Palo Alto, California (a day trip on the Peninsula)

Palo Alto, California (a day trip on the Peninsula)

Palo Alto, California. Home to Stanford University and many of the venture capital companies which fund some of the world’s finest start-up companies, some of which reside in the neighboring cities consisting of Silicon Valley. If you want to feel like you are spending a moment with the big players, take a drive up Sand Hill Road (which borders Menlo Park and Palo Alto). It is there that you will find some of the major VC companies.

For the purpose of this post, I am not going to enlighten you as to the latest news from Yahoo, Google, Apple and the like because within an hour, the news will be old. More importantly, the reason for writing about Palo Alto is to promote it as an “off the beaten path” destination (unless you have a reason to be there in the first place).

Palo Alto is approximately 30 minutes south of San Francisco, give or take traffic. You can also get to this city by train and unlike most of California, you can really walk around this area. However, should you be getting into wind-in-my-hair type of spirit, you can always drive…or be driven. Finding a Jeeves isn’t too difficult but may be expensive.

This little city which has a population in excess of 65,000 residents has a very outdoors and relaxed environment due to it always being at least 10-15 degrees warmer than San Francisco. You can generally be guaranteed a warm, sunny day when you head down here.

I would give yourself the day to check out the town. Albeit one of my preferred places to go, there isn’t a ton to do. However, should you make the effort, these are a few of the items that you should definitely make the time to visit.

I would start off visiting the Stanford University Campus and would access it via Palm Drive which is a beautiful palm tree lined road which leads to the front of the campus. The typical Spanish architecture is certainly one of the elements I love most about the campus. You will notice Hoover tower which reaches far above the rest of the university. Also situated on the campus grounds is the well-reputed Hoover Institute, one of the global leading think tanks dedicated to research in domestic and international affairs.

If you love the art, you must make time to visit the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford University Campus. It has the largest Rodin sculpture collection outside of Paris (France, not Texas)! Additionally, it will soon house the Andersen collection made up of famous California Expressionist artists including Wayne Thiebaud, Sam Francis and Richard Diebenkorn. Many of these artists are already at the museum.

The campus is quite spread out and you can easily spend a good part of the day walking around it. My suggestion would be to take a bit of time and walk in the center part (aka the Quad) of the school and visit the church which is tough to miss. Trust me, walking around this campus longer isn’t going to increase your IQ points. I tried. I haven’t seen much change over the years.

For lunch, I would head back down Palm Drive and as you continue straight, you will be led to University Avenue, the heart of Palo Alto. Much like many of the college campuses in the US, there is always a main area where the students hang out. Well, in the case of Palo Alto, you don’t only see students running around this café and restaurant filled street but young entrepreneurs working feverishly on their laptops in hopes of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Sergey Brin. Owning a garage in these parts has become quite expensive and with wi-fi and a laptop, a café is a great alternative!

University Avenue has some great little boutiques as well and two of my favorites are Phyllis and J. Foss which both sit on Emerson. If boutiques aren’t really your thing, hop in your car and within 5 minutes, you will be at Stanford Shopping Center, one of the most beautiful outdoor malls in the country, which houses chains like Neiman Marcus, Frette, Burberry, Gucci, Michael Kors, Bloomingdales, MaxMara etc. in addition to some fun, outdoor cafes and restaurants.

As you can see, my knowledge of Palo Alto revolves around eating and shopping. If this isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are other side trips from San Francisco that you can take! Although just visiting the Stanford Campus makes this day trip worthwhile!

Stay tuned for Carmel, California, home to Pebble Beach golf course and much more!