Los Gatos Travel Guide: Small Town, Big Living

Things To Do In Los Gatos

When people think of northern California, they are quick to remember San Francisco or Sacramento. However, there is much more to the greater Bay Area and Silicon Valley than those two metropolises. In fact, for those who are willing to venture beyond the bright lights of the big cities, there is plenty to discover. One of the best places to start is in Los Gatos.

Things To Do In Los Gatos in 2013

Los Gatos, California, is located in Santa Clara County, which is just outside the Bay Area and at the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. As part of Silicon Valley, Los Gatos has the same vibrancy and cutting edge innovation that defines much of the area. However, unlike many of the technological oases surrounding Los Gatos, this small community of around 30,000 remains idyllic and homey, offering a taste of small town living with all of the perks of big city life.

The town’s history starts back in the 1850s when a flour mill was built in the area. As the mill became established, a town started to grow nearby, which is how the community began. Over the years, agriculture continued to support the community, but by the 1920s, Los Gatos was known as an oasis for artists. In fact, John Steinbeck even penned his famous novel “The Grapes of Wrath” while staying in Los Gatos. As the population boomed in northern California, Los Gatos eventually became a suburb of San Jose, and by 1980, the town had flourished into the beloved enclave that it is today.

While this history may be fascinating, it certainly does not do the town justice. To fully appreciate Los Gatos, it is important to understand all that the town has to offer. The fact is, Los Gatos may be a small town, but it has big attractions.

Cultural Appeal

Los Gatos became famous for its artistic appeal, and modern visitors can still enjoy the buoyant cultural flair of the city. The most popular cultural attractions are the Museums of Los Gatos. These three affiliated museums have collected the best of Los Gatos art, history and culture, putting them together in three convenient spaces. The first is the Art Museum of Los Gatos. This museum features art from local artisans in addition to displays from other noteworthy artists. Because it is a non-collecting museum, the Art Museum of Los Gatos features six to eight exhibits throughout the year.

After the Art Museum, many guests visit the History Museum of Los Gatos. Appropriately, the History Museum is located on the grounds of the old flour mill that helped establish the community. This museum celebrates the storied history of the community, using photographs and artifacts from the area. The last museum in the trio is the Art Gallery. This facility is by far the newest of the three, and it features local work exclusively. The displays are changed often, making the Art Gallery a popular choice for return visits.

Getting Active

California is known for its great weather and inviting sunshine. Los Gatos is no exception. Locals and visitors alike enjoy getting outside in Los Gatos, and so it is no surprise that there are plenty of sporting options to consider. There is an avid bird watching community in Los Gatos, with many opportunities for visitors to see a colorful display of local birds in their natural habitat. Guests can also take advantage of boat rentals and horse riding. Other opportunities for organized sports are available through the Recreation Department, and many of the local parks feature space for baseball, basketball and more.

The Great Outdoors

To enjoy the sunshine, Los Gatos has ample parks and green space to consider. The city maintains a number of excellent parks, all well designed for family fun and full on recreation. Blossom Hill Park is a great place to start since it has a little something for everyone, including playground equipment, grills, baseball fields and more. Families also enjoy Oak Hill Play Lot, which features an expansive play space for children. Families with four-legged friends should be sure to check out the Los Gatos Dog Creek Park.

For parks with a bit more adventure, there are also options with sights and foot trails. Lexington Reservoir has a particularly nice selection of walking trails. For the most expansive experience, however, Castle Rock State Park is a must. This wonderful park not only features trails for hiking and walking, but it also has rock climbing opportunities. In addition to all that, the sights are gorgeous and even include a waterfall.

New Ways to Smile

In addition to the natural wonders in Los Gatos, the city also prides itself on its manmade amusements. To this end, many families are sure to visit Oak Meadow Park, which is home to the Bill Mason Carousel. This historic merry-go-round was built in 1915 and is still operational for visitors today. The park also has other attractions, such as a play fire truck and a full-sized play fighter jet for kids to play on and explore.

Both children and adults can appreciate the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. This unique attraction gives visitors a glimpse of what the railroad meant in California‘s thrilling history. There is an engine house, a clock tower and even a turn table. The most exciting part of the Railroad, however, is the fully functional steam engine. Though it may be small, it still pulls cars and puts on quite a show for guests.

If all this activity sounds exhausting, guests can also spend some time smiling while they enjoy spa treatments. There are various spas in Los Gatos, including Spa Elia and Divine Massage Therapy. If a trip to one of these relaxing destinations does not elicit a smile, then it is quite possible that nothing will.

Ready for Adventure

For those who want a more hands-on experience, Los Gatos has ample options for that as well. For children, the adventure can start at the Youth Science Institute. This innovative facility promotes the sciences for children, offering hands-on experiences and plentiful opportunities for fun and learning.

The adventures in Los Gatos are not just for children. To the contrary, many adults find that a wine adventure is one of the best ways to spend the day in Los Gatos. Fortunately, Los Gatos is close to many wineries, both in town and in the surrounding area. One of the most well known options is Testarossa. This winery is a bit out of the way since it is located near a functioning Catholic monastery. However, the winery features some of the best local wines and allows guests a pleasant afternoon of tasting and dining on the idyllic grounds. Other wineries include Loma Prieta and the Burrell School Vineyards and Winery.

For those who like a little cheese with their wine, Harley Goat Cheese Farms is a must. This unique destination lets visitors tour a functioning goat farm, seeing how cheese is made from start to finish. The farm is also available for special events and features special activities throughout the year.

No Need to Shop Around

While many of these attractions will take guests out and about throughout the city and the surrounding area, there is plenty to do in the heart of Los Gatos. In fact, the downtown continues to be one of the most visited areas in the entire city. Guests can enjoy the pleasant atmosphere, strolling through the quaint streets or sitting in the town plaza and watching the fountains. However, it should also be noted that the downtown has plenty of shopping and eating.

Another popular stop for a little retail therapy is the Old Town Center. This renovated area features a wide range of modern stores, including some of the most popular brands. In addition to this, the Old Town Center has numerous options for food and drink, making it a great place to spend the day.

Make a Date

While many of these attractions in Los Gatos are good any day of the year, there are some special events in the community that are worth planning for. For example, many people make a point to visit the Farmer’s Market, which is located in the town plaza downtown. Sampling fresh produce from the area, guests can taste the culture that helped establish the town.

There are also a variety of musical venues to consider, such as Music in the Park or Jazz on the Plazz. Other events may be seasonal, with special attractions for every time of year.


Obviously, with so much to do, even residents have a hard time keeping up with the options in Los Gatos. From cultural exploration to staying active outside, there is a little something for everyone in this thriving northern California city. Guests can try sports, shopping, exploration and more. The options are almost limitless. Los Gatos may be a small town. However, this small town offers big living for visitors and residents. Therefore, be sure to remember Los Gatos: the perfect city for the perfect trip.




One thought on “Los Gatos Travel Guide: Small Town, Big Living

  1. Pingback: Affordable Things to do in Los Gatos in 2013 « Have Fun in Mountain View California

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