Palo Alto is a bustling, small city on 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.
Palo Alto enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and wet winters. Check Palo Alto's 7 day forecast at NOAA
Palo Alto means tall stick in Spanish, and in this case refers to an aging redwood tree at the north end of the city. The 1061-year-old Coast Redwood, which stands 110 feet high and has a base 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. The Palo Alto Shuttle is free, and serves the otherwise unserved Embarcadero Road corridor, as well as the VA Hospital.
Bike lanes nearly everywhere make riding convenient and safe. One of the most prominent lanes runs down Bryant Street and takes you from South Palo Alto to the downtown district located in North Palo Alto.
Automobiles are definitely the most convenient way to get around, and parking is plentiful everywhere except the downtown area. Municipal parking is complimentary 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 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).
Baylands Nature Preserve. The 1,940-acre Baylands Preserve brings you to the edge of San Francisco Bay and is a component of the critical wetlands needed to preserve wildlife and marine life in the San Francisco region. A great place to hike, bike, watch birds and enjoy an afternoon. The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center has interesting educational programs for children and adults. Take Embarcadero Road east to the very end to get there Map.
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. Check out a beautiful hike on skyline called Crazy Pete's hike. Great view of Palo Alto city. Maybe the best part of this hike is the history. "Crazy" Pete was a miner who lived in Coal Creek preserve and built a road -- named Crazy Pete's road -- in the 1800s. Most people don't know how Crazy Pete got his moniker.
Soak in one of eight private bathing rooms at Watercourse Way. Extremely relaxing and clean without being sterile, and the soaks are reasonably priced. Phone is (650) 462-2000. Open daily from 8:30AM-11PM.
The Aquarius Theatre A Landmark Theatre Corp. owned theater that specializes in independent and foreign films, features midnight movie season in late summer/early fall.
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 Avenue between El Camino Real and Alma.
Stanford Shopping Center, Sand Hill Road and El Camino Real. A large upscale mall that features Neiman-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.
Buca di Beppo, 643 Emerson St, (650) 329-0665, . Family style Italian cuisine, and they do mean family style - one entree will feed multiple people. Does not accept reservations, so get there early.
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.
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."
Fuki Sushi (Japanese) Best Japanese food near Palo Alto, albeit expensive even by local standards.
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 fruit smoothies. Also at 4224 El Camino Real, (650) 856-6124.
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).
Nola, 535 Ramona St, (650) 328-2722  New Orleans themed restaurant with good food. Rowdy bar famous for its Hurricane cocktail.
PF Chang's, Stanford Shopping Center, (650) 330-1782, . Offers California-style Asian cuisine in a bistro environment.
Pluto's, 482 University Ave. (at Cowper), Ph: (650) 853-1556, Fax: (650) 327-9569, . Some of the tastiest and healthiest sandwiches and salads to be found in the Bay Area. Anything with roasted turkey is particularly recommended.
Tofu House, 4127 El Camino Real, Ph: (650)424-8805 (Korean)
Taqueria El Grullense, 3636 El Camino Real, (650) 251-9317. For the best Mexican food Palo Alto has to offer, visit the Taqueria and be sure to give their salsa verde a try. Grullense has become famous for its "Super Burritos", which are tasty and very filling.
Zibibbo, 430 Kipling (between University and Lytton), (650) 328-6722, . Mediterranean cuisine.
Empire Tap Room, 651 Emerson Street, (650) 321-3030. Bright, cheery bar considering the sometimes crusty clientele. Excellent wine list and delicious calamari.
The Edge, 260 South California Avenue, (650) 321-6464, . Live entertainment and dancing.
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.
Palo Alto is a good base of operations for visiting both the Silicon Valley and San Francisco, as it is halfway between that city and San Jose.
Trips to San Francisco on Caltrain leave frequently and stopjust south of downtown. The ride lasts about an hour, and Caltrain's rush-hour Baby Bullets travel the distance even faster.
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 (although Highways 84 and 92 are preferable, especially the latter). And Santa Cruz is accessible from Highway 17, Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35 to Highway 9), 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 511.org for more).
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