13 Things You Didn't Know About Saratoga, CA

There is a lot to love about living in Saratoga. It’s widely considered one of the most desirable towns in California to live and work for a reason: it’s a beautiful historic community!

Throw in the fact that the people are wonderful, the weather is great, and the scenery is gorgeous and you’ve got a place we’re proud to call home.

There is a little more to Saratoga than “just” the fantastic people and great quality of life, though. Take a look at these 15 things you might not know about this amazing community:

1. Saratoga’s original name was McCarthysville. The town was formed around a toll, which was located at the present day intersection of Big Basin Way and 3rd St.

2. Other names for the town included Toll Town and Bank Mills. The name Saratoga was made official in 1865.

3. Legendary actress Joan Fontaine, who was twice nominated for an Academy Award for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock films (winning once), lived in Saratoga before hitting it big.

4. In 2009, Saratoga was named one of the top 20 most educated towns in the United States.

5. The town of Saratoga was made a California Historical Landmark in 1950.

6. Saratoga’s Hakone Gardens was a filming location for the Academy Award winning film Memoirs of a Geisha, released in 2005.

7. CNN/Money ranked Saratoga number 4 on its 2008 list of top earning towns.

8. Sanborn County Park plays host to the only outdoor Shakespearean theater company in Silicon Valley.

9. Had Saratoga not incorporated in 1956, it would have been annexed to San Jose.

10. Saratoga is named after a city on the other side of the country, specifically Saratoga Springs, New York.

11. Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who directed Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and others, is a graduate of Saratoga High School.

12. Saratoga is home to the Villa Montalvo, a historic landmark resting on some 175 acres. It has played host to notable figures like Jack London, Ethel Barrymore, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Edwin Markham.

13. The town’s Mountain Winery was made famous in part by legendary actor and director Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), who voiced the famed slogan, "We will sell no wine before its time."

5 Famous Faces With Ties To Saratoga

There are a lot of things to love about Saratoga. Its community events. Its great access to nature. Its local businesses. And of course, its people. 

Most people in Saratoga are just regular folks, working hard every day and enjoying what life has to offer. A few, however, have seen their work result in international fame. Here are five of them:

Steven Spielberg, director

Names don’t get much bigger than Steven Spielberg. This acclaimed director has made some of the most beloved films of all time, including Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Spielberg spent his senior year in high school at Saratoga High School, during which time he wrote for the Saratoga Falcon student paper. From there, he would go on to become a legend.

Joan Fontaine, actress

Academy Award winner (and two-time nominee) Joan Fontaine spent her childhood in Saratoga, where she attended Los Gatos High School. By the 1930s, she began to build her career as an actress, including two with Katharine Hepburn (A Million to One and Quality Street).

By 1940, she had become a bona fide star in her own right, nominated for an Oscar for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, and then winning one the following year for Hitchcock’s Suspicion.

Joe Murray, animator 

You may not know Joe Murray, but chances are good you know some of his creations, such as the animated series Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. Murray isn’t front Saratoga, per se, but he created the series in his studio here.

The work he did in Saratoga spawned a big hit among kids and adults alike, a series that lasted more than 50 episodes and is now a beloved cult classic.

His Camp Lazlo was in some ways even bigger, lasting more than 60 episodes and winning numerous awards, including three Emmys and three Pulcinella Awards.

Vienna Teng, singer

Vienna Teng’s immense songwriting talents have resulted in a string of five acclaimed albums and world recognition for her work. She was born here in Saratoga, where she began playing classical piano at an early age and ended up being salutatorian of her Saratoga High School graduating class.

Her professional music career began to take off in 2002, and she was soon noticed by NPR, David Letterman, and many others. Even more amazing, she continued to pursue her MBA and MS even while maintaining a successful music career.

Patrick Marleau, hockey player

No San Jose Shark has scored more goals than Patrick Marleau, captain of the team from 2004 to 2009. In fact, he also leads the team in all-time points, shots, and more.

He’s one of the few NHL players to have played in over 1,400 games and is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. He is even a two-time nominee for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. When choosing a place to settle down with his family, Marleau chose Saratoga.

Pretty impressive group of people, and a group we are proud to associate with our town!

5 Great Places to do Gift Shopping Near Saratoga

It’s that time of year again, when we’re all on the hunt for the perfect gift. Some people are easy - a gift card, a bottle of wine, etc. - and some can be a real challenge.

But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? The hunt for the ideal gift!

Thankfully, there are a lot of fantastic gift shops in and Saratoga where you can find unique, quirky gifts. Here are five to explore this holiday season/

The Barn Owl (Saratoga)

This fun home and gift shop is a treat to browse. There is an eclectic assortment of items to comb through, from home decorations to kitchen goods, knickknacks, garden ornaments, and general gift items. It’s not hard to find a great gift here!

Out of the Envelope (Los Gatos)

It’s not gift-giving season without cards, right? Out of the Envelope takes the whole idea of card shops to the next level, with custom printing and personalization, embroidery, custom envelopes, personalized cards, and more – and yes, they have an assortment of gifts, too. We’re recommending them for the holiday season, but in truth you’ll find a lot to like here for ANY kind of special occasion.

Cosmos Gift Shop (Santa Clara)

With a wide selection of housewares, cosmetics, clothes, and other great giftables, most of it with an Asian flair – they bring in a lot of goods from Korea, Japan, and elsewhere – Cosmos is a great shop for when you want to find a gift you won’t find anywhere else. The employees are very polite, too

 Fat Robin (Saratoga)

This is a party-focused gift shop that has everything you’ll need for a gathering at your home – dishware, stuff for the kitchen, etc. – as well as a great assortment of unusual and interesting gifts. You can even put together gift baskets! If you’re having a party and gifts will be given, this is a great place to handle both at once.

Voluptuary (Los Gatos)

Clothing, jewelry, fragrances, candles, and accessories: this is an awesome small town boutique with lots of eye-catching goods that would make great gifts. They carry a lot of niche lines you won’t find in larger retail stores, and the employees are smart, friendly, and know their stuff. If you’re shopping for a woman, this is a great place to stop!

We love the holiday season and we love giving gifts, so it’s always a treat to find a shop that is unlike any other. We think these five fit the bill, but we know there are many others out there.

Know of a great local gift shop with interesting gifts? Let us know about it in the comments!

5 Overlooked Christmas Season Events 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.  Nutcracker Santa Cruz: Experience the Magic

There are few traditions our family likes more than taking in a holiday show during the Christmas season, and few shows speak the holiday as well as the Nutcracker, a favorite for many.

This year, the Santa Cruz City Ballet and the Santa Cruz Dance Guild is presenting The Nutcracker at Cabrillo's Crocker Theater. It’s only for one weekend, though, so grab your tickets while you can!

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 A Family Christmas and will be held December 7th through 9th. 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 Charitable Organizations Near Saratoga & San Jose That Deserve 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 Strange 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.

11 Things You Might Not Know About Saratoga’s History

There is a lot to love about living in Saratoga. It’s widely considered one of the most desirable towns in California to live and work for a reason: it’s a beautiful historic community!

Throw in the fact that the people are wonderful, the weather is great, and the scenery is gorgeous and you’ve got a place we’re proud to call home.

There is a little more to Saratoga than “just” the fantastic people and great quality of life, though. Take a look at these 15 things you might not know about this amazing community:

1. Saratoga’s original name was McCarthysville. The town was formed around a toll, which was located at the present day intersection of Big Basin Way and 3rd St.

2. Other names for the town included Toll Town and Bank Mills. The name Saratoga was made official in 1865.

3. Legendary actress Joan Fontaine, who was twice nominated for an Academy Award for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock films (winning once), lived in Saratoga before hitting it big.

4. In 2009, Saratoga was named one of the top 20 most educated towns in the United States.

5. The town of Saratoga was made a California Historical Landmark in 1950.

6. Saratoga’s Hakone Gardens was a filming location for the Academy Award winning film Memoirs of a Geisha, released in 2005.

7. CNN/Money ranked Saratoga number 4 on its 2008 list of top earning towns.

8. The town was almost annexed into San Jose and became part of that town, but in 1956 there was a move to incorporate as an independent municipality. That move was a success, and now you have the Saratoga you know today.

9. These days, Saratoga has been a pricy place to live for a while now. In 2016, Coldwell Banker called Saratoga the most expensive housing market in the country, and way back in 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek named it the most expensive suburb in California.

10. It’s expensive, but people can afford it. CNN Money says that over 70 percent of Saratoga households bring in more than $100,000 a year, and in 2011 Bloomberg called it the 18th wealthiest zip code in the U.S.

11. Saratoga is a smart town, too. In 2009, Forbes listed the town as one of the top 20 best educated in the United States.

Pretty fantastic, right? And here you thought this was just another anonymous town.

5 Common Dental Problems Most People Will Get 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.

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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!

6 Great Places to for a Family Hike in Saratoga this Summer

When we’re not in the office helping our patients feel more confident, we like to be outdoors with our families – and thankfully, our area is rich with places to go. Here are six of our favorites:

1.  Los Gatos Creek Trail

The Los Gatos Creek Trail is a fantastic 10-mile trail that is suitable not only for a great family hike, but that is also good for cyclists, skaters, serious hikers, and others. It extends from the Lexington Reservoir all the way into San Jose to Meridian Avenue.

This means the trail not only provides extensive walking through some of the most gorgeous nature our area has to offer, but it also connects a number of key areas. 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.

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2. Lexington Reservoir

Speaking of the Lexington Reservoir, it provides a great place for families to indulge in some outdoor exploration all on its own. Located on the Los Gatos Creek, it’s the third largest reservoir in Santa Clara County.

Hiking trails surround the reservoir and provide fantastic views of the water and of Silicon Valley. It’s also the centerpiece for the Lexington Reservoir County Park, which features rowing, fishing, and more. As dentists in Saratoga, CA, we love this park!

3.  Fremont-Older Preserve

The Fremont-Older Preserve is a 739-acre swath of natural land that 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.

There is limited access for cyclists and horse riding, too. That means it’s a terrific place for the family, with plenty of rooms to explore. Dogs on leashes are welcome!

4.  Wilder Ranch State Park

Boasting an impressive 34 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, Wilder Ranch State Park has some of the most beautiful scenery in our immediate area. It’s enough to overwhelm any Saratoga dentist you meet!

Trails wind through valleys and across terraces, views are spectacular, and there are historic gardens on site to visit. The trails and sights are so extensive, Wilder Ranch can be a place for a quick afternoon out or for a more serious, extended hike.

5.  Sanborn Park and Ranch Lake

The sprawling Sanborn Park is nearly 4,000 acres, with a wealth of trails befitting its grand size. This park is heavy with forest, making it ideal for serious hikers.

In addition to the beautiful Ranch Lake, the park also plays host to the first segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, with at 500 miles long circumnavigates the entire Bay region. That’s quite a hike!

6.  Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Yes, this is located in Monterey, so it’s a bit of a drive, but it’s worth it! Located along a gorgeous coastal area, the park features some of the loveliest scenery in the region. Trails wind here and there, giving you access to historic sites and more.

Please keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in this park, not even in a vehicle, so if you usually include your dog in your family outdoor adventures, she’ll have to stay home for this one.

5 Family Friendly Places to Eat Near Saratoga

Sometimes you and the family just need to get out of the house, even if only because you can’t bear to look at the kitchen after a long, busy day. The trick is finding a restaurant that is kid-friendly.

Don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are five of our favorites in and around Saratoga:

1.  Aldo's Ristoranta & Bar

Don’t let the “bar” part of their name fool you. Aldo’s is family-friendly the moment you walk in the door. This Los Gatos Italian restaurant not only boasts a patient, friendly staff and excellent Italian food (including great fish dishes), they are sure to be prepared for families, too.

Tables have paper tablecloths that children are encouraged to draw on, and the owners always give a warm welcome to kids. They even have ice cream!

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2.  Campbell Brewing Company

Located in Campbell, the Campbell Brewing Company is a brewpub and restaurant that specializes in Southern style BBQ, a rarity in northern California. Feel free to take a pass on the beer if you like, because the food and atmosphere is reason enough to go.

Being able to eat out on the sidewalk is great, and the BBQ ribs are just out of this world. There is a cupcake place across the street where you and the family can stop after dinner, too.

3.  Pono Hawaiian Grill, Santa Cruz

A trip into Santa Cruz is always worthwhile thanks to the Pono Hawaiian Grill. The name tells you exactly what to expect – a Hawaiian-themed restaurant with all the teriyaki chicken and coconut prawns you could want.

What really sets it apart, though, is the “Aloha” spirit of the place. With patio seating, live music, and warm and friendly people, you’ll truly feel like you’re getting away from home for a little while.

4.  Willow Street Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? Willow Street is a wood-fired pizza place that is perfect for families. The patio seating is roomy and comfortable, and kids eat free on Tuesdays, which is always nice for the family.

They usually have sports on the television for a distraction, and their new thin crust pizza is phenomenal. They also offer other dishes, like pasta and lemon chicken, just in case someone isn’t in the mood for pizza.

5.  Andale in Los Gatos

A casual Mexican restaurant in Los Gatos, you’ll love the atmosphere just as much as you’ll love the food. Located right next to the Apple store, the patio seating is a great place to be and will make the kids feel right at home.

If you’re a big fan of Mexican and want to go big, try the El Presidente burrito. It’s a monster!

Have a recommendation of your own? Leave it in the comments!