Fun Places for Kids In and Near San Jose - Winchester Mystery HouseWhat’s Are The Fun Places for Kids In and Near San Jose?

There are oodles of fun things for kids and the young-at-heart to do in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley area. Here are a few of the more dramatic highlights!

In San Jose, Santa Clara and nearby


Happy Hollow Zoo and Park This is a great place for younger kids. It features a petting zoo, non-scary rides, and places to run off steam. Happy Hollow is undergoing a giant renovation and will be closed for part or all of the summer of 2008. Please double check the website or phone the park prior to visiting to make sure it’s open! Tel 408 277-3000.In Los Gatos: Oak Meadow Park (12 acres) and Vasona Lake County Park (150 acres – these are adjacent, interconnected parks).  Oak Meadow is a town of Los Gatos park, Vasona is a county park, but they are connected!  Of special note at Oak Meadow are the real Air Force jet that kids can climb on (local kids often refer to it as “the airplane park”), the hand painted carousel and Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad train which begins in Oak Meadow but mostly rides through Vasona, and the paddle boats on Vasona Lake. (Post on Live In Los Gatos about these 2 parks.)  There is a fee to park at Vasona.  Los Gatos town residents can park for free at Oak Meadow – but places fill up fast!

The Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San Jose can’t be beat, especially on a too warm, too cold, or too rainy day! It is a hands on, fun place for kids. One of the most popular items is a stagecoach which kids can climb into. Warning to parents: the acoustics could be better and sometimes it’s overly loud in there.

The Tech Museum of Innovation Recommended for kids ages 7 and up, but especially for kids 10 and up. There’s an IMAX theater as well – fantastic shows! Great downtown San Jose location.

California’s Great America in Santa Clara. Suitable for all ages but teens will like this best! This park does offer some water play areas and some little kid areas (but it’s expensive for that). Shows in air conditioned theaters will be welcome on warm days. Check out the Wow Card (or VIP Pass if you want to park close) if you’ll be back again in the same season.

The Winchester Mystery House:  This is a beyond-unique 160+ year old Victorian Mansion build by Sara Winchester with the thought that if she never stopped building, she would never die. Interesting but odd architectural accents throughtout the home!This historic landmark sits near the lovely Santana Row shopping center, just off 280 and near Stevens Creek Blvd. (It is a “half exit” from 280 – you can exit 280 southbound to get to Winchester and you can enter 280 northbound from Winchester, but not vice versa.)

List of Attractions Throughout Santa Clara County and Beyond
Gilroy (south of San Jose)
Gilroy Gardens (formerly Bonfante Gardens)Want to make a bigger trip of it to The Garlic Capital of the World? Gilroy offers great shopping to dress up those kids (or yourself)! . And maybe when that’s all done, do some wine tasting. If you can take a tour, the kids may not even get bored. List of wineries (and breweries) in and near Gilroy. And lastly, don’t forget the Garlic Festival! It happens in late July every year. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, they do really serve Garlic Ice Cream. You need to try it at least once! The Gilroy Garlic Festival – information, recipes, calendar, fun stuff for kids.

>Over “The Hill” – Mountains, Santa Cruz & Monterey Areas

The Mystery Spot (in the Santa Cruz Mountains)

Santa Cruz Beach BoardwalkSummertime: free concerts on Friday evenings!

And, of course, all the fabulous beaches at the Monterey Bay! Capitola is especially nice with shops and restaurants next to the lovely beach. Something for everyone.

A fun way to trek to the beach & boardwalk is to park and ride – on a narrow gauge train ride through the beautiful redwood forest! Or just take a train ride through the trees. It’s a trip back in time to our logging days in the 1880’s and I highly recommend it. Roaring Camp & Big Trees

Well worth the 90 minute drive from San Jose to Pacific Grove: The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Kids and adults both will love this place! The aquarium is constantly improving and now offers an outer bay exhibit. Plan to arrive early (parking will be helped too) and stay all day. Consider a membership and return for special events! If you have younger children, you may want to stop by the Dennis The Menace Park afterwards since they will most likely want to run and be loud for a change….It’s open 10am til dusk and is close to the aquarium at 777 Pearl Street in Monterey. Here’s an article on why this is a must-visit place:
Dennis The Menace Park, kids’ favorite place to play! And if you are there on the coast in October, plan to take a few quiet moments to see the migrating Monarch Butterflies. Monarch Butterfly Migration – where to see them.

On The San Francisco Peninsula

Kids love airplanes, and they’ll love the Hiller Airplane Museum in San Carlos. The Hiller Aviation Museum

North Bay

Six Flaggs Discovery Kingdom Theme Park offers rides and animal interactions. Not open late – a daytime venue. This can be a fun stop on the way to Wine Country, Sacramento or Tahoe.

Please also see Kid Friendly Restaurants in Los Gatos on the Live in Los Gatos Blog.




  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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