The 25th annual Fantasy of Lights show at Vasona Lake County Park begins soon! Occasionally people call me to ask about it – please note that I do not run the event – I am only posting information about it. Full info can be found on the county’s park website, linked below.
25th annual Fantasy of Lights:
Get your tickets now, they sell out fast! Entry with prepaid tickets only!
Please visit Live in Los Gatos for year round events, neighborhood information, photos around the town, interesting real estate market data, haunted places and the occasional historical tidbit.
Los Gatos is a wonderful place to visit during the holidays, but it’s also a great place to live year round! If you are interested in buying a home in Los Gatos (or selling one), please contact me, Mary Pope-Handy (contact information in the sidebar). I’m both a Realtor based in the Town of Los Gatos and a resident myself, working full time in helping nice folks to buy and sell homes here and throughout the west valley and greater Silicon Valley communities.
Billy Jones Day is a fun, annual event at the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and the W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow and Vasona Parks in Los Gatos. There’s so much to do – why not make a day of it?
Billy Jones Day details
Date: Sunday, July 23, 2023
Times: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (weather permitting)
Price: it’s up to you!
Food will be available to purchase – see details below
During Billy Jones Day YOU get to name the price of the train and carousel ride! Just as Billy Jones did on his ranch*. You may donate as little or as much as you can for each ride on the train and the carousel on this special day.
*Where was Billy Jones’ ranch? The BJWRR website (link below) says it was in Los Gatos. Wikipedia situated it at the corner of Daves Avenue and Santa Clara-Los Gatos Road, which today is Winchester Boulevard. That intersection is a “T” intersection and both of the corners are in Monte Sereno now – it was incorporated in 1957, so perhaps the ranch existed when the area was a county pocket with a Los Gatos mailing address.
The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad Los Gatos is a certified 501 (C) 3 non profit organization. They receive no outside funding and solely rely on the generosity of their valued customers.
The fabulous snack shack will be open from 11:00am to 4:00pm, with the barbecue cooking from 11:00am to 3:00pm.
There are parking lots at both Oak Meadow Park and Vasona Lake County Park. Los Gatos residents (those in the town, not just with a Los Gatos mailing address) can park free at Oak Meadow, if space is available. On summer weekends it does tend to fill up early.
There is a fee for parking at Vasona, and I believe it’s $6 per car in 2023. If you are a frequent visitor, you might want to purchase an annual pass to the county parks (nearly all of them) for $95, or $48 for those age 60 and up. It’s a bargain!
Street parking is an option, too, along University Avenue or further out. There are pedestrian entrances from University into Vasona Lake County Park.
A word on beach traffic
For anyone unfamiliar with our beach traffic issue, it’s important to add that both Highway 17 and surface roads leading to it in Los Gatos can be quite congested on weekends in summer. We used to say that it was imperative to be on the road by 11 a.m. on a weekend morning, but recently it has been much worse, so anytime after 10 a.m., possibly sooner if there’s a heat wave, could be bumper to bumper both on the freeway and a myriad of streets feeding to it – even a mile or two out, even residential roads that don’t seem to be “feeder” roads.
To avoid the worst of it, you might want to go on the early side (arrive around 10 or earlier, enjoy the playgrounds, the lake, and the sights). The flow of traffic will be impacted by the weather, so check the forecast for both Santa Clara County and also for the coast at Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Aptos, too. If it’s foggy there, the traffic should not be so terrible here. Fingers crossed!
Alternatively, if you can, biking in is a great option!
Celebrate the man who started it all and visit the park and enjoy some rides on Billy Jones Day!
Other things to do
While at Oak Meadow or Vasona Lake County Park, there’s lots to do, including playground equipment in several places and boat rentals on the reservoir (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The area is quite scenic, so bring your camera (or use your phone) to snap images of family, friends, and nature!
Who was Billy Jones? Read up on the history behind this day and this railroad on the the BJRR websites. It’s historical and entertaining!
The Ramohs Pacific Railroad once ran through the foothills off of Blossom Hill Road in East Los Gatos. Today there are hiking trails in the Heintz Open Space Preserve (behind the Heritage Grove neighborhood put up by SummerHill Homes in about the year 2000).
Recommended reading on the Ramohs Pacific Railroad
If you enjoy Los Gatos history, you will love this in depth look at the Ramohs Pacific Railroad by Derek Whaley on his Santa Cruz Trains website:
The Belwood, Belgatos, and Surmont neighborhood in east Los Gatos is a tidy community at the base of the hills and close to beautiful Belgatos Park. It includes 4 subdivisions which all share access to the Belwood of Los Gatos cabana. They include:
Surmont, the oldest section of the neighborhood, with semi custom homes (“Class D” optional cabana membership)
Belgatos, which was built next and is on the west side of Belgatos Road (“Class D” optional cabana membership)
Belwood of Los Gatos, a large tract neighborhood with the cabana at its heart (mandatory cabana membership, many homes now extensively remodeled or rebuilt)
Where is the Belwoood, Belgatos, and Surmont neighborhood?
The community is located on the south side of Blossom Hill Road, generally between Westhill Drive and Harwood Road.
Nearby public landmarks are Belgatos Park and the Walgreen’s shopping center (corner of Blossom Hill and Harwood), with a Mountain Mike’s Pizza and a newly added cake shop.
There’s a fair amount of confusion about what is or isn’t in this neighborhood or who can use or join the pool. Adding to the location confusion, The Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police cert map identifies the whole region plus the Strathmore neighborhood, which is across Blossom Hill Road, as “Belwood” generally.
What are the schools for this neighborhood?
The public schools for this area are Noddin Elementary, Union Middle, and Leigh High School.
What’s the neighborhood like?
The terrain is nearly level, with very low, gentle hills over most of the area. For those looking for an arduous climb on foot or bike, though, Harwood Road provides a nice challenge. At the top, you’ll see a fantastic view of downtown San Jose and Silicon Valley for your trouble. There are some challenges to be found in the open space trails, too.
With winding, mostly tree-lined roads and tidy houses as a rule (there are only a very few exceptions). It is a very attractive neighborhood overall.
Some streets have sidewalks, but many do not. There are not a lot of street lamps, which makes for wonderful night sky viewing.
Something fun: in the summer, private and group swim lessons take place at the cabana.
Park and trails
At the middle of this community is the very inviting Belgatos Park, a scenic, setting which includes a playground near the parking lot, picnic areas, restrooms, trails into the hills (with some wonderful valley views), and access to the Heinz Open Space Preserve and its network of trails also. (And it’s not far to the Santa Rosa Open Space area either.)
One hill attracts kids who enjoy sliding down it on bits of cardboard, and thus has been nicknamed “cardboard hill” for decades. Most of the time these cardboard sledding enthusiasts are pretty good about picking up their “sledding vehicles” when done.
The paths are popular with people on foot, but also those on mountain bikes or horseback. As there are a few larger properties which are zoned for horses in the area, this is a very nice equestrian option. There are 2 nearby places for horse boarding, too.
For photographers, the park has abundant worthy subjects year round, both of the open space and the valley views below. In the early morning hours, or near sunset, you may see some deer too. But be careful: bobcats and mountain lions are in these hills also.
Fairview Plaza feels like a step back in time – and in many ways, it is. This little neighborhood is so quaint and unique that it seems perfect for a movie set. Located close to downtown and equally close to huge expanses of open space, it enjoys its own park, has an interesting history and is enough off the beaten path that it goes largely undisturbed.
In 1880, Frank McCullough came to Los Gatos and bought 166 acres of prime real estate. From that land, in 1915 he donated a parcel to become a park, now Fairview Plaza Park. At one time it included playground equipment and a bird sanctuary too. Today it’s a little more congested with cars on the street, but it’s still quite pleasant. This little park is the heart of the neighborhood.
Have a look at the video that Clair and I did in 2014 to get a feel for the area, then continue reading for more info on this corner of Los Gatos.
The Glenridge and Bachman Park neighborhood of Los Gatos is one of the most scenic residential areas anywhere in Silicon Valley. It features beautiful, custom, mostly historic homes on meandering streets.
Set just above the Almond Grove neighborhood on a gentle hill it, too, is close to town but with a little more altitude and better vistas. The other nearby neighbor is the Fairview Plaza. So much history in such a close area!
These are really two separate neighborhoods or districts, but they are similar in many ways and are directly adjacent to each other, so we are covering them together.
Bachman Park is set in in the middle of this area and includes several acres alongside a creek. The park offers picnic tables, a playground, basketball courts and a large grassy field for picnics or play. A paved path follows the creek on one side of it – making a wonderful place just for strolling. (Bachman Park refers to both the park and its immediate neighborhood.)
Where is the Glenridge and Bachman Park neighborhood?
This charming older Los Gatos neighborhood is set just up the hill from the Almond Grove Historic District and adjacent to Fairview Plaza. (more…)
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