Scenic Los Gatos sits at the base of the always green Santa Cruz Mountains, also known as the Coastal Range, and is the gateway to Silicon Valley from the Santa Cruz area. The Central Coast, (Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay area are considered “Central” California, and Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, and Santa Clara County are considered “Northern California”.)
Natural and architectural beauty in Los Gatos
With a mountain of redwood trees as its backdrop, Los Gatos does enjoy beautiful views of the hills. There’s more, though, as the town has a slight elevation of a few hundred feet. Many areas in town also enjoy stunning valley views – seeing downtown San Jose or Silicon Valley generally.
In addition to the scenery of and from the hills, Los Gatos is known also for its beautiful architecture, some of which goes into the late 1800s.
The original downtown Los Gatos was east of the Los Gatos Creek, and it suffered two major fires – hence, most of the older section of town is west of the creek. Today, most of downtown LG is along N Santa Cruz Avenue, University Avenue, and Main.
North Santa Cruz Avenue once was lined with large residential homes, and only one of those still survives, the Coggeshall Mansion, which has served as a restaurant under a variety of owners and management since giving up the ghost on its former career as a mortuary. See photo below from a few years ago. (Today, it’s The Palms.)
Downtown Los Gatos
In the post WW2 population explosion and building boom, many of the small towns and cities around the Santa Clara Valley changed dramatically. The city of Santa Clara, for instance, lost its old downtown entirely (though there are still Victorian homes to be found in the historic university quad area). Los Gatos also changed, but not as much, as the downtown was kept largely as it had been. The residential areas near N Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street were already built up. Both homes and shops were built on the outlying ends of town to the west, north, and east of downtown.
Today, having an outside shopping district is again popular (after the rise of the indoor malls). In Santa Clara County, there are only a few downtown areas – Saratoga Village, downtown Campbell, downtown Willow Glen, and a few others (you can read more about urban living neighborhoods on the Move2SiliconValley blog). Of them, though, Los Gatos may be the most vibrant and most popular. It’s larger than most, but does not require a car to get around. In addition to restaurants, which can be the lifeblood of an urban neighborhood, LG also offers stores, boutiques, crafts, plus wine tasting (and even olive oil tasting!), a number of independent coffee shops, bars – some with live music, and more. Los Gatos has one of the only community theaters left in the region, too. Others, like the one in Willow Glen from the same era, are now shops or offices.
Downtown is also an ongoing hub of community activity, whether it’s free music in the summers (get the details at the Live in Los Gatos blog!), a Farmer’s Market year round, holiday events in winter, or the art & wine festival each August.
Shopping and fine dining are not limited to the downtown area, of course. An awful lot of the regular day to day errands are run along Los Gatos Boulevard to the east (and other places, too).
Los Gatos Schools
The public schools are a major draw to the town (zip codes 95030 and 95032) and to the nearby Los Gatos mountain communities (95033).
A word about the school district boundaries:
As with the rest of the San Jose / Saratoga / Santa Clara County area, the school district boundaries don’t make a lot of sense, as they were set more than 100 years ago and included areas which were not at that time incorporated into Los Gatos, San Jose, Campbell, or Saratoga. The school boundaries do not follow zip code boundaries nor city / town boundaries.
The Los Gatos Union School District and the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union School District (with Los Gatos High, or possibly Saratoga High) do cover most of the 95030 zip code (whether Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, or a county pocket) – but not 100%. A little bit of that 95030 area has Campbell schools and the Campbell Joint Union High School District (Westmont High).
Some of 95032 (mostly Los Gatos, but some Monte Sereno, and some county pockets) is in those same school zones with Los Gatos High, but on the east end of town, much of it is in the Union School District (shared with San Jose 95124 – Leigh High), and in the west shared with the Campbell School District (shared with Campbell and part of Saratoga – Westmont High).
To add to the confusion, there’s a little sliver of San Jose in the Almaden Valley (zip code 95120) which is also part of the Los Gatos Union School District and has Los Gatos High.
Uniformly, the elementary and middle schools in all of these ares as excellent. At the high school level, Los Gatos High scores a little better and is generally more preferred that Westmont or Leigh. With superb students feeding into these high schools, though, I would not be surprised if over time the scores didn’t catch up with LGHS.
Los Gatos Neighborhoods
Los Gatos offers a variety of housing types, architectural styles, and neighborhoods. In the downtown areas, there are a few historic neighborhoods. Further out to the east and west, you’ll find more typical (of Silicon Valley) ranch style homes. It’s not easy to find an unkempt neighborhood anywhere in town, though, no matter the budget or home size. I have written extensively about Los Gatos neighborhoods at the Live in Los Gatos blog, so please hop on over there to see profiles on the various areas. From the home page, you can either scroll to the very bottom to view a list, or use the menu bar for a look at a glance of areas to read about.
There are a variety of parks which serve Los Gatos and Monte Sereno (the two share police, library, parks, and some schools). Vasona Lake County Park does not belong to the town, but rather the county, but of course is the largest park in town. Other parks, such as Belgatos in east Los Gatos, are connected to open space land and hiking trails (and provide great views to hikers who head up the hill).
There are nice, more affordable areas nearby, too. If Los Gatos is not within the budget, you might also consider the Cambrian Park area of San Jose (zip code 95124 is adjacent) or the city of Campbell.
The Los Gatos “elevator pitch”
Los Gatos is well known for the high quality of its public schools, a bustling and charming downtown, natural and architectural beauty, parks and events, and much more. If you’ve never spent time in Los Gatos, come check out this 10 square miles of beauty and fun – not just the vibrant downtown, but the far east and far west corners, too. There’s a lot to see and do!
Come for a meal, a stroll, some shopping, or a little entertainment. You may be charmed, as I was the very first time I saw this scenic town, and want to make it your home, too.