Exploring San Jose’s art and culture can be overwhelming, there is simply so much to do and often you have little time to do it all. When you narrow it down to seeing some of the best museums in the area, then I can help you plan a trip. Here is a list of 6 great museums to explore in San Jose. You can bring the whole family if you wish, they’re extremely family friendly or you can go alone or take your loved one and relive your childhood. Whichever is your plan of attack, these museums will have you entertained hours at a time!
6 Great Museums to Explore in San Jose
The Tech Museum of Innovation
The Tech Museum of Innovation is a family-friendly interactive science and technology playground, but truth be told, I’ve been there twice and both without my children. Personally, I could spend hours upon hours exploring like a kid in a candy store! A landmark for visitors seeking a glimpse of the most inventive place on Earth, Silicon Valley, you must visit the new Reboot Reality exhibit. Choose from virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, I donned a VR headset and experienced the flying simulator Birdly. I physically flapped my wings (arms) and flew over New York City like a bird, the wind literally in my hair and feeling the closest thing to flying next to ziplining! I could do that all day long.
With so much to see, you need to visit the BioDesign Studio that sparks imagination through the fields of synthetic biology, bioengineering, biological design and DIY biology and take a hands on approach as it allows people of all ages to personally create with biology. Also, for kids 12 and older, explore the Cyber Detectives exhibit that offers internet security and safety training then puts your skills to the test with the Mission Zone! Memberships to the Tech Museum pay for themselves in two visits and it would take that many just to really explore about half the museum! Also there’s an IMAX theater right inside the doors. You can purchase a combo ticket for both or attend each separately! AAA members and military can get free or discounted tickets, visit the museum at 201 South Market Street, San Jose.
The San Jose Museum of Art
Be ready to use all your senses to experience new ideas, stimulate creativity, and make connections. The current Liquid City exhibit by Diana Al-Hadid at the San Jose Museum of Art will have you looking from afar, circling close, and analyzing from every angle and positively blow you away. The questions come next (both matter of fact and open to interpretation), are the people melting? Are they people? What is this sculpture made of? Answer: polymer, gypsum, steel, fiberglass, wood, foam, plaster, aluminum foil and pigment.Debuting August 25, This is Not a Selfie will explore the fine art of self-portraiture in the age of the selfie. Also, there is a great bag you can borrow for your trip through the museum with children to immerse them in art while keeping them busy! The museum has discounted prices and evening hours every third Thursdays for $5 after 5pm, visit 110 South Market Street, San Jose.
The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Artistry in hand-crafted quilts, fiber work, and other unique textiles, explore the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles for a unique look into an artistic and cultural expression. This piece by Sabine Reckewell + Chandra Cerrito Contemporary focuses on line, repetition, and geometry, it totally spoke to me. I stood there for quite a while taking in the light and lines, then I walked around it in every direction possible to appreciate it’s design. It looks like a tornado or a whirlwind, right? Currently, The 13th Quilt Nihon Exhibition (through October 15) features over 30 quilts from Japanese quilters including a phenomenal hand-stitched only design by an artist for her own 80th birthday, it’s one you will have to visit to see!
The museum also hosts an artist (or collaborative group) in residence program every three months. Artists have an onsite open studio during their three month residency in a newly renovated Maker Space. On South First Fridays (the first Friday of the month), the Museum is open and free to the public from 7pm until 9pm. Visit at 520 S. First Street, San Jose.
The Japanese-American Museum
On a tour through Japantown, start off at 535 N. Fifth Street, San Jose at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. The agricultural industry brought the Japanese Issei to the Santa Clara Valley in the 1880’s and in 1900, Japantown was established in San Jose as farming community. Sharing Our Story is the current exhibit of firsthand experiences of Japanese Americans in portraits and recorded interviews, showcasing their unique and incredible stories of hope and overcoming prejudice. Also take a walk through the Barracks room and see what is almost an identical replica of an internment camp down to the uneven floorboards. WWII history as pertaining to the Japanese is thorough in the museum, those appreciating history will think of the museum.
The Winchester Mystery House
These last two museums I’m mentioning I’ve been visiting since my youth. Also, when I was an elementary school teacher, these museums were field trip destinations of which I also attended as a mother chaperone with my own children. Needless to say, they are must visit spots to see when you’re in San Jose! The Winchester Mystery House is a presumably haunted, maze-like Victorian built by Sarah Winchester. From a two-bedroom farmhouse to a 160 room mansion, Sarah was convinced that she was haunted by the souls killed at the hands of her husbands gun company. After the sudden deaths of her husband and child, she threw herself into the 24-hours a day, seven days a week construction of an enormous mansion designed to keep the evil spirits at bay. You may have heard the Winchester Mystery House in the news lately as a movie is currently being made starring Academy Award winner Helen Mirren due in February, 2018.
On top of that, there is a new, expanded tour available in addition to the Mansion Tour called the Explore More Tour. Now you can walk through the front doors of the mansion and visit rooms and areas that have not been passable in decades. Part of the tour includes wearing a hard hat and maneuvering through tight spaces. If you want to up the ante with a chilling atmosphere, buy tickets for the Halloween Candlelight Tour offered in September and October. Tickets can be purchased online, and visit at 525 S Winchester Blvd. San Jose.
The Children’s Discovery Museum
Located at 180 Woz Way, San Jose, the street is named after the co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak, the big purple building is the Children’s Discovery Museum! Having a history both with my children and my students visiting this museum, it holds a special place in my heart for memories that is for sure. From the art loft to making enormous bubbles, to the corn husk dolls, and the Water Ways water play area, there is so much to see and do with the kids! You cannot miss the Mammoth Discovery! exhibit as it tells the story of the very animal found in San Jose’s Guadalupe River. Also, find out how the Food Shed (on site restaurant) serves the rainbow of serving healthy foods to families!
If you have a Thomas the Tank Engine fan, the exhibit is in the West Wing through September 10, 2017. The photo above shows the event we attended in Early August, Lunada Familiar. A Mexican tradition for families and the community is to gather during the full moon (Luna) and celebrate via stories, poetry and music. Open to the public, the Children’s Discovery Museum opens the museum to the public for free with snacks and drinks available to those who may not be able to attend otherwise. Folklorico dancers, singers, and performers entertain while the museum is open for exploration as well. At the end of the evening open mic is available to adults and children alike. Here’s a tip for visitors, weekday afternoons are the slowest times and you will beat the crowds!
Many thanks to Team San Jose for providing our tickets and experiences for this article during a recent FAM tour. All opinions are 100% my own.