Los Gatos is a Great Place for a Weekend Away, a Family Reunion or Romantic Date

July 30, 2010

Sign for Old Town Shopping Center in Los Gatos on University AvenueLos Gatos is a wonderful place to live, but also it is a great place to visit for a retreat, a weekend getaway or a family reunion at any time of the year! Whether you are travelling alone, with one special person or thirty of your closest relatives, there’s a lot to do and to enjoy in Los Gatos.

Why vacation in Los Gatos?

Whether you’re on a vacation or a staycation, there’s lots to do and to enjoy in the Town of Los Gatos for people of all ages!

  1. Free music  Los Gatos has a variety of free musical concerts outdoors throughout the summer, as well as special holiday performances throughout the year.
  2. Awesome parks  Our parks can’t be beat! Oak Meadow park, with it’s historic carousel and small gague railroad, and the adjacent (and expansive) Vasona Lake County Park are a great place to picnic, throw around a frisbee, bird watch, let off steam at various playgrounds, do some sailing or take a paddle boat ride. And a discussion about Los Gatos parks would be incomplete without mentioning…
  3. Hiking galore  The Los Gatos Creek Trail is perhaps the best known of many places to “go take a hike”, but Los Gatos is crawling with scenic places to hike or go mountain biking. Among the foothills and the Santa Cruz Mountains are a plethora of hiking trails which branch out into expansive open space wilderness.
  4. Wine tasting  Napa and Sonoma are lovely, but you do not need to go that far to find excellent wines! We have tasting rooms both in town (Testarossa and Gali Vineyards as well as wine bars like Rootstock) and in the hills above Los Gatos. Have a look at the website for the Wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains and be amazed at the selection so close to Town!
  5. Amazing restaurants  Los Gatos offers all kinds of foods and menus for all kinds of budgets, ranging from simple and affordable to world-class and pricey. Many restaurants are also “kid friendly” – and more restaurants than ever now offer outdoor dining. Several restaurants downtown can package food to go so you can picnic at the park. If you’re just passing through, it’s a great place to pick up a quality cup of locally roasted coffee or a sweet treat (I recommend Dolce Spazio’s gelato!)
  6. Spas and massages  There are a number of places for experiencing a relaxing massage, so go ahead…be pampered!  (The Spa of Los Gatos is my favorite but I understand that the Hotel Los Gatos also has great massages too, and I know there are others.)
  7. Shopping The charming downtown area is full of all kinds of shops! But even away from the main streets, this is no indoor-mall kind of town. Scenic Los Gatos offers unique shopping experiences at outdoor malls, standalone mom-and-pop shopsm as well as a few chain stores. Shop away!
  8. Scenic neighborhood strolling If hiking the Los Gatos Creek Trail is not for you, don’t fear! You can stroll or roll through downtown Los Gatos and still enjoy the view. Meander off the main roads among beautifully well preserved neighborhoods full of Victorian homes in the Edelen, Broadway, and Almond Grove neighborhoods. Or follow a flight of stairs up to the Fairview Plaza area. What could be prettier than the “painted ladies” of yesteryear? Prefer the downtown area? That works too.  The Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce provides an historic walking tour of downtown Los Gatos through a free downloadable app.
  9. Museums  Los Gatos is home to a history and art museum. Check out the current offerings online at NUMUlosgatos.org.
  10. Movies  Los Gatos boasts a classic movie theater, recently rennovated for a more luxurious viewing experience, that is right in the heart of downtown.
  11. Petroglyph  Paint and fire up some ceramics and make memories that you can take home with you! Great for all ages.
  12. Ongoing events The Los Gatos Chamber has a great calender of Los Gatos events which you should check out – there’s loads going on all the time in Los Gatos!
  13. Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning next to Town Plaza Park – great food, flowers and more often then not, live entertainment.
  14. Bocce Ball  can be played at Campo di Bocce restaurant over a glass of wine and a slice of pizza or under the trees at Oak Meadow Park
  15. Dog friendly  despite it’s namesake the town is a very dog-friendly place! There’s a dog park that Los Gatos shares with the neighboring city, Campbell.
  16. Romantic  Los Gatos and the nearby areas are full of wonderfully romantic places, both restaurants and otherwise. Please see my post, Great Places to Kiss (in LG)

La Campagna Building in Los Gatos at the corner of Main Street and Santa Cruz AvenuesAnd…there’s even more nearby!!  Go just a little further and you can enjoy several fabulous things in neighboring Saratoga, too: horseback riding (at Garrod Stables), concerts at Montalvo and at The Mountain Winery, and more shops, restaurants and spas in downtown Saratoga too.

Got more than a couple of days? Make Los Gatos your “home base” and spread out and see a bit of Silicon Valley, including the Winchester Mystery House, Great America Theme Park, The Tech Museum of Innovation or the Children’s Museum in San Jose. Or go “over the hill” to the beach & boardwalk at Santa Cruz – it’s only about 25 minutes away in regular traffic. You’re just scratching the surface!

Children will love many things about Los Gatos & nearby areas

  • Vasona & Oak Meadow Parks: the carousel, the train, the paddle boats, the playgrounds (esp the firetruck and real airplane!), the 100+ acres of lawn, the lake, the ducks and swans, and more!
  • Eating at The Diner of Los Gatos, where burgers come in large paper “cars” with 50s styling (and milkshakes are generously portioned)
  • Outdoor music (where you don’t have to be too formal or too neat)
  • Decorating ceramics at Petroglyph
  • Bocce Ball
  • Movies
  • Shopping at Affordable Treasures and the Wooden Horse
  • Nearby: the Children’s Discovery Museum (San Jose), Great America Theme Park (Santa Clara), the Beach & Boardwalk (Santa Cruz), horseback riding at Garrod Stables (Saratoga)

What about accomodations in Los Gatos?

Hotels: There are a number of wonderful hotels in Los Gatos, including the Hotel Los Gatos, the Toll House Hotel and The Garden Inn (where Marilyn Monroe and  Joe DiMaggio spent part of their honeymoon). Unfortunately, Los Gatos does not have any bed and breakfasts. (I don’t know why not – the downtown area strikes me as perfect for a B&B!)  Some residents do rent out their homes for vacation rentals, though, and you can find them listed on sites like AirBnB.

Clothing optional resort: There are other types of accomodations, too.  Up in the hills a little bit you’ll find the Lupin Lodge, a clothing optional resort.  I can’t say much on it because I’ve never been (not my thing and the idea terrifies me, frankly).

Religious Retreats:  There are religious retreat centers nearby, too.  The Holy Names Sisters (Catholic) have a retreat place close to downtown [Los Gatos at 82 Prospect Avenue, Los Gatos 95030 tel (408) 354-2312].  I made a retreat there in the early 80s and it was very, very nice. There have been other similar retreat centers in the area, but I’m not sure which are still around as of 2022.

Whether you want a quiet day or two or more by yourself, a romantic weekend with the one you love or  to organize a reunion of family & friends, there’s plenty to do in Los Gatos. Summer is a particularly good time to vacation here because of the many free music concerts and the fabulous plays.  But year-round, there’s always something to do and enjoy, so come visit.  You may like it enough that you’ll want to stay!

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Valentine’s Day in Los Gatos

Pink heart with graphic image of two cats and flowers symbolizing Valentine's Day in Los Gatos
Valentine’s Day in Los Gatos!

It’s February and, for couples, that means it’s time to plan your Valentine’s Day! And what better place to celebrate your love than in the Valley of Heart’s Delight (Silicon Valley’s old nickname), or more specifically, in the Gem of the Foothills – our very own LG! Here we’ll give you some ideas on how to celebrate a romantic Valentine’s Day in Los Gatos.

Valentine’s Day on a tight budget: picnic with your sweetie

Los Gatos is filled with beautiful parks, and lately the weather has been in the 70s and 80s! If you want or need to be frugal, get a simple assortment of cheeses, crackers, grapes and wine and enjoy a picnic at Vasona Park or your favorite of any one of the lovely parks in town. It’s affordable, easy, and you can enjoy some romantic views.

How about an unhurried walking tour of Los Gatos?

Stroll through scenic downtown Los Gatos. The “village” area is full of neat shops with an enchanting feel. Head over to Old Town too, and while there, walk across the pedestrian bridge between Old Town and Forbes Mill. There is something about being still on this little bridge with the world passing by underneath that’s very special. Have a look at the old mill. This was the first commercial venture in Los Gatos – and it’s tucked away, off the beaten path. . . . But easy to find if you know what to look for.

You might also consider doing the “LOST Gatos” historic walking tour – just share a pair of earbuds or put it on speaker. Download the free app to enjoy the various self-guided tours.

Valentine’s Day Lunch in town

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Pricing difference for Los Gatos homes “with the schools” versus Union or Campbell schools

What is the pricing difference between homes with the Los Gatos Union School District and those with either Union Elementary School District or the Campbell union Elementary School District? It is not huge, but it is noticeable.

For this study I wanted to compare similar sized homes and lots in various parts of Los Gatos 95030 and 95032.  Extremely narrow parameters resulted in too small of a group, and I ended up using 2000 – 3000 SF houses on lots of 9,000 – 11,000 SF. There were 27 such single family homes sold in 2021, so not a large group. It is spread throughout the year since when I attempted to narrow it just to one quarter there were not enough homes.

Additionally, I wanted to look at three specific neighborhoods to check the pricing difference between them and their respective school districts as a whole. For this I selected the Old Adobe Road area in West Los Gatos, Blossom Manor with the Los Gatos Union School District, and the Belwood-Belgatos-Surmont area with the Union School District in East Los Gatos.

Here are the results of the 2021 pricing differences study (please note that homes may cost considerably more today as values are up quite a lot from last year):

2021 Los Gatos Sales by Elementary School District - pricing differences

 

Homes with Los Gatos Schools are the most expensive, followed by the homes in West LG, and then just a hair behind them are houses in East LG.

In the highest demand, as measured by the sale price to list price ratio, were the homes in Blossom Manor. That’s easy to understand because it’s a close to everything location, including Blossom Hill Elementary, Blossom Hill Park, and loads of shops, stores, coffee houses, and restaurants.

Next highest in demand for neighborhoods is the Belwood, Belgatos, and Surmont area, which offers the biggest bang for your buck in town.

What is the pricing difference for homes in these 3 school districts?

Pricing difference on a hypothetical 2300 SF house

If we use a mythical 2300 SF house, here’s how the dollars would shake out:

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Vasona Park’s Fantasy of Lights (Light Festival)

2021 Fantasy of Lights in Los GatosThe 23rd 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.

23rd annual Fantasy of Lights: get your tickets now, they sell out fast! Entry with prepaid tickets only!

When: The Fantasy of Lights

Walk-thru Weekend Dec 4 & 5, 2021 from 4 to 9 pm

Drive-thru Nights Dec 7 – 30, 2021

As always, the Fantasy of Lights is closed on Christmas Day (Dec 25).

Where: Vasona Lake County Park, 333 Blossom Hill Road (near University Avenue) Los Gatos, CA

How much: Tickets must be purchased in advance available online through EventBrite.

Walk through cost is $10 for ages 13 and up, $5 for ages 4 – 12, and free for 3 and under

Drive through cost is $20 – per vehicle. One household per vehicle!

More details:

Please visit the Santa Clara County Parks page for the Fantasy of Lights to get more information and updates on this event.

Please check the county’s page for this event (bring a mask!).

More questions? PLEASE do NOT call me about this event. Please contact the SCC Parks Dept and check out their website for the Fantasy of Lights! The Vasona phone number is (408) 355-2201.

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. I’m both a Realtor in town and a resident myself, working full time in helping nice folks to buy & sell homes here and throughout the west valley.

If you aren’t familiar with the area, here are a few things to know!
Buy a home in Los Gatos (info on neighborhoods, school districts, homes for sale to browse online, links to important local sites & info)
Relocating and buying a house in Los Gatos
Los Gatos real estate on Facebook
Los Gatos real estate market statistics & trends for houses
Los Gatos realty trends and stats for condos & townhouses

 

 

 

How old are the oldest houses in Los Gatos and nearby?

Historic Homes in Los GatosIf you drive through the Edelen, Almond Grove, Fairview Plaza, Glenridge and other older and historic Los Gatos neighborhoods, you may have wondered how far back in time these architecturally interesting properties go. What are the oldest residences in town, or close by?

Los Gatos Historic Homes

Are there Adobes?

In the Santa Clara Valley, there are a handful of old adobe homes here and there, such as the Peralta Adobe in downtown San Jose (built in 1797), and the Santa Clara Women’s Club Adobe (built in 1790), and many more. I can’t say for certain if there are any remaining 18th-19th century adobe homes in Los Gatos. If they exist the most probable properties are around the Los Gatos Saratoga border, are private, occupied homes, and have extensive additions and modifications.

Victorian Era: Gold Rush to Gem of the Foothills

When discussing historic homes in the Bay Area, the Victorian undoubtedly comes to mind. And Los Gatos has plenty! A search of county real estate records for Los Gatos homes (in town, 95030 & 95032 plus the mountains, 95033) spanning the era from 1837-1901 revealed hundreds of properties identified as Victorian construction. It displayed about about 375 in 95030, 120 in 95032, and also about 140 in 95033.

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Rinconada Hills

Rinconada Hills, which sits on the northwest side of Los Gatos, adjacent to Saratoga and Cambpell, is a resort-like community with many luxurious amenities. It is one of the few gated communities anywhere in Silicon Valley, and one of the largest in the greater San Jose area.

Built in stages between 1968 and 1981, the homes here were built by Brown & Kaufmann in 5 different sections. The campus is quite large, 107 acres (almost as big as Vasona Lake County Park) and includes 394 townhomes (see floorplans here) and 40 houses, or single family homes. Approximately 1,000 people live here (in a town of about 30,000). Most everyone in LG knows someone who lives at Rinconada Hills!

Rinconada Hills homes

 

The campus includes a remodeled clubhouse (Great Room, library alcove, commercial kitchen, lockers, showers), 10 pools (1 at the clubhouse), spa, and 3 tennis courts. The residents may utilize an extra parking lot for cars or the RV lot for boats/ trailers etc. – though there is a waiting list for that. Additonally, there are 3 ponds plus a lake,  and great views to be enjoyed while walking up the hill in the private grounds.

What are homes like at Rinconada Hills?

All of the homes, whether townhouses or single family homes, have stucco exteriors and tiled roofs, although there’s quite a bit of diversity within the areas and styles. Home sizes range from small 2 bedroom townhouses to large 3000 + SF homes on big lots with views. There’s a little bit of everything, but a typical residence might be an 1800 SF 2 story townhouse with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, an attached 2 car garage. There are a few single story townhomes as well as single story houses, though.

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St. Mary’s Country Fair in Los Gatos

St Mary's Country Fair - Stage and RideSt. Mary’s Country Fair in Los Gatos is a fun, annual community event that occurs the second weekend of October (skipped last year due to Covid).

This year, it’s October Oct 10th – 10th, 2021. There’s also a great shopping opportunity on Thursday with the popular Harvest Market.

New this year, please note: Covid precautions. This is a masked event, and everyone is required to wear a mask except when eating or drinking. There will be no pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner for safety reasons also.

Also new this year: this is a cashless event. You’ll be able to use credit cards or debit cards, but not cash.

Open to everyone, and with no admission fee, the three day fundraiser is a great place to enjoy so many cool things, including:

  • Butler Carnival rides (separate tickets)
  • bouncy house
  • country store shopping
  • arts & crafts (such as pumpkin decorating)
  • martial arts displays
  • dancing
  • dining (good and affordable!) – several food booths to choose from
  • raffle
  • play games
  • giant slide
  • full service coffee shop
  • margarita booth
  • talent show
  • live bands
  • bingo (of course!)
  • Harvest Market

Hours for the Country Fair:
Friday, October 8, 5 pm to 10 pm
Saturday, October 9, 10 am to 10 pm
Sunday, October 10, 10 am to 5 pm

Hours for the Harvest Market Thursday Oct 7:
11 am to 4 pm no entrance fee
Evening Shopping from 5 pm to 9 pm $20 entrance fee
Shop, Appetizers, Drinks, Raffle & Music
Tickets presale or at the door

 

See even more at the event’s website: http://stmarysfair.squarespace.com/

This is a fabulous place to walk through and simply bump into friends & neighbors from all over Los Gatos and the nearby communities. It’s also a fun place to take photos. Each day is a little different, some return again and again!

 

Details

St. Mary’s Church and School are located in downtown Los Gatos on Bean Avenue near Tait (and near North Santa Cruz Avenue) in the historic Almond Grove neighborhood. You can also reach the party by coming from Main Street and Lyndon Avenue.

Purchase advance tickets for rides, raffles, food, and more using this form. To get all the details on the hours, booths, events, please check the St Mary’s Country Fair website.

 

Extra tips:

Like a bargain? There’s an easy way to save money. Visit the parish or school office before Friday at 2pm and buy your Butler ride tickets at a substantial discount – and avoid the lines! (Tickets are sold in the 2 weeks leading up to the fair most years.)

Also, much of the Almond Grove District of Los Gatos has permit parking only in the evenings. So don’t park in the neighborhood! There are lots of public parking spaces between North Santa Cruz and University Avenues in Los Gatos, and they are no cost, so park there instead. I usually like to park between North Santa Cruz Avenue and University Avenue in the public lot. If you’re in biking distance, consider cycling in – just remember lights are required when biking in the dark, and remember road safety!