You can plan your Palo Alto visit in a jiffy using the resources below.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Palo Alto?
- Palo Alto is popular with shoppers, technophiles and anyone who likes the arts.
Best Time to Go to Palo AltoI like Palo Alto best fall through spring, when students enliven the downtown scene. Crowds attending Stanford football games or graduation ceremonies make finding a parking place more difficult than passing a final examination.
7 Great Things to Do in Palo Alto, California
Stanford University Campus: Explore the campus on daily, free, guided walking tours or take in Hoover Tower's panoramic Bay Area views. Across campus, the largest August Rodin sculpture collection outside Paris' Musee Rodin highlights Cantor Art Center's exhibits.
- Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC): Even people whose eyes cross when someone mentions particle physics enjoy seeing the center's two-mile-long building (the world's longest) and the giant detectors SLAC uses to observe subatomic particles. Your tour guide, a Stanford graduate student, could be the center's next Nobel Prize-winner, so pay attention even if their math- and physics-oriented jokes aren't funny.
- Hanna House: A glass-fronted collection of hexagonal spaces centered on a brick chimney, this house is among architect Frank Lloyd Wright's 17 most important buildings according to the Institute of American Architects. Docents lead regular tours of the house built in 1938 for Stanford professor Paul Hanna.
- Stanford Theatre: A University Avenue landmark since 1925, the restored Assyrian/Greek-style movie palace plays classic films produced from the 1920s to the 1960s. A pre-show organ concert starts the Stanford Theatre experience, and owner David Packard sometimes shows up to relate how he collected copies from around the world to create the print they're screening.
- Sunset Magazine Headquarters: Tour the test gardens, and you may learn what's new before the western lifestyle magazine's subscribers do.
- Filoli: In nearby Woodside, the 645-acre, early-twentieth-century estate boasts a 16-acre formal garden surrounding a California eclectic-style house.
- High Tech, Humble Beginnings: Technophiles can't resist the urge to see Palo Alto's famous garages: Hewlett-Packard's at 367 Addison Avenue or the Macintosh computer's birthplace, 2066 Crist Drive.
Annual Events You Should Know About
Stanford University graduation is held in mid-June. So important to some people that it's nicknamed "Big Game," the annual football game between University of California, Berkeley and Stanford happens in late November or early December. Check the schedule for this year's date.
Tips for Visiting Palo Alto
- Stanford University functions can stretch capacity everywhere, including the streets and restaurants
- Parking can be hard to find in downtown Palo Alto, and the city employs a somewhat-confusing system of colored "zones," each with its own time limits and regulations. Use this pdf file to find all the options.
A small but sometimes persistent group of panhandlers sometimes hang around the street corners downtown. Your best option to keep them from hassling you is not to engage with them.
Best BitesRestaurants line the town's main street, University Avenue, and the side streets intersecting it. Metroactive newspaper serves up some options.
Where to Stay in Palo Alto, CaliforniaYou can see Palo Alto in a day from San Francisco or San Jose, but if you plan to spend the night, you'll find places to stay ranging from bed and breakfast inns to four-star hotels.
Kayak.com checks prices on a number of website at the same time and finds the lowest one.
Where Is Palo Alto, California?
Palo Alto is located midway down the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. Drivers can reach Palo Alto from US Hwy101 (exiting at University Avenue west) or from I-280 (exiting at Page Mill or San Hill Roads).