An oasis of serenity in the heart of Saratoga, California, Hakone Gardens is one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the West. A timeless traditional Japanese-style estate has a range of unique gardens with their own atmosphere: A koi pond, moon bridge, dry landscape, lush bamboo grove, and more. A strolling garden consists of a grassy hill and a pond, and a traditional tea house offers hot cups of green tea. The Cultural Exchange Center is located in a faithful reproduction of a 19th century home and shop of a Kyoto tea merchant. The estate sprawls across 18 acres on the Saratoga hills, overlooking Silicon Valley. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Montalvo Arts Center is a center for the arts in Saratoga, California, snuggled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It includes an art and cultural center, a park with hiking trails, and the historic Villa Montalvo. The villa is a Mediterranean revival mansion built in 1914 for California businessman James Duval Phelan. After Phelan died, the entire estate was donated to the State of California to be used as a park and later as a cultural and arts center. The villa and the arts center sit on 175 acres with several large buildings surrounded by gardens and natural areas. The center has two theaters, an art gallery, and an artist residency complex. Besides hosting art exhibitions, the mansion also hosts many weddings and other celebrations.
Fremont Older Open Space Preserve is a 739-acre park in Santa Clara County, California. The park has 14.7 miles of hiking trails, almost all of them open to horseback riders and bikers. Previously owned by San Francisco newspaper editor Fremont Older, the property was purchased by the district in 1975. Older's house, known as Woodhills, is a private property but allows guided tours. It has an interesting architecture, combining the shingle style and modern movement. Some of the most interesting spots in the park are a 900-foot bald hilltop called Hunter's Point, famous for spectacular views of the south Bay Area, Maisie's Peak, the highest point in the park, and Garrod Farms.
The Historic Saratoga Village is Saratoga's historic downtown district, located on Big Basin Way just off Highway 9. The village is great place to explore walking, with quaint stores, unique shops, cafés, and restaurants. The main street, Big Basin Way, has a number of excellent cafés and upscale restaurants, fashion boutiques, and other small businesses. As you leave the main street, you will come to a creek, a nice park, and small, quiet residential streets perfect for walking. There are a few thrift shops that work for local charities as well as some great ice cream and coffee venues. It is a pleasant oasis to escape the noise of busy Silicon Valley.
An elegant restaurant located in a small bungalow in downtown Saratoga is a favorite for the Silicon Valley elite when they have a special occasion. The large dining room with white tablecloths, fiber-optic chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceiling, and a huge glass-fronted wine cellar create the vibe of classic luxury in a 21st century setting. The open kitchen produces a show for the dimers and sends out pieces of edible art. The menu is California at its best, with imaginative combinations of ingredients and unexpected treats such as South Texas antelope with blueberry sauce served with parsnip and Brussels sprouts. The best deal is chef’s tasting menu. Pair it with some of their impressive wine selection and a white chocolate mousse for dessert and you will be in a gourmet heaven.
South Bay Musical Theatre, originally established as the Saratoga Drama Group, has been entertaining the South Bay Area with high-quality musical theater for more than 50 years. Every annual season presents three fully staged productions with their own live orchestra. Their program includes both musical classics and less known but equally entertaining shows. The theatre was formed in 1963 by the Saratoga Federated Church. The theater group presented early productions in the Saratoga church’s Richards Hall. As the audiences grew too big for its current venue, the group moved to the 300-seat Saratoga Council Chambers. The program also grew and started presenting Bay Area premiers of popular Broadway musicals such as Mame, Hello, Dolly, and State Fair. In addition, their regular season featured specials such as the Night Visitors at Christmas time.
The Saratoga Gap Trail is a 4.7-mile-long partial loop trail, considered fairly difficult and rarely crowded. The trail can be hiked year round, but it is best in late winter and spring when Castle Rock Falls is at its peak. The trail starts at 3,090 feet and it gains another 1,000 feet in elevation. Some sections of the trail are pretty steep, and there are segments that require brief scrambles on exposed, narrow paths with vertical drop-offs. The best view of the waterfall as it drops 75 feet is from the viewing platform at about 3.85 miles. Saratoga Gap Trail is considered one of the best hikes in the Bay Area.
The Garrod family farm was established in 1892, and the family started a wine making operation a year later after purchasing the land from the Mount Eden Orchard and Vineyard Company. They recognized that sunny days, cool nights, a long growing season, and the high altitude of the Santa Cruz Mountains are ideal for world-class wines. By 1972, the old grapevines had been replaced with varieties that would thrive in this microclimate. The vineyards now occupy 120 acres above Saratoga, including 28 acres with seven varietals from the four main grape-growing regions of France. The estate’s historical tasting room, named the Fruit House, is open daily and with their selected wines they offer charcuterie, artisan cheeses, olives, and crackers.
Mindego Ridge is a small 10-acre vineyard and winery perched on a south facing slope in the Santa Cruz Mountains, only 8 miles from the Pacific. The vineyard produces 100% estate grown pinot noir and chardonnay made in small lots with minimal intervention. Mindego Ridge shares a tasting room with Lexington Wine Co., offering small batch Bordeaux varietal wines made from grapes from the same area and produced using the same style. The tasting room is located in downtown Saratoga, offering informative wine tasting experiences frequently attended by the proprietors and winemakers of Mindego Ridge Vineyard and Lexington Wine Co. Walk-in visitors are welcome. The offered five-wine flight is continually changing.
The Basin is an upscale but unpretentious American eatery, spacious and bright and with a focus on organic produce and sustainable seafood. This popular Saratoga restaurant in the Madronia Historic Area offers a traditional American menu with a strong Spanish and Italian influence and enough of their own twist on the everyone’s favorites to make them more interesting. There is a lovely patio, which is a bit less noisy. The menu has a nice selection of small plates such as the lamb sliders, paella pequena, burrata and truffle fries. The freshly shucked oysters and house cured wild salmon are superb, and so is the Pork N’ Clams with a tenderloin from Snake River Farms and littleneck clams. They offer 18 rotating wines by the glass, about 100 in bottles, and imaginative craft cocktails and beer.
The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California, was originally called the Paul Masson Mountain Winery and belonged to Paul Masson, a pioneer of wine growing in California. The winery is recognized as a California Historic Landmark and has had a long and turbulent history. It stopped producing wine in 1952 and became a concert venue, hosting some of the music greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, and Ray Charles. The estate started making wine again in 2004 as the Mountain Winery with the famous winemaker Jeffrey Patterson, planting 3.5 acres of pinot noir and 2.5 acres of chardonnay. The winery is now open for tours and their very popular tasting room in Saratoga is a great spot to try their excellent wines in a cozy atmosphere, surrounded by paintings of the vineyard and the property by Ansel Adams.
Big Basin Vineyards was founded in 1998 on an old ranch settled in the late 1800s in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just next to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. French immigrants started wine grape cultivation on the ranch in the early 1900s. Big Basin Vineyards are famous for their 2015 Coast Grade Pinot Noir, which was selected as one of the best wines in the world by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Vineyard has a beautiful tasting room in downtown Saratoga, with a cozy indoor space that doubles as a gallery for local artists and a charming stone patio surrounded by flowering bushes. They offer five-glass flights of their rotating wine selection and pair wines from their cellar with live music on Throwback Thursday.
Hugging the steep sides of a canyon on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Sanborn County Park spreads over 3,453 acres next to Castle Rock State Park. The park is densely forested with towering redwoods, coast live oak, big leaf maple, Pacific madrone, and tanbark oak. The trees provide pleasant shade year round, making the park very popular with hikers from nearby Saratoga. The first part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail passes through the park. The trail extends along the high ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains and eventually becomes the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which continues to the Pacific Ocean. The entire Bay Area Ridge Trail is 500 miles long and circles the entire Bay Area. The Lake Ranch Reservoir, a tiny mountain lake, is also part of the park. It can be reached using a steep canyon trail at the end of Sanborn Road.
Mount Eden Vineyards is a small wine estate about 50 miles south of San Francisco, located at 2,000 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains and overlooking Silicon Valley. The winery was founded in 1945 and is one of the original California “boutique” wineries. They focus on small lots of pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Mount Eden’s low-yielding estate vineyards are planted in austere, infertile shale on a cool and exposed mountaintop, and they have produced high-class wines for more than half a century. Mount Eden does not have a tasting room, but it does offer weekday tours of the upper wine cellar that include a tasting of three of their wines, as well as a seated tasting two Saturdays a month.
8 Skyline to the Sea Trail
15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA 95033
The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail is a popular 29.5-mile hiking trail that runs down the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It passes through two large parks: Castle Rock State Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest state park in California. The trail passes by a number of beautiful waterfalls and through some of the oldest, largest, and tallest redwood forests left in the world. The trail starts on the ridge at Saratoga Gap, at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and SR 9. Many hikers prefer to start at Castle Rock. Most hikers take three days to complete the entire trail, going from the ridge to the ocean. There is a 31-mile ultra-running race on this trail a couple times a year. A detour to Berry Creek Trail to see the waterfalls or to stay at the camp at Sunset Trail Camp adds 2.7 miles to the hike, but it is well worth it.
House Family Vineyards winery is located on 73-acre family compound above Saratoga, California. The House Family Estate wines are mostly made from grapes grown in their own Old Oak Vineyard on the estate, but they also use grapes from several carefully selected California vineyards that have complimentary terroir and are farmed in the same high-touch style. House Family Vineyards winery is known for the award winning merlot, chardonnay, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and Petit Verdot made from grapes grown on their estate. They also make sauvignon blanc, zinfandel and pinot noir using grapes from other vineyards. Their Vineyard Point Tasting Room is open on weekends and offers panoramic views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Silicon Valley.
Located just a short drive from downtown Saratoga, Saratoga Quarry Park is a serene and picturesque 64-acre haven from the constant hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. Saratoga Quarry Park offers a glimpse into the past and access to the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the early 1900s, there were two active lime quarries on the site, converted in 1908 into a gravel quarry and closed by the county in 1967. County employees installed picnic tables, barbecue pits, and play areas and brought their families for picnics, parties, and weddings. The City of Saratoga bought the property in 2011, with a conservation easement that assures that it will be used as a natural scenic space.
Garrod Farms was established in 1892 by the Garrod family, which emigrated from Southern England. The farm switched from agriculture to riding stables after the second world war, with ten horses. They opened the stables for business in 1962, adding barns and an arena. Today, Garrod Farms occupies 120 acres with pastures, stables, vineyards, and family homes. They have access to 23 miles of beautiful riding trails on the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. They offer guided tours, riding lessons, camps and horse boarding, horse riding classes for teenagers, and group and private lessons. Garrod Farms is home to world and national champion vaulters and vaulting teams. Vaulting is the art of gymnastics on horseback.
California Survival School offers the new kind of entertainment and team-building experience that by far surpasses a day of bowling or golfing. Their wilderness-based adventures take any team’s soft skills and practices to the next level through a series of wildly exciting outdoor survival challenges at one of their special outdoor locations. The training is led by nature awareness and primitive survival experts with decades of experience. They teach essential survival skills such building a friction fire and a primitive shelter, animal tracking, camouflage, finding wild edibles, and stone blade making. The training not only offers a superb team building experience, but also leaves all participants armed with real outdoor survival knowledge that could one day save their life. California Survival School has a network of locations for their courses, including one in a private redwood grove at Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards in Saratoga, California.
Lexington Wine Co. produces wines from grapes grown in high-elevation mountain vineyards on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their goal is to make unique and distinctive wines that are representative of the remote land they come from. Most of the grapes used by Lexington Wine Co. come from Gist Ranch vineyard, located at an elevation of 2,400 feet on the Pacific Plate in Santa Cruz County. The cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, and semillon vines were planted in 2000 by the Fogarty family. The wines are made to be not conventionally Californian, with a vibrant energy, depth, and complexity. Their wines are available directly from Lexington Wine Co. or from the small tasting room in downtown Saratoga they share with Mindego Ridge Vineyard.
Big Basin Burger Bar is a lively, upscale, very popular eatery In downtown Saratoga known for its superb burgers, excellent selection of craft beers, and fun atmosphere. It is a place to get together with friends or co-workers for lunch, after-work drinks, or dinner. Their burgers are made from grass-fed beef, natural turkey, or organic bison. The most popular option is the “make your own burger”, with hundreds of options for creating a perfect meal. Burger Bar also serves gourmet salads and fabulous appetizers (try the Crab Mango Stack – layered crab meat, avocados, mango salsa, and micro bean sprouts). Check out their house special of the week, there is always something interesting.
Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards is located on 53 acres in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just above Saratoga and the infamous Silicon Valley. The vineyard is best known for their pinot noir wines made from estate and other local grapes. The winery also produces award-winning zinfandel wines, made from the original zinfandel vines planted on the estate in 1910. These vines are the oldest still producing zinfandel vines in California. The estate also grows cabernet franc, planted in 1920, chardonnay, port, and a number of other varietals. The vineyard is open for tours and the winery’s popular historic Redwood Tasting Room offers all their great wines as well as live piano music on Saturdays and Sundays.