. San Jose | Northstar Meetings Group

Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

San Jose

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in San Jose, Calif.

Why San Jose for Your Next Meeting or Event?

The 10th largest city in the United States, San Jose is the economic and political center of Silicon Valley. It's a diverse, lively destination offering all the culture, attractions and infrastructure a planner — and attendees — could want.

Only in San Jose

Thought to be California's oldest settlement, the city was founded in 1777 as a farming community, and a number of historic landmarks survive and are well worth a visit, including the following: 

The Peralta Adobe was built in 1797 by a Native American Apache and is the last remaining structure from El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe.
 
• Erected in 1854 as the residence of the general manager of the New Almaden Mining Co., the classic revival-style Casa Grande and the adjacent Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum pay colorful homage to the area's past as a major locus for the mining of cinnabar.

• Begun in 1884, the Winchester Mystery House originally was the home of the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 160-room house is a riot of Queen Anne Victorian flourishes added by the widow over some 40 years, seemingly without a master plan. 

Transportation In & Around the Area

Norman Y. Minetta San Jose International Airport, about 4.2 miles to downtown San Jose; transfer cost to downtown via Uber/Lyft, about $15; by taxi, $20-$25

Meeting & Event Venues

New & Coming Soon to San Jose

• In June, after years of construction, the first BART trains began rolling into and out of San Jose for the first time. This initial foray into the city, in the form of a 10-mile, $2.3 billion rail extension, leaves from Warm Springs/South Fremont Station for stops at Milpitas Station (near the Great Mall) and Berryessa Station in northeast San Jose, the new end of the line. There are plans to eventually extend the tracks into downtown and beyond, to Santa Clara. 

• January 2020 saw the opening of the Hyatt House San Jose Airport, marking the 100th property in the Hyatt House brand. The hotel has 165 guest rooms, including 113 apartment-style suites with fully equipped kitchens and large living rooms, and 1,946 square feet of meeting space. Other highlights include a complimentary full hot breakfast buffet; the Outdoor Commons, a place to sip cocktails and enjoy savory bites from a BBQ grill; a 24-hour grab-and-go market, and the 24-hour workout room.
 
• Readying for a 2020 opening is a sparkling new high-tech esports lounge from the Gameworks chain, called GameWorks Silicon Valley. Set in the city's Westfield Oakridge shopping center, the bi-level venue will host regular "casuals" for novice players and major esports tournaments for expert digital warriors. On-site dining will provided by The Works Kitchen at Gameworks, offering modern American eclectic fare.
 
• Less than 5 miles east of the city proper, the 188-room AC Hotel San Jose Santa Clara opened in 2019 with 1,389 square feet of flexible indoor/outdoor event space for groups of up to 80. A member of the Marriott collection of brands, this Silver LEED-certified property offers a 24/7 fitness center, an outdoor pool, and food at the AC Kitchen, serving a European-inspired breakfast, as well as the AC Lounge with its tapas menu of small plates "with a Spanish flair."

Event Venue Additions & Renovations

The Hayes Mansion, built in 1904 and a hotel since the 1990s, is undergoing a $20 million renovation that will result in a 2020 rebrand as a Curio by Hilton property. All 214 guest rooms are being outfitted with new furniture, carpet and light fixtures, and the on-site Silver Creek restaurant will receive a new outdoor dining patio. In addition, the venue's 33,000 square event space will get a refresh. The mansion is about 10 miles from the city's airport.
 
• A renovation project is in the works at the elegant 805-room Fairmont San Jose. On tap for a refresh will be the main lobby, all entries, the fitness area, the pool bar and 200 out of 600 guest rooms in the North Tower (with more rooms to come in future phases). A completion date has not yet been announced. The hotel has 65,000 square feet of event space divided among 22 rooms.
 
• A short walk from the convention center, the San Jose Armory has been transformed into an expansive new event space. Built in 1934 and designed in bold Spanish Revival style, the 30,000-square-foot venue once was home to the California National Guard. Today, corporate and other events take place in spaces such as the 9,360-square-foot main room, 1,334-square-foot mezzanine, 1,900-square-foot outdoor patio and six small breakout rooms. All told, the facility is able to accommodate up to 1,300 people standing, 800 seated.

Other Event Venues

• Near the recently developed San Pedro Square Market and the SAP Center, the SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant has 5,000 square feet of indoor space divisible into three main areas, the largest of which can hold up to 300 people. Also available is a sunny, 3,500-square-foot patio lounge for gatherings of up to 150. The entire venue can be rented out for a combined total of more than 500 guests.

• Just 15 minutes from downtown, the Mt. Hamilton GrandView Restaurant is a classic steakhouse dating from 1876. This landmark property, with expansive views reflecting its perch on a rise overlooking Silicon Valley, includes three spaces for meetings and events: Indoors, the 3,500-square-foot main dining hall can host a banquet for up to 100 people; a 1,000-square-foot covered patio can sit up to 75, and the 2,000-square-foot lower patio can accommodate up to 150.

• For a gathering for up to 700 guests, the Glass House has 12,000 square feet encompassing three lounges, two dining areas and an outdoor patio overlooking the heart of San Jose's downtown. Services include a full prep kitchen, a selection of caterers and an event-design team.
 
• In Saratoga, about 13 miles southwest of San Jose, the Mountain Winery was begun in 1905 by winemaker Paul Masson — and promptly destroyed by the great earthquake that struck the area one year later. But Masson rebuilt, and the winery eventually became both a wine estate and a striking venue for indoor/outdoor events ranging from a sit-down dinner for 25 guests to a companywide conference for up to 2,500. Stunning outdoor terraces overlooking Silicon Valley, charming interior rooms like the swanky Club Masson, and stone-walled former wine-cellars full of subterranean atmosphere await.
 
• In Santana Row, a quaint residential and commercial district in the city's west end, the 215-room boutique Hotel Valencia Santana Row has more than 4,000 square feet of meeting space, including a newly renovated ballroom and an open-air courtyard with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. An on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool, a full-service bar and a seasonal rooftop bar round out the offerings.
 
• A gala private dining experience for up to 600 people can be arranged at the Oasis Palace Restaurant in Newark, about 20 miles northwest of San Jose. This 34,000-square-foot restaurant/event space has five opulent halls, LED chandeliers, marble floors and world-class chefs ready to prepare special African, Indian, Italian, Mexican or Middle Eastern feasts. For the general public, the eatery features daily Indian lunch and dinner buffets.
 
• Head for the town of Coyote, a 15-minute drive southeast of San Jose, to throw a picnic event at the Coyote Ranch. Established in 1880, the 40-acre ranch can accommodate up to 5,000 guests for a BBQ repast and activities such as volleyball, gunny-sack races, horseshoe tournaments and more. Spaces include the Arbor, an intimate outdoor shaded eating area and bar for up to 350 people with a grapevine-covered dance floor complete with chandeliers.

San Jose Meeting Hotels

Things to Do in San Jose

Arts & Culture

A city of surprises, San Jose even has its own Little Portugal, a colorful neighborhood in the eastern district tucked between 33rd Street and Highway 101. A thriving conclave since Portuguese settlers began homesteading in the Santa Clara Valley in the 1850s, here you’ll find the beautiful Five Wounds Portuguese National Parish, the heart of the local community and a landmark since it opened in 1919. Authentic Portuguese fare is well represented at Adega, where the fresh fish and seafood from executive chef David Costa has helped the place earn San Jose’s thus-far only Michelin star; the wine cellar has some 500 varieties, all from the mother country. For sweets after the meal or any time of day, head to Padaria Poplar (“Popular Bakery”), where all of the treats — like an array of orange, coconut, almond and bean tarts — follow authentic Old Country recipes. 

The city has a number of interesting museums ripe for exploration, including the following.
 
• In the New Almaden district on the southwestern edge of the city, the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum at Casa Grande recalls a once-vital local industry — the mining and processing of mercury — in a beautifully restored 1854 manor. Along with artifacts from the Cornish, Mexican and Chinese mining families that once worked here, the museum sits within the gently rolling hills of a 4,000-acre park with more than 37 miles of hiking trails.

• The Japanese American Museum of San Jose chronicles the early immigration of Japanese to America, their impact on the local agricultural community, their incarceration during World War II and more.
 
• The Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View presents a historical panorama of computing, from the abacus to the smartphone, and its impact on the world. 
 
• The San Jose Museum of Art features an eclectic collection winnowed into exhibits such "Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art," which will run Aug. 2020 through January 2021.

Getting Active & Outdoors

• Corporate team building doesn’t get any more fun than as practiced at Monopoly in the Park, a 930-square-foot permanent Monopoly board using giant game pieces and properties. Located in Discovery Meadow on San Carlos Street, a short walk from downtown hotels and the McEnery Convention Center, this larger-than-life version of the perennial favorite will have contestants competing for real estate, building hotels and, of course, vying to get out of jail free.

• A top downtime activity in town is the Operation City Quest Scavenger Hunt. The quest starts with an app, which provides a list of some 140 objects or city sites (e.g., historic landmarks, sports arenas, etc.). Intrepid participants must seek these things out and post a photo. En route, players are given tricky assignments and asked trivia questions to help keep things lively. Corporate and team-building iterations of the hunt can be arranged.

• Attendees who wish to stop and smell the roses should head for the Municipal Rose Garden. Here, on 5.5 blooming acres of a former prune orchard, grow 189 varieties of the fragrant flower, planted along scenic winding pathways. The site is an official All-American Rose Selections test garden, which receives award-winning roses from the AARS before they’re made available to the general public. 

• The San Jose Brew Bike Bar Tour features a colorful  bar on wheels visiting some of the city's best saloons, breweries and brewpubs for 2-3 hours of pedaling, quaffing and good cheer.
 
• Amusement-park aficionados will enjoy California's Great America in Santa Clara. These 100 acres of fun include attractions such as the iconic wooden Gold Striker roller coaster, the dizzying Railblazer rail ride, assorted barbecues, fireworks and more. 

• In Santa Cruz, a half-hour drive south from San Jose, Roaring Camp offers a slate of activities and tours, most enjoyed aboard a vintage steam train. 
 
• Also in Santa Cruz, Chardonnay Sailing Charters offers leisurely cruises off the Northern California coast themed to various F&B concepts, including champagne brunch, afternoon pizza, Pono Hawaiian grill and winemaker sailings. Private charters (for up to 38 people) on gorgeous Monterey Bay also are available.
 
• In nearby Felton, Mount Herman Adventures takes zip-lining and hiking to new heights via its Redwood Canopy Tour (zipping through a redwood forest canopy) and Sequoia Aerial Adventure (by foot on plank pathways suspended high above the forest floor). 

San Jose's Top Restaurants

Like any great American city, San Jose offers a rich sampling of the world's best cuisine, as exemplified below.

Le Papillon. This fine-dining French outpost garners raves from locals and visitors alike. Chef Scott Cooper's "duet entree" offerings let diners choose any two among dishes like Roasted Breast of Mary's Organic Chicken with Thyme Scented Jus and Mushrooms; Slow Roasted Halibut with Corn Anglaise, Cherry Tomatoes and Grapes; and Grilled Noisettes of Lamb with Cabernet Jus and Dried Sour Cherries.
 
Dan Izakaya Restaurant. Centrally located off Saratoga Avenue, authentic Japanese is the theme here: One of the specialties here is "hormone-yaki," or cooked beef innards. But there's also plenty of sushi, sashimi, delicious salads and vegetarian dishes and mini hot pots such as pork and tofu, duck and vegetables, chicken and kimchee and much more. For dessert, try the green tea sundae.
 
Nemea Greek Taverna. You can't go wrong dining on Santana Row in downtown, but this entry stands out for its especially delicious Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, brought to full flavor in dishes such as Lavraki (whole mediterranean bass, braised greens, roasted potatoes and lemon vinaigrette), the Moschari Souvlaki (filet of beef, Nemea potatoes, watercress and yogurt) and the Garides Linguini (shrimp, linguini, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil, white wine and lemon sauce).

For more good eating in town:

  1. Adega (Portugese)
  2. Elyse (French-Vietnamese)
  3. Falafel's Drive-In (Middle Eastern)
  4. Firehouse No. 1 (American gastropub)
  5. Il Fornaio (Italian)
  6. Morton's The Steakhouse