The Palo Alto area offers things to do for all ages and interests. A trip to the Stanford University campus is the highlight for most visitors, where attractions include Hoover Tower , Memorial Church , Cantor Arts Center , Rodin Sculpture Garden and a central campus bustling with activity.
Hours: Daily 10am-4:30pm, closed during finals and academic breaks
Visible to all the surrounding areas, Hoover Tower is a landmark to Stanford students, faculty, alumni, and the local communities. The 285-foot tower offers spectacular views of Stanford campus, the Foothills, and the Bay Area from its observation deck. A student tour guide is available to point out important landmarks and sights. The tower is also home to a carillon of 48 bells cast in Belgium, with the largest bell inscribed, "For Peace Alone Do I Ring." Finished in 1941 to celebrate the university's 50th anniversary , the landmark is part of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. The institution is a research center founded by Herbert Hoover, an alumnus and the 31st president of the United States. Rooms on the ground floor of the tower exhibit documents and memorabilia from Herbert Hoover's life and career. The breathtaking views and historical background makes a visit to Hoover Tower a truly one-of-a-kind Palo Alto experience.
450 Serra Mall, Stanford
Located in the heart of the Stanford University campus, Stanford Memorial Church is one of the earliest and most famous non-sectarian churches in the West. The magnificent Romanesque style building, also known as MemChu, is deemed the University's architectural crown jewel. Originally built in 1903 as a memorial to Jane Stanford's husband, Leland Stanford, the church features mosaic Bible scenes as well as New Testament stained-glass windows, three organs and an impressive dome. The church has withstood two major earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, although repairs were needed after both disasters. Today, multi-faith services and denominational and nondenominational Christian services are held on a regular basis. Visitors are welcome to explore the art and architecture of Stanford Memorial church Monday through Friday. Guided tours are also available on Fridays and the last Sunday of the month. Be sure to approach the church from Palm Drive in order to take in the full effect of the beautiful church and the equally beautiful surroundings!
328 Lomita Drive (at Museum Way)
Currently exhibiting art in 24 galleries, the Cantor Arts Center was established in tandem with the founding of the Stanford University itself. The Stanford family created the museum to display their personal collection of objects of art and cultural interest; now, the museum's collections are more impressive than ever. The Center's galleries are devoted to a wide range of art spanning 4,000 years, from ancient Chinese ceramics to 19th century American drawings to contemporary sculptures. While at the Center, visitors should be sure to visit Stanford's outdoor sculptures: the Rodin Sculpture Garden, which houses one of the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris, and the New Guinea Sculpture Garden. Admission to the museum is free, and visitors can take advantage of docent tours, lectures, gallery talks, special events, the bookstore, and the cafe overlooking the sculpture gardens.
328 Lomita Drive (at Museum Way)
Located next to the Cantor Arts Center but accessible at all hours, the Rodin Sculpture Garden houses the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris, and the New Guinea Sculpture Garden.
1401 North Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View
Dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computing history, the Computer History Museum houses one of the largest international collections of computing artifacts in the world, including computer hardware , ephemera, photographs, moving images , documents, and software. Through online and physical exhibits, visitors can discover the worldwide impact of the computing revolution on the human experience. While some of the online exhibits complement physical exhibits, most are independent from each other and provide the visitor with unique information on computers. The museum is free to the public and offers docent led tours throughout the afternoon. The museum also offers year-round lectures with leading scholars and innovators and holds events focused on celebrating computer history.
80 Willow Road, Menlo Park
If you are the home-gardening type, you won't want to miss a visit to the famous Sunset Magazine Garden. Located at Sunset Magazine's headquarters in nearby Menlo Park, the display garden offers a glimpse of architecture and foliage from the major climate zones of the West. The garden contains a 1.2-acre lawn, four designated areas representing the Northwest, Northern California, Central California, and the Southwest Desert and Southern California regions, and a 3,000-square-foot test area. The test garden is full of the latest plants and garden projects the magazine is evaluating, and over 50% of the magazine's garden photography is taken in this area. The garden also contains a majestic oak tree coined 'The Old Man' because of its age and lopsided growth. The entire display garden is open for free, self-guided tours. With its different climate areas and constantly changing test garden, the Sunset Magazine Garden offers a unique and beautiful experience no matter what season it is!
1431 Waverley St.
Willed to the city of Palo Alto by Elizabeth F. Gamble in 1981, the 2.5-acre Gamble Garden Center features a 1902 Edwardian house and formal, working, and demonstration gardens. The historic property is now a non-profit community horticultural foundation, and places an emphasis on education as well as aesthetic beauty. The demonstration gardens, which are also used as part of an educational program with local students, include an herb garden and cutting beds. The estate also includes a carriage house, teahouse, tool house, greenhouse, and a gazebo. Conveniently located and open to the public at no charge during daylight hours, a visit to Gamble Garden Center is always a relaxing experience!
86 Canada Road, Woodside
Standing for Fight, Love, Live, Filoli Gardens is one of the most magnificent remaining country estates and gardens of the early 20th century. The 43-room estate, built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bourn in 1917, allows visitors to enjoy a collection of 17th and 18th century antiques. The spectacular gardens, made up of terraces, pathways, pools , lawns , foliage, trees, and flower beds , are perfectly groomed and ever-changing based on the time of year. The gardens are most known for their collection of more than 500 varieties of roses. Whether your goal is to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere or learn about the various plant collections, a stroll through the exquisite gardens will not leave you disappointed. Visitors can also enjoy the peaceful atmosphere over lunch at the Filoli cafe, or attend one of the special events offered throughout the year. The gardens and estate are open to visitors from mid-February through October.
1451 Middlefield Road
Founded as the first children's museum west of the Mississippi, the Junior Museum & Zoo has become a favorite destination for kids and their families to learn and play at the same time. The museum offers kids a hands-on experience with educational, interactive exhibits. The zoo features more than 50 exotic and native animals, including bobcats, raccoons, jungle bats, hedgehogs, ferrets , snakes , and an owl. The zoo also has a swell shark and a leopard shark, which are housed in a new 500-gallon salt water tank. Admission to both the museum and zoo is free, although donations are accepted and greatly appreciated. If you have elementary school-aged children, a visit to the Junior Museum & Zoo is a perfect activity for the entire family!
351 Homer Avenue
The Museum of American Heritage combines elements of history, technology, and design to create a visual exploration of inventions of the past. The museum focuses on the evolution of technology, its societal influence, and its future expectations. Palo Alto accountant Frank Livermore founded the museum in 1990 after collecting obsolete mechanical and electrical devices for 30 years. Today, the museum features three special exhibits during the year, as well as five permanent exhibits including an early 20th century general store and a radio repair shop of the 1940s. Containing a historic garden and a learning center which offers hands-on classes and workshops, the Museum of American Heritage is the perfect outing for the entire family.
601 Skyway Road, San Carlos
Dedicated to the dreams of flight , the Hiller Aviation Museum offers programs and exhibits which increase public understanding of science and aviation. The 27,600-square foot main gallery features 100 years of aviation history with over forty aircrafts and numerous exhibits and interactive displays. The atrium displays over a dozen model aircrafts and houses the family lounge and theater which features aviation films. The museum also offers lecture series and events. The Hiller Aviation Museum provides an educational and inspiring experience that children and adults alike will thoroughly learn from and enjoy.
4701 Great America Parkway
Hailed as Northern California's most thrilling theme park , California's Great America offers exciting rides, live shows , concerts, events, and fun for people of all ages. The park has over 10 heart-pounding thrill rides, including Drop Tower, one of the tallest and most intense free-fall rides in the world. Kids can enjoy interacting with the characters of Nickelodeon's top shows or visiting KidZville, a bustling town filled with fun for the whole family. The park also hosts numerous concerts and events year round. Located just 25 minutes from Palo Alto, California's Great America is the perfect destination for an adventure-seeking visitor!
1313 Newell Road
The Palo Alto Art Center is a nationally acclaimed visual arts center whose goal is to document and celebrate the art and artists of the Bay Area. Hoping to raise appreciation and understanding of visual arts, the Art Center presents approximately 12 exhibitions annually that focus on contemporary fine art, craft, design and new art forms. The Gallery Shop features jewelry, ceramics, glass, wood and paper works by Bay Area artists. The Art Center is home to numerous educational programs , including exhibition tours for grade school students and adult art classes , and also often hosts lecture series. The Palo Alto Art Center is open free to the public Tuesday through Sunday, and provides visitors with a perfect glimpse into the realm of Bay Area art.
75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park
Located in nearby Menlo Park, the Allied Arts Guild is an oasis of shops, gardens, artists' studios and a cafe. A favorite spot for visitors, the historic site has carried out the founders' original vision of a European-style crafts guild and created a lovely environment to shop, eat and relax. The Guild houses numerous studios and shops of various artists, ranging from furniture repair to pottery making. The Artisan Shop sells handmade art and is operated solely for the benefit of critically ill children at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Visitors can also enjoy lunch at the charming cafe with a view of the gardens. The Allied Arts Guild holds special events and provides artists and visitors a refreshing experience year round.
Located on 426 acres of Stanford University property just west of the main campus, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) is a versatile laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator and particle physics research. SLAC's programs explore matter at the smallest and largest scales , in the fastest processes, and at the highest energies . The primary goal of SLAC is to understand the origins of the universe and why we live in a matter-dominated universe. The center is best known for its two-mile long linear accelerator, which is currently the longest in the world. SLAC has over 3,000 scientists, six of whom have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. The SLAC Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday and visitors can call for tours. If you enjoy science and physics, this world-renowned center is a must-see.
Page Mill Road
Founded in 1951 as the first technology-oriented park, the Stanford Research Park is currently home to more than 150 companies on the leading edge of technology. The Park has offered its productive environment to electronic pioneers Bill Hewlett and David Packard, physicists Russell and Sigurd, and many other successful scientists and entrepreneurs . As part of the Stanford community, companies have easy access to the university's facilities , faculty , and students. The Park covers 700 acres in an area surrounding Page Mill Road to the west of El Camino Real and is currently run by the Stanford Management Company. Visitors are free to wander the massive industrial park and appreciate the key role the Park played in the creation of the Silicon Valley.