

observatory

Winchester Mystery House

Why would someone build a house and have it constantly expanded until the day he/she dies? That is part of the mysterious story of Sarah Winchester, who moved to California after she had been told her family was cursed and she would need to build that house in order to control the spirits. True or false, Sarah has definitely been an interesting person and the 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens are full of symbols and artworks (and apparently evil spirits). Tours start from $30 and the website informs you of special events.

Winchester Mystery House

San Jose Museum of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art has been known for focusing on local artists since its opening in 1969. However being located in Silicon Valley where ‘being local is to be global’, the museums director has decided to widen the range of artworks and to focus on the cultural diversity within the Bay Area connecting the past with the present and the local area with the world. Admission is $10. Check the website for special events and holiday closures.

Museum of Art

Alum Rock Park

Let’s move on to a little bit of nature. Alum Rock Park is one of the oldest public parks in San Jose. Its 720 acres of beautiful landscapes and nature invite to all kind of outdoor activities like hiking, horse riding or cycling. There are also lots of picnic table and barbeque pits (remember to check the website for barbeque restrictions during fire season). The park is closed on Mondays.

Alum Rock Park

Psycho Donuts

Obsessed with Donuts? If not, visiting this shop will get you there – so don’t enter if you don’t want to risk an obsession. Psycho Donuts has got every topping you can think of, every donut flavour you want and lots of creative designs on the menu. The shop also doubles as an art gallery with all the quirky artwork on display being for sale. The only thing I do not understand is the German chocolate cake they advertise …. last time I checked we were known for Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte und Apfelstrudel and not chocolate cake with caramel and coconut ….

Psycho Donuts

Santana Row

Ok, shopping centres are not everyones cup of tea. Santana Row is a little different, however. Yes there are lots of shops in this open air centre but next door you can also find a cinema, theatre, apartments and the boutique hotel Valencia.

santana row

Dolce Hayes Mansion

Who would not want to stay in such a pretty hotel with the view of surrounding mountains?  The 100 years old Dolce Hayes Mansion used to be a private estate and has been transformed into a hotel that caters equally for business and leisure. Next to two restaurants, one lounge and meeting rooms you will find a spa, gym, pool and tennis courts. The Dolce hotel group is part of the Wyndham Rewards scheme which means that it will be 15,000 points per night – just like every other Wyndham property!

Another interesting option for redeeming hotel points is the new Westin San Jose.  Opened last July after a major renovation, the 1929 building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dolce Hayes Mansion

This article was supported by British Airways. British Airways flights to San Jose start on 4th May and currently start from £619 in World Traveller. Full details of their California offers can be found here.

Bits: free Heathrow Express upgrade for Star Golds, 25% off Iberia flights, 2400 Avios with £100 Tesco Wine purchase
Are the new Amex Platinum Hilton, Melia and Shangri-La benefits worth much?
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Is the Heathrow express still more expensive than flying Concorde per mile? It may be worth comparing the per mile cost with using BA First or Etihad suites …..

  2. A after B and onto C for the mileage says:

    Anyone wondering about the arrival experience at SJC, its fairly quick if you are also quick off the aircraft but immigration when I went through wasnt particularly friendly.

    Don’t expect a suite of amme ities in an arrival hall once you pass customs – your litterally on the sidewalk once you’re through the customs door. Nearest loo is a walk down the street to the international departures checkin building and an ATM as well as the tourist info are over the street in the domestic arrivals hall…you’ll be charged a fee to use the ATM there.

  3. The Man versus Food episode of San Jose shows three restaurants, which unusually for an american city, are all within about a 5 minute walk of each other in San Jose. Been to all of them, the challenge was a spicy hot chicken wing one at Smokeeaters, but I just ate some normal spicy wings there. All three were great places to eat.

    The amtrak station is also nearby, its 8 hours to LA, 1 hour to Oakland, overnight to Portland.

  4. Even cheaper if you bundle car hire, it seems – BA.com is showing £549 for economy flight plus 7-days car.

    Anyone know – is that likely to just be a special promotion or is it often the way? And do you need to bother picking up the car? 😉

    • it’s regular, in Europe as well. Always worth checking if your ticket price looks pricey compared to buying it early days.

      Flight + car/ hotel packages – no need to use the car or room, you won’t get ‘fined’ extra for the flight.

    • Lady London says:

      I’ve given up checking with-car package prices as I usually travel alone and there seems to be very little benefit.

      For a couple though, especially travelling business class I gather it can be well worth it.

  5. We did the Winchester House way back in 1993 – it’s a crazy place. Also the beautiful drive along the 17 mile drive to see the Lone Cypress Tree is a must too and a visit to Carmel.

  6. ‘As little as £619 in WT’ lol? Why would a leisure traveller fly here when for less than can fly to SFO or for a lot less to LAX (Air NZ has been as low as £399)! Not sure why BA are trying to push this has a holiday destination when it was set up to serve Silicon Valley.

    • Any way to get more money and fill seats. Just business travelers alone is unlikely to cover costs.
      Don’t forget also that leasure travelers typing San Jose or California into Google will bring up this HfP series.

  7. Hi Anika,
    When I read ‘invite to…’ in the bit about Alum Rock Park, I thought that sounded like a German writing English – so thanks for confirming my suspicion a bit further down!! :))

  8. Good article given this is a new route, thanks!

  9. There’s a computer history museum too (google it). Still not had chance to go but it pops up on groupon a fair bit if you are a couple (or more) also the home of SuperBowl 50 is there (San Francisco 49ers aren’t actually based in San Francisco!!) and you can do stadium tours etc if you like your American sports

    I like West Coast America, so have appreciated these articles even tho I have visited all the areas, I’d still happily go back and still find stuff to do! :)

  10. I had a disappointing Burger King by the Hiller Museum last month! Was desperate for the loo, and felt obligated to buy something. Shame I didn’t have time to visit the museum instead.

    Agree with Liz that the drive around Pebble Beach is great

  11. A after B and onto C for the mileage says:

    Not too far to drive to Santa Cruz either and loop back via the great cedar trees.

  12. Oh! Matron! says:

    If you are there for any length of time, the San Jose Sharks (ice hockey) are a reasonably decent team and tickets can be gotten off stub hub with ease. SJC also have a decent football team, the earthquakes…