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Palo Alto

Walk, fuel up, grab a java, and a catch a vintage flick in Palo Alto

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Once a train stop and a sleepy “Professorville” for Stanford University, Palo Alto’s profile and cred took off like a rocket beginning in the 1980s, as both Stanford’s prominence and Silicon Valley’s fortunes exploded. Today, think twice before passing a parking spot in the town’s thriving downtown; this almost-perfect town is always a hive of activity. No worries—it’s a great place for strolling, so ditch the car and walk the grid of flat streets to favorite dining spots like the vegetarian-friendly Indian spot Ettan, or Telerific Barcelona for classic Spanish dishes and tapas. Appealing shops line the main drag of University Avenue, which leads to—you guessed it—the heart of the Stanford campus. Also near the university is the posh Stanford Shopping Center, with Armani Exchange, Tiffany & Co., Stella McCartney, and valet parking and EV charging stations for your Tesla. Dinner and a movie? Nab a reservation at California farmers market-inspired Tender Greens or Taro San Noodle Bar, then watch a classic at the Stanford Theatre, a richly restored art-house cinema that includes nightly performances on an original Wurlitzer organ.

Palo Alto also has a natural side. See birdlife and beauty (especially at sunset) on the 1,940-acre Baylands Nature Preserve. There’s also “The Dish,” an approximate 3-mile paved loop circumnavigating a retired satellite dish on the campus’s southwest side. If your interests are more focused on history than nature, the preservation group Palo Alto Stanford Heritage offers free guided walking tours of some of the city’s oldest residential neighborhoods, as well as self-guided tours mapped out on their website.

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