20 Things To Do In Palo Alto

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Palo Alto is a Silicon Valley city sandwiched between the two heartbeats of the Bay Area, San Jose and San Francisco. Home to a concentration of the world’s leading tech companies, such as Google and Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto is also where the next crop of leading tech entrepreneurs are being moulded at the world-renowned Stanford University.

While tech dominates every aspect of this sleepy yet incredibly influential city, Palo Alto is packed with cultural attractions, incredible nature and a youthful vibe fuelled by the young minds who flock to the city. Located just a short car journey from San Francisco and the beautiful coastal towns of northern California, it’s a wonderful world-class city that’s well worth stopping for a visit. Here are some of the best things to do in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto, California

20 Things To Do In Palo Alto

things to do in palo alto google hq
If you’re looking for things to do in Palo Alto, why not visit Google’s campus?

1- Visit The Palo Alto Art Center

With indoor and outdoor art exhibitions and installations portraying the very best local Bay Area art, the all-encompassing Palo Alto Art Center has entertained and educated visitors of all ages since 1971.

Hosting regular summer camps and art classes for children, the Palo Alto Art Center is a wonderful destination to discover the region’s fascinating art and artists.

Located next to Rinconada Park and Rinconada Public Library, the Palo Alto Art Center is right in Palo Alto’s cultural heart.

Palo Alto Art Center is at 1313 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

2- Explore Stanford University

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Wandering around the hallowed halls of Stanford University is one of the top things to do in Palo Alto today.

Not only is Stanford University a leading research institution revered and respected around the world, but the beautiful campus of this prestigious private university attracts many tourists annually.

Commonly known as “The Farm”, the campus of Stanford University has several picturesque attractions visitors are free to tour and visit.

One of the best attractions is the university’s famous Main Quad in the heart of the campus, surrounded by stunning Mission Revival architecture with the Santa Cruz Mountains in the distance.

Stanford University is a must-see destination in Palo Alto at 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305.

3- Hike At Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

palo alto green winged teal Baylands Nature Preserve
Admiring nature (green-winged teal pictured here) in the Baylands Nature Preserve is one of the things to do in Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is sandwiched between the San Francisco Bay and East Palo Alto and covers an area of approximately 2,000 acres (809 ha) of unspoilt marshland.

Over 15 miles (24 km) of nature trails cut through the preserve, treating hikers and cyclists to some of the Bay Area’s best vistas.

Stepping inside the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve transports you to a world away from crowds and skyscrapers, perfect for taking a break from exploring the streets of San Francisco and beyond.

Abound with lush nature and plenty of animals, the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve is the largest remaining marshland in the Bay Area and the perfect place to get in touch with nature.

Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is at 2500 Embarcadero Rd, Ranger Station, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

4- Step Back In History At The Computer History Museum

things to do in palo alto for kids Computer History Museum
Visiting the Computer History Museum is one of the fun things to do in Palo Alto for kids

Palo Alto has long been an influential cog in the success of Silicon Valley, from the tech companies who have set up shop in Palo Alto over the decades to Stanford University churning out crop after crop of tech entrepreneurs.

The Computer History Museum near Google’s headquarters recounts the history of computer technology and how it revolutionised the world.

Filled with educational workshops and unique displays, which include autonomous vehicles and exhibits dedicated to the history of technology, the Computer History Museum is bound to be a fun destination to visit for all ages.

Computer History Museum is at 1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043.

5- Wander Around Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

A lush 3,436 acres (1,391 ha) of rolling hills, thick forests and seemingly endless fields of grassland, the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is one of the Bay Area’s most diverse and bountiful attractions.

Spanning an area that stretches from Skyline Ridge to Monte Bello Ridge, the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is full of fauna and flora, as well as plenty of trails and vantage points.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is a great place to visit if you want to spot migrating birds, go for a scenic jog, or just lap up the unspoilt nature of the Bay Area.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is at 4301 Page Mill Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022.

6- Learn About Art At Cantor Arts Center

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Rodin bronze sculpture in the Cantor Arts Center.

On the campus of Stanford University, the admission-free Cantor Arts Center offers a world-class 38,000-piece collection of art across 24 galleries for all to enjoy.

Featuring rotating exhibitions by some of the best artists in the world, the Cantor Arts Center has an unbelievably broad array of art on display that’s all available to tour for free.

With its impressive Rodin bronze sculpture collection, the centre’s Rodin Sculpture Garden is one of the Cantor Arts Center’s top things to see.

Another fantastic exhibition is the centre’s Anderson Collection, which displays the best 20th-century American art for visitors to enjoy.

Cantor Arts Center is at 328 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305.

7- Take The Elevator Up Hoover Tower

things to do in palo alto Hoover Tower
Climbing Hoover Tower is another of the fun things to do in Palo Alto.

Overlooking the sprawling campus of Stanford University, the soaring 285-foot-tall (87 m) Hoover Tower is the university’s unmissable beacon that has stood tall since it was built in 1941.

Housing the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, the Hoover Tower and its contents were established by Herbert Hoover before his presidency.

Architect Arthur Brown Jr. drew inspiration from Salamanca’s cathedral towers for the design of Hoover Tower while he was travelling through Northern Spain.

Those wishing for a truly magnificent experience should take the elevator up to the top of Hoover Tower to enjoy spectacular vistas of the university campus, Palo Alto, and beyond.

Hoover Tower is at 550 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305.

best things to do in palo alto
Playing golf is one of the popular things to do in Palo Alto.

Overlooking the Baylands Nature Preserve and the San Francisco Bay, the beautifully manicured Baylands Golf Links is perfect for enjoying a relaxed game of golf with a fantastic view.

The 18-hole par-72 course is open to all experience levels and includes a chipping green and a driving range where visitors can work on their swings.

If you’re a complete newbie to golf and don’t know where to begin, the Baylands Golf Links is the perfect destination, with skilled trainers on hand to help you along.

There’s a cosy cafĂ© on site selling food and drinks.

Baylands Golf Links is at 1875 Embarcadero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

9- Visit The Hewlett Packard Garage

Situated on a quiet tree-lined street in Palo Alto, the inconspicuous detached garage at 367 Addison Avenue is the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

The 12 by 18-foot (4 by 6 m) Hewlett Packard Garage is where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded Hewlett-Packard in 1939, becoming the first technology company to set up shop in Palo Alto.

A famous National Register of Historic Places site, the Hewlett Packard Garage is on private property, and tours are occasionally available to eager visitors.

A great spot to take an excellent picture to remember your trip to Silicon Valley by, the Hewlett Packard Garage is one of the Bay Area’s most important sites that’s well worth a visit.

Hewlett Packard Garage is at 367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

10- See A Show At Stanford Theatre

Stanford Theatre has been entertaining locals with showings of Hollywood blockbuster films since it opened in 1924.

Located in Palo Alto’s downtown, the theatre showcases the best of the roaring 20s and 30s in a beautiful Persian and Moorish-inspired structure.

The venue fell on hard times before being purchased and renovated by David and Lucile Packard in 1984, returning this beacon of Palo Alto to its original glory.

Still showing and celebrating films starring the likes of Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, the Stanford Theatre is a sublime Palo Alto attraction worth stopping for a visit.

Stanford Theatre is at 221 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

For more California ideas, see:

11- Admire The Architecture At Hanna House

The Hanna House was designed and built by famous architect Andrew Lloyd Wright and was the architect’s first house designed and constructed in the Bay Area.

Located on the campus of Stanford University, the Hanna House was constructed in 1937 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Considered Andrew Lloyd Wright’s best hexagonal, non-rectangular design, the Hanna House was built for two Stanford professors, Paul and Jean Hanna.

Often called the Hanna-Honeycomb-House due to the house’s honeycomb-like design, the Hanna House is a fascinating Palo Alto landmark that is definitely worth stopping for a visit.

Hanna House is at 737 Frenchmans Rd, Stanford, CA 94305.

12- Visit Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

fun things to do in palo alto junior museum zoo
If you’re visiting with kids a fun thing to do in Palo Alto is to spend time in the Junior Museum Zoo.

The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is an expansive nature and science facility which focuses on educating children about conservation and nature in a fun and entertaining manner.

The facility is home to over 200 animals of some 50 different species, including turtles, birds and raccoons, which visitors are welcome to learn more about.

The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo combine animals, nature exhibits and various other informative displays and attractions into one all-encompassing venue ideal for visiting with kids.

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo are at 1451 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

13- Relax In Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is a free-to-visit public garden located in the Old Palo Alto neighbourhood that encourages visitors to take a break from the hustle and bustle to spend some time surrounded by nature.

Beautiful blooms of colourful flowers dot the 2.5-acre (1 ha) garden, where visitors are encouraged to wander the garden at leisure.

Named after Elizabeth F. Gamble, the granddaughter of Procter & Gamble founder Frances Gamble, whose property the garden is located on, the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is a wonderful urban oasis to visit and explore for free.

Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is at 1431 Waverley St, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

14- Shop At Town and Country Village

Palo Alto’s upscale Town and Country Village shopping area is a fascinating place to shop for high-end shoes in fancy boutiques, enjoy a rejuvenating massage in a spa, or just aimlessly wander around whilst window shopping for hours.

Town and Country Village combines manicured gardens, beautiful pathways and a unique aura that makes it a pleasant attraction that both locals and tourists enjoy.

Many of Palo Alto’s best restaurants, cafes and shops are at the Town and Country Village, and it’s easy to spend every night of your stay in Palo Alto enjoying a nice meal at a Town and Country Village eatery.

Town and Country Village is at 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

15- Taste Local Produce At Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market

Hosted every Saturday between May and December, the Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market has been a mainstay in Palo Alto since 1981.

Located between Downtown Palo Alto’s Hamilton Avenue and Gilman Street, the farmer’s market is the best place to buy the freshest locally-sourced produce supplied by farmers from as far away as Fresno, Santa Cruz and Hollister.

Apart from the wide array of freshly picked fruits and vegetables for sale, the farmers’ market is also the spot to buy high-quality olive oil, sample some fantastic food and enjoy live music.

Free to visit and by far one of Downtown Palo Alto’s best attractions, the farmers’ market is a fantastic spot to aimlessly wander about while taking in the city’s beautiful sights for hours on end.

Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market is at 601-699 Gilman St, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

16- Visit The Memorial Church

things to do in palo alto this weekend stamford church
One of the top things to do in palo alto this weekend is to admire the features at the Stanford Memorial Church.

The famous university’s architectural crown jewel is the beautiful Memorial Church in the centre of the Stanford University campus.

Constructed by Stanford co-founder Jane Stanford as a memorial to her late husband and fellow Stanford co-founder Leland, the Memorial Church can seat up to 1,200 people for a regular sermon.

The Memorial Church is best known for its stunning stained glass and religious mosaic painting exterior inspired by classic Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles.

One of the earliest and most important denominational churches in the Western United States when it was established, the unique Memorial Church is still as majestic and marvellous as it was when it was first opened.

Memorial Church is at 450 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305.

17- Picnic At Rinconada Park

The 19-acre (8 ha) verdant Rinconada Park is located in the heart of Palo Alto and is after El Camino Park, the Bay Area city’s second oldest nature park.

Rinconada, which means ‘corner’ in Spanish, was originally named Waterworks due to the park’s proximity to a well and a reservoir.

Neatly nestled between thick redwood and oak forests, the very accessible park’s beautiful surroundings make it an excellent spot to enjoy a peaceful picnic, play a game of tennis, or enjoy an energised jog.

Rinconada Park is at 777 Embarcadero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

18- Visit The Museum of American Heritage

Located in a 100-plus-year-old house in Downtown Palo Alto, the expansive Museum of American Heritage recounts the impact of all sorts of technology throughout the United States over 200 years.

The intrepid museum is a fantastic spot to explore and learn more about the history of everyday America through 5,000 artefacts and permanent installations ranging from a 1940s car repair shop to a 20th-century American kitchen.

The Museum of American Heritage is at 351 Homer Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

19- See Wildlife At Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

Found across Interstate 280 just south of Downtown Palo Alto, the 600-acre (243 ha) Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, filled with beautiful grasslands and woodlands, combines the great outdoors with vistas of the San Francisco skyline on the horizon.

The preserve has over 10 miles (16 km) of pristine nature trails, which attracts hikers, joggers, cyclists and even horseback riders.

Perched next to Stanford University’s campus and the picturesque Los Altos Hills, the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is a wonderful destination filled with plenty of wildlife, outdoor activities and all sorts of fantastic vistas to keep everyone entertained.

Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is at 1530 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94304.

20- Jog Past The Stanford Dish

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Walking or jogging past the Stanford Dish is one of the iconic things to do in Palo Alto.

On Stanford University campus grounds in the scenic Stanford foothills, the Stanford Dish is a famous landmark among locals and students.

Constructed in 1966 by the US Air Force to study the atmosphere, the unique design of the Stanford Dish led to it being regularly used to communicate with satellites and astronauts floating through space.

Although decommissioned long ago, the Stanford Dish is best observed while jogging along the 3,5-mile-long (6 km) nature trail, which passes right along the famous Stanford Dish.

The Stanford Dish is at Stanford Dish, 400 Reservoir Rd, Stanford, CA 94305.

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.