Hip, historic Los Gatos

A Santa Cruz mountain town with a very urban feel
Lora J. Finnegan

It's a fine November evening, and Old Town Los Gatos feels as festive as ever. At Steamer's Grillhouse (31 University Ave.; 408/395-2722), a young crowd sips Hotties (pepper-flavored vodka martinis). Across the street, holiday lights twinkle on handsome stone buildings.

First settled as a farming town in the 1800s, tiny Los Gatos has weathered Silicon Valley's tech meltdown just fine. "We haven't really changed Los Gatos," says Mayor Randy Attaway. "We've just polished the gem."

For a fun overview, take a carriage ride along Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue from the Town Plaza (call the chamber of commerce for reservations). Or walk along the Los Gatos Creek Trail to Main. Among the cluster of handsome historic and replica buildings is the French Cellar (closed Mon; 32 E. Main St.; 408/354-0993), a sophisticated shop selling French wines and wine-related accessories and art.

Walking west down Main, cross the creek to reach University Avenue and the town's biggest landmark, the Old Town complex, on University between Main and Elm Street. The stately 1922 mission revival-style school building, which recently reopened, now includes a few chain stores―to many locals' chagrin. Happily, one favorite shop remains: the Indian Store (50 University; 408/354-9988), selling original works by Native Americans, including jewelry and pottery.

Other landmarks have changed with the times as well. A 1920s Ford showroom and garage now houses the Los Gatos Brewing Company (130 N. Santa Cruz Ave.; 408/395-9929), which serves upscale pub grub. Inside an old factory, teams are crowded around the reservable bocce courts at Campo di Bocce (565 University; 408/395-7650), an Italian restaurant created to showcase the ancient bowling sport. Much newer to the scene is Manresa (dinner only, closed Mon; 320 Village Lane; 408/354-4330), serving Catalonian food with a California flair. Cap off your day with a tribute to Los Gatos's well-aged roots. On a hill overlooking downtown, Mirassou Champagne Cellars (closed Mon-Tue; 300 College Ave.; 408/395-3790) has a cool tasting room set inside hand-dug caves. Enjoy a free holiday concert November 3 as you sip the crisp, sparkling wines and toast the town.

Travel planner

WHERE: Los Gatos is about 50 miles south of San Francisco. Take U.S. 101 to State 85 south and State 17 south; exit at State 9 and turn left onto N. Santa Cruz Ave.

CONTACT: Town of Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce: (408) 354-9300 or www.losgatosweb.com.