||Free Things in Saratoga, California|
A guide to free things to do in the city of Saratoga.
Reviews by Sarah Quelland (July 24, 2003)
STATELY MANSIONS, beautiful foothills, world-class concert venues and a quaint little village are hallmarks of this artistic and historic South Bay community. If Los Gatos has the nouveaux riche, Saratoga would be the "old money," with all the traditional and understated elegance that goes with it. Just a short drive from the stress and noise of Silicon Valley sits this quiet, European-styled town with ample room to breathe and drink in the picturesque surroundings. Numerous recreational, cultural and family activities are offered free of charge, with plenty of backup from restaurants, cafes and pampering establishments. And there's free parking on the street, even if you don't have a Porsche to park there.
1. Play Tennis, Track and Golf
West Valley College
14000 Fruitvale Ave., Saratoga; 408.741.2000;
Members of the community are free to use the Saratoga Community College's lighted tennis courts, nine-lane all-weather track and golf-driving range whenever classes are not in session and no other groups have rented them for other purposes. WVC also hosts the annual Saratoga Rotary Art Show, a free family-friendly art event that takes place in May.
2. Take a Walk in the Park
Sanborn-Skyline County Park
16055 Sanborn Rd., Saratoga; 408.867.9959
The Youth Science Institute
Sanborn Park, 16055 Sanborn Rd., Saratoga; 408.867.6940; Wed-Fri
9am-4:30pm, Sat-Sun noon-4:30pm; www.ysi-ca.org/Sanborn/SBHome.html This lush mountain park offers 3,600 acres of redwoods and tan bark to explore. Free day-use activities include grassy picnicking spots and more than 15 miles of hiking trails and easy nature walks. Located at the park is the Youth Science Institute, a natural science and history museum committed to fostering an understanding in youth about the relationships between human beings and the natural world. This Sanborn branch of YSI features a host of exhibits, including live arthropods, reptiles, amphibians and mammals that live in the Santa Cruz Range, an insect zoo, earthquake and geology displays and a garden of plants native to the region. There's a $4 per vehicle parking fee to enter the park.
3. Go See the Horses
Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards and Garrod Farms Riding Stables
22600 Mount Eden Rd., Saratoga; 408.867.7116; www.cgv.com
Most activities are free at this historic 28-acre estate and vineyard. Free wine tastings are held every Monday-Friday, noon-5pm and every Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm. For art lovers, the art exhibits are free. History buffs might want to check out the historic photos of George Cooper's career as a NASA test pilot, the historic ranch buildings and the 1932 Ford parked by the tasting room. Horse enthusiasts will get a kick out of watching the Mount Eden vaulting team training (Tuesday-Friday, 3-6pm, and Saturday, 8am-5pm) or attending the free horse shows where students and other horse lovers ride. The estate extends an open invitations to photographers and artists to bring their cameras or easels and spend time capturing the beauty of the panoramic views of Santa Clara Valley and other picturesque scenery. Free picnic areas and free access to the Fremont-Older and Midpeninsula Open Space areas are added bonuses.
4. Walk through the Past
Saratoga Historical Museum and Saratoga Village
20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Rd., Saratoga; 408.867.4311; Wed-Sun 1-4pm
Housed in a turn-of-the-century former drugstore building, the Saratoga Historical Museum contains displays of artifacts and photographs from early Saratoga. Located in the quaint and historic section of downtown Saratoga, next to the city's first library (now a Friends of the Library book store) and the McWilliams House (presently the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce), the museum offers guided walking tours of historic sites of the area, which include homes and the Oak Street School that are more than 100 years old, a boarding house where actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine used to live, Sam McCloud's store, the old livery stable and the Bank, a bar that used to be a Bank of America. Admission is free.
5. Be An Art Lover
Aegis Gallery of Fine Art
14531 Big Basin Way #2, Saratoga; 408.867.0171
http://www.aegisgallery.com/; Sun, Tue and Wed 11am-7pm, Thu-Sat 11am-9m
Dedicated to the pursuit of fine art, this eclectic cooperative gallery's membership is made up of a variety of local sculptors, ceramic artists, photographers, painters, jewelry makers, printmakers, papermakers, wood-turners and more. On the third Thursday of every month, 7:30-9:30pm, the gallery sponsors poetry readings, dramatic interpretation and chamber music performances in the main gallery. Upcoming exhibits include a retrospective group show in August; Mahoko Dahte's ceramics in September; Kay Duffy's watercolors in October; Li Chen's oils and acrylics in November; and the members' holiday show in December. Admission is free. Likewise, the nearby Gallery Saratoga fine art cooperative (located at 14435A Big Basin Way) offers similar browsing fun and hosts its annual Garden Party Art Show with art exhibits, live music and complementary refreshments on Aug. 3, 1-5pm. Gallery Saratoga is open Tue-Sun, 11am-5pm.
6. Splendor in the Grass
15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga; 408.961.5800, www.villamontalvo.org
Built by former San Francisco mayor and U.S. Senator James Duval Phelan, this stately historic Mediterranean-style mansion is situated on 175 acres in the foothills of Saratoga. Though primarily a retreat for artists and a performing arts space, the public is invited to take in the splendor of the beautifully manicured lawn, the exotic formal gardens, the commissioned Sculpture on the Grounds exhibits, the woodland nature trails and scenic vistas daily, 8am-5pm, except on event dates. The Montalvo Gallery is also free and open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, 1-4pm. Specialty free events coming up at Montalvo include an open house on Oct. 18 .
7. A Free Festival
Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 408.867.0753; Sep. 13, 5:30-10:30pm
Last year, this annual street fair and community jubilee had close to 30,000 revelers in attendance celebrating Saratoga's historic culture. With six stages, this year's free event will be bursting with music. There's plenty of entertainment to amuse the kids and adults, and local restaurants provide samples of gourmet foods and award-winning wines. Shuttles run from Saratoga High School, Argonaut Shopping Center and West Valley College.
8. Picnic in the Park
20764 Fourth St., Saratoga; 408.867.3438
Small but popular, this four-acre park is an oasis just strides away from downtown Saratoga. With established trees that attract scores of birds, it's a charming setting for a quick lunch break, a leisurely picnic or a family barbecue. There's a children's play area and recreational facilities, including volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit and bike paths.
9. Get Some Zen
21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 408.741.4994, www.hakone.com; Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
These immaculately kept Japanese gardens established in 1918 by Oliver and Isabel Stine are among the most authentic in all of America. Inside this tranquil setting sculptured trees and plants, a bamboo park, a koi pond, lanterns, symbolic stones, a tea museum and a traditional tea service area coexist in harmony, all accessible by the twisting gravel paths that accent the beautiful and meditative grounds. Docent tours run every weekend and a tea ceremony demonstration takes place on the first Thursday of each month, 1-4pm. There is a small fee for parking.
10.Hear a Good Story
Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave., Saratoga; 408.867.6126, 408.867.6127
Recently renovated and reopened, the Saratoga Library offers numerous free activities for children throughout the summer. The Summer Reading Club is a great way to get kids interested in books at a young age. For kids too young to read yet, the library offers the alternative Good Listening Club, where younger children can enjoy summer storytime. Every Wednesday at 2:30pm through Aug. 13, the library hosts special events for children like puppet and magic shows for grades one and up. More free programs, including those for teens and adults, will be announced later. Check the website for updates.
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