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What to do in San Jose? Hiking, food, museums, art, parks... and more

By Mike Moran, Project Editor

As one of the hottest high-tech hubs in the world, San Jose seems like the perfect place to host the ATA's 17th Annual International Meeting & Exposition. But there's more to California's third largest city (population 958,789) and the self-proclaimed "Capital of Silicon Valley" than technology. Here are some attractions and things to do while in town for the conference.

Winchester Mystery House
525 S. Winchester Boulevard, San Jose
Phone: (408) 247 2000

This well-known mansion and tourist attraction was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the eccentric widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. The house was under construction around the clock for 38 years, from 1884 until her death on Sept. 5, 1922. There are roughly 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms (one completed and one unfinished) 47 fireplaces, 10,000 windowpanes, 17 chimneys, two basements and three elevators. It's estimated that the house cost $5.5 million to build, which equates to $71 million in 2010 dollars.

Alum Rock Park
15350 Penitencia Creek Road, San Jose
Phone: (408) 277 4539

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Alum Rock Park. Founded in 1872, it was the first municipal park in California. Located in a valley in the Diablo Range foothills, the 720-acre park offers 13 miles of trails varying in difficulty from fairly flat to sharp switchbacks that climb to the upper ridges. The valley floor includes a visitor's center, small museum/animal rehab facility, picnic areas, mineral springs, lush plant life, woodlands and creeks.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium
1660 Park Avenue, San Jose
Phone: (408) 947-3635

Here's your chance to travel back in time to the era of the Pharaohs. Learn about the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. Find out why cats – first domesticated in Egypt – were so highly prized and decipher the secrets of the Rosetta Stone. With more than 4,000 artifacts, the museum, which hosts more than 100,000 guests each year, houses one of the largest collections of authentic ancient Egyptian antiquities on display in North America.

Lick Observatory
Mt. Hamilton Road, San Jose
Phone: (408) 274-5061

Visitors give high marks to the Lick Observatory, which sits high atop Mt. Hamilton and dates back to the 1880s. One reviewer called it an "awesome day adventure." Another said it "is definitely worth a stop, even if just for 15 minutes." The visitor's center is lined with pictures and plaques that tell the story of James Lick and the building of the 36-inch and 120-inch telescopes. The views are amazing, and on a clear day you can see San Francisco and Oakland. Said another reviewer: "The view right outside the observatory is pretty awesome, and if you walk around the whole building, you get a nearly 360-degree breathtaking view of the surrounding hills and valleys."

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
Naglee Avenue & Dana Avenue, San Jose

This is the perfect time to year to visit San Jose's Municipal Rose Garden. Visitors can enjoy colorful, showy blooms throughout the April-to-November season, but arguably the best time to visit is early May, when tracks of fragrant, majestic roses are at their most beautiful stage. The 5.5-acre Municipal Rose Garden – a one-time prune orchard – is today one of the most attractive of its kind in the world, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The garden features more than 4,000 rose shrubs, representing 189 varieties.

The Tech Museum of Innovation
201 South Market Street, San Jose
Phone: (408) 294-8324

Chock-full of unique hands-on exhibits, this museum in the heart of downtown San Jose focuses exclusively on how technology functions and is changing every aspect of the way people work, live, play and learn. The exhibits explore every possible application of technology: Science, medicine, astronomy and much more. Check out the spectacular IMAX theatre or attend some of the educational workshops, snack at the café or drop in on the bookstore, which features several volumes related to Silicon Valley culture.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph
80 S. Market Street, San Jose
Phone: (408) 283-8100

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph is a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the area, and visitors extol its artwork. This huge, multi-domed church was built in 1877 and restored to its original splendor in 1990. The present structure is a monumental building. Stained glass work renders the sanctuary into a lovely, almost mystical space when the sun causes the colors to play across the walls, pews and floor.

Los Gatos Brewing Co.
163 W. Santa Clara Street, San Jose
Phone: (408) 292-9928

At the end of a long day attending educational sessions and walking the exhibit floor, a cold beer might just be in order. The Los Gatos Brewing Co. has attracted lovers of microbrews from far and wide since opening its doors in 1991. Whether you like ales, lagers, stouts or pilsners, you'll find it here. This brewpub is a great place to gather with friends for some cold suds or to enjoy some topnotch California cuisine – or to do both.

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