SJtoday’s “Best of” picks for 2023

Rounding out 2023 with a list of our favorite local spots, hangouts, experiences, and drinks from all over the great 408.

Signs saying "4th St. Pizza Co." and "West Wind drive-in & public market" are interspersed with images of a Swirl from Aqui, the Great America Carousel, and an animated bottle of orange sauce with the SJtoday logo overlay a picture of the circle of palms.

A totally non-scientific list of the best things in San Jose.

Photo by SJtoday staff

Table of Contents

As 2023 winds down, you will see a lot more lists highlighting the “best tacos,” “best bar,” or “best restaurant” in the Bay Area. But you know what? There’s far too many varieties of experiences, cultures, and people to fit into one of those categories.

So instead of doing a traditional list, we’re showing our love for some of the best (SJtoday-approved) experiences around San Jose.

Heaviest drink pours: Aqui, Campbell

Are you even from the South Bay if you haven’t underestimated one of Aqui’s infamous “industrial strength” swirls? One is plenty, two is far too many, and it’s a good thing that’s the maximum because after three you may be questioning your life choices.
Runner Up: Splash Video Dance Bar

Best long-lost treasure: 4th Street Pizza

If you know, you know. San Jose has many great pizza spots downtown, but nothing compares to the joy of surviving Power Hour’s $2.50 pints + wells, $3 tequila sunrises, tasty wings, and that incredible ‘za.
Runner Up: Mini Gourmet

Frontier Village's "Central Square" with the Frontier Village Railroad station.

Guests would be brought into Central Square on the Frontier Village Railroad.

Photo via History San José

Best defunct theme park: Frontier Village

The site where Edenvale Garden Park now sits used to be host to the rootinest, tootinest theme park in the country: Frontier Village. From staged gunfights and Can-Can dancers to the occasional appearance by country stars Bing Crosby + Nat King Cole, the long lost theme park holds fond memories for many San Joseans.
Runner Up: Raging Waters

Best condiment: La Victoria‘s Orange Sauce

Everyone in San Jose has an opinion about orange sauce. But whether or not it used to be better (circa 2009), there are some still missing the point: it remains to be one of the most iconic, delicious, versatile sauces in the South Bay.
Runner Up: Big Mug Coffee Roaster‘s Egg Monster Toast sauce

A band plays on the small stage of Art Boutiki.

Experience an eclectic lineup of artists at Art Boutiki’s Music Hall.

Photo via @chaekate

Best place to blow out your eardrums: Art Boutiki

Where else can you get comic books, records, apparel, and kicking live shows and events? The unique decor, the cafe, and bright art + paint make Art Boutiki a fabulous venue to see local musicians.
Runner Up: The Ritz

Best place to cry: West Wind Drive In

Not only are you able to utterly break down in the comfort of your own vehicle at West Wind Drive In, but you can do so knowing no one around you will be the wiser. Were you moved to tears by the film? Or are you having a midlife existential crisis? No one will ever know.
Runner Up: SAP Center

Best place to drown your sorrows in a cold drink: Trials

From the fantastic selection of English beers to the cozy decor, Trials English Pub is one of the best places to contemplate your life choices. Enjoy the delicious curry fries while pondering in a comfortable armchair.
Runner up: The Normandy

A nighttime shot of the swings at Great America.

It’s all fun and games until...

The one we’ll miss when it’s gone: CA’s Great America

Events like Winterfest and Tricks & Treats at the park are still as fantastic as ever. The downside is knowing Great America’s tenure as the premiere South Bay theme park is on borrowed time. Thankfully, we still have time to enjoy our favorite rides before they’re gone forever.
Runner up: Duke of Edinburgh, Cupertino

What are your “best of” picks for this year in San Jose? Let us know.