Are you considering moving to San Jose? San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, is known for its unbeatable weather, incredible hiking trails, and safe suburban neighborhoods. Thanks to the tech boom, though, the cost of living is considerably higher than that of other cities in the golden state. Even so, it’s still more affordable than San Francisco. Is a move to San Jose all it’s cracked up to be?
In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about San Jose to help you get acclimated. We cover the best eats, activities, and places to live.
What’s it Like Living in San Jose?
The mild temperatures that rarely dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and seldom climb higher than 85 degrees and rare rainy days make it a fairly peaceful place in terms of weather. However, it is important to be aware that small earthquakes and summer wildfires are not uncommon. To prepare your new home for earthquakes, read this guide. The most important things to have are sturdy tables to take shelter under and flashlights in case of power outages. In case of fires, you may have to evacuate or wear masks when going outdoors until the air quality improves.
The Nightlife (or Lack There Of)
The twenty-something crowd may be disappointed by the limited nightlife scene downtown (but there are a few clubs and bars). Singletons looking to find their match might find the local dating pool a little sparse. The city’s nickname is Man Jose because of the disproportionate ratio of men to women.
Many middle-aged people in the area are lifelong residents, but younger generations are opting to become part of the mass exodus from the Bay Area that has been going on for the past several years. While it’s not as bustling as places like LA and SF, San Jose offers gems of its own. The rich history, cultural diversity, and easy access to surrounding cities, beaches, and California landmarks make it a suitable place for families to settle down or young professionals to start their careers.
Find the San Jose Neighborhood For You
Before moving to San Jose, find the right neighborhood for your needs, tastes and budget. Here is the full list of San Jose neighborhoods organized by their common characteristics:
Most Expensive San Jose Neighborhoods
The Rose Garden neighborhood is as beautiful as the name implies. The stunning architecture, including 19th-century homes, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden namesake, and museums make it one of San Jose’s most picturesque destinations.
For an upscale neighborhood with a close-knit community feel, check out Almaden Valley. The area holds the city’s historic Quicksilver mines and unbeatable hiking access to Mount Umunhum. It’s conveniently located near major shopping centers featuring Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, CostPlus, World Market, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods.
If you set down roots in Almaden, it’s likely your neighbors will be the type to host block parties and look out for your home and pets when you’re on vacation.
The Willow Glen neighborhood is a little on the ritzier side and perfect for raising a family or spending retirement.
The downtown area hosts a busy calendar of community events from food festivals to Christmas trolley rides. It’s home to restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, antique stores, and Hicklebee’s bookstore where many famous authors come to host readings.
West San Jose/Santana Row
If you are looking for high-end shopping and fine dining, Santana Row is your neighborhood. Located just across from the Westfield Valley Fair mall, the shopping and dining district is home to high-end boutiques, elegant steakhouses, relaxing spas, and the Winchester Mystery House (made famous by the recent film starring Helen Mirren as the eccentric Sarah Winchester). Apartments are available directly above the shops for a convenient home right in the middle of all the hubbub.
Best San Jose Neighborhoods for Nature-Lovers
San Jose’s newest neighborhood offers a selection of outdoor activities like hiking and golfing. It features the Eastridge mall, which has transformed from one of the city’s shabbier shopping malls to a vibrant place to hang out, complete with a kitten cafe.
South San Jose
A more suburban neighborhood, South San Jose offers some of the best access to hiking and mountain biking via Santa Teresa County Park.
If hiking and biking aren’t your things, there’s plenty of golfing opportunities with the Santa Teresa and Coyote Creek courses nearby and a variety of breweries to stop at for a cold one.
North San Jose
If you are in tech and want a quick commute or walk to work, north San Jose is the place to be. At first glance, it may look like a concrete jungle of tech headquarters, but you can still escape and breathe some fresh air thanks to the Sierra Vista Open Space preserve.
Alum Rock appeals to the daring, outdoorsy and active, with its skate park, Raging Waters waterpark, and easy hiking access to the Lick Observatory.
Best Neighborhoods for Arts & Culture
As with most cities, downtown is San Jose’s hub for arts and entertainment. It’s home to the SAP Center where the Sharks hockey team plays, the annual Christmas in the Park attraction, theaters, museums, and food co-op markets like the San Pedro Square Market. The downtown shopping scene has been getting better in recent years too, with pop-up art and succulent shops claiming whatever space they can find among corporate buildings, restaurants, and apartments.
Despite the unfortunate closure of some theatre spaces like the San Jose Repertory theater, the arts are still alive and well downtown.
“Downtown San Jose has a small but rocking arts scene that thrives–from the live music at Cafe Stritch to the Subzero Festival in the summertime,” Miranda Carvalho, a local playwright shares.
Mayfair is rich in history and culture. For over a decade, it was home to civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. It features the Mexican Heritage Plaza, a venue for cultural events such as documentary screenings, mariachi performances, and holiday fiestas.
This little nook will allow you to escape the city. With stunning architecture, family-owned, long-running Portuguese restaurants and bakeries, and a small-community feel, San Jose’s slice of Portugal will give you a taste of the country.
Home to the annual Italian Family Festa in August, the hub of family-owned Italian restaurants near downtown delivers on its promise of bringing a taste of Italy to San Jose. Despite the large population of Italians settling in places like New York and New Orleans, San Jose still boasts a surprisingly rich history of Italian immigrants.
San Jose is lucky to be home to one of the last three remaining historic Japantowns in the United States.
If you don’t live in the area, you’ll likely be drawn to it for the weekly farmer’s market, art galleries, and festivals.
Vegans and vegetarians will love getting fresh tofu from the San Jose Tofu Company.
San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the world, second only to Vietnam itself. While you can find delectable Vietnamese cuisine all over town, Little Saigon is the cultural hub that hosts impressive events like the Tet celebration, where you can participate in or observe pageants, cooking and eating competitions, traditional dances, and historical reenactments. There are also plenty of carnival rides, food trucks, and art galleries to enjoy.
Historic San Jose Neighborhoods
This 200-year-old neighborhood is the perfect place for wining and dining. With J. Lohr Winery tucked into a corner and a host of delicious eateries featuring a variety of cuisines, The Alameda is an exciting place to live or visit for a weekend date night. Close enough to downtown to get to events but far enough to feel a little more peaceful, this neighborhood is great for those who like a moderately paced lifestyle.
Elena Johal of the local Keller Williams real estate group comments: “San Jose is one of the fastest growing and fastest developing cities in the Bay Area where most companies prefer to have their offices, including Google, which is developing one of their largest campuses here. Homes are consistently growing in value because this is where the think tank of Silicon Valley prefers to live. In addition to single-family homes, numerous high rises are being built to accommodate a modern, compact lifestyle for those who love downtown.”
A historic, beautiful, and quiet neighborhood featuring estate homes, a lively theatre scene, and frequent live music events, this nature-filled neighborhood near downtown truly is like one big park. Its convenient location offers hiking access via the Coyote Creek trail. The neighborhood also hosts San Jose’s annual Bark in the Park dog festival. (Don’t worry, there’s human food there too!)
This bayside former port city is the place for nature lovers and history buffs.
Home to a wildlife refuge and a ghost town, there’s plenty to explore on foot or via kayak in Alviso. The location makes the commute to San Francisco a breeze (a maximum of 50 minutes of driving time in moderate traffic), so if you’re working in the city, consider settling in Alviso.
Cost of Living in San Jose
If you’re moving to San Jose, it’s safe to assume you have a great job leading you there. Otherwise, you’ll likely find it difficult to make ends meet. San Jose is the 31st most expensive city in which to live in the entire world! The average cost of living for a four-person family, excluding rent, is around $3,750 a month. That’s 81% higher than the national average!
According to Zillow, here are the current housing rates (medians) in San Jose:
- Home value: $1,073,255
- List price per square foot: $610
- Price of homes currently listed: $925,000
- Rent price: $3,400
The highest rents are in the Willow Glen and Rose Garden neighborhoods, respectively.
San Jose Transportation
While a car is strongly suggested, you can make do by utilizing the city’s public transportation options. There is a light rail and bus system to help you navigate the city, Caltrain to take you to San Francisco for work or fun, plenty of rentable electric scooters and bicycles for short distances, and the shared Lyft or Uber option is available in most areas if you need a quick but still affordable ride.
The traffic in this highly populous city can make for long commutes, so be sure to plan ahead when making the trip to work in the mornings.
For those who travel frequently for work or leisure, the San Jose International Airport provides a frequent schedule of flights to all major destinations.
Where to Work in San Jose
Professionals of every trade can find fulfilling employment in San Jose or the surrounding cities.
The unemployment rate in San Jose is generally lower than that of other parts of the country, but older workers may face fierce competition, as the majority of new hires in the city are younger.
Most people who move to San Jose are moving for a new job, because the higher average salary in the city matches the cost of living.
Things to Do Once You Move to San Jose
San Jose is a versatile city with plenty of activities to offer for everyone thanks to the convenient beach access, surrounding hills, and traditional city amenities.
In the Great Outdoors:
- Hiking in the foothills (Quicksilver in Almaden and IBM in South San Jose are great areas).
- Horseback riding in South San Jose near the Calero area and Morgan Hill.
- Golfing at Santa Teresa, Coyote Creek, or for mini golf, there’s Golfland.
- Visiting Santa Cruz beaches just a half-hour drive over the mountains. Places to visit include Capitola and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (made famous by Jordan Peele’s 2019 horror film Us).
The Sports Scene:
- Watch 49ers football games at Levi’s Stadium in nearby Santa Clara.
- Cheer on the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center downtown.
- Hang out at San Jose Giants baseball games (and stay for the frequent post-game fireworks shows!).
- Browse dozens of furniture, antiques, clothing, and plant stalls at the De Anza Flea Market at nearby De Anza Community College (first Saturday of every month).
- Shop at luxurious boutiques in downtown Los Gatos, Willow Glen, Campbell, and Santana Row.
Entertainment and Theme Parks:
- Enjoy live music at downtown San Jose jazz festivals.
- Catch all touring Broadway shows at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.
- Rock out at concerts at the Shoreline amphitheatre in nearby Mountain View.
- Ride thrilling roller coasters at California’s Great America in Santa Clara.
- Get cozy at drive-in movies at the West Wind Capitol drive-in.
- Spend summer days at the Raging Waters water park.
- Browse museums downtown and in the Rose Garden.
- Walk on the wild side in Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.
Education Opportunities in San Jose
Silicon Valley offers plenty of private and public schooling options, including performing arts-oriented campuses and STEM-focused curriculums. To begin your search, browse this complete list of San Jose school districts. You can find the school ratings and rankings on Niche.
- Alum Rock Union Elementary School District
- Berryessa Union Elementary School District
- Cambrian School District
- Campbell Union High School District
- East Side Union High School District
- Evergreen Elementary School District
- Franklin Mckinley Elementary School District
- Moreland School District
- Mount Pleasant Elementary School District
- Oak Grove Elementary School District
- San Jose Unified School District
- Union Elementary School District
San Jose State University is known for its computer science, business, engineering, nursing, and marketing majors. To save money, community colleges De Anza, Evergreen, and West Valley are excellent local options that provide a variety of two-year programs for every discipline.
Nearby there is also Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, University of San Francisco, and California State University–East Bay.
Best Places to Eat in San Jose
San Jose’s culinary scene caters to palates of all flavors, but the Vietnamese and Mexican food in the city are particularly noteworthy.
There’s also no shortage of grocery shopping options in San Jose: Chavez Supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, Lunardi’s, Nob Hill Foods, Safeway, Lucky, Grocery Outlet, Target, FoodMaxx, and Cost Plus World Market all have at least one location within the city limits.
Some of the top San Jose restaurants include:
- ChaCha Sushi – With signature rolls named after local icons and popular movies, noodle dishes, and delectable desserts like fried ice cream, ChaCha is one of the best places for Japanese food in San Jose.
- Fu Kee – Skip the Panda Express and drop by Fu Kee for more authentic Chinese fare. The string bean chicken is one of the best dishes on the menu.
- Falafel’s Drive-in – Offering a mix of American food like burgers and shakes, and authentic falafel created from a family recipe, Falafel Drive-in has been a mainstay in San Jose since 1966.
- Pho Kim Long – Pho isn’t hard to find anywhere you go in San Jose, but Pho Kim Long is the cream of the crop. The cash-only eatery is affordable and loved by both Vietnamese locals and pho first-timers.
- Nick the Greek – For fast Greek food, turn to Nick the Greek. You can choose meat or veggie filling for a pita drizzled with tzatziki. Grab some cheesy Greek fries on the side.
- La Victoria – The Bay Area is blessed with superior taquerias. But La Victoria is in a different league. Famous for its “orange sauce,” the iconic taco and burrito spot offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- La Costa – This tiny, cash-only joint with outdoor seating has tacos, tostadas, burritos, and quesadillas. (Warning: The burritos are newborn baby-sized.)
- La Villa Delicatessen – La Villa in downtown Willow Glen is a San Jose tradition. Grab a number and wait in line for fresh-made ravioli for all of your special occasions and/or casual dinners.
- Original Joe’s – With origins in nearby San Francisco, this fine Italian dining place has steak, seafood, veal, pasta, and traditional Italian desserts like cannolis, gelato, and tiramisu.
Other San Jose Favorites
- Bill’s Cafe – With multiple locations throughout San Jose, this breakfast and lunch spot offers all the usual menu items like hashbrown skillets, omelettes, eggs benedict, pancakes bigger than your head, and club sandwiches.
- In-N-Out Burger – If you’re not from California, the numerous In-N-Out Burger locations in San Jose and the surrounding cities are an exciting treat. Try the well-done fries and animal-style burger off of the secret menu. In-N-Out’s burgers, fries, and shakes are always affordable, and they pay their employees above minimum wage, so you can feel great about this fast-food choice.
- The Fish Market – The Fish Market is a popular destination for school field trips, with its live lobster tank and true fish market feel. The restaurant offers both sushi and cooked fish. For a cheaper dining option, aim to catch their Happy Hour.
- Treat Ice Cream – For homemade ice cream quality taste, pick up a tub of Treat Ice Cream. You can find it in select stores like MJ Market in Almaden, or buy directly from the downtown factory. One of the standout flavors is mocha java chip because of its rich coffee flavor and generously-sized chocolate chunks.
For Your Coffee Fix
Those who like to get their coffee fix somewhere other than home will be happy to know that San Jose features two main coffee shops besides the ubiquitous Starbucks. Like the rest of the Bay Area and much of California, you can find a handful of Peet’s Coffee and Philz Coffee locations scattered throughout the city. Both companies have roots in the Bay Area, so even though they are chains, you’re still supporting a “local” business.
You can also support truly local coffee shops like Moonbeans in South San Jose and Elva’s Coffee Stop in Willow Glen.
Variety is the spice of life, and San Jose has no shortage of it. Whether you’re moving here for a tech gig or were drawn by the moderate temperatures and natural beauty of the valley, you can find your thing here in the heart of Silicon Valley.
As you’re finding your way to San Jose, we hope this guide helps you make the city your home sweet home. And don’t forget, we can help you find a storage unit in San Jose to make your transition an easy one.