All great answers below. Additional thoughts/details
From the "village" walk-able area I would recommend Willow Glen (95125). If you choose a home in the Booksin school area, you are covered with a good school up until 5th grade. Willow Glen offers ranch or newer custom homes in your price range all within walking distance to downtown. Great sense of community. Events throughout the year. . The other advantages of Willow Glen, quick to the highway, CAL TRAIN, light rail and airport.
Check out the local web sites of to get a feel for the local goings on
Cambrian Park great area but not as walkable. Tends to have larger lots, but the main draw is the Union School District. K-12 - great schools. Architecture is more ranch/suburbia, not quite as unique as Willow Glen. No "hub" of shopping/restaurants other than strip malls/chains. Quick access to 85/17. The main pull is schools.
Campbell - great downtown, best market on Sundays (imho). Restaurants, nightlife, near the Los Gatos Creek trail that you can ride/walk to Willow Glen or Los Gatos. Schools, not so good, and Campbell struggles with having good street "pockets" surrounded by rentals. This is fast becoming the most desirable place for young couples that do not yet have school aged kids.
Los Gatos certainly can offer the downtown walkable attributes. Great market, more choices for dining, great schools. Less house for your money. One way in and out - HWY 17. You still have access to Los Gatos Creek Trail and much more shopping/dining than the smaller communities.
Mountain View - All of the above simply more pricey. Depending on the commute desire Mountain View may be more desirable than more South Bay neighborhoods. Mountain View is known for good schools. Check out the boundaries carefully.
Another ares to mention is West San Jose (95117) Near Santana Row. Look for Moreland school district and you can find good schools. Santana Row is the draw. Not extremely walk-able otherwise. Advantage, easy on/off to 280. Quick to Sunnyvale/Santa Clara/Mountain View for high tech commute.
Cambrian is most likely going to offer you the largest lots, but Willow Glen has some as well.
Mountain View and Los Gatos, less lot, less house for the money.
Check out http://www.schoolperformancemaps.com to get a better feel for where good schools are and how they relate to the neighborhood. I have a soft spot for Willow Glen as it is my own neighborhood. I chose it for a some of the same reasons you mention in your question. It will be important to go over all of your priorities to really fine tune the criteria so your agent can help you find the best neighborhood.
Century 21 M & M Associates
Willow Glen has a great downtown area although the schools don't score as high as Cambrian it is a desirable community with a lot of downtown activity.
Campbell. Nice downtown, lots of activities and one of the best farmer's market on Sundays.
Los Gatos may not get you the size for your budget. Mtn View as well.
Santa Clara near Santana Row. Schools don't score as high but you can walk to the shops.
Sara's answer hit it on the nose, but I wanted to add the Evergreen/Silver Creek Area. There are fantastic homes within your price range and the schools are fantastic. I live in the Ranch on Silver Creek and communities like the Ranch are highly sought after for the same exact amenities you've mentioned. The Silver Creek Country Club is another community you might be interested in. Each and everyday I look outside my home I see families doing their stroll around the neighborhood with their children. Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Le Boulanger, and Constentino's are just around the corner. Willow Glen and other places are like this community is just as good. But the homes in the Evergreen area are typically newer homes. I have four kids and I could not have found a better place to live than the Silver Creek area.
Hope this helps...
Marc C. Yu
408-945-9601 office fax
I would recommend Willow Glen, Campbell or Cambrian; these are all very community-friendly neighborhoods that are pet-tolerable and very family oriented. $1.3M will get you a nice home with good schools. I would search for 95125, 95124, 95008 to start.
Karey, these are my specialty markets/neighborhoods, so if you want to work with an experienced agent that knows the area, I would be delighted to help you with your home search. I am very tech savvy, high energy, have great references and grew up in the area ... hope to hear from you!
Of them all, Campbell is a great and fairly place to live. Great schools*, centrally located, low crime, and a small town, community feel. As with most towns, there are areas that are more desirable than others. The neighborhood in between Leigh, Campbell Ave, Meridian and Curtner is very nice and gives you access to the distinguished Cambrian School District*.
If you are open to a small commute, you can quite literally own a palace in the foothills and base of Santa Cruz mountains.
One of my clients found a lovely home on a half acre, walk to town and excellent schools in Scotts Valley, just over the hill from Los Gatos, in the $775K price range.
I agree that you can get a lot more home for your money in Cambrian. They home some great schools. You may find some homes that are walking district to a coffee shop, but Cambrian does not have the "village" community you have described.
Willow Glen definitely has some nice home withing walking distance to their village, but they schools leave much to be desired. There are many families that move to Willow Glen for the community, and then move on to Los Gatos for the combination of community and schools.
I think now is the BEST time to buy into Los Gatos. 2 years ago you would have had to buy a major fixer upper to get in to this great community for under 1.3, now you have many options!
For example, I just sold a very charming home on 16320 Rdigecrest Ave in Monte Sereno that was walking distance to down town Los Gatos with amazing schools! All this for only 1,165,000!
There are quite a few options right now in "The Manor" neighborhood that is walking distance to shops, park, and elementary school. And in your price range.
So, don't be discouraged. There are some great options and this is such a great time to make the jump.
I would love to say to you "Welcome to the neighborhood! I love it here too!"
Cambrian is a little less expensive and Los Gatos a little more but then I'm a little biased living in Campbell myself.
Cambrian, or Willow Glen. Cambrian schools are really great. Willow Glen has that village feel you are looking for but you need to be in the right area because not all schools in SJUSD are the best.
If you're looking for a neighborhood expert, my niche market is Willow Glen, Cambrian. I would love to help you out with your property search.
Some fine areas are Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen, Rose Garden.
Go to our web site http://www.ruthandperry.com
Plug in your criteria and you should get a list of homes.
What you are looking for is still attainable. If you are currently not working with an agent, I'd be happy to show you homes that fit your criteria. If you are currently working with an agent, she/he should be able to help you. Good luck in your search!