12 San Jose

PopulationMetro: 1,998,463
A great city blooms in America’s tech utopia.

San Francisco may get the tourists and headlines, but the money is in San Jose. In fact, Silicon Valley is #3 for Prosperity in our ranking, including #1 in our Household Income category ranking, despite a #8 finish for Fortune 500 offices located there.

It’s still a massive number of corporate offices in a city, but given the plentiful prosperity, San Jose is, unsurprisingly, not relying on the usual mechanics of productivity and profit.

The city’s university, Stanford, is also a performance driver all on its own. Its symbiotic integration with the tech offices in the city means it has access to funding and innovation like few other schools. Given the optimal conditions of a lauded, coveted school and the on-ramp it provides to jobs in the same city, San Jose also ranks high in our People category (#3 in the nation), including #2 for Foreign Born Residents.

But there is an incredibly liveable and worthwhile destination under all that productivity. As California’s oldest Spanish civilian settlement, the city has many museums spanning its fascinating history.

Start at History Park, an open-air museum featuring local architecture saved from city streets over two centuries, like a 140-year-old Chinese temple, an entire hotel and a working trolley line. The 1881 Electrical Light Tower is particularly iconic, given it was built to supply the entire city with electrical street lights, years before the idea took hold in larger cities. San Jose was seeing around corners, even almost a century and a half ago.

Place 50
Product 14
Programming 8
People 90
Prosperity 78
Promotion 8

Fast-forward to the city’s engineering present at the Tech Museum of Innovation, the Intel Museum, or befriend a local techie and have them tour you around one of the high-flyer offices—from Airbnb to Apple. The city ranks #43 for Museums.

When it’s time to fuel up, head downtown to the buzzing SoFA district (South of First Area) and sample the impressive brews from the new Uproar Brewing Company, where the elevated pub grub rivals their suds.

For something more upscale (and to taste San Jose’s ascent as a big city), invest in a meal at the Michelin-starred Adega, owned by a wine-importing family from Portugal and boasting one of the largest lists of Portuguese wines outside the Old Country. And don’t leave town without some authentic Mexican, which you’ll find at San Pedro Square’s Olla Cocina, along with their locally lauded watermelon margaritas. San Jose lands at #23 for Restaurants.