Living in San Jose – Pros and Cons

Amanda Vang
Amanda Vang
Published on December 11, 2020

Are you thinking about living in San Jose, CA, and want to know about the pros and cons? I am going to share with you some tips about living in this great city. 

First we’ll start with the Pros:

Pro #1: San Jose is really big and diverse!

There are a lot of different neighborhoods and communities that offer a wide variety of foods, cultures and experiences that everyone can enjoy.

In the Little Saigon neighborhood, you will find many traditional and modern Vietnamese restaurants, taste the difference between Northern and Southern Vietnamese cuisine, try Pho with fresh noodles at Pho Ha Noi, and always stay on the lookout for the best Banh Mi Sandwiches.

The diversity in food in San Jose is AMAZING.

Japantown offers some great places to eat sushi and ramen, as well as a Japanese Grocery Store, Nijiya Market, with fresh fish flown in from Japan.  San Jose’s Japantown is known for its spectacular outdoor festivals, including the Cherry Blossom Festival in April and Obon Festival in July.

Just a few streets away, you’ll find Little Portugal, a tight-knit community with a world renowned Michelin Star restaurant, Adega, owned and operated by long time Portuguese residents, and also Peters’ Bakery, known for their Burnt Almond Cake and Portuguese Sweet Bread, baked fresh daily.

Stop by Little Italy before the Sharks hockey games, located in the heart of Downtown San Jose and just a few blocks away from the SAP Center. Here you are surrounded by Italian culture, including a great Sicilian restaurant, Paesano. Try out the Italian coffee and dessert at Bel Bacio, and bring your friends to play Bocce Ball during the Little Italy Street Festival in October.

During Chinese New Year celebrations in February, you won’t be able to walk a block without hearing firecrackers or seeing the red wrappers decorating the sidewalks and streets. An annual festival takes place at the Chinese American Historical Museum, located in San Jose’s History Park, where you can see local groups performing the Dragon Dance. And don’t forget about Dim Sum! There are many good places, including one of my favorites, Lei Garden, located in West San Jose.

Pro #2: San Jose has many local parks and trails that you can enjoy any day of the year.

On top of having great communities and events, San Jose has many local parks and trails with a wide variety of activities for the whole family including hikes, picnics, horseshoe pits, disc golf courses, an Olympic sized velodrome for cycling, the largest skate park in California and even a model airplane field!

Joseph Grant Park is the largest regional park in Santa Clara County, with 10,000 acres of land to enjoy.  You can fish, have a picnic, hike, bike and even camp overnight!  Grant Lake is known for producing large Bass, and it’s just down the road from Lick Observatory, home to the 36-inch Great Refractor and 3-meter Shane Telescope.  Get tickets and stop by at night time for an opportunity to look through the Great Refractor at your favorite stars and galaxies far far away!

Santa Teresa County Park is located south of San Jose, and is known for breathtaking displays of wildflowers, great picnic areas, equestrian trails and an archery range.  If you like golf, stop by the Santa Teresa Golf Club, home to a Championship 18-hole golf course with frequent tournaments, as well as some of the best golf instructors and classes in the area.

Parks in San Jose offer a nice respite from busy city life.

The Guadalupe River Trail runs through the heart of San Jose and offers a quick refuge from the daily hustle and bustle. This 12.5 mile trail offers paved paths for biking, hiking, with many small parks and grassy areas to run around. Many people use this trail to commute since it runs north-south and passes by the San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station. Skip all the traffic and start at Bel Bacio Cafe in Little Italy and ride north 7 miles to all the Sunnyvale Tech Companies like Cisco and Yahoo.

Hellyer County Park is nestled in South San Jose and offers a variety of unique activities including multiple disc golf courses, an Olympic sized velodrome for track cycling, an off-leash dog park, horseshoe pits, amphitheater, volleyball courts, and even a lake stocked with rainbow trout! So much fun! And as a bonus, at the south end of the Coyote Creek Trail you will find an airfield for flying model airplanes.

Lake Cunningham Park is a gem located in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose, home to Raging Waters, a fun-filled water park for the family. Here you’ll also find the Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park, the largest skate park in California! There is also a marina where you can launch a boat and enjoy sailing on the lake- no gas engines allowed, or rent a pedal boat for a great day time adventure.

Raging Waters has been a popular attraction for kids for many years.

For more information about parks, you can visit San Jose’s Parks department website for a full list.

Pro #3: There are great jobs and tech companies.

San Jose is often called the capital of the Silicon Valley, and its largest tech employer is Cisco Systems. There are many great companies located in San Jose including Adobe, EBay, Zoom, 8×8, PayPal, Western Digital, and Google is in the process of building a large campus near Downtown. San Jose has many great opportunities.

Beyond just the local attractions, San Jose is centrally located and a great place to kick off a day trip or more, which leads us to-

Pro #4: All the day trips! 

San Jose to San Francisco takes about 50 minutes with no traffic. You can spend your whole day there, enjoying city life and many great things to do like taking a stroll in Chinatown, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, and hiking and biking by the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping in Union Square, the list goes on, and we haven’t even started talking about the food! San Francisco is home to many Michelin star restaurants and many new aspiring restaurants with unique perspectives on modern cuisine.

San Jose to Santa Cruz takes about 37 minutes with no traffic. That’s all it takes to get out of the city, and get on the beach! Sand, sun and fun all around you when you visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Great food, amazing atmosphere and a vibrant community full of life.  It also has an amusement park with a roller coaster where your family and friends can have a fun time! On the way back don’t forget to visit Marianne’s ice cream shop, one of my favorites. It has 105 flavors and is only available locally!!

Wine country is just an hour and thirty minutes away!

San Jose to Napa Valley is about 1 hr and 30 minutes. If you are a wine and food lover you’ll find everything you need here. There are many Michelin Star restaurants, including a few two-star and three-star establishments, truly the best restaurants in the world! One of my favorite places is Ad Hoc, known for their down to earth take on American comfort food. I love their famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken! Crispy, tender and juiciest chicken you’ll ever find. And if you’re on the move, they also have a to-go outdoors cafe called Addendum, serving favorites from the menu including the buttermilk fried chicken, BBQ ribs, lobster rolls and sides.

Another popular destination is Lake Tahoe, at about 3 ½ hours away from San Jose, there are great experiences to be had year round. Skiing and snowboarding are very popular in the winter, with 15 ski resorts and countless runs to enjoy, make sure to watch the snow forecast and don’t forget to bring chains and plan for adverse weather! Roads often close unexpectedly and it’s not uncommon to hear of coworkers that can’t make it back to work on Monday due to snow storms. During the summer, the lake is open to water sports and the weather gets very warm. There are great beaches all around the lake and plenty of places to rent a boat or Seadoo for some fun on the water. The eastern shore of the lake is also in the state of Nevada, so year round you can visit full fledged casinos with all the table games including roulette and craps, card games, and more slot machines than you’ve ever seen.

Sacramento, the state capital, is about 2 hours away from San Jose, and offers a big city with plenty of sights and historical landmarks to visit. Stop by the California State Railroad Museum or the California Automobile Museum for a blast from the past, or learn about the Gold Rush and the last stop of the Pony Express at the B.F. Hastings building. If you have kids, don’t miss Fairytale Town, where fairy tales come to life, featuring Humpty Dumpty’s Bridge, Mary’s Little Lambs and more.

Who could live here and forget to visit Yosemite??

Yosemite National Park is about 3 hours away, and is home to the California native Giant Sequoia trees, one of the biggest and fastest growing living things on the entire planet! Yosemite is also known for its beautiful views, punctuated by the massive rock formations of El Capitan and Half Dome, and both offer a multitude of extreme challenges- the Half Dome 16-mile day hike is one of the most difficult hikes in the region, but the rewards of making it to the top are unrivaled. Yosemite is a very large park, and also offers many other options for camping, fishing and outdoor activities.

Wow, after talking about all those great places to see and fun things to do, it’s hard to believe there would be a downside to living in San Jose, right?  Just kidding!

Here are some of the Cons of living in San Jose:

Con #1: Traffic.

You can never escape traffic.

While San Jose is centrally located to the 101, 280, 880, 680, 87 and 17 freeways, during morning, afternoon and evening rush hour, traffic can be very bad, but only in certain directions. Be sure to research your commute using the “Depart At/Arrive By” function on Google Maps, the slowdowns are consistent from day to day and often only occur in one direction. Here is a quick summary of San Jose traffic:

You will see congestion on the 101 moving Northbound in the morning especially at the junction with the 87, and conversely, slowdowns on the 101 Southbound in the afternoon and evening usually starting as early as 2 or 3PM.

The 280 Westbound and Eastbound sees some slowdowns in the morning, but 280 Eastbound in the afternoon and evening sees much more congestion due to many people passing through the city moving eastward to merge onto the 680 through Fremont towards Pleasanton and Tracy.

Similarly, Northbound on the 880 isn’t too bad in the morning, however in the afternoon and evening, moving Southbound on the 880 through San Jose can be fairly slow due to many people taking that route to also go south to Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and the surrounding cities.

The 87 freeway has similar traffic patterns to the 101, as it runs nearly parallel, and the Northbound morning traffic to merge onto the 101 can take 30 minutes, and moving south in the evening can be slow due to the junction with the 280.

For those going to and from Santa Cruz on the 17, morning Northbound from Santa Cruz and evening Southbound traffic are fairly similar, slow and go but still moving pretty fast, however, when accidents happen, that can slow the entire commute down by 30 to 60 mins.

Con #2: Home Prices.

In San Jose, the 2019 median single family home price was $1.1M, which by national standards is high, however it is cheaper than living in San Francisco and the neighboring cities. The San Francisco median single family home price in 2019 was $1.3M, Santa Clara was $1.35M for and Sunnyvale was $1.73M.  Looking at just Townhomes and Condos, in San Jose the 2019 median price was $718 thousand dollars.

Don’t let that scare you away! One upside to this fact is that thanks to the great diversity of neighborhoods in San Jose, you can find areas with median single family home prices as low as $800 thousand, and other neighborhoods where the median home price is as high as $1.5 million. Why such a big difference? There are many factors at play here, including population density, size of each house and lot, amount of parking, quality of schools, and the list goes on. Every neighborhood is unique, and home price is only one of the variables that you need to consider when looking at a new purchase. 

If you have any questions about living in San Jose, let me know!

If you’re thinking about living in San Jose, download my relocation guide to help you get familiar with the area!

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