FREE Things to do in San Jose

Amanda Vang
Amanda Vang
Published on February 10, 2021
Here are my favorite FREE things to do in San Jose!

Everything in the Bay Area seems EXPENSIVE. Are you wondering what are some FREE things you can do in San Jose? Here are some of my favorites!


We’ll start at the heart of the city: downtown. The best free thing to do is just walk around!

The Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park is easy to stroll around to see the heart of the city.

Start at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. This two-acre oval-shaped park is pleasant to walk around, and is surrounded by several popular museums. Festivals and performances often happen at this park, the most famous being Christmas in the Park, where hundreds of Christmas trees decorated by local organizations are displayed in December.

Head north to stop at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. Still an active cathedral, the architecture is stunning and features high domed ceilings and stained glass art. Whether you are religious or not, you can still appreciate a beautiful building and appreciate a moment of quiet in the heart of a busy city.

San Pedro Square is a popular dining spot!

Further north still, you’ll see San Pedro Square, a historic neighborhood with popular dining and entertainment destinations. The San Pedro Square Market features an indoor marketplace with many food vendors and bars, and you can dine al fresco on the patio.


When you’re tired from walking, get in the car for a short ride to experience some great SHOPPING. Technically shopping is free, provided you don’t buy anything, right??

There are three very popular and very unique shopping areas in San Jose.

Santana Row is a classy outdoor strip of shops and fine restaurants.

Santana Row is a glamorous strip of posh restaurants and shops that offer a luxury shopping experience. Browse premium brands such as kate spade new york, Madewell, lululemon, and Ted Baker. Try some new makeup samples at Sephora or check out the brick-and-mortar Amazon Books store that features not only best-selling books, but a selection of some of their top-selling household products as well. Across the street from Santana Row is the Westfield Valley Fair Mall, where you are welcome to continue your window-shopping experience.

Willow Glen is a neighborhood in San Jose with a downtown tree-lined avenue of quaint boutique-style storefronts and restaurants. Walk along the paved sidewalks and window shop for clothes, jewelry, candy, specialty dog products, custom skateboards, and more. There is even a candle-making studio and a pottery-painting venue for some family-friendly artistic activities. 

The San Jose Flea Market is a unique shopping experience.

The San Jose Flea Market is the most unique shopping experience you’ll have. It’s HUGE. There are eight miles’ worth of aisles and stalls selling everything from produce to shoes to car stereo equipment. With over 6000 different vendors, you’re sure to find almost everything you could possibly hope for. If you need a break from shopping, check out any of their three musical stages to listen to live mariachi bands, salsa, oldies, reggae, and even the top 40 hits. Check the schedule online before visiting for exact musical guests to make sure you don’t miss it!

The market is open from Friday to Sunday, and although admittance is free, be aware that there is a small parking fee.


For a respite from the bustling city and shopping centers, head to the always-free great outdoors.

Stop & literally smell the roses at the Municipal Rose Garden. Spanning five and a half acres, the garden is a spot of intense greenery nestled between city blocks. Park anywhere along the street and stroll in anytime from 8am to sunset.

The San Jose Rose Garden can be enjoyed year-round!

Because the weather is so mild in Northern California, the roses remain in bloom from about April to November. However, the peak time to visit is May, when the majority of the roses are in their prime stage. Enjoy the sight of thousands of blooms blanketing the block and meander through the rows of each of the hundreds of species, laughing at their unique and punny names such as “In the Mood” or “Scentimental.”

For a completely different garden feel, visit the Japanese Friendship Garden located in Kelley Park south of downtown San Jose. This serene area features waterfalls, koi ponds, bonsai plants, and picturesque bridges. Walk along some of the trails for as long as you like and enjoy the well-maintained traditional landscape.


Next time you’re in San Jose, check out these free things to do and thank me later for all the money you’ll save!

What free things do you like to do in San Jose??

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