Palo Alto is a bustling small city just south of the Peninsula south of San Francisco. It is home to Stanford University and hundreds of Silicon Valley technology companies ranging from Hewlett Packard to tiny startups operating in garages (which is exactly how HP started).
Palo Alto means high tree in Spanish, and refers to an aging redwood tree at the north end of the city, hard by the CalTrain tracks at the trestle bridge that crosses the San Francisquito creek, which forms the border with Menlo Park in San Mateo County. The 1061-year-old Coast Redwood which stands 110 feet high and has a based diameter of 90 inches, marks a campsite for the Portola Expedition Party of 1769.
Accessible by train, bus or automobile from nearby San Francisco (about 25 miles) and San Jose (about 20 miles) airports. US 101 is the primary highway access, although I-280 also passes through the western edge of Palo Alto. Palo Alto Municipal Airport, which is a few miles from the center of the city, serves private aircraft.
Bus service runs through most of the major areas within the city. Routes are concentrated around El Camino Real and University Avenue.
Bike lanes nearly everywhere make riding convenient and safe.
Automobiles are definitely the most convenient way to get around, and parking is plentiful everywhere except the downtown area. Municipal parking is complementary and fairly well dispersed, but usually limited to 2 hours during the business day. Parking information can be found at http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/parking/
- Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), 650-926-2204. M-F, 8AM-5PM. http://www.slac.stanford.edu
- Stanford University. Offers cultural, athletic, natural and educational resources to Palo Alto visitors. For example, Outdoor Sculpture at Stanford University http://www.stanford.edu/dept/SUMA// includes a very large collection of large scale works by Rodin in garden immediately adjoining the museum of art. Look for Andy Goldsworthy's River of Stone a few steps from the museum's front entry. A guided outdoor sculpture tour is conducted the first Sunday of each month at 2 pm, rain or shine. The tour lasts about 1.5 hours, and begins at the entrance of the Main Quad (where The Oval meets Serra Street).
- Biking is a very popular Palo Alto activity. Road and off-road trails are plentiful. http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/bike/
- Walking trails abound in the hills to the west of Palo Alto. Check out the Arastradero Preserve http://www.acterra.org/arastradero/ and the four-mile walking trail at the 150-foot diameter Stanford University Radio Telescope, which locals call "the Dish". The trailhead is at the intersection of Junipero Serra and Stanford Avenue. The public hiking trails are only accessible during daylight hours. Sorry, dogs are prohibited.
- The Stanford Theater A wonderful old theater showing classics from the 1930s through the 1950s. http://www.stanfordtheatre.org/
Palo Alto's main shopping district is on University Avenue between El Camino Real and Middlefield Road. A second, smaller shopping area is on California Street between El Camino Real and Alma.
- Stanford Shopping Center, Sand Hill Road and El Camino Real. A large upscale mall that features Nieman-Marcus, Nordstrom's, Bloomingdale, Macy's and one hundred and forty other stores. http://www.stanfordshop.com/
- Bella Luna, 233 University Ave, 650-322-1846. Italian cuisine. http://www.posthoc.com/bellaluna_southbay.html
- Buca di Beppo, 643 Emerson St, 650-329-0665. Family style Italian cuisine. Does not accept reservations, so get there early. http://www.bucadibeppo.com/loc_details.asp?ID=0501
- Cabaña Crowne Plaza's 4290 Bistro, 4290 El Camino Real, 650-857-0787. Features perhaps the most sumptuous brunch buffet that you may experience, weekends only. http://www.cppaloalto.crowneplaza.com/sfoca/dining.html
- Compadres, 3877 El Camino Real, 650-858-1141. Offers moderately priced Mexican food favorites. If you like it spicy, check out the options at the "Wall of Flame."
- Hobee's, 67 Town & Country Village, 650-327-4111. A moderately priced restaurant with home California-fusion meals and good vegetarian options. Famous for its blueberry coffeecake with its eclectic omelets and its fruit smoothies. http://www.hobees.com/paloalto.html
- Mango Cafe, 435 Hamilton Avenue, (650) 325-3229. Caribbean restaurant with wonderful fruit juice drinks. Order 'The Whole Island' if you're starving (jerked chicken wings, island rice, and chicken pelao.)
- PF Chang's, Stanford Shopping Center, 650-330-1782. Offers California-style Asian cuisine in a bistro environment. http://www.pfchangs.com/location/loc_code.jsp?state=ca
- Zibibbo, 430 Kipling (between University and Lytton), 650-328-6722. Mediterranean cuisine. http://www.restaurantzibibbo.com/
- The Edge, 260 South California Avenue, 650-321-6464. Live entertainment and dancing. http://theedge.club.net/
- Miyake, 140 University Avenue, 650-323-9449. Features high energy atmosphere, eighties music and disco lights, popular with Stanford students; Sake Bomb (shot of sake dropped into a glass of beer and chugged) is the drink of choice. http://www.miyake-usa.com/index2.htm
Palo Alto makes a good base of operations for visiting the Silicon Valley and San Francisco, since it lies about halfway between San Jose and SF.
A trip to San Francisco on the Caltrain takes about 1 hour and drops you off just south of downtown.
To the west, the beautiful Coastal Range provides excellent biking, hiking, and other outdoor sports. Taking Page Mill Road due west will get you, eventually, to Highway 1 on the beautiful peninsula coast. And Santa Cruz is accessible from Highway 17, Skyline Boulevard, or beautiful Highway 1.
If you're touring universities, the University of California, Berkeley is just across the bay. Take US-101 north through San Francisco and across the Bay Bridge to I-580 north, exiting University Avenue. Or by public transport, take the Stanford Marguerite shuttle to CalTrain and the SAMTrans "KX" bus to BART. Take the BART train to Downtown Berkeley. (See http://www.511.org/ for more).