The 5 Best Neighborhoods in San Jose, California

San Jose might have been the forgotten city of the Bay Area, but in recent years, it’s made a huge name for itself. We’re the 10th most populous city in the country, and one of the safest and most livable too. Whether it’s Blossom Hill or North San Jose, people are flocking to Silicon Valley.

If you’re looking to plant your flag in San Jose, you’ll need to know where to put it. So here are SJ’s five best neighborhoods to live in.

1. Downtown San Jose

Perfect neighborhood for: millennials, college students, artists

If you’re a hustle and bustle person who needs the best bars and restaurants around them, then DTSJ is the place to live. First Street, where all the city’s nightlife lives, lies right in the middle of downtown. Head a little past First Street and you’ll find the South of First Area, aka SoFA, where many of the city’s art and cultural galleries live. If you’re a student, then you know campus is literally in downtown. Careful though: The area around campus might be a bit seedy to rent an apartment.

Highlights:

  • First Street — Every good bar and nightclub in SJ is on this street. Try out Paper Planes or my personal favorite, 55 South.
  • San Pedro Square — If you’re looking for casual food and drink, then San Pedro has lots of options for fusion food, beer and more.
  • The Tech Museum — Perfect for science geeks and tech people for exploring everything from the history of technology to the human anatomy.

2. Willow Glen

Perfect neighborhood for: Higher-income individuals and families

Take a stroll around Willow Glen and you’ll never know you’re walking around a big city. Willow Glen has all the charm of a small American town, with none of the big city high rises or pollution. Walk anywhere in the neighborhood and you’ll be greeted with nicely-kept sidewalks, small businesses, bookstores (yes, those still exist!) and friendly people always willing to stay hello. Walk a bit further, and you’ll find row upon row of single-family housing — perfect if you’re looking to take your housing situation a step further (and safer).

Highlights:

  • Willow Glen Creamery — This place is an ice cream-lovers dream. Everything from frozen custard to Dole Whip is available here — yes, that Dole Whip.
  • Athletic Performance — I used to do a ton of running (SJ’s parks are great for that), and AP was always my go-to store for athletic wear. This isn’t a big box store, so you’ll get knowledgeable staff who can tailor their products to you.

3. West San Jose

Perfect neighborhood for: techies, millennials

Here’s another neighborhood that will give you the best of San Jose without the hustle and bustle of a big city. Not only is West San Jose near all the big tech companies (and maybe your future job), but it also offers a residential feel and pace of living, whether you’re in an apartment or townhouse.

Highlights:

  • Winchester Mystery House — A rite of passage for any SJ resident is to visit this place and learn all about Sarah Winchester, whose husband built the Winchester firearm empire. Before her death, Winchester became paranoid the deaths from her husband’s weapons would haunt her forever. So, she built a house to keep all the ghosts in, which is now a popular tourist attraction, and the subject of a feature film.
  • Santana Row and Valley Fair Mall — These two shopping centers offer some of the most upscale stores in the area. You can find everything from Louis Vuitton to Tilly’s here, and tons of restaurants for date night.

4. Japantown

Perfect for: millennials  middle-class individuals and families

Japantown is home to a bustling neighborhood of farmer’s markets, clothing stores, Japanese restaurants and small businesses surrounded by townhouses and apartments. Perfect if you want to harness the feel of the big city and the diverse culture of San Jose.

Highlights:

  • Japanese American Museum of San Jose — Learn about the area that Japanese immigrants flocked to and grew orchards. Also inside is a scale-model replica of a room of a Japanese internment camp.
  • Jackson Street — Check out this main drag if you want to drink some milk tea, pick up some bonito flakes at Nijiya Market, or shop the local produce at the Japantown Farmer’s Market.

5. Evergreen

Perfect neighborhood for: families with children or who want to have children

What used to be overlooked as part of ESSJ is now an upscale neighborhood with some of the best schools in the area. Silver Creek High School and Evergreen High School consistently rank as some of the best and most educationally rigorous high schools in the state. It’s also a great place to find single-family homes with neatly-trimmed lawns and friendly neighbors. For young people, Evergreen is perfect if you want an after=school snack or a place to hang out before homework.

Highlights:

  • Lake Cunningham — Cunningham is an artificially-made lake where you can do everything from rent a paddleboat to sit by the water and just relax. Want to have a family picnic in the middle of a big city? Lake Cunningham is the place. And if the kids get really bored, the lake is also home to Raging Waters, a water amusement park.
  • Brigadoon Park — Ready to really get your inner child out? Brigadoon has every amenity a park has: benches, playground and barbecue pits. But it also holds one of SJ’s fun Easter eggs: a set of large concrete slides that are as steep as they are fun. Once you get the nerves out, flatten a cardboard box and scurry down one of the Brigadoon slides for the ride of your life.



Lloyd Alaban