California suffers no shortage of quiet historic towns with the capacity to surprise and delight the unsuspecting traveler.
It’s not just sunny weather and sizzling beaches, but also classic downtowns and vintage buildings.
If you want a nice sampler of California’s old splendor, try visiting the little town of Los Gatos.
Seated at the foot of the Sierra Azules, Los Gatos is a perfect mountain getaway 60 miles south of San Francisco.
Its distance from the big city also makes the town a terrific road trip destination.
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll surely appreciate the Los Gatos terrain, which features valleys and hillsides.
You’ll also find a lot of streams, creeks, and diverse animal habitats.
In terms of history, you’ll note that Los Gatos is Santa Clara County’s oldest community, started in 1840.
In those years, Mexico still controlled California, and it granted the land that became Los Gatos to the ranchers Sebastian Peralta and Jose Hernandez.
The mountain lions prowling the area gave the town its original name, La Rinconada de Los Gatos, or “Cat’s Corner.”
Today, the town is a fine example of accommodating progress while keeping its small-town charm and appeal.
Do you want to know more about Los Gatos, CA?
Check out this list below.
Explore the Outdoors at the Vasona Lake County Park
If you want to spend the day outdoors, you’ll want to head right away to the Vasona Lake County Park.
The park has 45 acres laid out for you to enjoy, where you can play sports like softball, soccer, or Frisbee.
You can also have a nice picnic with family or friends, though you need to hurry because the picnic spots are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Visit the Vasona Lake County Park in early spring or fall, and you can rent paddleboats and rowboats.
Bring a date for a nice relaxing afternoon in the stillness of the lake.
Otherwise, you can teach your kids the virtue of patience by fishing for black bass, crappie, or catfish.
Go to the Vasona Lake County Park at 333 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032.
Go Hiking at the Castle Rock State Park
Hikers love Castle Rock State Park because it offers them a strenuous workout and several photo-worthy views.
You’ll find sandstone sculpted to perfection, thick forests in full green, and rich nature panoramas.
Castle Rock sits on one of the Santa Cruz Mountains’ highest ridges, giving you a full view of the lands below.
Besides hiking, you can also try horseback riding or backpacking.
If you’re a rock climber, test your skills in Castle Rock’s caverns and rock faces, including eponymous rock formation.
Hikers will also enjoy the 34 miles of rough trail that compose the trail system connecting the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park nearby.
Visit Castle Rock State Park at 15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Sip Fine Wine at the Testarossa Winery
Sometimes, you just want to chill and drink high-quality wine with your friends or loved ones.
Luckily for you, Los Gatos has just the place you want.
If you’re in the mood for some California Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, you need to drop by the Testarossa Winery.
Since 1993, Rob and Diana Jensen have worked tirelessly to perfect their wine creation techniques, even while still working in their Silicon Valley garage.
Today, their crafts have attracted national attention, scoring 90+ points over 1,300 times from renowned wine critics and connoisseurs.
Visit the Testarossa Winery at 300 College Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030.
Bring Your Kids to the Oak Meadow Park
In the 50s, the US was busy building the transnational highways that connected all 50 states.
Their construction of Highway 17 passed through Los Gatos, meaning the town had to look for another park site.
So, in 1957, the town bought land from Louisa and Pietro Denevi, which became Oak Meadow Park.
Since its opening in 1958, the Oak Meadow Park has become Los Gatos’ premier attraction.
Your kids will enjoy the park because they’ll find a model of a historical airplane, a fire engine, and a railroad.
They can also ride a carousel and cupola, situated on the banks of a creek, where you can take photos of your kids smiling in the heart of nature.
Visit the Oak Meadow Park at 233 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032.
See Some Art at the New Museum Los Gatos
Art lovers from anywhere will also appreciate Los Gatos for its New Museum, founded in 1965 under the name Museums of Los Gatos.
The museum sits inside the Civic Center Plaza in downtown Los Gatos.
Through its programs and exhibits, the New Museum wishes to spark community engagement and provoke them to reflect on the intersection of art, history, and education.
The New Museum’s permanent collection features artwork and memorabilia portraying the history of the Bay Area in San Francisco.
Likewise, this collection emphasizes Los Gatos itself.
Visit the New Museum at 106 E Main St., Los Gatos, CA 95030.
Enjoy Wine and Nature at the Byington Vineyard and Winery
California is famous for its always-warm weather, beaches, and various vineyards.
You’ll find so many of them in the state that it might be hard to pick.
However, if you find yourself in Los Gatos, you won’t go wrong with visiting the Byington Vineyard and Winery.
Get lost in the 95-acre complex that offers gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay.
You might also go dizzy looking at the acres of Pinot Noir vineyards, all just a few minutes away from Silicon Valley.
All the magic happens inside an 18,000-square-foot villa, too.
You’ll find winemaking facilities there, along with a wine cellar, a tasting room, and event centers.
If you’ve got friends, you can book a private wine tasting inside their VIP room.
Visit the Byington Vineyard and Winery at 21850 Bear Creek Road, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Learn a New Sport at Campo Di Bocce
Los Gatos’ Campo Di Bocce is not just an expensive Italian restaurant, but it’s also a unique place to learn the game of bocce.
The family-owned restaurant opened in 1997 and has forged affiliations with the United States Bocce Federation as a special bocce club.
Born from the vision of owner and bocce enthusiast Tom Albanese, Campo di Bocce is Los Gatos’ one-of-a-kind dining and bocce entertainment complex.
You can sample delicious Italian cuisine there while learning a new hobby.
It’s perfect for corporate gatherings, weddings, reunions, or simply a place to drink wine after a tedious work week.
If you’ve played bocce before, you’d want to visit the restaurant because it’s hosted various bocce competitions, from the regional to the international level.
The place features eight Colleoni World-Class bocce courts and employs staff to teach you the basics of the sport.
Visit the Campo Di Bocce Los Gatos location at 565 University Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95032.
Relax in the Stillness of Nature at the Kotani-En Japanese Garden
The relaxation opportunities in Los Gatos don’t just involve parks or nature preserves.
You can also experience perfect bliss and quiet at the Kotani-En Japanese Garden, sitting in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley.
What’s so special about this garden?
For one, the United States Department of the Interior has classified it as one of the country’s most authentic Japanese gardens.
It’s also one of California’s premier historical landmarks.
From 1918 to 1924, Japanese master artisan Takashima and 11 other Japanese craftsmen constructed the estate.
They followed the traditional 13th-century design of a samurai estate, comprising a residence, a tea house, gardens, a shrine, and a pond.
If you want to experience total harmony with nature through art, you’ll want to go to Kotani-En.
It’s just two miles from downtown Los Gatos, too.
Visit the Kotani-En Japanese Garden at 15891 Ravine Rd, Los Gatos, CA.
Try World-Class Pinotage at the Loma Prieta Winery
Another winery you can visit in Los Gatos is the Loma Prieta Winery, the world’s largest producer of Pinotage.
Despite producing fewer than 3,000 casks per year, the winery has become North America’s largest supplier of Pinotage.
The winery is also proud of being the most beautiful winery in the entire Santa Cruz Mountains since it sits under the shadow of the Loma Prieta peak.
You’ll stuff your camera roll in no time because of the picture-perfect views you’ll see in every direction.
In 2003, Paul and Amy Kemp founded the winery.
It began to build its reputation after Paul got enamored with Pinotage.
He was so in love with this wine that he uprooted his Merlot and Cabernet estates to plant Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
Today, all of California’s Pinotage is on the Loma Prieta Winery.
In all, the winery has planted 52 acres of Pinotage.
Visit the Loma Prieta Winery at 26985 Loma Prieta Way, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Enjoy Train History at the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
When you go to Oak Meadow Park, you might notice people flocking to a railroad, watching others ride a fully working steam locomotive.
This train is the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad, another Los Gatos highlight.
The railroad got its name from Billy Jones, a train enthusiast who opened its ranch after buying an old steam locomotive in a scrapyard.
His ranch railroad was also free of charge—anyone could ride the train.
After he died in 1968, people decided to save the railroad by moving it to its present location.
The new Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad opened in 1970 and has become a world-famous attraction.
If you want to know what it feels like to ride a steam train, go right away to the Wildcat Railroad.
Visit the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad at 233 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032.
Ride the Historic W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel
After experiencing the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad, you should try the W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel, which is still inside the Oak Meadow Park.
This carousel is unique because it is one of the few historic carousels operating in California.
It’s also the culmination of a restoration project that took ten years.
The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad, Inc. found the carousel rusting inside a San Francisco warehouse.
When they discovered the machine in 1980, they learned that it dated back to 1915 as a showpiece for the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
Each horse on the carousel is unique, too, coming from different carvers like C. J. Spooner, Charles Dare, and C.W. Parker, among others.
After the exposition, the carousel changed hands to a traveling circus, which sold it to a Foley & Burke Show in the 1930s.
Today, you can ride the restored carousel inside Los Gatos’ Oak Meadow Park.
Bring your kids for wholesome family fun.
Learn Local History at the Los Gatos Historic Commercial District
Two years after the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Los Gatos community declared 19 buildings into a historical district.
This historical district spans 50 acres, which you can walk along to see the vintage buildings.
If you know your architecture, you’ll spot many well-preserved buildings made in Queen Anne, Spanish Revival, and Romanesque styles.
Many of these buildings reach back between 1949 and 1975.
You can visit the Los Gatos Historic Commercial District at 1-24 N. Santa Cruz Avenue., 9-15 University Avenue, and 14-198 W. Main St., Los Gatos, CA.
Drink With the Cats at The Cats Restaurant and Tavern
True to its name, Los Gatos does have a historical attraction that involves cats.
This building is The Cats Restaurant and Tavern, whose roots began in 1896 as a stop on an old stagecoach line and a weigh station for lumber wagons going to San Jose.
During the 1920s, this tavern became notorious as a speakeasy and bordello.
The building went through several iterations, from a gun shop to a sporting goods store, until it returned to its origins in 1967.
Today, The Cats Restaurant and Tavern is one of the United States’ last remaining roadhouses.
When you drop by the bar, you’ll need to enter Poet’s Canyon.
Then, you’ll find two cat sculptures standing guard at the entrance.
These sculptures, “Leo” and “Leona,” have watched over this road since 1922.
Visit The Cats Restaurant and Tavern at 17533 Santa Cruz Hwy, Los Gatos, CA 95033.
Tour the Almond Grove Historic District
Residential homes can be historically valuable, too.
Go to the Almond Grove Historic District in Los Gatos if you want proof.
The 40-acre district was an almond orchard sold to John Mason in 1865.
One of Santa Clara County’s most important landowners, Edward Auzerais, sold the land to him.
Notably, Los Gatos’ Auzerais Court got its name from him.
Today, you can walk down the district and admire the historic houses with wide and open porches, beckoning you to come inside for a cup of tea.
These houses also follow various architectural styles, from Victorian, Spanish, English Cottage, Tudor, and the Mediterranean.
Just up the hill, at Glenridge, you’ll also find Art Deco and Colonial houses.
Grab Fresh Produce at the Los Gatos Farmers' Market
Every Sunday, Los Gatos holds a farmers market that welcomes locals and travelers alike.
You’ll find more than 40 vendors selling a variety of wares.
For instance, you can buy your usual fresh local fruits and vegetables from these stalls.
If you prefer meat instead, you’ll also find choice cuts in the market.
These products all come from Santa Clara County, so you’ll support local farmers, too.
Visit the Los Gatos Farmers Market at Town Park Plaza on Main St. and N. Santa Cruz Avenue, downtown Los Gatos, CA.
Los Gatos proves that you don’t need to go very far if you just want to escape the hassle of city life.
You can enjoy the company of nature through the town’s various parks and vineyards.
Likewise, you might even want to free your inner child by riding a real steam-powered train and a vintage carousel.
Whatever you decide, you won’t regret going to Los Gatos.
Book your trip today!