Beyond the sleek Silicon Valley exterior, there are many small towns with plenty to explore in this California region famous for technology.

If you’re looking for a getaway, outdoor fun, sun, and maybe some wine tasting, the small town of Los Gatos is a great choice. Set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this affluent hamlet, with a Victorian downtown, is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban living. As you drive into town, you pass Netflix headquarters, and you realize, this is perhaps where the 1% live, a notion that was confirmed at the stylish Purple Onion Café, where at 10 a.m., the place was hopping with expensively clad moms chatting and nibbling, post workout. The Illy coffee and yummy breakfast items made with cage-free eggs, local produce, and freshly baked whole-grain breads were tantalizing.

For lunch, a traditional Irish pub with Americanized pub grub, was a more down home option. C.B. Hannegan’s was bustling with business folks and families; the outdoor garden was so pleasant and portions big enough to share. The beer choices were impressive and International, with 15 on draught.

Another must dine spot, great if you’re on your way to Santa Cruz, is The Cats Restaurant and Tavern, just off highway 17. Originally a pit stop on the old stage line, the Cats Roadhouse was once a welcome spot for horse-drawn lumber wagons on their way to San Jose, as well as a rowdy social club for locals.  In the Roaring 20s, the Cats was one of the area’s most notorious speakeasies and bordellos! Renovated and reopened in 2008, the menu still features BBQ favorites and is certainly a crowd pleaser after a day at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk or hiking the mountains!

Camping options abound. Two of my favorites are Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It can get cold under the redwoods, so pack accordingly!

Finally, if you want to splurge, a stay at the Mediterranean boutique hotel and spa, Hotel Los Gatos, is quite a treat. The pool is small but with mosaic tiles and an ample hot tub, a perfect spot early morning, midday or at night for a dip and soak. The hotel has a Moorish feel mixed with California Mission, and the rooms were luxurious but in a cozy way.

Mediterranean food is one of my favorite cuisines, and I have to say since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area nearly 20 years ago I have been on a constant hunt for Greek Cuisine from high-end to gyros. Dio Deka, fine Hellenic cuisine, really lived up to its Michelin Star hype. The food, ambiance, presentation and service were really top notch, from the marinated kalamata olives in chili and rosemary to the spanikopita, pork ribs and these delectable crispy potatoes with smoked roe.

The wine list was overwhelming, but we chose a crisp New Zealand white and sat out, talking and savoring the special tastes, as if we were on the island of Santorini or an Athens plaza. I took a close friend to celebrate a recent triumph, but I could imagine taking my two boys there, all rumpled in their “fancy” clothes, perhaps for a special occasion. Luckily there are plenty of tapas-like options I think many older kids would appreciate, if your budget allows.

All in all, if you’re looking for a staycation in the Bay Area, a romantic getaway, a taste of “Peninsula living” or an overnight splurge, the combination of great food and wine, ample hiking and biking spots and wineries galore, make a trip to Los Gatos, the Cat’s Meow!

Filed Under California, Camping, Europe, Family Travel, Food, Greece, Hike/Backpack, Luxury Travel, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Pubs, Restaurants, Santa Cruz, wine tasting


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