For the last year, San Jose has seen some major expansion in the downtown area, rebranding and new growth — including plans for a new Google campus that could house up to 25,000 employees. However, San Jose won’t be leaving its history behind. The San Jose McEnery Convention Center, hotels, The Tank (which it will always be called), auditoriums and a wide variety of spaces and attractions only found in San Jose, the city is not lacking any historic and modern venues for event planners to choose from.

The greater San Jose area offers more than 4,000 rooms — 2,200 of which are located downtown. Which is less than five miles from the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, the downtown area is also easily reachable via the Light Rail and Caltrain via the free DASH shuttle. Which we would recommend and Bay Area traffic can be heavy almost anytime of the day.

San Jose Convention Center

Centrally located,  San Jose McEnery Convention Center (San Jose Convention Center or SJCC) allows for easy and fast access to for both Exhibitors and Attendees alike. Which is ideal, especially for longer shows.

The facility has 520,000 square feet of meeting and event space, which also included three exhibit halls, two ballrooms and 43 meeting rooms. Its three exhibit halls has 143,000 total sq. ft. of exhibit hall space, and can be combined to offer 165,000 sq. ft. of contiguous space that can hold up to 1,000 10×10 booths. Opened in 1989, the venue was renovated and expanded in 2013. In recent years, it has hosted high profile tech events including the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference and Facebook F8, and the NHL Draft Fan Fest.

San Jose California

Food and beverage is an important part of any event, and SJCC offers an extensive catering menu. The majority of food and beverage options are sourced locally, and customizing menus for meetings is one of the key focus areas for newly-appointed Executive Chef Michael Riddell. Chef Riddell, who has more than a decade of experience at Porta Blu and the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, was brought on board to oversee banquet and catering options for SJCC as well as the San Jose Theaters.

For groups wanting either additional meeting space near the convention center or smaller standalone meetings, the San Jose Marriott and San Jose Hilton flank the convention center, and Fairmont San Jose and Westin San Jose are just a short walk away.

The Fairmont in San Jose can easily host large meetings completely in-house. The hotel was built in 1987, with the aim of bringing new business to the downtown area, and its 13-story annex was completed in 2002. Fairmont San Jose offers 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space across 22 rooms, and has 728 guest rooms and 77 suites. Its Imperial Ballroom can hold up to 1,200 theater-style or 3,200 for a reception.

Historic Buildings and Museums in San Jose

There are four theaters near the convention center. A designated city landmark, the 2,850-seat San Jose Civic Theater originally opened in 1936. As the San Jose Civic Auditorium, it served as the city’s original convention center, went through a three-year renovation to reopen as City National Civic in 2012, and returned to its original name in May 2019. The Center for the Performing Arts seats 2,608, the 1920s California Theatre seats 1,122, and the smaller Montgomery Theater seats 468. All of these venues are options for indoor and outdoor events, receptions and town hall-style meetings.

The newly opened San Jose Armory refreshes another historic building for event use. Completed in 1934, the Spanish Revival-style building was an armory originally owned by the California Army National Guard. Its 15,000 sq. ft of meeting space offers an attractive option for groups wanting a unique space.

The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, often used by groups for special events, rebranded in 2019 as The Tech Interactive, a name that better portrays its mission, according to officials. “Our new name is a reflection of who we are and the experiences we’ve become known for,” said the museum’s President and CEO Tim Ritchie. “The Tech Interactive has long been a place where people learn by doing, and now we have a name that says that to the world.”

Going Beyond Downtown

There are many venues available for meetings and events not too far from the downtown area, including arenas such SAP Center and Avaya Stadium. For smaller groups that prefer to keep everything under one roof in a different setting, Hayes Mansion and Hotel Valencia offer unique alternatives.

The charming and historic 214-room Hayes Mansion offers 33,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified meeting and event space within 24 meeting rooms of varying dimensions, including a 6,600 sq. ft. ballroom and outdoor spaces that are perfect for receptions. The property, which is located eight miles south of downtown San Jose, is currently undergoing a $20 million transformation into a Curio Hilton, with a target rebrand date of Apr. 1, 2020.

Santana Row, San Jose’s popular shopping, dining and entertainment area, is five miles west of downtown. Hotel Valencia is the only hotel located on Santana Row. The boutique property features 4,000 sq. ft. of space that includes gorgeous options for small meetings and events, including an outdoor courtyard and a rooftop that can hold up to 100 guests. Guests can stay in one of the hotel’s 215 rooms and 17 suites.

A bit further afield, Testarossa Winery in nearby Los Gatos has lovely outdoor space for small receptions, and private dining areas including a wine cave where you can sip on the winery’s Pinor Noir and Chardonnay.