This post was most recently updated on July 2nd, 2015
Some of my favorite getaways are the relatively short road trips we take to visit family. Presidents’ Day weekend was a great opportunity to drive up to Los Gatos from San Diego and visit our daughter and her family. If you haven’t been, this is a very beautiful area–lots of trees, scenic lakes and parks, and well-planned neighborhoods. Technically it’s winter, but we enjoyed 75-degree highs and no rain. My daughter planned some fun activities for us to do together, so I’d love to share what we did.
First, we had a Picnic in the Redwoods. We really enjoyed the beautiful 30-minute drive from Los Gatos to Purisima Creek Redwoods. Once we left Hwy 84 and took Kings Mountain Road, the forest grew denser and the roads less straight. This is incredible scenery–but do watch out for all the bicyclists! From the south parking lot on Skyline Boulevard (GPS coordinates here), there’s a quarter-mile trail to a picnic table amidst the trees. This trail was clear enough to accommodate a stroller, too. Redwood trees are the tallest in the world and can grow up to 360 feet. The average mature age is 500 to 1000 years, but these trees are a second growth forest and are probably only 100 years old. Here we enjoyed a picnic for lunch…and the dappled sun as it made its way through the trees to the clearing where we sat. We took some photos and then headed off for…
Bluff Top Coastal Park (Poplar Beach) at Half Moon Bay.
There’s a fee-parking lot at the beach, but we parked in town near the library at 620 Correas Street and walked about a mile to the beach. You can park free much closer to the park, but the library made a convenient restroom and diaper-changing stop for our family. The Bluff Top Trail is also a favorite among horse-riders, and we saw several horses while we were there. The views of the beaches north, the sandy beaches below, and the grasslands are gorgeous. There were fields of yellow flowers in bloom and wooden fences lining the walking paths. You could sit on a bench and listen to the waves crash upon the beach for hours. We stayed on the top of the bluffs, though there is a steep trail winding down to the sand. I haven’t seen the other beaches at Half Moon Bay, but we really liked this one.
Next on our agenda: exploring downtown Los Gatos. Los Gatos began in the 1850’s with the building of a flour mill, Forbes Mill, which is now the History Museum (reopening in May 2015). It was named “Los Gatos” because a Spanish land grant labeled it the “Cat’s Corner Ranch” after the wildcats that were plentiful in the Santa Clara valley at the time.
By the 1920’s, Los Gatos had become an arts colony, attracting painters, writers, musicians, and actors. Los Gatos has continued to thrive and is now the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States. Downtown Los Gatos has several Victorian-era homes and buildings, plus lots of unique stores, boutiques, and restaurants–adding up to small-town charm and something for everyone. For a downloadable guide of downtown Los Gatos, click here. We couldn’t resist going shopping and enjoying some European-style gelato, too! We checked out Napa Style with its gourmet sea salts and multi-colored pasta, The Butter Paddle gift shop with beautiful Easter decor on display, the Los Gatos Company with lots of unique gifts and art, and Dolce Spazie Gelato for European-style treats. We also saw the art deco Los Gatos Theater dating back to 1915, the Sierra Toy Soldier Company, and a scrumptious candy and vintage soda store named Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. There’s a grassy park at the corner of Main St and N. Santa Cruz Ave. at the center of the downtown shopping district, and a big plus–lots of free public parking!
Take advantage of every opportunity you have to be a tourist when you visit family. It’s so much fun to see new places and explore your surroundings–wherever you go. These outings my daughter planned were easy and fun for our family. And now we’ll have photos and memories to help us remember our weekend together!
As we drove away from Los Gatos on our way back to San Diego, we enjoyed this beautiful sunrise over San Luis Reservoir. What a beautiful reminder that there is always something just around the bend!