Child Friendly Favorites in San Jose, CA

Genie Davis December 16, 2011 No Comments


San Jose is not just a bedroom community of San Francisco. It’s also an interesting city to visit in its own right. And in fact, the town contains several excellent attractions that children will enjoy visiting and adults will enjoy sharing.

We’ve been to a good number of children’s museums across the U.S. and the San Jose Discovery Museum is one of our favorites. While the museum’s exhibits are aimed at younger children, older siblings and parents won’t be bored either with over a hundred and fifty interactive exhibits designed to suit a variety of age ranges.

On the National History front, there’s a Columbian mammoth skull discovered recently in San Jose and nicknamed Lupe. And you’ll also find dig pits and a mammoth themed play area. On the pure fun front, there’s Bubbalogna – dedicated to letting kids create bubbles in all shapes and sizes. My kids liked WaterWays best, an exhibit that moves small colored balls through water pressure. Little children are going to get wet, so bring a change of clothes, although cover ups are provided they won’t completely keep an exuberant child dry. Trust me, I know. And I didn’t bring a change of clothes either. If you want to purchase a new tee shirt for the rest of the day’s activities then feel free to ignore this caveat.

Rosicurian Museum in San Jose, CA

One of the many wonderful exhibits at the Rosicurian Museum in San Jose, CA

Pre-schoolers and toddlers will love WaterWays, a section of the museum designed just for them with a soft, safe space to crawl around, puppets, and art projects aimed clearly at this age group. Older siblings are welcome too, but will probably prefer to explore other parts of the museum.

The next time you hear a chorus of “Mommy, Mommy” pretend to turn a deaf ear and take them to see a “Mummy” instead. Our next San Jose stop was at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, a fascinating place that contains one of the largest collections of Egyptian mummies and artifacts on the west coast. With a replica of a mummy’s rock tomb to explore and four perfectly preserved human mummies plus a plethora of animal mummies on display, the kids will be fascinated for hours. It’s truly a great exhibition space, the most enjoyable mummy display I’ve seen since the British Museum in London. Best exhibit by far is the tomb replica. The guided tour of this exhibit is given by flashlight, and moving through the tomb’s chambers, the evocative lighting and hieroglyphic covered walls create the sensation of being inside an actual Egyptian tomb. Small children will feel entirely transported, but older siblings and adults will love the experience, too.

The Rosicrucian has a nicely interactive element, also. Kids are given a Passport to Ancient Egypt when they enter the museum, allowing them to collect stamps at different exhibit sites to show that they’ve seen them, and even some space for older kids to write down interesting things they’ve learned or observed. Best of all for the elementary age set is a chart to decode the Egyptian Hieroglyphic Alphabet.

The museum is divided into four main areas, with clothing and artifacts well represented as well as the mummies themselves. We really loved this museum, and spent almost an entire day there. It’s a truly transporting place for younger children, who really will feel as if they spent a day playing Indiana Jones in a far more exotic locale than San Jose.

We made one last San Jose stop this trip, and it’s a classic: The Winchester Mystery House. Very small children will simply enjoy walking through the house, although the stories behind the strange dwelling will pass them by. Still we certainly saw a number of tots in our tour group, although ages five and up will enjoy the experience of touring the elaborate and strange house and gardens more. Owned by Sarah Winchester, widow of the rifle maker and obsessive constructor – she spent thirty eight years in construction on the enormous Victorian mansion, all in an effort to appease spirits of those who died from Winchester rifles from haunting her house. The tour is fast moving and guides eager, young, and engaging story tellers.

Winchester Mystery House

This door goes nowhere...the quirks of the Winchester Mystery House are fascinating for kids of all ages.

The detailed carpentry and the wonderful woodwork make the house visually fascinating, as do the  beautiful Tiffany glass, stair cases and doors that lead nowhere, and the pleasantly creepy “seance” room. The wackiness of the house will keep small children entranced, and older kids asking lots of questions. Outside, the gardens are pretty and provide space for small children to burn off a little steam.

Hungry after all of this sightseeing? We tried the delicious, organic, inexpensive and highly recommended Mexican restaurant Aqui Cal Mex. With plenty of vegetarian choices, amazing avocado dip, and prices for four well under fifty dollars (as of 2011), we loved the place. Casual, family friendly, and open late – even Mrs. Winchester would’ve enjoyed a meal here, before she resumed her obsessive building, anyway.

Family friendly museums, historic sights, and reasonably priced tasty California-Mexican treats: San Jose is a great spot to experience them all.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

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