Saratoga

Is Saratoga Los Gatos’ pretty little sister? Some might think so because of the towns’ similar historic downtowns, their sprawling, spacious homes, their excellent public school districts and their next-door locations in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Indeed there is plenty Saratoga and Los Gatos have in common. Saratoga, however, is not a miniature Los Gatos. It is a unique place all its own. As much as it shares with Los Gatos it has more characteristics that it shares with no one. Saratoga belongs to the upper echelon of Silicon Valley towns, those places with a longstanding tradition of providing a retreat and home for hard-working, high-powered executives. Over the years it’s wracked up numerous accolades, showing up regularly on various “best of” lists. Saratoga is not “just” one of Bloomberg’s “richest towns,” it’s also one of Forbes’ “most educated towns.”

It’s also a destination spot.

For a small, mostly residential town, Saratoga has more than its share of attractions. Villa Montalvo, the one-time home of California Senator James Phelan, holds concerts, theater and arts events year-round on its lush 175-acre grounds, attracting internationally-known performers and also hosting an ongoing artist-in-residence program. Not to be outdone, the Mountain Winery, an imposing chateau built in 1901 by vintner Paul Masson, provides another beautiful setting for music. Over the years luminaries such as Ray Charles, the Beach Boys and Tony Bennett have performed in its 2,500-seat outdoor amphitheater. In addition, West Valley College stages a full calendar of live theater each year, as does the Saratoga Civic Theater, home to the West Valley Light Opera and South Bay Musical Theater.

Saratogans spend their free time outdoors as well as in. The city’s two protected open spaces, Sanborn Skyline Park and the Fremont Older Open Space, combine for well over 20 miles of foothill trails. Further into the Santa Cruz Mountains is Castle Rock State Park, which offers hiking, camping, horseback riding and is one of the region’s best and largest spots for rock climbing. There are also trails closer to town, plentiful public tennis courts and the Saratoga Country Club, which has six tennis courts and an executive golf course.

This is a city whose inhabitants take advantage of its charms, be they hiking, cycling, watching a play, touring one of the wineries hidden in the foothills or partaking of casual and fine dining downtown. For a town of its size, Saratoga has a very lively restaurant scene highlighted by the Plumed Horse, which just re-opened after a complete remodel. Located downtown in a deceptively casual setting, the Plumed Horse has received a Michelin star every year since 2008. Reservations at this California cuisine landmark can be difficult to come by, but fear not; Saratoga has a number of other delicious options available.

It also has many sophisticated boutiques, located downtown along Big Basin Way and in other parts of town. For some, the perfect Saratoga day starts with shopping, continues on to a day spa and ends with al fresco dining on the patio at Bella Saratoga, located in a converted Victorian mansion that dates back to the days of Saratoga founding family Hannah and Martin McCarthy, when the town was known as McCartysville. Back then, Big Basin Way was called “Lumber Street,” because most of its traffic was comprised of redwood trees being brought down from lumber camps in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Plenty has changed since them. McCartysville is Saratoga and the rolling hills and flatlands are full of luxurious homes. Like Los Gatos, Saratoga combines affluence, opportunity, sophistication and natural beauty with a small-town vibe that emphasizes community and quality of life. Add to this public schools ranking among the state’s best plus proximity to Silicon Valley job centers and it’s easy to see why Saratoga is one of Santa Clara County’s most desirable addresses.