What's the situation with parking in downtown San Jose, CA?
Can I park for free anywhere for short times in the daytime? Or for a long time in the evenings?
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There's a lot of street meter parking in San Jose, CA, and a couple of garage structures with entrance tickets.
Parking in the garage could be expensive, but many businesses do validation of certain garage parking, and thus you can often park for free if you're willing to purchase something in a participating nearby business:
Also, generally, you can park on all streets in downtown after 18:00 or 19:00 (and perhaps after 20:00 or 21:00 near SJSU) for free; and all meters are usually completely free on Sundays.
If you need to be in downtown during the daytime, and are willing to walk 10 to 20 minutes to downtown, then you can usually park for free and without any hourly limits just on the outskirts of the downtown. Generally, all street parking north of Julian St is free (other than within Japantown San Jose), but you still need to be careful to park properly and according to the signs; I've once got a parking ticket before noon by supposedly parking too close to the driveway of the area which didn't have any parking limits (the guy in front of me parked too far off the other driveway, perhaps it was a bad-faith resident who was trying to keep two spots to themselves).
Note that since the summer of 2012 it's illegal to smoke in most public places in San Jose: outdoor patios in the restaurants, queues and bus-stops are supposed to be smoke-free in San Jose by the city ordinance. (If you're a social smoker, Sunnyvale downtown on Murphy St wants to hear from you!)