May 7, 2006 10:42 PM   Subscribe

What's there to do in San Jose downtown?

I'm going to be down in the bay area this summer. I'm considering either living at San Jose State University housing or in Mountain View or Sunnyvale, or San Francisco. Wikipedia says San Jose is a bigger city than San Francisco. But it seems like there is more stuff to do in SF. Is there stuff to do within walking distance of SJSU? How about Mountain View?
posted by lpctstr; to Travel & Transportation around San Jose, CA (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
b1tr0t is displaying the usual condescending attitude residents of San Francisco have about everywhere else in the Bay Area. Many dwellers in The City don't really have a lot of experience with San Jose. But I do, was on the edge of the SJSU campus yesterday, and I live in Mountain View. The main reasons I go to San Jose are to see movies at the excellent Camera 12 cinema (2 blocks from SJSU) or to explore the vast new Martin Luther King Library, created a couple years ago when the old main SJ Library and the SJSU library merged. 8 floors (plus a lower level where the periodicals live), the biggest library west of Mississippi, they're sayin' -- it's on the corner of the SJSU campus. Yes, there's stuff to do with walking distance, but depending on your background, you may get bored quick. But you could ride the light rail there to-from Sunnyvale and Mountain View, and you could ride the Caltrain up to the City.
posted by Rash at 11:20 PM on May 7, 2006

Response by poster: Is San Jose part of SF suburbia? Wikipedia says San Jose has a bigger population than SF... weird.
posted by lpctstr; at 11:24 PM on May 7, 2006

within walking distance.

To get an idea about nightlife check our free alternative weekly, the Metro (www.metroactive.com). Their website also has information from the Santa Cruz edition; download the pdf version to see the actual pages with ads from local establishments.
posted by Rash at 11:26 PM on May 7, 2006

San Jose is this large area bordered by communities like Cupertino and Santa Clara. It's very much like LA to me in that regard, a bunch of little cities with urban cores of various sizes, surrounded by their own bits of suburb which butt up against each other, all forming this whole of the Bay Area. When they say larger they mean population; obviously San Jose has a bigger land area. But SF has the biggest downtown (with many skyscrapers), Oakland the second, SJ the third. Or maybe vice versa.
posted by Rash at 11:37 PM on May 7, 2006

Best answer: I've lived in SF (SoMa, 2 years; Great Highway 2 years). I currently live in San Jose, about 4 blocks west of SJSU.

Here's my take:

To answer the original poster's question about city size: SF is a "bigger city" than SJ. This is because the population density in SF is very high, so there's a high density of 'things to do.' Compared to SF, San Jose really is pretty boring.

That said, there are some boring sections of SF. There's not much to do in the Outer Sunset. It's pretty quiet around SF State. But there's no comparison of the city centers.

Between Mtn View (where I've also lived), Sunnyvale and Downtown SJ, Downtown SJ is probably more 'happening.' It's also kinda ghetto.

If you're in college, though, and you want to experience city life, live in SF. Everything else (even downtown SJ) is pretty suburban by comparison.
posted by u2604ab at 11:39 PM on May 7, 2006

You shouldnt be thinking about population but about density. If I draw a large enough area, I can easily find places with bigger and bigger populations - but they are more spread out.

From the Wikipedia article on San Francisco:

With nearly 17,000 people per square mile, San Francisco is the second most densely populated major American city after New York (which has about 26,000 people per square mile). San Francisco is the focal point of the San Francisco Bay Area and forms part of the greater San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area (CSA) whose population is over 7 million.

posted by vacapinta at 11:43 PM on May 7, 2006

I'm a former San Jose resident, and I'd also like to display a condescending attitude towards San Jose entertainment options when compared to those available in San Francisco, if I may.
posted by cactus at 11:43 PM on May 7, 2006


Welcome to the fun world of local rivalries. Fact: San Jose is larger than San Francisco. Fact: The region is called the San Francisco Bay Area, and not without reason, as there is more going on in SF.

However, San Jose is not a bad place to park yourself for a summer, and there's plenty to do, and it's not hard to make it up to San Francisco. Personally I prefer SF and the East Bay, but if you need to be in San Jose daily, your commute will be nasty unless you live down there.
posted by donpedro at 11:44 PM on May 7, 2006

Unlike LA, Silicon Valley's not overloaded with shopping malls. They exist, however, the big fella being Valley Fair (whose name was recently upgraded to a pretentious moniker I can't recall) -- it's a few miles east of SJSU, not what I'd consider walking distance. I never go there, however; if I wanted to 'do' a mall I'd hit the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. Both of these are high-end; the other mall choices are less ostentatious.
posted by Rash at 11:46 PM on May 7, 2006

Castro Street in Mountain View is a funky little street with nice restaurants and cute shops but beyond that one strip and some movie theaters there isn't much going on. I can't say too much about San Jose but the couple of bars I've been to there haven't been anything to write home about. In terms of a walking friendly place, SF definitely has Mountain View or Sunnyvale beat.

If you are going to live in the bay area you should really factor the commute into your decision. I live up in SF and commute about an hour to work. Living in SF makes the commute worth it, but if you don't have a car and the place you are going to be spending most your time isn't close to a Caltrain/Bart/or some other type of transit stop you might want to consider living close to where you work and visiting the rest of the area on the weekends.
posted by kechi at 11:46 PM on May 7, 2006

The region is called the San Francisco Bay Area

...because San Francisco is the central and first city to be formed there. Interestingly San José was the first non-military (presidio) or non-religious (mission) settlement in California.
posted by Rash at 11:51 PM on May 7, 2006

...and it was also the last place in California where they had a lynching (in 1933).
posted by Rash at 11:52 PM on May 7, 2006

Comments about hellish commuting are accurate; I live a couple miles from work so am oblivious to the traffic, which isn't a factor on my weekend forays into downtown SJ when parking's free in a centrally-located structure (as well as various lots).
posted by Rash at 12:06 AM on May 8, 2006

I lived in downtown SJ for 7 years (2 blocks from SJSU). It is a souless pit of dispair. San Francisco would be my choice of all of the options you posted. It's head and shoulders, culturally, above all the other places you mentioned. Mountain View isn't horrible, and has some good restaurants.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:12 AM on May 8, 2006

Regarding communiting: If you're able and willing to ride a motorcycle, your commute becomes quite a bit shorter, since you can use the carpool lane and can lane-split. The weather's also nice enough that you can ride year round, if you don't mind getting a little wet once in a while.
posted by cactus at 12:14 AM on May 8, 2006

Regarding communiting

and commuting, for that matter.
posted by cactus at 12:18 AM on May 8, 2006

If you're able and willing to ride a motorcycle, your commute becomes quite a bit shorter, since you can use the carpool lane and can lane-split.

(At the risk of sounding like your mom)

Be careful!!
posted by kechi at 12:35 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: I've lived in downtown SJ and currently live in SF.

In an effort to answer the original question without pissing on other cities, in San Jose specifically you can check out:

* One of the aforementioned independent cinemas (the Cameras, the Towne)

* Museums: The San Jose Museum of Modern Art, The Tech Museum (also features IMAX movies), The Rosicrucian (Egyptian) Museum

* Great America Amusement Park (no idea if it's open)

* There are a number of small bars and clubs in the downtown area, though I admit I haven't been there recently enough to know what's still open. South First Billiards was a clean, well-lit place to play pool. Near some other clubs. A buddy of mine owns a club called Fahrenheit, but I haven't been to it yet. Supposed to be nice.

* Take in an event or show at the HP Pavilion or Center for the Performing Arts

* There's probably still a very large Flea Market on weekends on Berryessa Rd.

* There are parks including the Japanese Friendship Garden, Kelley Park, and the Rose Garden

Outside of San Jose (but not quite up to SF), you can check out:

* The Computer History Museum (formerly SGI HQ, judy off of Shoreline in Mtn. View)

* The Bay Area's only Dave & Busters (at the Great Mall in Milpitas)

* The Moutain Winery in Saratoga. Also stop by La Fondue in Saratoga.

* Downtown Las Gatos is nice

* You're not far from Santa Cruz, and a bit further is Monterey (awesome aquarium) and Carmel

These are all pretty mainstream and somewhat touristy things to do, if you want to find some cool, trendy hotspot, you'll have to ask a current local or find some kind of "underground" guide, but if you're into that sort of thing, SF is probably more your speed.
posted by robbie01 at 1:14 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: nightlife in downtown san jose is awful. there are some clubs, but they're tacky and full of nasty guidos. (i'm sure there are some decent places, but most of the bars and clubs i've been to in san jose are not cool.) also as soon as 2am bar-closing time hits, the cops block all the streets, effectively herding everyone onto the highways in an attempt to clear the area out. i'm sure there are some cities more openly hostile to nightlife, but i've never been to them. "soulless pit of despair" pretty much rings true with my experience of san jose.

downtown mountain view is basically a street with some shops and good restaurants. they're good eats, but once you've had dinner it's like "ok, now what?" same is true of palo alto. both places basically shut down around 9pm.

if you're looking for stuff to do, live in san francisco. there's all kinds of fun and interesting shit going on in the city. it's a weird wild place. wikipedia may say that san jose is bigger, but san francisco really is the heart of the entire area.

that said, if you are going to SJSU every day, commuting in and out of either city is miserable (though the drive down 280 is nice). i wouldn't want to live an hour away from where i worked every day. you didn't mention whether you have a car, but if so that will factor in. parking is miserable in SF.

be aware that i'm speaking in broadly general terms here. there is "stuff to do" anywhere you live, really. some places just have more of it.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 2:07 AM on May 8, 2006

Best answer: As some others have pointed out, if you live in San Francisco and have to commute to San Jose every day, the trip will eat up so much of your life that you will be miserable and exhausted and won't have any time to enjoy the city anyway.

You mention Mountain View, and if I were in your shoes I'd consider it. It's by no means a real city, but it's pretty bike-friendly, it has a functional, pleasant, walkable center, and I think it's by far the nicest of the in-between options. Just be sure to live within an easy stroll of Castro Street. You'll be able to venture out on foot in the evening, walk through the park to take back some library books, go for a swim, have a beer somewhere; then choose one of a decent range of restaurants, perhaps get coffee somewhere else, and maybe stop at either of two bookstores (both in the same block, one has a good lineup of readings; both are open till eleven on weeknights, midnight on weekends) before you head home.

Forget Sunnyvale. It's closer to San Jose and a little cheaper to live in, but it's also a lot bleaker and more suburban.

When you need what Saul Bellow once described as a "humanity bath", head on up the road to San Francisco. I often drive up for a class, some music, or just to hang out with a friend; from Mountain View that's manageable even on a work night and on very short notice. I'd much rather be in the city and will get there eventually, but hate commuting and don't want to move up there while I'm still working down here. So for now it's all right.

Admittedly, if you don't plan to have a car then getting there will be a much bigger hassle. There are trains, but they're slow and they probably won't take you anywhere near where you're going.
posted by tangerine at 2:29 AM on May 8, 2006

Mountain View near Castro or Palo Alto near University. Both let you take light rail of various forms into SJ and SF both, and have enough nightlife to satisify the small urges (plus bookstores, etc.) until you can get an SF fix on the weekend, while keeping your commute short.

If you're only there for a summer, either one of these places will entertain you for that long. Any longer and you'd better have an SO or wife already.
posted by kcm at 7:04 AM on May 8, 2006

(my point is - MV or PA, or even SF itself, but just.. no Man Jose. they call it that for a reason.)
posted by kcm at 7:06 AM on May 8, 2006

How about a proper page title next time? "Whatever" is just lazy.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:20 AM on May 8, 2006

Are you new to California? You do not have to live in the most exciting neighborhood to take advantage of the good life.

I grew up in SJ, and graduated to SF later and I agree that SF is just all around more fun. However, commuting sucks a lot. A lot. Commuting between SF and SJ would ruin your life.

Downtown SJ is not a horrible place, compared to say, downtown Albuquerque. But by living close to work/school you'll have so much more time and energy to go and check out the beach, the mountains, the city, etc.

I guess it depends on personal preference. Do you see yourself happier playing the part of hipster, reading Metafilter at the corner cafe before heading off to an all night rave? If so --> SF. If you want to save money and make your life easier during the week so you can spend the weekend checking out the sights like Monterey and Tahoe --> SJ.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:35 AM on May 8, 2006

I moved from San Mateo to Santa Clara a couple of years ago, and I have to agree that compared to SF there's isn't much going on down here. San Mateo county doesn't have much to offer in the way of nightlife either, but at least it has character.
posted by Devils Slide at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2006

Palo Alto might be a better bet for you in terms of night life and just a generally nice atmosphere in which to live. And it's a college town, which means there's housing available for somewhat transient use.

Obviously San Francisco is where it's at in terms of Things To Do but the commute to San Jose is a huge pain in the ass. Living in PA would put you closer to SJ for commuting purposes, and it's also not all that far from SF for fun-having purposes.
posted by padraigin at 11:42 AM on May 8, 2006

Anything there is to do in San Jose proper is pretty much within walking distance of SJSU. The light rail runs between downtown and Mountain View, so you can easily live in one of those cities and enjoy both, FWIW. If you choose to live in SF, Caltrain runs down the Peninsula to SJ. It's about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the train you ride (plus wait time). SJ Downtown is cheaper than any other option, but really, unless you are of a generally contemplative nature there's not a whole lot to do, but for a summer only, you may be fine. It's definitely a lot warmer in SJ- you won't get any morning fog.
However, if you want breakfast you can walk to in the morning, neighborhood bars that are tolerable, good bookstores, live music, reside in San Francisco. There are a lot more "urban" options there.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:25 PM on May 8, 2006

« Older Stamping passports for sporting stars?   |   As renters, is it reasonable to ask a form of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.