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5 Amazing Things to Do in Palo Alto

Mingle with some of the world’s sharpest minds while exploring unexpected delights in this sunny Silicon Valley city

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Exclusivity is part of Palo Alto’s allure. Stanford University accepts fewer than 5 percent of its applicants, and hiring rates for nearby tech giants Google and Facebook are estimated to be under 0.2 percent. But for visitors, the opposite is true. Anyone can visit Palo Alto—located conveniently close to both San Francisco and San Jose—and feel welcomed by the sunny climate, rich culture, and fascinating innovation—no application necessary.

Explore University Avenue and downtown

Stretching between the Stanford Campus and U.S. 101, University Avenue cuts right through downtown. Enjoy Palo Alto’s nearly perfect climate with a stroll down the street, popping into shops like the historic Mills Florist or Books Inc. or stopping for a cone at Scoop Microcreamery. Every Saturday morning, local vendors flock here, selling everything from raw milk to freshly made pasta at the Palo Alto Farmers' Market.  

Visit the Computer History Museum

Think of any powerful tech company, and chances are its offices are in the Palo Alto area. Google, Facebook, Skype, Hewlett-Packard—the list goes on. The Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View celebrates the coding power of the present while taking a deep dive into the past. Curious adults and younger “engineers in training” will appreciate the signature exhibit, “Revolution,” which takes visitors through the first 2,000 years of the evolution of computing.

Eat at Bird Dog

Thoughtful, creative, and playfully chic, Bird Dog is a star of the South Bay dining scene. Chef Robbie Wilson delivers a remix of East-West cuisine in a dining room featuring white concrete walls dotted with colorful ducks. Must-tries include the warm spiced roti (complimentary with every meal) and the wood-grilled avocado filled with homemade ponzu and fresh wasabi.

Hike Baylands Nature Preserve

Reset with a stroll around 1,940 acres of undisturbed salt marshes at Baylands Nature Preserve. Fifteen miles of pancake-flat trails mean the area works well for joggers and cyclists, while an incredible array of local winged wildlife—pheasants, pelicans, hummingbirds, and more—makes it a top choice for birdwatchers too. 

Stay at Dinah’s Garden Hotel

Located on seven acres of verdant grounds, Dinah’s Garden Hotel offers a Silicon Valley sanctuary. Each of the guestrooms and suites has a unique design. Choose from favorites like the Lanai, with vaulted ceilings and lagoon views, or the Railroad Baron, complete with a four-poster bed and a model train that puffs around the room’s perimeter. The Tokyo-inspired Nobu Hotel Epiphany Palo Alto and the Sheraton Palo Alto, with its easy Stanford access, also make for excellent stays.

Also, don’t miss…

Built in 1965 by university scientists, "The Dish" is a 150-foot-wide radio telescope nested in Stanford’s foothills. A 3.5-mile hike leads you to the UFO-like structure, still in use today. For the “arts” part of “arts and sciences,” opt for a classic movie at the Stanford Theatre. The theater, founded in 1925, screens only film (no digital) and is home to the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, played during intermission. For posh open-air shopping, head to Stanford Shopping Center for a mix of luxury designers (Burberry, Coach, Kate Spade) and well-known retailers, surrounded by gardens, fountains, and sculptures.

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