By: Annu Verghese
This is Silicon Valley, a hyperactive cradle of innovation. From San Francisco to San Jose, the map is crisscrossed with headquarters for tech giants like Oracle, Google, Apple, Cisco, HP to more recent game changers like Uber, Tesla and Khan Academy. Nestled within the heart of this fast changing world is Los Altos, a quaint little town that is holding on to the last bit of the old world in the silicon valley, which in 1900s was a paradise of orchards and farms. Interestingly many CEOs and venture capitalists have chosen to make Los Altos and the nearby hills their home.
Los Altos means ‘heights’ or ‘foothills’ in Spanish and is located in the Santa Clara County of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is 40 miles from the big city San Francisco and 25 miles from the Pacific Coast. The climate is temperate, Mediterranean type perfect for many fruit trees. Los altos strives to keep an atmosphere of village like charm. There aren’t many streetlights or sidewalks. It’s a quiet ‘bedroom’ community of diverse and friendly people. Homes are mostly on quarter acre plots and varied in style, from California ranches, Spanish Colonial to Craftsman and Modern. Many backyards and streetsides have apricots, oranges, plums, apples, persimmon and peaches growing in abundance. Biting into a sun ripened fruit, plucked just off the tree is one of the greatest joys forgotten in most urban areas.
Most of the action can be found in the downtown. Downtown Los Altos has a smattering of little boutiques and restaurants in a mix of new and historic buildings. The streets are lined with potted flowers and Chinese Pistache trees. The boutiques are well known for high style fashion, antiques, art, home accessories, gift items. You can catch the aroma of fresh baked goods and fresh ground coffees in the coffee houses. Restaurants feature a variety of cuisines from Mediterranean to Japanese, and of course fresh California cuisine.
The Downtown hosts many events throughout the seasons. In Spring is the adorable pet parade a beloved community tradition since 1948. It attracts hundreds of people every year, along with their pets, wagons, bicycles, parents and neighbors. Dogs, cats, horses, chickens and even worms participate. It is followed by the Art and Wine festival in summer and the Los Altos Fall festival. They feature arts and crafts booths, delicious food booths, a classic car show, musical entertainment, local wines and beer and a variety of activities, games and rides for children. And to welcome the Holidays, the charming Festival of Lights parade comes to life with colorful lighted floats, local High School Marching Bands playing holiday music, and costumed characters all lit up with hundreds of lights.
Across from downtown is the Los Altos History museum. The Craftsmanstye House is a fullyfurnished farmhouse depicting life during the Depression, surrounded by heritage oaks, gorgeous gardens, and a working heritage apricot orchard. It reminds us of a time when our main contact with the rest of the world was a single telephone in the hall and a radio in the living room for news and entertainment. Outdoors, learn about our agricultural past with a historic tank house with its farmhand’s humble home, apricot cutting and sulfuring sheds, 3hole outhouse
and lots of farm equipment, including a tractor to climb on.The oakstudded gardens with their mature floral landscaping and brick patio offer the perfect venue for wedding ceremonies and receptions, luncheons, reunions or other social gatherings.
Art is celebrated in this town. Many parks and street intersections are interspersed with interesting sculptures and art installations. Avid hikers and bikers have a myriad of trails nearby. So if you are in the Silicon Valley looking to slow down, spend a day in leisure and exploration in Los Altos.