While researching things to do in San Francisco and San Jose, California, I found the usual popular touristy places that cost an arm and a leg. Despite the raving reviews I still found some of those places to be a waste of time and money, and a lot of places that weren’t even listed, but were great to experience. Here are a few tips and things to do/not to do that would save you time and money on visiting San Jose/ San Francisco Area.
The Japanese Tea Garden @ Golden Gate Park
One of the top things to do at Golden Gate Park from my research was to see The Japanese Tea Garden. The reviews and the place itself were highly overrated. Golden Gate Park is a must see and it’s free. Instead walk and around and visit the Conservatory of Flowers. The Japanese Tea Garden is $9 for nonresidents and there wasn’t much in my opinion to see other than a few buildings, statues, and a very small zen garden.
Parking Lot at Fisherman’s Wharf
One tip for saving time and money parking at Fisherman’s Wharf is to find free parking around the city 10-15 minutes away from Fisherman’s Wharf and call an uber to drop you off or you can wait in crowded traffic to park at the Fisherman’s Wharf which is what we did. When we got there it was too late for us to turn back when realizing how expensive parking @ SP+ Parking @ Triangle Lot was-stay longer than 3 hours and it’s $45.
Another tip: find a restaurant with parking validation. We were lucky to have found a restaurant called The Grotto across the street with free 2 hour validation for parking. We ended up ordering something budget friendly on the menu instead of the full priced menu items. I ordered the clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl and my husband ordered a crab sandwich that we both shared. The meals were small, but very filling.
Musée Mécanique @ Fisherman’s Wharf
After getting the parking validation @ The Grotto meant that we had 2 extra hours to spare. We walked the pier, saw Alcatraz and all that, and decided to walk into the Musee Mecanique right across the street. We came across a huge arcade fill with old antiques dating all the way back to the 1900’s. You could put quarters in the old arcade games and experience what it was like to play something as old as your grandparents. The games were surprisingly more entertaining, interesting, and more challenging. We played one that was a cross between golf and a pinball machine. You had two knobs to manuever with no time limit which allowed you to focus on your skill rather than hurrying to get your money’s worth. This is a great way to have fun using spare change.
Parking for Levi Stadium in San Jose
The whole reason for Steven and I’s trip was basically to see Manchester United play. If you’re planning on seeing a game in San Jose at any one of their stadiums I highly recommend parking somewhere away from the stadium and ubering it to the game. I also noticed the tram stopped right by the stadium so you could take the tram to the stadium as well.
You would think that there’d be parking at the stadium, but no my friends there’s not. There’s parking far far away for $50 though. Being pregnant and having to walk-jog so as not to be late to the game while it was hot and sunny out sounds fun right?! Wrong, take it from me and learn my lesson 🙂
If you’re in San Jose and look up things to do online you will find that the Winchester Mansion is on the top of the list. Tickets are around $39 per person. There’s also other websites that you can purchase tickets for a few dollars less than the official website. However, if you’re wanting to save your money this is where I’d save it. The gardens of the Winchester Mansion are free to take a look around outside the house.
Supposedly the story goes that Sarah Winchester continued to build onto the house all throughout her life because a psychic told her that she was cursed by ghosts killed by the Winchester Riffle. You will see the inside of the mansion and will notice it is a maze of random architecture, a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare, symbolism, obsession, and mystery. As someone on our tour said it best “is it art or madness?!” The inside of the house does not make sense with doors and staircases leading to nowhere. It gives you a very uncomfortable feeling that does not give you any peace or sense of relaxation just madness and head scratching whys. So if your not into that then spend your $39 at the mall down the street instead or go for free to St. Joseph’s cathedral.
Food for Two
Save money at expensive restaurants by ordering one item on the menu or appetizers and splitting it. You are more likely to eat all of your food and not have any left overs on your trip, which who wants anyways? Most restaurants will also let you do half orders. A restaurant that was worth the splurge and had smaller portions was The Outerlands- a breakfast/brunch place near a bookstore that had fresh ingredients, great coffee, a calm atmosphere, and beautiful food.
When traveling to a new city or destination no matter how much research you do online you will not know what it’s like until you get there. Despite going to these places I still enjoyed them, however if I could go back in time I’d definitely change a few choices we made to spend our time, money, and energy at.
What are some of your favorite places and tips to visit in San Jose/ San Francisco not listed here?