5 Great Neighborhoods in San Jose

Get to know the personalities of San Jose's most popular places to live.
By: Kim Boatman Nauman

Willow Glen

It’s hard to resist the charms of Willow Glen, which somehow manages to feel like a cozy little town despite its commute-friendly location just south of downtown San Jose. Tree-lined streets of postcard-perfect Victorians, Spanish stuccos and Craftsman bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s command premium prices. On occasion, tiny storybook cottages are transformed into expanded, showcase remodels. There’s no cookie-cutter feel to homes here. Couples and families looking for a haven from the hassles of a booming metropolitan area find it in Willow Glen, with its own “downtown” of coffee shops, boutiques and eateries on Lincoln Avenue. Tech-savvy residents use social networking to keep abreast of neighborhood happenings.

Also consider: The Rose Garden

Once the province of pear and prune orchards, the Rose Garden boasts both grand estates and street after street of vintage 1930s cottages. At the heart of the neighborhood is the city’s rather glorious Municipal Rose Garden. A notable if quirky landmark is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Neighbors here are passionate about preservation.

Downtown

The once-dreary, somewhat sketchy downtown is infused with life these days. Techies wanting a city experience would often live in San Francisco, then commute south to companies in Silicon Valley. Increasingly, they’re finding a reason to shorten that commute. A recent spate of newly developed lofts and condos are bringing big-city urban living to San Jose for the first time. The digerati -- the cool young singles and couples who fuel Silicon Valley’s engine -- are moving in and hanging out at events such as the impossibly cool biennial ZeroOne digital arts festival. The attractions are many in downtown, from San Jose Sharks games and concerts walking distance away at the HP Pavilion to hip galleries, sideway cafes and upscale steakhouses such as A.P. Stumps. But you’ll still want to investigate downtown neighborhoods thoroughly: neighborhoods close by can still be a little iffy.

Silver Creek

Carved into the bucolic hillsides southeast of the city, this relatively newly minted neighborhood of stately Tuscan-style homes offers a retreat from the busy freeways and crowded streets of San Jose and Silicon Valley. Square footage and country club living attract families who can afford the million-dollar price tag on homes with enviable views of the valley below. Lot sizes remain modest, however, typical of California real estate. Silver Creek kids play indoor soccer, dance and participate in martial arts and skating at the nearby Silver Creek Sportsplex, the largest indoor fitness and sports facility in the country.

Also consider: Almaden

This neighborhood also offers rolling hills and golf courses, with bountiful recreation opportunities and established neighborhoods. Those views of the twinkling city lights below, though, can come with multimillion-dollar price tags.

Los Gatos

On the edge of the valley, just as Highway 17 begins its climb into the forested Santa Cruz mountains, Los Gatos offers a boutique version of small-town life. Cottages are walking distance to chic downtown cafes and antiques shops in restored and well-preserved Victorian-era buildings. Silicon Valley tycoons retreat to multimillion-dollar estates on the wooded hillsides above town. The highway bisects the town. You’ll find the part of town east of the highway generally feels more like the suburban sprawl that typifies parts of the valley, while the charming downtown sits on the west side of the highway. Bikers and outdoorsy types love Los Gatos for Vasona Lake County Park, with its paddleboats and rowboats. The 14-mile Los Gatos Creek trail, which stretches through a good part of Silicon Valley, runs through Vasona.

Cupertino

This small city directly west of San Jose might have landed on the map as world headquarters of Apple Inc., but families with school-age kids snap up suburban ranchers in Cupertino because of the excellent schools. For example, Faria Elementary School rates tops in the state in standardized testing. Almost half the city’s residents were Asian in the 2000 census, and many businesses reflect the Asian influence. Cupertino doesn’t offer a typical downtown. At the heart of many activities is De Anza College, a highly regarded community college. Of note in Cupertino is a historic development of Eichler homes. These modest-sized midcentury-modern homes offer a distinctive love-it-or-hate-it architecture of low-profile or flat roofs, center courtyards and open floor plans. Want to experience real California living? With their emphasis on bringing the outdoors in, these homes are considered quintessentially Californian.

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