5 Christmas Season Hidden Gems Near Saratoga

Most South Bay folks have heard about Christmas in the Park and the Los Gatos Christmas Parade, but they only scratch the surface of the holiday delights this region has to offer – and we know you and the family want to experience something unique this holiday season. 

With that in mind, here are some different ideas worth the drive (in some cases) to kick off your holiday season!

1.  Nutz Remixed

We went to this last year on a whim and it ended up being a fantastic discovery. Our boys loved it. The show started with a mime who was so funny, one of our sons was literally falling off his seat he was laughing so hard.  

They show then moved on to an amazing mix of Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics, Nutcracker-esque hip hop and ballet numbers, and more.

Especially unique was the fact that the whole show was accompanied by a phenomenal acapella group, SoVoSó, so that literally every “instrument” we heard was actually a person's voice.  

2. Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights

This trip is one of our family traditions, and we bet after one visit it will become a tradition for you, too. Just be sure to wear long underwear, hats and gloves because it gets chilly.

All the trees here are lit up by white and colored lights. It’s beautiful! They do a live Peanuts Christmas Special complete with Linus (and his blanket, of course) talking about the real meaning of Christmas.

Getting some hot chocolate and riding the train around the park is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit.

3.  Winter Lodge Outdoor Skating in Palo Alto

For over 60 years, families have enjoyed skating at the Winter Lodge in Palo Alto. Consider it the West Coast’s answer to New York’s famed Rockefeller Center ice skating tradition.

They have public skating, classes, and you can even make group reservations. This is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening during the holiday season.

 4.  Polar Express Train Ride in Jamestown

Who doesn’t like trains? There is something about them that is magical and that draws kids and kids at heart to them. That’s why we love the Polar Express Train Ride.

This hour-long train ride boasts all the trimmings, including hot chocolates, treats, and of course, Santa himself. 

5.  Christmas Show at Saratoga Federated Church

This one is personal to us. Our church puts on an amazing FREE Christmas Show every year, and we urge you to give it a visit. This year the title is The Art of Christmas and will be held December 8th through 10th. Get more info here.

This is a great show for the whole family with loads of Christmas spirit. You’ll have a great time!

5 Charities Near Saratoga & San Jose That Deserve Your Support

This is a time of year when people start thinking about others more than themselves – that’s why we’ve put together this list of local charitable organizations that deserve your attention.

Take a look:

Humane Society Silicon Valley

One of the best known animal welfare organizations in the United States, the Humane Society Silicon Valley works to find homes for animals that need shelter, educate pet owners on best practices, provide an array of programs for pets and pet owners, and make life better overall for our furry friends.

They have helped animals in the area since all the way back in 1929, and have done so without receiving any tax dollars or money from national humane organizations.
 
The Humane Society Silicon Valley welcomes donations and volunteers. If you can help care for or foster animals, help with customer service, help run youth programs, and more, find them at hssv.org.

Food Pantries (many)

No matter how thriving your community is, there will always be people there going through a hard time. Our area is no exception. Thankfully, there are over a dozen food pantries here to help those during times when they need help.
 
Your local food pantries are always in need of unopened, non-perishable food. Some need volunteers to help them out, too. To see a list of food pantries in the area and information on how to contact them, visit this page.

Victory Ranch

They’ve been a top-rated charity in the region for a reason. Located in San Jose, this non-profit works with overlooked, neglected, and at-risk kids to help them have the kind of experience they couldn’t otherwise have. Working up close and person with horses, the experience broadens their lives in many ways.
 
They accept both donations and volunteers.

Children’s Healthy Smile Project

As dentists, we can get behind this one! The Children’s Healthy Smile Project is devoted to promoting excellent oral health in kids and children. The group provides education kits to kids of all ages, and also offers support for the Head Start program, among other efforts.
 
The Children’s Healthy Smile Project operates thanks to corporate donations and donations by individuals.

Abode Services

Located in Fremont, Abode Services pursues a tough mission: to eradicate homelessness. This group finds and provide housing for at risk families, and re-homes families that have found themselves homeless. The ultimate goal is to keep families together and get them back into a real home.
 
This group accepts donations of goods and money, as well as the help of more than 800 community volunteers. And they need the help! From prepping and service meals to tutoring, administrative support, and more, they need volunteers. 

5 Weird Places Near San Jose to Visit Before Halloween

October is here, and for many people that means one thing: weird road trips!

There are some odd places in and around San Jose you may want to visit this season, if you’re into that sort of thing. Here are our 5 recommendations:

Winchester Mystery House
525 S Winchester Blvd
San Jose

As the legend goes, Sara Winchester, heir to the Winchester fortune which was made on the sale of the famous line of guns, built the home – and then build addition after addition after crazy addition, all in an effort to stave away the ghosts of those killed by Winchester weapons.

Whether or not that story is actually true is a matter of debate, but what IS true is that the house is truly bizarre, with doors and staircases that lead nowhere, hidden rooms, and all sorts of high strangeness.

Drawbridge
Station Island
San Jose

One of the things the region is known for is ghost towns. When you think of ghost towns you might imagine you’d have to venture deep into the desert to find one, but Drawbridge, still a thriving town in the 1920s, is an exception.

With a short walk down some train tracks you can see the shell of what once was – though take note, the tracks are private property, so seek permission before making the trip.

UPDATE: It looks like the closest easy way to see Drawbridge now is via hiking the Mallard Slough trail in the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge. Here's more current information and some video footage of the town.

Quito Road
Saratoga

If you’ve ever driven down Quito Road in Saratoga, you’ve probably noticed something unusual: speed limit signs with odd limits like 22mph and 19mph. It’s a little strange!

The signs have been up since the 1970s and went up after a rash of bad accidents on the road. They’re designed to get your attention – and they work! And no worries, the signs are not enshrined in the law. They are advisory limits, not mandatory limits.

Sunnyvale Toys R Us
130 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale

A Toys R Us? Really? Yes, really! This is no ordinary toy store. Supposedly, it’s haunted by the ghost of a man called John who was a preacher and ranch hand from the 1880s. He died by axe. Ouch!

Witnesses claim the ghost will knock objects off the shelves, create small breezes in the store, make the smell of flowers appear in certain aisles, and play with faucets in the bathroom. John is said to be harmless, only doing minor “pranks”– but in a toy store? Weird!

A Grave Site for an Arm
21364-21472 Bertram Rd
San Jose

In San Jose you’ll find the grave of Bert Barrett – or more accurately, of Burt Barrett’s left arm. Seriously. Just his left arm.

At 13 years old, Burt’s left arm was blown off by a shotgun in a hunting accident back in 1898. Burt lived, and his arm was given a proper burial.  Burt himself didn’t die until 1959, and when he passed away he was buried 11 miles away from his arm. True story.

6 Places Near Saratoga to Hike With The Family This Autumn

If you’ve read previous articles, you know I love getting outdoors, especially if I can share that time with family.

We know a lot of you do, too, so here are some of our favorite places to escape to nature for a hike, whether just for an afternoon or for an entire weekend. See you on the trails!

Castle Rock State Park

With 34 miles of trails, one of the highest ridges in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and some truly challenging rock climbing for adventurous types, Castle Rock State Park is for those truly dedicated to the outdoors.

Bikes are permitted on some trails, same with horses, but most of this rugged outdoor terrain is made for hikers. There are primitive campsites for people who want to stay overnight, amazing vistas, and enough trails to keep you busy for a dozen trips. 

Sanborn Park and Ranch Lake

The expansive Sanborn Park is close to 4,000 acres, with a load of trails to go along with its impressive size. This park is dense with forest, making it a good match for serious hikers.

In addition to the lovely Ranch Lake, the park is also home to the first stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is a 500-mile long trail that circumnavigates the entire Bay region. 

Wilder Ranch State Park 

With an impressive 34 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and more, Wilder Ranch State Park has some of the nicest scenery in our immediate area and is perfect for hiking a single day or full weekend.

Trails wind through valleys and across terraces, the views and vistas are spectacular, and you can even visit historic gardens.

 

Los Gatos Creek Trail 

This fantastic 10-mile trail is suitable not only for a hike with the family, but also good for cyclists, skaters, serious hikers, and others.

The Los Gatos Creek Trail extends from the Lexington Reservoir all the way into San Jose, providing extensive walking through some of the most breathtaking nature the region has to offer, yet without taking you too far from civilization.

The Fremont-Older Preserve 

You’ll enjoy this 739-acre swath of natural land. The Fremont-Older Preserve is close to Stevens Creek County Park. With plenty of hiking trails, wide open meadows, hills to climb and much more, it’s an escape for the family not too far from urban sprawl.

You’ll even enjoy some limited access for cyclists and horse riders as well. Dogs on leashes are also welcome!

Lexington Reservoir

This well-known watery escape is not just the third largest reservoir in Santa Clara County, it also provides a good place for families to indulge in some outdoor exploration. Hiking trails wind around the reservoir and offer great views of Silicon Valley.

It’s also the centerpiece for the Lexington Reservoir County Park, where you’ll find rowing, fishing, and more.

5 Family Friendly Places in San Jose We Love to Eat At

Now that the school year is here, families will be looking for something to do to break up the monotony. No better way to do that than heading out for a good meal – and thankfully for you, San Jose is filled with great places to eat with the family!

Here are five of our favorite family-friendly places to eat in the area. If you haven’t checked them out, pay them a visit!

Maggiano's Little Italy
3055 Olin Ave, Ste 1000, San Jose

You can’t mention food places to eat without mentioning an Italian place, and Maggiano's is just what you want when the family is hungry. The atmosphere is great and it’s located in a cool part of town, and as you’d expect from a good Italian place, the portions are generous!

Bill's Cafe
1115 Willow St, San Jose

Sometimes you and the family just want a big, hearty, classic breakfast. Well, look no further than Bill’s to get exactly that. It isn’t anything fancy, nor does it aspire to be, nor does it NEED to be.

This is all about getting big portions, home cooked food, and a warm atmosphere. Nice place to grab breakfast on the weekend with the family!

Aqui Cal-Mex
1145 Lincoln Ave, San Jose

Maybe we’re biased, but we think the best Cali-Mex in the state is located right here in San Jose. Aqui is an excellent example of what we have to offer, and it’s a family-friendly place the kids will love.

They have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, too. Good food in a casual atmosphere – check them out!

Smoking Pig BBQ Company
1114 N 4th St, San Jose

If you’re a meat lover, you’ll be in for a treat here. With big portions of delicious meat of all types, REAL BBQ and the best pulled pork you’ll find in the region, Smoking Pig is a delight for families who like their meals meaty. Now that the school year is here, treat yourself!

Falafel Drive-In
2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose

Now THIS is the sort of place you go with the family when you want a good time. Sitting outdoors in this sort of setting is always nice, and let’s be honest: Falafel is fun to eat!

The food is really good and is a good value for your dollar. Oh, and don’t pass up on the shakes. They have amazing shakes!

5 Common Dental Problems Almost Everyone Gets at Some Point (Including you!)

Many of us are embarrassed by the dental problems we have, but the truth is that just about everyone has some sort of dental malady or another.

It’s not unusual, and therefore is nothing to be embarrassed about – as long as you’re getting it treated, that is! Here are five of the most common:

1) Bad Breath

If you have bad breath, you are not alone. The truth is, there is no larger oral health problem than bad breath, also called halitosis. In 4 out of 5 cases, a dental condition is to blame. This can be dry mouth, having cavities, gum disease, bacteria on your tongue and other factors.

2) Mouth Sores

If you have them, don’t worry. Lots of people do. They come in many varieties, too.  Canker sores, cold sores, fever blisters, ulcers, and more among the most common.

Thankfully, they are rarely anything more than a nuisance. They often go away after a few weeks. Once in awhile one of them can point to a bigger problem.

If you have a mouth sore that lasts for more than two weeks, see your dentist!

3) Cavities

The scourge of tooth decay is one of the most common oral health problems in America, and in fact it’s one of the most common medical problems of all.

Cavities hit almost as many Americans as the common cold. If you brush twice a day, however, and remember to floss, watch what you eat , and more, you’ll enjoy the best defense – which is prevention!

4) Gum Disease

Technically this is known as periodontal disease. Gum disease happens when the gums surrounding your pearly whites become infected. This usually begins with gingivitis.

After a while it progresses and may lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is actually the most common reason for tooth loss among adults

5) Oral Cancer

Oral cancer doesn’t get the attention other cancers do, so you might be surprised to learn that there are 300,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year. At any time, millions of Americans may have oral cancer.

As with any cancer, it can be a deadly problem if left untreated, but thankfully it’s also very treatable, especially if caught early. That’s a good reason to see your dentist regularly!

We’re sure almost everyone reading this has suffered from at least one of these at one time or another. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just be sure to see your dentist regularly so small problems don’t become big ones!

5 Great Dog Parks Near Saratoga To Enjoy This Summer

Summer is finally here, and dog owners know there are few things more enjoyable on a nice summer day than spending some time outdoors with your furry friend.

Thankfully, Saratoga and the surrounding area are packed with fantastic places to escape for a little while with your four-legged pal.

Here are five of our favorites:

Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

Much more than just a dog park, this 739-acre open space preserve has loads of great trails, including a 900-foot hilltop with lovely views. All those trails are dog-friendly to leashed dogs, making this a great spot to go for a walk in nature with your furry friend.

Los Gatos Creek County Park

Take a quick jaunt to nearby Campbell for a dog park made especially for dogs. Two fenced in areas accommodate small and large dogs, and it has all the amenities you need, including water, benches, and “pooper scoopers.”

The grassy areas are great for your pup’s paws! Located at 1250 Dell Ave, there is free street parking nearby, or you can use the Dell Avenue parking area, which has an $8 parking fee.

Wilson Park, Cupertino

Located in nearby Cupertino, Wilson Park welcomes leashed pets for walking and playing in its large, grassy areas. Located at 10298 S Portal Ave. Bring some friends and toss around the ball on the baseball fields!

Los Gatos Creek Trail

If you and your pup like to take in some adventure, try the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Supported by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, this is a fantastic place to walk your dog, with close to 10 miles of walkable trail, paved areas, and nice views of the reservoir and more.

There are multiple access points, including at East Main Street at College Avenue and Miles Avenue. The trail also has access to Oak Meadow Park and Vasona County Park.

Backyard Wineries

This is not a dog park, but it is a dog-friendly getaway if you want to spend some outdoor time with your dog this summer. The winery is pet friendly, offers selections from two different wineries, and is located at 45 W Main St in Los Gatos.

Taking A Tour of the Other Places Named Saratoga in the U.S.

It’s no secret that we love Saratoga. We live and work here for a good reason: it’s a terrific community, one of the nicest on the west coast, and we’re blessed to have patients here. It’s been ranked as one of the best earning towns, most well educated towns, and more.

So obviously there are a lot of good things to say about Saratoga, California. That’s why so many of our articles are about the great things in this community!

But what about all those other Saratogas? You see, we’re not alone. You’ve probably heard of Saratoga Springs, NY, but it turns out we have namesakes all across the country. There are many.

Knowing that makes us wonder what these other Saratoga communities are like. What makes them stand out? What makes them unique? What separates them from us?

Saratoga, Indiana

In the heartland of the U.S. you’ll find Saratoga, Indiana, a tiny little village of just 250 or so people. It’s been around since the 1800s, but needless to say there isn’t much here. In fact, the town had about 400 people in 1970 and has been declining ever since. Doubtful a vacation here is in the works.

Saratoga, Minnesota

Over in Minnesota, their Saratoga fares a little better, but only a little. In Winona County you’ll find a town of just over 600 people that shares our name, though not much else. This is a rural community through and through.

Saratoga, New York

Not to be confused with Saratoga Springs, on the East Coast you’ll find a pleasant town of 5,100 with a history that dates to the 1700s. This town began as Fort Saratoga, and is perhaps best known as place where British General John Burgoyne surrendered to American General Horatio Gates after the Battle of Saratoga. Today it hosts the Saratoga Race Course, the oldest operating sports facility in the United States. It’s a beautiful town, made even more beautiful by adjoining our next entry…

Saratoga Springs, New York

This town of 27,000 is one of the most beautiful cities in the northeast, an historic community that has been a popular tourist destination for over 200 years. Located in the heart of New York’s so-called “Capital Region,” it has routinely been ranked in the top 10 places to live in the state. The city has a thriving thoroughbred racing scene, gorgeous golf courses, theaters and the performing arts, a dozen great museums, and more. It has even been a shooting location for notable films like 12 Years A Slave, The Horse Whisperer, and Seabiscuit. Needless to say, this would be a wonderful place to spend some time!

Saratoga, North Carolina

The last stop on our Saratoga tour is another tiny village, this one comprised of just 400 or so people in rural South Carolina. It’s home to an historic plantation, but there aren’t many other tourist destinations nearby.

Interesting to see all these other towns that share the name of our illustrious town. And there are more, too! If you found this article interesting, perhaps we’ll tour some more Saratogas in a future article. Thanks for reading!

Where To Get Out And See The Wildflowers This Spring

It’s wildflower season! We love to get out onto nearby trails looking for fields of poppies and other wildflowers. Seeing the Santa Cruz mountains and Santa Clara Valley can be truly breathtaking this time of year.
 
If you want to take in this wild beauty in all its glory, there are some great places to do it within a short drive from our office. These are a few of our favorite places: 

Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

Located just an eight-minute drive from our office, this 739-acre swath of natural land also has close proximity to Stevens Creek County Park. With a wealth of hiking trails, gorgeous open meadows, tall hills and more, it’s an oasis for the family right on the fringes of urban sprawl –and this time of year, it’s loaded with wildflowers!
 
Gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz mountains and Santa Clara Valley, too. This part is a terrific place for the family, with plenty of rooms to explore. Dogs on leashes are welcome, too!

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

If the more than 3,300 acres of open land aren’t a big enough draw, the dazzling display of wildflowers between now and June will be. Poppies, lupine, gumweed, mules ears and many more turn the hills a wash of dazzling colors that have to be seen in person to be believed.
 
The numerous hawks, eagles and turkey vultures fill the sky, too, making the view something special no matter here you look.

Long Ridge and Skyline Ridge

One of the top spots for wildflowers in the area, Long Ridge offers spectacular views and trails suitable for both short trips and extended hikes. It’s connected to the Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve by one of the longest continuous segments of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, making it perfect for adventurous types, but this time of year the big draw are those amazing flowers.
 
Spread out across rolling green hills, the scenery is some of the best in the state, especially in the late spring.

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

With spectacular natural diversity spread out over more them 4,000 acres, most of them packed with trails, this is a fantastic park if you love to take in the spring and early summer wildflowers. In fact, the park is widely known for its amazing wildflower displays, which boast breathtaking color like you’ve never seen.
 
It’s certainly worth the trip! In New Almaden, access the park from Mockingbird Hill Lane, Wood Road, and via the Hacienda entrance.

The Los Gatos Creek Trail

If you want to see poppies in abundance, this is where you want to be. This fantastic 10-mile trail is great for hiking. It extends from the Lexington Reservoir all the way into San Jose to Meridian Avenue, providing extensive walking through some of the most gorgeous nature our area has to offer and connecting a number of key areas worth exploring for those who want to see some of the region’s natural wonders.
 
You can find access points at East Main Street at College Avenue, Miles Avenue, through Oak Meadow Park, Vasona County Park, and from the Lexington Reservoir.