Getaway to Los Gatos

View of the Santa Cruz mountains from Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos
Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos.

Justin Dolske / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 

"To see Los Gatos is to love the town," Sunset Magazine gushed in 1915, and it's much the same in the 21st century. With the Santa Cruz Mountains as a backdrop and a downtown that revels in its historic architecture, Los Gatos is big enough to give you plenty to do, whether you go for the day or an entire weekend.

Why Should You Go? Will You Like Los Gatos?

Los Gatos is popular for shopping, fine dining, and outdoor activities. It has one of the area's prettiest, best-preserved downtowns, making it popular with locals and visitors alike. It's also a good base for wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Best Time to Go to Los Gatos

Los Gatos weather is generally better than the foggier areas around it. It's just far enough from the ocean and bay to have clearer skies but stays cooler than flatter portions of the surrounding area.

Los Gatos Theatre illuminated at night
Mark Meredith / Getty Images

7 Great Things to Do in Los Gatos

  • Wine Tasting: Grab a designated driver for a drive through redwood forests to visit some of the Santa Cruz Mountain wineries. Just above town on the mountainside, Testarossa Vineyards runs California's fourth-oldest, continuously-operating winery.
  • Pamper Yourself: Get a massage, facial or a coddling body treatment at Spa Los Gatos, one of the nicest day spas we've visited. Not far away on Los Gatos Blvd., Yoga Source voted best area yoga studio offers a relaxing, restorative yin yoga class on Sundays, along with a wide array of other practices.
  • Active Outdoors: The Los Gatos Creek Trail passes through town, affording plenty of opportunities for walking, running and bicycling on a paved path that follows the pretty little creek from Lexington Reservoir past Vasona Lake.
  • Shopping: The town council keeps a tight rein on business development, selecting retailers who enhance the atmosphere and holding down the number of chain stores. Shops lining Santa Cruz Avenue, Main Street, and University Avenue include The Indian Store (Native American art), In the Old Manner (new versions of elegant vintage clothing) and Domus (housewares). And if you're in for a little high-end window-shopping, you can fantasize outside the Rolls Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini dealerships, all in the middle of town.
  • The charming Los Gatos Theatre is a super place to enjoy the latest film you've intended to see. It boasts a classic marquee and a newly-renovated interior decorated in classic art deco style.
  • Fun With the Kids: Oak Meadow Park (University Ave at Blossom Hill Rd) is home to the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and the W.E. "Bill" Mason Carousel. At nearby Vasona Lake, you can rent paddle boats and row boats from early spring through early fall.
  • Indulge Your Inner Foodie: Read more about dining options below under Best Bites. Sur La Table offers weekly cooking classes and every week the Farmers Market downtown is one of the area's best. You can also indulge your gourmet sweet tooth at Fleur de Cocoa.

Annual Events You Should Know About

  • Third Saturday of January, April, July, and November: The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association sponsors Wine Passport Weekends
  • May: Area artists show off their creations during the annual Silicon Valley Open Studios event
  • Summer: Check for outdoor concerts at nearby Villa Montalvo and Mountain Winery
  • December: Vasona Park is the place to go for the Festival of Lights.
  • December: Historic Homes Tour, sponsored by the Los Gatos Museums features a peek inside historic homes, vintage cars, and entertainment

Tips for Visiting Los Gatos

  • It can be difficult to find a place to park downtown, and many areas have a two-hour limit. For a longer stay without worries, you'll find unlimited parking on Santa Cruz Ave across from the Toll House, in the lot behind Washington Mutual at Hwy 9 and Santa Cruz Ave and on the lower level of the lot just off University Avenue at Royce. During the busy holiday season, the best thing to do is use the free valet parking service.
  • Public restrooms are scarce, and until plans to solve the potty shortage are realized, you may have to throw yourself on the mercy of a local merchant.
  • If you're prone to motion sickness, bring your favorite motion-sickness remedy if you plan to take a drive into the mountains.
  • On summer weekends, it seems like everyone in Santa Clara Valley head to Santa Cruz on Hwy 17, creating a traffic jam that can back up for miles before you get to Los Gatos. A good alternative is to take Winchester Blvd, which parallels Hwy 17 from Stevens Creek Blvd all the way into town, where it becomes Santa Cruz Ave

Best Bites

Locals queue up for omelets and some of the tastiest potatoes around at Los Gatos Cafe (340 N. Santa Cruz Ave) or pack into Southern Kitchen (27 E. Main) for biscuits and gravy and other country-style dishes.

This tiny town boasts a restaurant (Manresa) that has earned a Michelin star. As you would expect, it's expensive and hard to get into. Other places for a great meal include (in alphabetical order) Cin Cin Wine Bar, Dio Deka, Forbes Mill Steakhouse and Nick's Next Door.

For a little fun with your meal try Campo di Bocce, where you can book a bocce ball court and play a game - or just watch others.

Where to Stay

Hotel Los Gatos takes top honors among reviewers at, along with more affordable Garden Inn Hotel. Both are downtown. Compare prices and check guest reviews for them and more Los Gatos hotels at Tripadvisor.

Where Is Los Gatos?

Los Gatos is located 52 miles from San Francisco, 126 miles from Sacramento and about 225 miles from Lake Tahoe.

Santa Clara Valley residents can get to downtown Los Gatos by taking the trolley to Vasona Station, where you can catch a shuttle bus.

If you live in San Francisco or on the Peninsula, consider a scenic drive home along Hwy 9 and 35 instead of speeding back up the freeway.

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