Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Palo Alto is home to Stanford University and many high-tech companies such as HP, PARC and Tesla Motors. Plan a weekend trip and view the landmark Stanford Dish radio telescope, explore the Cantor Arts Center, and take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hanna House.
Best things to do in Palo Alto, California, with kids include the Junior Museum & Zoo, the Palo Alto Art Center and the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
1.Cantor Arts Center
© Cantor Arts Center
Located on Lomita Drive at Museum Way, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is an art museum that opened in 1894 and has more than 130,000 square feet of space. Formerly called the Stanford University Museum of Art, the museum is famous for its outstanding collection of sculptures by the French artist Auguste Rodin; there are 199 sculptures by Rodin, many of which are displayed in the B.
Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden. The Cantor Arts Center is one of the best Palo Alto attractions. One of his most famous works, The Thinker, is on display in the center. Works by other artists and from other parts of the world are also exhibited at the museum.
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford, CA 94305-5060, 650-723-4177
2.The Stanford Dish
© Courtesy of Lynn Yeh - Fotolia.com
Located on Reservoir Road in the Stanford foothills, the Stanford Dish is a landmark radio telescope with scenic paved trail loops.
Built in 1966 by the Stanford Research institute, the 150-foot diameter (46 meter) dish was funded by the United States Air Force in order to study the composition of the atmosphere. Because of its unique construction with a separate receiver and transmitter, the dish became a powerful means of communicating with satellites and spacecraft.
The dish’s communication range is so strong that it was able to transmit signals to the NASA Voyager spacecrafts on the outer edge of the solar system. The 3.5-mile trail around the dish is popular with runners and joggers.
400 Reservoir Road, Stanford, CA 94305, 650-723-2560
3.Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
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Comprising 1,940 acres, the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is the largest area of marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it is a mixture of fresh water habitats and tidal habitats.
The preserve is an important area for migratory shorebirds and is one of the best things to do in Palo Alto, California. Many people think that this preserve offers the best bird watching on the entire West Coast. Features of the preserve include fifteen miles of multi-use trails as well as the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, the Baylands Athletic Center, baseball and softball fields, and the Palo Alto Duck Pond. California beaches.
2775 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-329-2506
4.Junior Museum & Zoo, Palo Alto, California
© Junior Museum & Zoo
The Junior Museum & Zoo is a science and nature center located on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. The zoo is full of interesting things for children to see and experience, including many interactive educational exhibits and a large variety of live animals; there are more than 200 animals that represent 50 species.
Many of these animals are brought into classrooms in area schools as part of the outreach program of the museum and zoo. Some of these animals include bats, birds, bobcats, ferrets, fish, hedgehogs, raccoons, and turtles. If you are wondering what to do in Palo Alto with kids, this is a great place to visit. The zoo welcomes school field trips and can be rented for special occasions like birthday parties.
1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-329-2111
5.Stanford University Tour
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The Stanford University Tour, which begins at the Stanford Visitor Center on Galvez Street, is free and lasts for 70 minutes. The tour is guided and narrated, and it allows visitors to learn about the buildings on the campus as well as the history of the university.
Highlights of the tour include the Main Quad, the Engineering Quad, Memorial Church, and the White Plaza. Other special tours include the one-hour Humanities and Arts Tour, which is guided and led by student volunteers.
295 Galvez Street, Stanford, CA 94305, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-723-2560
© Courtesy of malven - Fotolia.com
Today, Hewlett-Packard is a global technology leader that inspires entrepreneurs and innovators all over the world. It all started in 1939 when two Stanford University friends Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started working in Dave’s parents’ garage. With very little resources, they began creating innovative products such as audio oscillators, which were used by many sound engineers.
Encouraged by their early success, they formed the company, the first and original Silicon Valley startup. The garage where it all started is now a symbol and inspiration to all similar dreamers, and the garage, now meticulously restored and renovated, is visited daily by large numbers of other entrepreneurs who hope that one day their little startup will become a global giant.
The garage is not open for visitors, but you can pass by and take photos of the place that proves dreams do become reality. The HP Garage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California
7.The Stanford Shopping Center
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The Stanford Shopping Center is an open-air shopping mall located on the campus of Stanford University. Established in 1954 and built on the former vineyards of Leland and Jane Stanford, the original shopping center consisted of nine buildings and 45 businesses sitting on 8,800 acres of land.
Today, the outdoor center is 1.4 million square feet in size and is home to more than 140 upscale retailers and specialty stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Burberry, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and many more. There are also many restaurants in the center ranging from European to Mexican, Asian, and others. More California vacations.
660 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-617-8200
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8.The Stanford Theatre, Palo Alto, California
© The Stanford Theatre
Located on University Avenue, the Stanford Theatre is a historic and famous independent movie theater in Palo Alto. It was built in 1925 as a movie palace in the style of neoclassical Moorish and Persian architecture and design. In 1987, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation bought and restored the theatre.
Today, this popular establishment features classical movies dating from 1910 to 1970 and hosts many film festivals focused on directors and actors like Betty Davis, Cary Grant, and Alfred Hitchcock. One of the theater’s best-known features is its theater organ, the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Palo Alto, visitors are treated to an experience of seeing a moving picture in a classical movie house setting as films were intended to be seen.
221 University Avenue, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-324-3700
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The Hoover Tower, located on Serra Mall on the campus of Stanford University, is a 285 feet high building that houses the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. Herbert Hoover established this collection before he became President of the United States, and it is related to early 20th century history.
Arthur Brown, Jr. built the tower in 1941, and the architecture of the tower found inspiration in the cathedral tower at Salamanca, a historic city in northwestern Spain. Within the tower is housed a 46-bell carillon. The bells were cast in Belgium and in the Netherlands. The 11th floor was once the temporary home of exiled writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
550 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-723-2053
10.Palo Alto Art Center
© Palo Alto Art Center
The Palo Alto Art Center is a multi-purpose art center located on Newell Road in Palo Alto. Established in 1971 and owned by the city of Palo Alto, the art center hosts numerous temporary art exhibits in its exhibition galleries. These exhibits focus on the artwork created by artists from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Art Dialogues are the tours of the temporary exhibits guided by trained art docents. The art center is also known for its outreach programs and educational activities including special events days as well as weekly art classes for adults, teens, and children.
1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-329-2366
11.Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, Palo Alto, California
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The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, located on Waverley Street, is a 2.5-acre garden with a historic home, a carriage house, and a tearoom. Built in 1902 for the Gamble family, Elizabeth F. Gamble, one of the daughters of the original owner, donated the property to the city of Palo Alto in 1971. The original formal herb and rose gardens were restored, along with the additions of irrigation, lighting, and paths.
Repairs were also made to the existing buildings, and a gazebo was added. The garden is open every day, and there are docent led tours of the garden and the house from Monday through Thursday. The property can be rented for special events such as weddings.
1431 Waverley Street, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-329-1356
More weekend & day trip ideas: 17 Best Things to Do in San Jose.
12.Downtown Palo Alto Farmers Market
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Located between Gilman Street and Hamilton Avenue behind the downtown Palo Alto post office, the Palo Alto Farmers Market is open every Saturday from May through December. Founded in 1981, the market is dedicated to providing the community with fresh produce supplied by about 45 local farmers from nearby areas such as Capay Valley, Fresno, Hollister, Santa Cruz, and Sebastopol.
Some of the products include cheese, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, flowers, olive oil, and much more. In addition to the market products, there are artisan foods and events including live music concerts. Musical performers include soloists, instrumental groups, and youth instrumental ensembles.
Gilman Street and Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-427-9253
13.Town & Country Village
© Town & Country Village
The Town & Country Village is an upscale mall located on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. The mall consists of several buildings full of boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, specialty stores, and much more. There are gardens and pedestrian paths that connect the various buildings that are a part of the mall.
Cafes and restaurants include the Asian Box, Douce France, Howie’s Artisan Pizza, and more, while apparel and shoe shops include Francesca’s Collections, In Her Shoes, Tennis Town & Country, and others. There are also home accessories and furnishings stores, specialty and gift shops, and health, beauty, and wellness spas and salons.
855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-321-3005
14.Terun, Palo Alto, California
Italians are serious about their pizzas, even when they make them on the other side of the Atlantic. Terun pizzas are true southern Italian pizzas, and the restaurant has the pedigree and papers from Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana to prove it.
Everything about Terun’s pizzas is authentic, from the meticulous preparation process to use of the freshest ingredients. For us, that means crisp, thin, fire baked pie with delectable toppings. San Daniele is an excellent example: it is loaded with Prosciutto San Daniele, cremini mushrooms, arugula, mozzarella, shaved Parmesan and truffle oil. Terun has a few other authentic and rare Neapolitan dishes such as baked cauliflower au gratin in light parmigiano cream and bread crumbs.
Their wine list is extensive and features some superb Italian wines. The restaurant is small, sleek, and modern, and its patio is lovely, bright, and spacious. Read more
448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-600 8310
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Located on Porter Drive on the campus of Stanford University, the Hanna House was the first house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built in the San Francisco area. The project began in 1937, and it was Wright’s first and best example of a non-rectangular hexagonal design.
Listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark, the design of the house is based on the honeycomb of a bee with many six-sided figures, numerous tiled terraces, and built-in furniture. The house is sometimes referred to as the Hanna-Honeycomb House, and it was built for Jean and Paul R. Hanna, both educators associated with Stanford University.
16.Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
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Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is a 3,436-acre park full of dense forests, rolling grasslands, and magnificent vistas. The preserve stretches from Monte Bello Ridge to Skyline Ridge and is one of the region’s most diverse ecosystems rich in wildlife. There are several hiking and biking trails that can take visitors to the most beautiful areas of the preserve. Stevens Creek Nature Trail is a three-mile loop suitable for all fitness levels.
It takes about three hours to complete the loop. Canyon Trail goes along the spine of the Monte Bello Preserve and is very popular among bicyclists. Monte Bello is a great place to watch birds’ migration, take in the views, or just enjoy being outdoors.
330 Distel Cir., Los Altos, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-691-1200
17.Mandarin Roots, Palo Alto, CA
© Mandarin Roots
Mandarin Roots is not your average Chinatown Hunan restaurant. In fact, while its roots are in China, its branches and leaves are all over the place: they have Latin quesadillas, Italian mozzarella, Vietnamese banh mi sliders, Mongolian BBQ, Laotian chili aioli, and other interesting additions.
However, the roots do matter, and the Chinese aspects are fresh, delicious, and inventive. Try their wonderful Peking Duck Fried Rice with roasted duck, caramelized onions, spring onions, pickled onions, and fresh cucumbers. The restaurant is lovely and situated in a cozy, attractive garden setting with blooming bougainvilleas and cheerful Chinese lanterns. Their Happy Hour is very popular, in great part because of the Chinese tapas they serve with drinks. Read more
3345 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-565-8868
18. Curry Up Now
© Curry Up Now
If you are tired of chasing your favorite Indian food truck down the streets of Palo Alto, Curry Up Now now has a “brick and mortar” place on Hamilton where you can satisfy your craving for hot naan, butter-dripping samosas, or spicy and flavorful curries.
The restaurant is a counter-serve cafeteria-style, unpretentious, and utilitarian and most people simply order to go. The menu is a Westernized version of Indian street dishes that retain all the authentic flavors with a simple change in form – naan now serves as a burrito wrapper or in lieu of chips for dipping, many dishes are available vegetarian and gluten free, and everything is fresh and bursting with delicious spicy juices. Don’t forget to get your mango lasi, an addictive Indian soda.
321 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-300-4690
19.Rinconada Park, Palo Alto, California
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Located on Embarcadero Road, Rinconada Park is a 19-acre city park and is home to Palo Alto’s municipal swimming pool. Established in 1922, Rinconada Park is the second oldest park in the city after El Camino Park. Originally called Waterworks because of its proximity to a reservoir and a well, Rinconada, which is Spanish for “corner,” is set in a landscape of redwood and live oak trees.
The park features picnic areas with barbecues, two children’s playgrounds, jogging and walking paths, six lighted tennis courts and three non-lighted tennis courts. Near the park there is a children’s theater, a community theater, and community meeting rooms.
777 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-463-4900
© Patxi's Pizza
Patxi’s Pizza makes going out for pizza a revolutionary dining experience. The restaurant is not your regular pizza joint; it is pleasant and spacious, with modern understated décor, and it is the perfect place to bring a family or a bunch of friends for a meal.
The place is packed most nights, perhaps because of their deep-dish pizza, or what is often called Chicago-style pizza. Just don’t tell the Italians. The menu has other things, even thin-crust pizza, but the star of this show is their signature deep-dish pizza. It has flaky, crisp crust full of butter and a whole-wheat version is available too. They make their own tomato sauce from scratch every day.
The toppings are simple, and there are often only one or two, but you get tasty things like prosciutto, garlic, and fennel sausages or artichoke hearts. All ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and the pizzas are made fresh while you are waiting.
441 Emerson St, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-473-9999
Coming to Tamarine is a feast for all the senses. This modern Vietnamese restaurant is sophisticated and elegant with warm and subdued colors accented by the original paintings of contemporary Vietnamese artists.
Vietnamese cuisine is a thousand-year old fusion of various Asian influences, and it is astoundingly flavorful and rich in unique ingredients. It is commonly eaten together with family and friends, so plan on sharing. To get the idea of the Vietnamese flavors, textures, and colors, try a few of the starters, which are a true revelation.
Entrees are large enough to share, but choosing only one can be a challenge. Try the fried jumbo prawns in tart tamarind sauce served with rice noodles. Tamarine Jade Bar is a lovely spot for a late night snack or interesting cocktails.
546 University Ave, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-325-8500
© Boba Guys
Boba Guys is a lively tea and coffee joint offering 10 locations throughout California and New York City, including a Palo Alto location. The restaurant, which was originally founded as a pop-up in 2011 by business partners Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, specializes in variants of the popular Taiwanese-style tapioca delicacy crafted with organic milk or milk alternatives and premium teas from the company's Tea People line. All boba tea variants are prepared with housemade syrups and all-natural fruit purees, paired with Grade A tapioca balls and housemade almond and grass jelly. Specialty and seasonal flavors are served up throughout the day, along with build-your-own drink menus. Diners can also enjoy coffee from Brooklyn-based company Parlor Coffee or enjoy a variety of looseleaf black, green, and oolong teas.
855 El Camino Real #120, Palo Alto, CA 94301, Phone: 415-967-2622
23.Sundance, Palo Alto, California
Sundance is luxurious and opulent in every aspect, from their intimate leather booths and mahogany-paneled walls to the crisp white tablecloths and romantic flickering candles. It is an excellent choice for a celebration or to bring a date you want to impress.
The menu focuses on succulent beefsteaks, slow-roasted prime rib, and high quality seafood, including New England scallops, Scottish salmon, Chilean bass, and Australian lobster. The cuisine is fairly traditional, but everything is made to perfection. The portions are generous, but make sure to try their starters, especially the filet mignon spring rolls. The Sundance wine list is fantastic and has more than 450 bottles.
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-321-6798R
24.Watercourse Way Bath House Spa
© Watercourse Way Bath House Spa
Watercourse Way day spa ishh a relaxing luxury Zen retreat in Palo Alto in Carmel Valley. It is beautifully decorated with Asian artwork and local touches, such as a willow ceiling in the spa lobby, a granite water wall carved by hand, and a Sonoma stone bench. The soothing sound of water from the many fountains together with the soft lighting put clients in a relaxing frame of mind before starting one of many relaxation, health, and beauty treatments. The spa offers a range of massages and facial treatments as well as hot tubs that can be enjoyed alone, with a partner, or in a group in addition to steam rooms, a dry sauna, cold plunges, and much more. Take a break from the daily grind and let the stress melt and your heartbeat slow for just a few hours.
165 Channing Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301, Phone: 650-462-2000
25.The Counter Palo Alto
© The Counter Palo Alto
A burger is a burger, right? Not according to The Counter. They shook things up and came up with a new way of looking at our favorite meat patty. First, you do not have to have it in a bun – eating it from a bowl is fine, particularly for those with gluten intolerance or for those who don’t eat a lot of bread.
And why should a burger mean only beef? They have turkey, bison, chicken, fish, and several veggies patties. The toppings and sauces are also much more varied than the traditional mayo and ketchup. In fact, you can just make the burger yourself – choose the bread, choose the meat, the salad, the topping, and cheese, and if you want, you can even bring it all home raw and cook it yourself.
One thing The Counter insists on: all meats are organic and hormone- and antibiotic-free. If you think their burgers are innovative, try their milk shakes. The Chocolate Cherry Pinot Noir Shake with pinot noir wine, chocolate syrup, and cherries is delicious – just make sure the kids don’t get hold of it.
369 South California Avenue, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-321-3900
25 Best Things to Do in Palo Alto, California
- Cantor Arts Center, Photo: Cantor Arts Center
- The Stanford Dish, Photo: Courtesy of Lynn Yeh - Fotolia.com
- Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Melastmohican - Fotolia.com
- Junior Museum & Zoo, Palo Alto, California, Photo: Junior Museum & Zoo
- Stanford University Tour, Photo: Courtesy of belyay - Fotolia.com
- HP Garage, Photo: Courtesy of malven - Fotolia.com
- The Stanford Shopping Center, Photo: Courtesy of Monkey Business- Fotolia.com
- The Stanford Theatre, Palo Alto, California, Photo: The Stanford Theatre
- Hoover Tower, Photo: Courtesy of rnl - Fotolia.com
- Palo Alto Art Center, Photo: Palo Alto Art Center
- Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, Palo Alto, California, Photo: Courtesy of Lazartivan - Fotolia.com
- Downtown Palo Alto Farmers Market, Photo: Courtesy of Ekaterina Pokrovsky - Fotolia.com
- Town & Country Village, Photo: Town & Country Village
- Terun, Palo Alto, California, Photo: Terun
- Hanna House, Photo: Courtesy of Andrii Oleksiienko - Fotolia.com
- Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of milosz_g - Fotolia.com
- Mandarin Roots, Palo Alto, CA, Photo: Mandarin Roots
- Curry Up Now, Photo: Curry Up Now
- Rinconada Park, Palo Alto, California, Photo: Courtesy of Pakhnyushchyy - Fotolia.com
- Patxi's Pizza, Photo: Patxi's Pizza
- Tamarine, Photo: Tamarine
- Boba Guys, Photo: Boba Guys
- Sundance, Palo Alto, California, Photo: Sundance
- Watercourse Way Bath House Spa, Photo: Watercourse Way Bath House Spa
- The Counter Palo Alto, Photo: The Counter Palo Alto
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of DJ_38 - Fotolia.com
Sigona's Farmers Market
Sigona’s Farmers Market is a family-owned grocery store like no other. Located in the Stanford Shopping Center, it provides residents with the best produce and gourmet foods grown and made locally. They work with local farmers, organic fruit and vegetable growers, dairy farmers, honey collectors, and others to bring their produce directly to the hands of the customers.
They also work with a number of gourmet food vendors who sell things like cookies, chocolates, cheeses, juices, and so much more. The store is colorful and cheerful, almost impossible to resist, and always full of shoppers who come to load up on the freshest, often organic, most wholesome foods possible.
399 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, California, Phone: 650-329-1340