This post was most recently updated on August 24th, 2022
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 on our weekend in Los Gatos.
Picnic in the Redwoods
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, 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 & Half Moon Bay
This is a beautiful place to visit! I’m so glad we made this stop to see the 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.
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! Lots of stores here have character and unique offerings. 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. And then there was the art deco-period 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! the downtown area makes a great addition to a weekend in Los Gatos.
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! You may not have family to visit for a weekend in Los Gatos, but wherever you are when you visit family, make part of your experience enjoying the community together. It’s a great way to create family memories. And then go to Los Gatos for more fun. Or go explore nearby Santa Cruz!
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!
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How fun!! You made our weekend together sound so spectacular (because it was). I’m glad you wrote it down so that later on I can look back and remember all the fun we had together. 🙂
It was fun writing throughout the weekend–as it happened. Thanks again, Heather & Matthew, for a wonderful “tour” of your city.
Love this post! I live in San Jose and think that’s a great itinerary for visiting guests–town, forest, and sea! I always enjoy going to Los Gatos on Sunday’s for the farmer’s market, it’s one of my favorite markets here in Silicon Valley.
Love how you put that: “town, forest, and sea!” It WAS a great combination!
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Wow!! I have never even heard about half of these places! A picnic in the redwoods sounds like a dream!
Quite beautiful and inspiring, really!
What an interesting history Los Gatos has. I’d never heard of it until now. It seems like a lovely weekend getaway and I would absolutely adore the Victorian-era buildings!
That is such an interesting getaway! Having a picnic in the woods and watching a stunning sunset like this one is all I need for my weekend.
What a beautiful spot. Los Gatos looks like just the kind of place you could go to escape, think about life and relax away from the city. The beach looks lovely and the countryside looks so peaceful.
You got me at european style gelato. Nothing better than strolling through town with a cone in hand
So true…Gelato makes everything better!
I’m a cat lover, so I rather like the cat link! What a fab place to vist. Sounds amazing
What a lovely place! So far away for us right now, but next time we’re on your side of the pond, for sure!
After living a few months in California, I think I am in love with it forever. Your post reinforces that belief for me 🙂
Los Gatos seems to have it all – great beach, nature and history!
I hadn’t heard of Los Gatos before reading your article. The Bluff Top Trail looks amazing. What a beautiful part of the world. Looks like a lovely getaway.
It was definitely a great getaway!
I have never heard of this place. it looks stunning! Hopefully, I will be back in Cali soon and I can visit it.