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!
Info on the BJWRR site about this event (published first in 2018 but updated each year)
On Saturday, June 10, 2023, the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad (which runs from Oak Meadow Park through part of Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos) is hosting a fun, affordable pancake breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Flapjacks & Railroad Tracks Food
The website states:
There are two options for breakfast: Regular Breakfast includes 3 large pancakes & 2 sausage links. Small Breakfast includes 1 large pancake & 2 sausage links. A la cart items will also be available.
Tickets for the train are at the regular pricing. It’s a great fundraiser to support the small gauge railroad, and kick off the summer schedule for both the train and carousel.
In addition, the train and carousel will be open bright and early. Rides will begin at 8:00am and run until 4:30pm. Standard ticket pricing applies.
For more information and details, please have a look at the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad website.
If you’re on Facebook, find and “like” the Facebook page for the BJWRR.
End of Summer Night Ride and Pasta Dinner
Need something to do on Labor Day weekend? The Los Gatos Park Dance is back during the holiday weekend – the 7th annual at Oak Meadow Park. The first year over 2000 people attended and it’s been growing ever since!
Los Gatos Park Dance Details
Cost: FREE – courtesy of Music in the Park
Date & Time: Saturday, August 31, 7 PM – 9:30 PM
Location: Lyndon Bandstand, Oak Meadow Park, Los Gatos
The band this year will again be The Houserockers (a Los Gatos band).
What else: to get a good spot, arrive early! Bring a picnic supper. Beer and wine are allowed with meals (no other alcohol). Bring layers, as it cools down once the sun sets. Prepare to dance on the lawn, so wear comfortable shoes and watch out for gopher holes as you leave – they can be hard to spot in the dark.
Parking at Oak Meadow Park is free to town residents, but if you’re a local, you know that it fills up fast. You can park on nearby public streets if that happens, or try Vasona’s parking, which will cost a little.
This event is sponsored by Los Gatos Music in the Park.
Something is always happening at the big and beautiful, 150 acre Vasona Lake County Parkand adjacent 12 acre Oak Meadow Park (belonging to the Town). These sister parks are connected and share the Los Gatos Creek, meandering trails, the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad at Oak Meadow. The parks enjoy beautiful scenery, both within the many acres and also looking up at the coastal range that separates this valley from the Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
It’s a wonderful place for a family or company picnic and is often the site for beginning races, walk-a-thons, and other charitable causes, and it’s also the location for many cultural festivals throughtout the year. Most recently, there was an enormous, two day Iranian/Persian New Year’s Festival called Norouz that drew several thousand people from all over Silicon Valley. The San Jose Mercury News covered it and had a great little video on their website on this event, take a look! As you can see, Vasona and Oak Meadow aren’t just a couple of nice parks, they’re places for the community to gather, enjoy themselves and nature and to do it in a gorgeous spot.
Here are some of the regularly scheduled, annual events at Oak Meadow and Vasona that invite us to enjoy some recreation time there:
June & July: Vasona Vibrations (free concerts Saturdays 5-7pm)
July & August: Shakespeare in the Park
August: In the Park After Dark Movie Week
Saturday evening on Labor Day Weekend: Los Gatos Park Dance (begun in 2013)
September: Screen on the Green
October: Halloween Train Rides (Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad)
December: Fantasy of Lights
And because these are parks, there are great learning opportunities and classes available there too. The Parks and Recreation Department offers sailing lessons – as you can see from the pic, my kids enjoyed these a few years ago (and may teach there this summer too). Paddleboats can be rented in summer as well. A hands-on approach to introducing kids to nature is provided by the extremely popular , which recently enjoyed an expansion at Vasona.
Historically, these parks are interesting too and there are some things you might not know about them. (more…)
The Los Gatos Shakespeare Festival again comes to town at Oak Meadow Park with three plays, two from The Bard and one more contemporary play, care of the Festival Theatre Ensemble. In 2014, viewers will be treated to productions of Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, and the Pirates of Port Royal (written by by George Farquhar and adapted by Bruce W. De Les Demier, whose name is synonymous with the Festival Theatre Ensemble).
The three week season begins on Friday, July 18th and ends Saturday August 9th. All of the shows in Los Gatos begin at 8pm. For those unfamiliar with the venue, it is out of doors and as the evening progresses it gets chillier – so dress in layers! (You will not be sitting on a lawn, though: there are seats!)
Additionally, the Festival Theatre Ensemble hosts an evening of stage combat as a fundraiser to support the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. “Fight for the Train” takes place on July 31st. This is really fun for little kids especially. (My daughter was a theatre major in college and it sounded like “stage combat” was her most enjoyable course.)
For kids interested in the stage, there is a camp, too, Camp Shakespeare! Read the details here: (more…)