Are you looking for a throwback to simpler times? There’s something about reliving old memories that’s just so sweet. Whether you’re eating at an old diner or riding a carousel at the local carnival, nostalgic fun makes us remember when we were younger with unique fondness.
You don’t have to be from the bay area to experience nostalgic fun here. Sure, there are plenty of attractions and parks that still have their charm from decades ago, but there is a lot to do here for everyone. Whether you’re looking for something to take you back to when you were younger, or you want to experience old fun in San Jose, you’ve got plenty of options.
Nostalgic fun in San Jose doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money. If anything, the whole point is to remember the smells, the crowds, and the food that throw you back to an earlier time. There’s something about reliving memories that makes us look back on our lives and feel happy and grateful for what we’ve experienced. Life is different in the bay area, that’s for sure. Technology has moved us pretty far along. There is, however, still enough for a rich throwback to earlier times.
If you’re looking for nostalgic fun in San Jose, here’s a list of 9 things you can do to bring back the good ol’ days.
1. Take a Stroll Downtown
Downtown San Jose is one of the best places to go looking for nostalgic fun. There are seemingly always some sort of live performers there, and there are several nightlife options to choose from. Sit down and eat at a great restaurant and soak in the scene as people come and go. If you’re up for something more interactive, give the local San Jose Improv a try.
The city has done a great job of keeping downtown up recently. You’ll notice manicured flowerbeds and clean streets (hopefully). Downtown San Jose is also the spot where a lot of annual music concerts happen, many of which have been on an impressive run for several years.
2. Visit the Children’s Discovery Museum
If you grew up in the area during the ’90s, then you probably went to the Children’s Discovery Museum a time or two. This is a terrific spot funded in part by Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple. The museum focuses on teaching children about science through hands-on learning and experience. Kids can climb and jump and play with fantastic exhibits that change regularly. If you’re lucky, though, there will still be some things there from when you were younger.
If you’ve never been and have kids, the museum is a wonderful place to start some family traditions of your own.
3. Get Wet at California’s Great America
When the weather is nice, nothing beats a waterpark. Since 1976, California’s Great America has been the summer gathering spot for high schoolers and families looking to enjoy some fun in the sun. What started as a park full of waterslides has since grown into rollercoasters and other rides.
If you can remember the excitement of getting out of school on the last day with a full summer ahead of you, then Great America is the perfect spot to relive that feeling. If you have kids, it’s a sweet spot for a weekend full of fun. Of course, crowds can be intense in peak season, so try to go on a weekday when you’re off work. You’ll have a better shot at getting the park all to yourself.
4. Catch a Game at Levi’s Stadium
The San Francisco 49ers team is one of the most storied NFL franchises in history. You likely grew up watching or hearing stories about famous quarterbacks like Joe Montana or Steve Young. The new Levi’s Stadium has only been around since 2014, but you can still go to be there with fans who have been going to games for decades.
Sports games are a great place to have some nostalgic fun. There’s just something about grabbing a hotdog and a bag of popcorn during a game that sends you back. A nice thing about Levi’s stadium is that there are a ton of higher-end eating options if you’re in the mood for something fancier like a steak.
5. Watch a Show at West Wind Capitol Drive-In
A lot of us are too young to have ever been to a drive-in theater, but we know they existed. Fun fact, some comedians and other live shows started doing drive-in performances when the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in normal life.
The West Wind Capitol Drive-In is one of the few remaining drive-in spots left in the country. It’s still got its original charm and is a fantastic place to take a date for something different, especially with a lot of pandemic restrictions still in place. You can take in a movie while the kids and dogs run around at the playgrounds. It’s always a night of wholesome fun for the family.
6. Walk the Stanford Campus
If you’re lucky enough, your trip to Stanford can be a return to your old stomping grounds as a student. However, not everyone gets to go to such a prestigious school. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t visit and soak in the college atmosphere for some nostalgic fun.
A stroll through the Stanford campus is like walking through history. Some of the greatest people in each generation studied there, and you can almost feel the history in its halls. On your visit, see if you can catch one of their many sports games or take in a music concert. The campus always seems to have something going on, and college activities are a relative bargain for the experience.
7. Visit Mission Santa Clara de Asis
If you want to get really historical, then take a visit to Mission Santa Clara de Asis. If you’re a long-time San Jose resident, then odds are you’ve been at some point. When you were a kid, you probably rued the day your parents dragged you there and tried to teach you about some history.
Now, however, a visit is well worth your time. This Spanish mission dates back to the 1700s. It’s housed on Santa Clara University campus, so you’ll also have a chance to visit the school and take in the sights there. There are also gardens on-premises that are worth a look.
8. Watch the Stars at the Lick Observatory
Since 1887, people have been stargazing over one thousand meters above sea level on top of San Jose. The Lick Observatory is named after James Lick, who was the richest man in all of California when he died ten years before the observatory was finished. Even if you don’t get to go inside, the observatory is a beautiful building made of white domes. The winding road to get there is quite scenic as well.
9. Eat at San Pedro Square Market
The San Pedro Square Market, at this point, is a San Jose tradition. It’s where friends and family gather for food, music, and other fun. You can drink unique craft beers there and indulge in a range of regional cuisines fit for a king. There are also many local farmers who come and set up stalls every week to sell organic fruit and fresh veggies. On the weekends, the city brings fun to the crowds. There are live music, trivia, and other group activities you can participate in. It’s quintessential San Jose and the perfect spot for some nostalgic fun.
There is always something fun to do in San Jose! The city is rich with tradition, and you’ll have a million options if you’re looking for something nostalgic.
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