A resource for folks living in or moving to Los Gatos, by Mary Pope-Handy

Parks

Kid friendly things to do in and near Los Gatos

Kids sailing at VasonaWill you be visiting Los Gatos for a day or weekend, or staying for a lifetime?  Either way, there are tons of things to do for children of all ages both in and near Los Gatos.

Outdoors

If the weather’s fine, as it often is here, you might start by introducing your kids to Oak Meadow and Vasona Parks, which are adjacent to each other.  Oak Meadow includes a great airplane that kids can climb on, a beautiful carousel and a small train that loops into Vasona and back. Vasona has paddle boats that can be rented (seasonally).  And of course there’s lots of playground equipment and sprawling lawn for those who want to toss a ball or frisbee around.  For time outdoors, these parks are hard to beat.  Read more about these very cool parks here:  http://liveinlosgatosblog.com/vasona-and-oak-meadow/

The Youth Science Institute is a program offered at Vasona to help educate students on nature.  This is not a one day event but is extremely worthwhile.  Check it out: http://www.ysi-ca.org/

If your little people like to hike and explore, the Montalvo estate and grounds in Saratoga is a great nearby option on a dry day, too.  Montalvo is an arts center but there are wonderful trails which can be enjoyed.  But no picnicing, sorry!  Learn more at my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog: http://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/great-time-of-year-to-visit-villa-montalvo/

All ages: any of the free music events, all of which are out doors, virtually all summer long in Los Gatos!
http://liveinlosgatosblog.com/los-gatos-free-music-concert-series-music-in-the-park-jazz-on-the-plazz-and-vasona-vibrations-schedule-of-events-and-performers/

Touristy but still fun

Roaring Camp and Big Trees   http://www.roaringcamp.com/

The Mystery Spot http://www.mysteryspot.com/

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk  http://beachboardwalk.com/

California’s Great America in Santa Clara (amusement park, rides)   https://www.cagreatamerica.com/

Time to eat!

There are MANY great kid-friendly restaurants in Los Gatos.  A few of my favorites are these:

 Indoor Fun

The Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose https://www.cdm.org/

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose  https://www.thetech.org/

Petroglyph (in Los Gatos, Willow Glen, and Santa Cruz locally) http://www.petroglyph.com/

More?

Looking for more ideas?  There’s a slightly longer list of kid friendly things to do on another of my blogs. Have a read:

http://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/kids-in-silicon-valley-fun-places-to-go/

What’s It Like to Live in Los Gatos?

Los Gatos - aerial view from over Lexington Reservoir

Los Gatos – aerial view from over Lexington Reservoir

What’s it like to live in Los Gatos?  The answer to that depends on who you are, where you live, and what you love to do.  Generally speaking, people who live in Los Gatos have a sense of belonging both to this great town and also to nearby areas such as San Jose & the greater Silicon Valley or “South Bay” communities or the mountain communities if they are in the hills over town in places like Redwood Estates, Chemeketa Park, etc.  The town is very much self-contained, but not insular.

At the core, Los Gatos is a scenic, historic, vibrant community with great affection for culture, entertainment, parks and schools. In many ways, it feels a bit European.  Los Gatos has an artistic flare.  It is not “sleepy”. The town gets 300 sunny days a year and the townsfolk love to be outdoors.  There’s a lot of community involvement and volunteerism.  If you want to help out, there are loads of ways you can do that and get to know your neighbors.

The town enjoys two main commercial areas: the historic downtown area of Los Gatos (Main Street, University Avenue, North Santa Cruz and Los Gatos-Saratoga Road area) and The Boulevard (Los Gatos Blvd, which is what Main Street turns into as it heads north past Blossom Hill Road and Los Gatos Almaden Road).  If you live here, the odds are that you’ll have occassion to visit both fairly often. We’re a place which values history but also embraces high tech.  Netflix calls Los Gatos home, and so does Cryptic Studios (video game company).  There are plenty of grocery stores, including Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Nob Hill and Lunardi’s, plus several small corner markets too. The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce provides a fabulous community calendar and runs several excellent events during the year, including horse drawn carriage rides during the holidays.

Residential areas span the town’s 10 square miles with some charming historic homes in historic districts, but most properties do not have 100+ year old houses. Most neighborhoods are tidy and fairly scenic. The town has some modest condominiums and townhomes as well as smaller single family homes and ranges up to large luxury estates with huge acreage or spectacular views.  Prices run from under $1 to about $5,000,000 for most houses, but once in awhile we find more expensive properties, and as of this writing there have only been 2 over $10 million.

Los Gatos holiday parade

Los Gatos holiday parade

We know how to have fun as a community and enjoy events year round.  In summer, Los Gatos comes together to appreciate 3 free musical concert series, , Fiesta de Artes, and so much more. September brings us Screen on the Green. In winter there are holiday happenings with the light festival at Vasona Park, a tree-lighting ceremony the first Friday in December and a huge holiday parade the next day. Year-round, visiting the Farmer’s Market is as much fun as it is serious shopping (every Sunday morning in front of the post office).

Need some down time? Los Gatos can help you there, as well, as we are brimming with salons and places for pampering and massage.  Or shop yourself happy at our many many stores.  Love expensive cars?We’ve got that too.  We have restaurants ranging world class dining to 50s style hot dog and hambuger joints and everything in between.  We have wine bars and tasting rooms – right in town but also in the Santa Cruz Mountains and neighboring San Jose and Saratoga.   Los Gatos is a wonderful place to spend a quiet weekend for R & R.

Just want to be somewhere that looks unique?  We understand.  So often, you go to Anytown USA and it looks just like everywhere else (especially when you shop).  First, our town, once called the Gem City, is snuggled into the Santa Cruz Mountains – so there’s a gorgeous backdrop.  Second, we care about preserving our historic features, so you will find classic architecture of several kinds in homes and commercial buildings both.  Our scenery is both natural and architectural!

No shortage of cultural things to do in town either. In addition to the music and art & wine festival, we also have two museums combined into one, the NuMu (New Museum) – one for art, one for history.  And maybe the brightest star in the sky for culture right now is our newest project: a great new library for which was recently completed. (The library and history museum have a fantastic project on Los Gatos history, too.)  If you cross the pedestrian bridge between Forbes Mill and Old Town, you’ll find that kids have been encouraged to get artistic (they have painted the walls along that bridge).  Beautiful, professional murals can be found throughout the town.

 

Los Gatos High School, facing Main Street

Los Gatos High School, facing Main Street

The public schools are a very big priority for many people in Los Gatos. The town and the Los Gatos Mountain areas have a few different school districts, with scores ranging from good to great.  There are no bad schools in Los Gatos.  Parents are very involved and care about their kids’ success.  Not every child is in public schools, though: interestingly, about 1/3 of the children in Los Gatos attend private schools either here in town or in a neighboring community.

Los Gatos is a very “fit” place overall – if you like to hike, bike, jog, walk, swim you’ll have ample opportunities, alone or in groups.  Parks & Rec is also vibrant in Los Gatos.  There aren’t many communities where you can have your kids attend a camp and learn to sail, but you can do that here!  There are all kinds of community classes and camps.  Additionally, the town includes many private businesses for fitness (swimming, tennis, weights, yoga, pilates, classes, and more) and the gorgeous Los Gatos Creek Trail beckons.  Horseback riding can be found too – all within Los Gatos. Whether you want to find a personal trainer, work out at the fabulous new JCC complex, sail at Vasona or walk in Belgatos Park or along the creek trail, there are almost infinite options for exercise here, many of those options in scenic places.

Spirituality and religion are also a part of life in Los Gatos for many residents.  The town is home to many faith communities (about a half dozen of which do interfaith activities each Thanksgiving and sometimes more often than that). Many of them have outreach to the community with assistance for the homeless, bereaved, jobless, and many other needs.

Los Gatos is very kid friendly, very seniors friendly, and very dog friendly.  The first two might not surprise you as we have so many events and in many places it’s a “walkable” town which has amazingly good weather.

Kids and Los Gatos

The parks, schools, and myriad of free and low-cost events make Los Gatos a fabulous place for young people. The big town in Silicon Valley, San Jose, was recently named as one of the top 100 cities (ranking # 39 – Fremont, btw, was # 5) in the country to raise kids.

Dogs in the Town of Cats

The dog thing surprises many since the town is Los Gatos, meaning The Cats, and you will see cat logos every
where.  But visit downtown and you’ll find an awful lot of shops and restaurants have places for dogs to be tethered or watered.  At Halloween there’s always a pet parade which benefits the Los Gatos – Monte Sereno Police K9 unit.  And Los Gatos shares a dog park with our neighboring city of Campbell.

Seniors in Los Gatos

Housing:  There are a couple of condo complexes in town which are specifically for seniors.  They are more affordable than “regular” housing.  One is on West Parr Avenue and the other off Alberto Way (The Commons of Los Gatos).

Additionally, there are other types of senior housing too, including independent living (rental), assisted living and nursing. (I wrote a lenghy post on downsizing and retiring in Los Gatos which you might find helpful.)

Entertainment:  Los Gatos has a very active Seniors Center and our Parks & Rec Center features many offerings at low cost too. Many restaurants in town offer special pricing for early bird or senior suppers, so there are plenty of excuses to get out!  If you visit Oak Meadow Park on a Saturday morning, you may be able to watch some older gentleman playing a little Bocce Ball.  They are regular fixtures there!

What are the people like in Los Gatos?

Old and young, area (Silicon Valley) natives, replanted Americans and immigrants all make this place home.  (Many of the newcomers are in high tech, just like the rest of the valley.) Demographics sites like can give you the breakdown by zip code on income, education, etc., but because this is a pricey area, it does tend to attract those who are very well educated and who have professional jobs. Please just google that to find the most current demographics site – my old favorite, ZipSkinny.com, has disappeared.

Some of the well-to-do in town can be identified as such by their cars, clothes and jewelry, but just as often, it’s more like “the millionaire next door”.  Some of the best paid (or best at saving) don’t drive the newest luxury vehicle or wear the biggest diamonds.  So don’t be fooled – the guy in the Honda minivan or the woman in the old Toyota may just be anti-status symbol. (And it can run the other way too: some of those with expensive vehicles, clothes or jewelry may put all their eggs into the appearances basket.)

Several famous people have chosen to make Los Gatos their home. They blend in just like everyone else. You may bump into them at Whole Foods, FedEx Office, the car wash, a community event, the Chocolate Dream Box or anywhere in town.  I’m not going to list them here – most probably prefer to be left alone unless contacted through their websites, and I’m happy to not contribute to their being hounded by star crazy people.   (Los Gatos has been home to many other famous people, and had famous visitors too, in the past.)

Los Gatos is not just for the wealthy – there are many middle class and some economically disadvantaged people here too.

There is not one “Los Gatos Lifestyle”. Some residents may focus their activities on sports, others on wine or coffee bars, still others on a school, church, synagogue or even the town government.   We see a lot of different hobbies and interests, whether it’s volunteerism, art, history, government, business, or sports (to name just a few!).  The beach is only a half an hour away too, so that is also part of the fabric of the community.

To learn more about life in Los Gatos, please read other posts on this blog, view the photos and if you want personalized information, please contact me!

Relocating to Silicon Valley? Consider Los Gatos!

Relocating to Los Gatos?

View more slideshows of Los Gatos & nearby areas

 

Mother's Day 2010

April 29, 2010

Brunch & Dinner for Mother’s Day 2010

Los Gatos is home to several truly exquisite restaurants, all with wonderful food but ranging in price tag according to the setting and range of selections. These places tend to book EARLY and if you wish to dine out on Mother’s Day, book your reservations ASAP.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Wine Cellar at Old Town (special menu for Mother’s Day)
Three Degrees Restaurant – buffet on Sundays – at the Toll House Hotel
California Cafe at Old Town
Los Gatos Cafe (2 locations, they don’t appear to have a website, so directing to Yelp) *affordable, very kid-friendly*

How about some non-restaurant dining alternatives?

The Presentation Retreat Center has an annual Mother’s Day Brunch (and Mass beforehand for those wishing to attend). This setting is truly beautiful and if you’ve never visited the site, it might be a perfect change of pace. Downloadable pdf with info on the menu, cost, time, etc. *very kid-friendly*

Testarossa Winery has an annual Mother’s Day Brunch too, with dining on the patio and in the palazzo room. As of today, the outdoor dining is booked but indoor seating is available.

(The Mountain Winery in Saratoga also does a Mother’s Day brunch, but as of this writing, it’s waiting list status only. It must book up quite early.)

More Things to Do In & Near Los Gatos for Mother’s Day 2010

Mother’s Day 2010 Ideas
Hiking Arts & crafts Photo day
Picniking Home tours Festivals
Massage & spa Shopping Museums
Live music Wine Tasting Exploring the area

Looking for more ideas on what to do with Mom this Mother’s Day in Los Gatos, San Jose or Silicon Valley generally?

If the weather’s good, go explore our parks, enjoy hiking, picniking and perhaps even water fun (Lake Almaden is the only county park that allows people into the water). Or bring your camera and take photos of nature – or have your family photos taken!

Mother’s Day can be a great excuse for a “field trip”, too. Go explore the back roads. Little kids might enjoy taking mom to see the newly reopened Happy Hallow Park. Like trains? Visit Vasona and ride the Bily Jones Wildcat Railroad. Drive a little further and steam your way through the redwoods at Roaring Camp & Big Trees.

Does mom just need a break? Perhaps after a morning together, she can have some quiet time at one of the many excellent spas in town. (And maybe she’ll come home to a clean house? Now that would be a gift!)

Or perhaps the thing most needed is time together. If the weather isn’t looking cooperative, a trip to the movies is nice, but so is a having a shared project. Petroglyph has stores in both Willow Glen and Los Gatos. It’s a fun place to create ceramic items that will be appreciated, and sometimes even useful – a nice momento later of the day.

The Santa Cruz Mountains are full of outstanding wineries and they’re always worth visiting! If you don’t mind going a little further, there’s a neat wine tasting event in the Livermore Valley on the Niles Canyon Railway.

San Francisco is just an hour away and there are many ongoing exhibits taking place on Mom’s Day. One of them is Shanghai at the Asian Art Museum.

Still need more help? Check out the Chamber of Commerce listings for various calendar events listed in the places you’d like to visit. They’re usually a top resource!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, and all those who are “like a mom” too. Enjoy the day!

 

What Part of the Los Gatos Park System Don't We Need or Use?

February 03, 2010

Belgatos Park, lower level, February 2010What part of the Los Gatos parks don’t we need or use

Unfortunately, Los Gatos is not immune from the massive economic crisis we’re now enduring.  And that’s also true for the Los Gatos Parks Department.

Budget cuts are coming to the Los Gatos Parks Department.  So what can be cut? 

It’s always easy to say “no one uses” this or that park if you’re not there to see or use it.  One item on the potential chopping block is the upper meadow at Belgatos Park (shown above is the lower area, not far from the playground, the photo below is of the upper meadow).  The argument being made is that the water is expensive and no one uses that part of the park, so perhaps we should plant some trees and forget about maintaining a lawn.  Is that true?  Not when I’ve walked up the trail toward the resevoir.  The upper meadow is a great place for picnics, throwing a frisbee or enjoying some peace and quiet away from the playground, restroom, and the hill where kids slide down on cardboard  – we jokingly call that lower meadow and hill “cardboard hill” (seen above). 

Belgatos Park is at the far eastern edge of the town boundaries, so perhaps it seems extraneous.  But it is also connected to the Heinz Open Space Preserve and lots of connected trails.  Altogether is is a magnificent place for locals to enjoy the outdoors.

Belgatos Park upper meadowIf you were going t cut services to one of Los Gatos’s many parks, which one would you cut, where and why?  At one time, the playground at Belgatos Park was also eyed as a place to be cut to save some money, but local residents voiced their objection and the playground was refurbished.

Hopefully there will be a hearing before any needed cuts are made.  Meantime, ponder the question – what should be cut? 

Squirrels Are Not A Problem in Los Gatos

November 07, 2007


Squirrels are not a problem in Los Gatos. But gophers are a problem at Oak Meadow Park in town.Let’s be clear on something: squirrels, possums, skunks, racoons and other wildlife are not generally a problem in Los Gatos. Recently a mountain lion was seen on Cypress Way – and sometimes the big cats wander into suburbia. Those events constitute a problem. But by and large, the small furry animals that share our turf are not an issue.

I bring this up because I like to track who’s finding “Live In Los Gatos”, how they get here, what are the popular search terms, etc. It’s all visible to you, too, if you are in the slightest bit interested. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and find the Site Meter button. Click on it. A whole world of info – probably much more than could possibly interest you – about how people find this spot lies in the pages beyond that portal.

Who lives here?

July 13, 2007

Funnel web found along the trail at Belgatos Park, Los Gatos, CAIn the sunniest parts of the Belgatos Park trails, the gravely areas just off the paths are filled with funnel spider webs. At first, one family member asserted confidently that these were tarantula webs. But before putting something on my blog, I went to check it out. So I spent (wasted?) over two hours reading up on it today.

Now I’m thoroughly confused, and will probably be having dreams (or nightmares) about spiders all night. Apparently there are all kinds of spiders that make these types of webs. Collectively, they are called Funnel-Web Spiders (Agelenidae). One site says that “aggressive house spiders” (apparently the kind you need to worry about) are a member of this class of spider too.

I did learn that all of these spiders wait until they feel a vibration on their web and then realize that dinner is served – so pop out to grab their prey. I’ll keep my distance!

Funnel web from Belgatos Park (taken with Treo 700P), July 12, 2007.So have a look and see what you think. Any idea who lives in these?
Closeup of same spider web

Parks and Poison Oak

May 05, 2007

Creek scene at Belgatos Park, Los Gatos, CACreek embankments are cool and inviting on a warm spring or summer day.  It is very tempting to inch your way down to the stream, toss away the flip flops and let the gentle current sweep past your dusty, dry toes.

But please be careful. 

Everything is very, very green this time of year.  The grass and live oaks and scrub all tangle together with thistles and berries and vines.  Among them, blending in just perfectly, is poison oak.

I’ve been really lucky in my life: I’ve never been snared by this itch-inducing plant. But my older brother, Steve, used to chase after golf balls into the rough at Pasatiempo and often came back with much more than a ball or two.  He would become terribly swollen up, each occurance worse than the one before. The Calomine Lotion was slathered on generously and dried into a crusty nastiness that I will never forget.  He looked awful, and felt worse. 

Poison Oak in Spring - Shiny leaves "of three" - Los Gatos, CASomehow I just never got it. Maybe it’s that I don’t play golf – am not supposed to due to some rods in my back for scoliosis.  And in Spring I am plagued with hayfever – green things are not as tempting to me as to others.  So avoiding contact with the tall green everything always seemed to be in my best interest.

My better half, Jim, is a volunteer Parks Commissioner for the town of Los Gatos and he spends a great deal of time in parks.  On Sunday we went through Belgatos (again) and this time, Jim taught me how to identify poison oak. I’d always heard Poison Oak - not in direct sunlight - Spring (leaves turn red in fall) - Los Gatos, CA“leaves of three, let it be” and knew that in the autumn, the leaves turn a bright red. But I really didn’t know, other that that, what it looked like.

Immediately prior to my lesson in identifying poison oak, I allowed Bella, our dog, too close to the stuff and he hollared, “don’t you see the poison oak?” Apparently I was tempting fate and Jim realized I was clueless.   He made sure, right then and there, that I got a lesson in how to recognize it.  (Our vet has confirmed that dogs can, and do, carry the poison oak plant oils home, an amazing way to infect everyone quickly.  Jim pictured our pooch spreading it to every member of the family.) 

What I then noticed was most cruel: the poison oak was interwoven with wild blackberry bushes on the creek banks.

Talk about a tease.

Now I know what to look for. I want you to be equally well armed. Have a good, long study of these photos and make sure you don’t ever get too close to a plant that looks like this – no matter how many berries beckon you, no matter how delicious that water looks on a warm day.

It’s not worth it. Ask my brother.

Photo Tour of Vasona and Oak Meadow:Beautiful Parks at the Heart of Los Gatos

April 29, 2007

Billy Jones Wildcat RailRoad, Vasona & Oak Meadow Parks, Los GatosYesterday I visited Vasona Lake County Park to see the nesting Great Blue Herons. While there, I took 54 photos of adjoining Oak Meadow and Vasona Parks. It’s impossible to capture all of these two  parks in one quick slideshow, but I did attempt to do that with another one-minute Real Estate Show.

Mary Pope-Handy’s Photo Tour: Vasona & Oak Meadow Parks

 

Mary’s 60 second Photo-Tour of Los Gatos

Los Gatos Websites to Know

November 24, 2006

Important Links to Helpful Los Gatos Information

The Town of Los Gatos official website: http://www.losgatosca.gov/
The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce website: http://losgatoschamber.com/
Parks & Recreation Department: http://www.lgsrecreation.org/
Town of Los Gatos Parks: http://www.losgatosca.gov/index.asp?NID=102
Santa Clara County Parks: http://www.parkhere.org/portal/site/parks/ (Vasona is a Co. Park)
The fall town newsletter (pdf): http://www.losgatosca.gov/archives/38/Los%20Gatos%20Vista%200906.pdf Wineries of Los Gatos: http://www.losgatosca.gov/index.asp?nid=63
Senior Services: http://www.losgatosca.gov/index.asp?nid=52
Youth and Teen Resources: http://www.losgatosca.gov/index.asp?NID=53


Being a very highly education-conscious town, Los Gatos has many, many schools. They will be listed in a separate blog entry.

Mary Pope-Handy

Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


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