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What Is San Jose, California Known For

When people think of California, they often think of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Anaheim (well, of Disneyland, at least). While these cities are undoubtedly important to both the state and the country, they are not the only key cities in California. San Jose is not only one of the biggest cities in the country, it is also the largest city in Northern California based on population and territorial area. 


San Jose, California, is known for being a technological hub and the largest city in Silicon Valley. It is also known for being the home of the Winchester Mystery House and for its multiple flower gardens. Additionally, it is famous for having the most expensive housing market in the United States.


If you’re wondering what makes San Jose so special, keep reading. I’ll cover the points mentioned above and let you know other facts about the city you may never have heard of before.



San Jose Is the “Capital of Silicon Valley”

Though Silicon Valley consists of several cities in and around the Santa Clara Valley, including Redwood City, Palo Alto, and Santa Clark, San Jose is the largest city in the area. Due to this fact, the city was nicknamed the Capital of Silicon Valley.


It is home to several computer, engineering, and microprocessor companies and is a leading global center of innovation. Residents of the city produce more patents than residents of any other city in the country. 


In fact, the US Patent and Trademark Office opened a satellite office in the city in 2015 to better serve the city and the rest of Silicon Valley.


Major employers in the city include Cisco Systems, Inc., eBay, PayPal, and Adobe Systems, Inc. Additionally, Google is in the process of building an 80 acre (32.37 hectares) in Downtown West San Jose which will serve as a combination of retail, residential, and open space for both Google employees and city residents. 



The Most Expensive Housing Market in the Country

San Jose’s association with Silicon Valley has resulted in the San Jose Metropolitan Area being home to the highest concentration of super wealthy people in the world – that is, people with a net worth of over $30 million. 


It also has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world, after only Zurich and Oslo. However, this has also caused housing prices in the city to skyrocket.


Nearly half of all homes – 47% – in San Jose are worth $1 million or more, and the median home value in the city was $968,000. This is over 10% higher than the next city on the list, San Francisco, where only 36% of all homes were valued at $1 million+. 


These prices also mean that the city has the most expensive housing market in the country and the seventh most expensive housing market globally, after only Melbourne, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney, Vancouver, and Hong Kong.



San Jose Is Home to the Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is among the main landmarks and tourist hotspots in the city. It was originally the home of Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester and heiress to the Winchester gun fortune. 


Following the death of William from tuberculosis in 1881, Sarah Winchester inherited over $20 million (equivalent to over $550 million today). William’s death came after the death of her infant daughter, which led her to believe that she was cursed. 


Urban legend holds that she visited a medium that supposedly channeled the spirit of her husband.


He told her that the only way to protect herself from the curse (and the spirits of all the people who had been killed with Winchester rifles) was to leave New Haven, Connecticut, where she lived, and travel to the West. 


When she settled in the West, she would have to build a home for herself and the spirits and never stop building.


When she reached California, she purchased an eight-room farmhouse in Santa Clara Valley. Using the money left to her following the death of her husband, she started building what would become known as the Winchester Mystery House – a 7-story mansion that featured 160 rooms. 


Based on the medium’s advice, construction on the house never stopped and continued for 38 years until her death in 1922. Winchester did not hire an architect when building the home. Instead, construction and additions were made haphazardly, leading to the house being the site of numerous architectural oddities. 


This includes over 2,000 doors, many of which go nowhere. Additionally, some of the doors open at odd locations, such as a door that opens to a 15’ (4.57 m) drop.


The property also features over 10,000 windows, several staircases that lead nowhere, a skylight in the floor, secret passages, and more. The house’s layout resembles a labyrinth, and popular culture holds that this was meant to confuse the ghosts haunting Sarah, allowing her peace. 


While Sarah’s efforts resulted in a seven-story property, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed a significant portion of the home.


Today, only four stories survive. Additionally, while the number of 160 rooms is frequently mentioned when describing the house, it should be noted that several people have cast doubt on this count, and only Sarah Winchester truly knew how many rooms were in the property.


The house is considered one of the most haunted places in the country, and many people frequently report hearing ghostly activity on the third floor. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and about 110 rooms are open for tourists to visit. 


The Winchester Mystery House hosts special tours on Fridays the 13th and Halloween as a nod to its haunted history. The property was also a filming location for the horror film Winchester, a fictionalized depiction of the building on the house.



San Jose Is Home to a Multitude of Parks

The city features about 15,950 acres (6455 hectares) of parklands, including numerous flower gardens, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and a section of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. 


Some key parks in the city include:


  • Alum Rock Park: Established in 1872, this is the oldest park in the city and can trace its roots back a hundred years to 1777. It is a 720 acre (291.337 hectares) park and features over 13 miles (21 km) of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, playgrounds and picnic areas, mineral springs, and more.
  • Kelley Park: Kelley Park features a host of different facilities, including the History Park at Kelley Park, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, and the Japanese Friendship Garden, which we’ll cover below. Additionally, Coyote Creek flows through the park.
  • Japanese Friendship Garden: This section of Kelley Park was dedicated in October 1965 and is designed to resemble Kōraku-en Garden in Okayama, one of San Jose’s eight sister cities. It features three ponds, which contain koi fish from Okayama, tea houses, bridges, water features, pagodas, and more.
  • Rosicrucian Park: Established in 1927, Rosicrucian Park is the headquarters for the English Grand Lodge for the Americas of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, the largest Rosicrucian order in the world. It spans 5 acres (2.02 hectares) and a whole city block and features the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which is the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the western part of the country.
  • San Jose Municipal Rose Garden: Founded in 1927, this is one of the oldest rose gardens in the country. It boasts nearly 200 varieties of roses over about 3500 shrubs. In 2010, the All American Rose Selection named it America’s Best Rose Garden.


The City Is Home to the SAP Center

The SAP Center at San Jose is one of the most popular event venues in the world. Also known as the Shark Tank, it is the home of the National Hockey League team, the San Jose Sharks, and the American Hockey League team, the San Jose Barracuda. 


The area was the host for games 3, 4, and 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016. It was the first time the Sharks appeared in the finals in the history of the franchise and ended in a loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 6.


Other sporting events that have been held at the SAP Center include:


  • The area served as the home court of the Golden State Warriors for the 1996-1997 season while their home court in Oakland was being renovated.
  • UFC 139 in 2011, UFC on Fuel TV. 
  • Muñoz vs. Weidman in 2012, UFC on Fox. 
  • Henderson vs. Melendez in 2013, and UFC on Fox. 
  • Lawler vs. Brown in 2014.
  • United States Figure Skating Championships in 1996.
  • USA Gymnastics Olympics Trials in 2012 and 2016.


However, it is also popular for events outside sports. It is one of the most active non-sporting events venues in the world, and in 2006, sold the fourth-most non-sporting events tickets in the world, after only:


  • Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • Manchester Arena in Manchester
  • Air Canada Centre in Toronto (now known as Scotiabank Arena)


San Jose Is the Birthplace of Steve Wozniak

Apple Inc. is one of the most recognizable companies in the world today. It is among the largest manufacturers of both smartphones and computers and is also the world’s most valuable company.


Most people associate the company primarily with Steve Jobs. However, Jobs founded the company with two other people, Ronald Wayne, and Steve Wozniak, who was born in San Jose. Apple was initially formed to develop an Apple I, a personal computer designed by Wozniak. 


Without him, the company would likely look extremely different.


Wozniak remained with the company until 1985 when he left to work on other projects. Today, he is worth over $100 million and remains an employee of the company in a ceremonial capacity, drawing a paycheck of about $50 per week.


Wozniak is not the only famous person to be born in San Jose. Other famous San Jose natives include:


  • Renée Elise Goldsberry: An actress who is best known for being the original performer for the role of Angelica Schuyler in the musical Hamilton, Goldsberry also boasts several television credits, including roles in Altered Carbon, One Life to Live, and Girls5eva.
  • Amadeo Giannini: Founder of the Bank of Italy, which would later become the Bank of America, Giannini was also one of the first bankers to offer services to middle-class people, rather than only servicing the upper class. 
  • Nikki Sixx: Sixx is the co-founder and bassist of the rock band Mötley Crüe. He also serves as the band’s main songwriter and has worked with numerous other artists, including Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper, and more.
  • Dudley Herschbach: Herschbach won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 alongside fellow chemists John Polanyi and Yuan Lee.
  • Pat Tillman: A pro football player who played for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL), Tillman left the NFL and joined the United States Army following the 9/11 attacks. He was killed in combat in 2004.


San Jose Boasts the World’s Largest Monopoly Board

If you’ve ever wanted to play Monopoly beyond what a normal-sized game board can offer you, San Jose is the place to be. 


Discovery Meadow, which opened its doors in 2002, is located near the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Among a number of other features, the space also features a 930 sq ft (83.4 sq m) Monopoly game board. 


The board is the only life-sized Monopoly board in the world that is officially licensed. 


Aside from the board, the installation also includes wearable game tokens and to-scale replicas of dice, houses, and hotels so that people can actually play a life-sized round of Monopoly. In fact, you can rent the board for a fee, which also comes with the services of a referee. 



Final Thoughts

Though it may not be the first city that people think of when they think of California, San Jose is still one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the country. No matter whether you’re looking for a spooky spot to scare yourself in on Halloween or want to bump into some of the wealthiest people in the country, San Jose is the place to be.


If you’re planning a trip to San Jose be sure to check out Secret San Jose by Cassie Kifer here for the best guide to the city!