Out 'n about in Silicon Valley: 9 activities that aren't tech in San Jose
San Jose may be best known as Silicon Valley’s largest city, but in recent years, it’s also been attracting trendsetters and outdoorsy types who come to enjoy the new boutiques, bars, and eateries popping up in the revitalized downtown core, the mild sunny climate, and the area’s natural beauty. Framed by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the Diablo Mountains to the east, the so-called “Capital of Silicon Valley” offers ample hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing opportunities along with all those hackathons and coder camps. With such an ideal location and diverse population, San Jose offers more than just a few reasons to get out and explore. Read on for a few of our favorites.
1. Riding In Santa Cruz Isn't Just for Surfers
San Jose’s proximity to the Santa Cruz Mountains and a number of national forests makes it a great place for cyclists. Rush through the trees on the 4-mile flow trail in the Soquel Demonstration Forest. Built to minimize pedaling and maximize speed and rhythm, the trail is a favorite among mountain bikers, who come here to roll past sag ponds and natural springs.
For a mellower route, head to Guadalupe River Park, where you’ll find a network of hiking and biking trails known as the River Walk. Many of the trails also connect to the larger regional trail system that includes the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail. Be sure to check out "Lupe" the Mammoth, San Jose's newest piece of public art commemorating the discovery of a Columbian Mammoth fossil along the nearby riverbed.
2. Put Today's Tech in Historical Perspective
Housed in a dazzling 132,000-square-foot mango and blue hued dome, The Tech Museum of Innovation pays homage to Silicon Valley as one of the most creative places on Earth. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including space exploration, the Internet, and the human body. The museum also hosts cool events like Geektoberfest, a celebration of beer that features brewing demos; creative workshops; sleepovers for families and groups; and techie summer camps for kids.
3. Roll With the San Jose Bike Party
Suburban sprawl doesn't seem so bad when you're rolling down the street on a sweet set of wheels, feeling the wind on your face and chatting with old and new friends. That's pretty much the modus operandi for the San Jose Bike Party, a group of cycling enthusiasts who meet on the third Friday of every month to explore different neighborhoods and streets in the area and then regroup to enjoy great music and drinks. Anyone with a bike is welcome to join the group, which includes anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 bikers, depending on the evening.
4. Shred Some Serious Pipe (Helmets Compulsory)
Built in 2008, the Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park offers more than 68,000 square feet of smooth concrete for skateboarders and bikers. This is one of the best skateboarding parks in the country with unique features like the world's largest full pipe, tallest vert wall, and largest cradle. Forgot your board at home? No problem. You can buy all the gear you need at the pro shop on site. They also offer private and group lessons for all levels and ages. For those who prefer two wheels to four, bicyclists are also welcome to rip it up in the park.
5. Wage War on your Friends
Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping quite like a fast-paced game of paintball. Spend the day running, jumping, diving, and rolling in an effort to take out the other team and avoid getting splattered yourself. Santa Clara Paintball has a variety of playing fields that can accommodate groups from two to 40 people. Multiple themed playing areas include a castle, box maze, urban town, and a world-class tournament field. They also have a covered picnic area and bleachers for those who want to watch the games safely from the sidelines.
6. Release Your Inner Frolfer
Disc golf, a combination of frisbee and golf, is gaining popularity in the Bay Area, and the Coyote Creek Disc Golf Course at Hellyer Park is the perfect place to practice your precision. The course is made up of rolling fairways with just a few trees, so it’s great for those who want to work on throwing in the wind. Besides the well-signposted course, there are also two practice baskets by the lake for newbies and those looking to up their game.
7. Discover the true meaning of horsepower
Once home to one of the biggest mercury mines in North America, Almaden Quicksilver County Park is now a great place to enjoy a leisurely horseback ride. More than 23 miles of equestrian trails wind past historic buildings, including old miners’ houses and the Hacienda Cemetery. Start at the Hacienda Entrance and ride up the Hacienda Trail to see old structures like the Carson House, an adobe building built in 1855. In early spring, the area blossoms with purple arroyo lupines and yellow and pink California poppies and other wildflowers. The park also includes around 34 miles of hiking trails and 10 miles of bike trails.
8. Test Your mettle; Savor the challenge
Located at the highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park is a rock climber’s dream with its steep canyons and peculiar rock formations. To discover the best climbing spots, join the Castle Rock Climbing School for guided trips through the nature preserve and instructional climbing courses for all skill levels. They cater to groups of all sizes and ages, and their climbing excursions include full day adventures, weekend trips, and four full days in Castle Rock State Park.
9. Sit back and Soak up the Spectacular Views
At the eastern edge of San Jose sits Mount Hamilton, the highest peak overlooking Silicon Valley. You can walk up the mountain, although most people prefer to go either by car or bike. After winding your way through hairpin turns, you’ll be rewarded at the summit with superlative views of the Santa Clara Valley below. Look for red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons, and golden eagles as you ride.
For a great view along with a glass of wine, reserve a sunset dinner at the GrandView restaurant at the top of the mountain. In the summer, visit the Lick Observatory after the sun sets for one of their “Evenings with the Stars” events, which includes a chance to peer at planets and moons through the powerful 36-inch Great Refractor telescope and the 40-inch Nickel telescope.