By Car / Motorcycle, San Jose
There is little to do in San Jose. I suggest a car rental from Dollar rent a car. I managed to rent a compact car for $42 USD for 2 week-end days. It served me really well. I visited Stanford University, Palo Alto, San Francisco and drove around San Jose to see if there is actually anything to do there. I drove 132 miles and it only cost me $20 USD (5 gallons) in gas.
Dollar-Rent-A-Car is located at the San Jose Airport with a free bus to and from the airport running every few minutes.
San Jose is the second largest city in California and is connected to the rest of the state via numerous major highways. The cities to the north and the south are well-connected to San Jose, but if you want to go east or west, plan on a long, slow journey.
From the south such as Monterey and Santa Cruz, we usually use Highway 101 or Route 17 over the mountains. The drive from Monterey is about an hour and from Santa Cruz maybe 30 minutes to downtown.
Highway 101 and Interstate 280 connect San Jose to its northwestern neighbor of San Francisco. The drive up the west side of the bay takes about an hour to cover the 48 miles city-to-city.
Oakland and other East Bay cities like Fremont and Hayward can be reached via Highways 880 and 680. The drive to Oakland is 41 miles and also about an hour.
Access to the east and west from San Jose are much more limited. To get to the beaches due west of the city, such as Ano Nuevo, there are no major roads and only a few small, secondary routes available. The towns due wast of San Jose like Turlock and Modesto are even more difficult to reach from the city, forcing you to drive either 30 miles north to I-580 or about 40 miles south to Route 152. The 70 mile stretch between I-580 and Rt 152 is amazingly absent roads of any kind.
You need a car. No two ways about it.
If you come here on business and stay near the airport, you can use the trolley to get around downtown. But if you want to visit any of the outlying areas, your options are limited: the light rail system is designed more for commuters than for visitors, and the bus system is unbelievably slow.
(Once, staying at my mother's house near Campbell, I took a rental car I no longer needed back to the airport, a 20-minute drive. Then I rode the light rail and a couple of buses back to her house -- and that took an hour and a half! Arrrgh.)
Parking Meters are everywhere, but if you plan on going downtown, especially in the evening, there are some free parking garages.
Some of the free garages are on (with nearest cross streets):
3rd Street & San Carlos
3rd Street & San Fernando
San Pedro Square & Santa Clara Ave.
2nd Street & San Fernando (in the Pavilion)
Free parking is valid M-F after 6 PM, Sat & Sun all day. This is a great bargain when you consider that other major cities charge no matter what!
With everyone driving SUV's and paying astronomical prices for gas, I am a lucky motorcyclist who can splurge on the premium gases to fill up my 1.3 gallon tanked scooter. Sure I can't go on the freeways and my bike tops out at 40 mph, but I do get 90 miles to the gallon. Does your car beat that? Didn't think so!
I just got the scooter in June, but I have had the most fun on it. Parking is a breeze, the cost to insure it is cheap, and I get the most attention while I'm zipping down the road.
If you're thinking about alternative means of transportation, consider a scooter. Not only are they low emissions (and I mean low), they are also really economically priced. If you want one, I recommend Gilroy Motorcycle Center down on Monterey Rd. in Gilroy. They're a great place. Avoid GP Motor Sports! They're horrible.
San Jose is linked with several major freeways that extend around the entire Bay Area. In the city itself, there's no less than eight major freeways that criss-cross the entire city. It's no wonder why so many people compare San Jose with Los Angeles.
San Jose is connected with I-280 (Junipero Serra Freeway) which runs from San Francisco, U.S. 101 (Bayshore Freeway) which goes the very length of California and runs right through the city, I-880 (Nimitz Freeway from 1989 earthquake fame) that connects the city with the East Bay, I-680 (Sinclaire Freeway) which connects the city with the northern suburbs and the string of cities that sit directly behind the Sunol Hills, and Highway 17, which connects San Jose with Santa Cruz twenty miles down the coast.
Within the city itself, other major roads include Highway 237 (northern corridor), Highway 85 (southern corridor) and Highway 87 (north/south corridor).
Please beware of rush hour, whether it be in the morning or at night! San Jose's traffic is legendary in the Bay Area, especially I-880 and Highway 17.
When traveling around San Jose you have a few options. Your best bet is to get around by car but if you don't have that luxury you still have a few choices. San Jose and the South Bay Area has a pretty decent system of busses, trains and light rail. This system doesn't match that of bigger east coast or European cities but it will get you where you're going. The public transportation is affordable, clean and safe. For more information on routes and schedules see the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) home page.
Traffic around San Jose and the Bay Area can be pretty bad although things have gotten a lot better in the past year. I recommend avoiding going anywhere around rush hour. When is rush hour you ask? I would say 7a-10a in the morning and 5p-8p in the afternoon. There's really no good place to be during rush hour as all highways (101, 880, 680, 280) are pretty congested, It's best to find somewhere else to be.
San Jose is located at the intersection of several highways: Hwys 101, 280, 680, 880, and 87.
By car. Light Rail serves the main corridor between Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose downtown areas, but many of the best spots to see are only available by car.