Palo Alto

4-DAY Palo Alto, California ITINERARY

Palo Alto is a city in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. It’s part of Silicon Valley and home to Stanford University. On campus, Cantor Arts Center’s broad collection includes a notable group of Rodin sculptures. University Avenue runs through downtown Palo Alto and has casual and upscale restaurants, plus well-known chain stores and independent boutiques. East are the marshland trails of Baylands Nature Preserve, per Google.

To read about My Travels, click here. 

Must do, must see, must try:

HELLO SUNSHINE

Blue skies for miles, the sun is high but the temperature is perfect. Get outside and soak up the sun. 

WINE LOVERS & FOODIES UNITE

Sip, sip hooray. California is known for it's wine (looking at you Napa Valley), but it's also a great melting pot of amazing foods and flavors.

NERD OUT

Let the nerd flag fly - see everything techy from HP Garage to Google to Android Statues. Do it all!

The 4-Day Palo Alto Itinerary

ACCOMMODATIONS

AirBnB close downtown Palo Alto

Hotel: Stanford Guesthouse ($$$), The Westin Palo Alto ($$$), The Cardinal Hotel ($$)

CLIMATE

'June gloom' with July chills; it's foggy with a crispness in the air. But it's not unpleasant, unless you'er going for a view covered by fog. Warms up by August and September. This is a jacket kind of town. Start the day with one, take it off at lunch and then put it back on later in the day.

TRANSPORTATION

Yes, you need a car. Fairly spread out town and you'll want to venture out of this town to others so renting a car is ideal. Lots of free parking. For attractions, you'll want to Lyft to avoid paying to park, etc. Watch out for pedestrians, you'll see more people biking and walking then driving.

ENVIRONMENT

Language is English

Currency: US Dollar

LIFESTYLE

A rather laid back area that enjoys deep conversations over good food and drinks. Everywhere eyou visit you'll notice electronics are away and people are paying attention to each other, the conversations and their environment. Especially the environment = know how to compost.

Palo Alto is known for Stanford and the official government buildings that do science, research and more. There is more happening with this city as it's grows with tech giants like Google, Telsa and more. 

Before you go, register for a SLAC tour - National Accelerator Laboratory. This is only offered twice a month and fills up quickly; time spent is 90 minutes, Free. See the 2-mile-long linear accelerator building where they throw atoms.

Day one

Outfit: walking tennis shoes, socks, pink jeans, white blouse with denim jacket; if you do a hike, leave workout clothes in your car to change later rather than wasting time going back to the hotel.

9 AM - Stanford guesthouse breakfast if possible; or head over to the downtown area and sit outside with your coffee at Coupa Cafe - Ramona ($$, Cafe)

10 AM - Walk over to see the 1925 Stanford Theater; peek through the windows to see the vintage tile work

Walk around and shop and make sure to find:

  • Wahlburgers - hamburger restaurant owned by the Wahlberg brothers - hi, Marky Mark

  • Bell's Book - used and rare book shop that opened in 1924

  • Wall Art on Restoration Hardware (University & Bryant) - by Greg Brown, local artist

11 AM - Take a walk down Emerson street, past Heritage Park and through the cutest neighborhood and make your way to see the Hewlett Packard Garage

11:45 AM - Drive to Town & Country Village for shopping at cute boutique shops; you can skip and stay in downtown

1 PM Lunch at Goot's Roadside ($$, Hamburgers) and try the steak burger with a side of street corn

2 PM - Drive out to Googleplex to visit the Android Statues and shop at the official Google merchandise store

  • Unless you know someone, who works at Google, you cannot be on campus. Everything is locked, and you need a pass to buy food, use the bathroom and generally walk anywhere. AKA no tours. This is a functioning business, so I get it, it's locked down but really wish there was a tour of some kind.

2:45 PM - Lounge around with the beloved donkeys of Barron Park. It's 5-minute walk and the donkeys are friendly but may still bite

3:45 PM - Take a drive down Junipero Serra Freeway to gaze upon the huge Stanford dish, an iconic radio telescope

  • If it's a nice day you could take a walk up to see it

Back to the hotel to freshen up and take a quick cat-nap

7 PM - Dinner at Yum Cha Palace ($$, Chinese) in the Menlo Park district; recommend the Peking duck rice crepe rolls

Day Two

Outfit: walking tennis shoes, socks, black yoga pants and newly purchased official Google merchandise shirt

8:30 AM - Stanford guesthouse breakfast if possible or stop at a Starbucks and treat yourself

9 AM - Road trip! Enjoy the drive out to Half Moon Bay, we're headed to see Mavericks Beach; time spent is 45 minutes

  • One of my top 10 favorite drives through the hills of California, wind through trees that you can't see the top of, white-knuckle grab the wheel as you navigate through the fog, past the mom-and-pops flower shops until you emerge into a quaint fishing town

10 AM - Park at the Tide Pools Parking Lot and stroll along the walkway, past the first beach until you around the corner to Mavericks Beach. If the weather is nice, you'll see surfers and seals. Make sure to see Pillar Point, a rock garden in the waves that serves as an ecological park.

  • Sit on a boulder and watch the waves, loved finding hermit crabs cruising between rocks

  • Do you hear a horn? If the fog is dense, the horn will sound every minute

11 AM - Hike up to Pillar Point Air Force Station or take a straight/right and venture through the grass and trees to the lookout point and see the other side of the water. Can you spot Ross Cave?

12 PM - Head back into town to Barbara's Fishtrap ($$, Seafood), there will be a wait and its CASH only. Start with 1/2 order of raw oysters followed by the award-winning Fish and Chips

  • If the wait is too long or you don't want to pay ATM prices, go to Sam's Chowder House

1 PM - Walk across the street and have a drink at the local brew house, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company ($$, Pub)

2 PM - Time to head back San Jose; time spent is 45 minutes

3 PM - Freshen up, change (Outfit: flats, dress and denim jacket) and then venture to Stanford University to tour the campus, self-guided

  • Drive down Palm Street for the experience, then park in the Visitor Centers parking lot, should be free at this time

  • First stop is the Hoover Tower, observation deck on the 14th floor that closes at 4 PM; $4 USD

  • Second stop is the mosaic Memorial Church and Court

    • If you're thirsty, there are built in water fountains in the corners. Drink that smart water.​

  • Third Stop is the Stanford Clock Bell Tower, on the 'Circle of Death' corner

6 PM - Oren's Hummus ($$, Israeli) in downtown Palo Alto; try the hummus lamb and the chicken skewer with a side of falafel and babaganoush eggplant

8 PM - Stroll around downtown and take in the sights. It's a fun place to be at night and then finish with a dessert at Cream ($, Ice Cream Shop)

Head back to the hotel

Day Three - BIG SUR & SANTA CRUZ

Outfit: tennis shoes (that you can get dirty), yoga pants, workout top and denim jacket; you'll head straight to evening activities so pack your change of clothes at the top of your suitcase

6:30 AM - Road trip to Big Sur! Time spent is 2.5 hours

  • Venture back in time on Route 1 → history

  • Breakfast and potty break at McDonald's in Monterey

  • If it's a pretty day, take an hour break to see Pebble Beach and go to Pescadero Point

Make your way across Bixby Creek Bridge (or Bixby Canyon Bridge) is one of the most photographed bridges in CA dues to its aesthetic design, the open-spandrel arch. People park along the sides and clog traffic to get out a take a picture - don't be like them.

9:30 AM - First Stop: McWay Cove & Falls to see the cliff-backed beach cove and waterfall; this is one of the most popular photos and pictures taken along Big Sur

  • As a state park, its $10 cash to enter; but sneaky people park on the street and walk-in

  • Great trails but may be closed because of weather and mud slides so check in advance 

10:15 AM - Second Stop: Arrive at Big Sur Lodge for a potty break and snacks

  • Walk around the left side, follow the path and arrive at a huge tree - you can't miss it

10:30 AM - Time to hike Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; same entrance for Big Sur Lodge, follow the signs to the trails; time spent is 2 hours

  • Bonus, the state park pass you purchased for the McWay Cove waterfall will also get you into the Big Sur Trails

  • Follow the Buzzard's Roost, a 4-hour hike which starts by the restrooms of Parking Lot 2

    • When you get to the loop at the top take a right - more shade​

  • Before you leave, drive down to Parking Lot 4 to see the Colonial Tree, largest redwood in the park

1 PM - Lunch at the cliff-topping restaurant Nepethe ($$$, American) and get ready for a wait

  • The Famous Ambrosiaburger with a side a coleslaw was very yummy

  • Pro Tip: While you wait for your table, you can get full service at the bar. Skip the wait by getting a bar seat.

Pull over and change into your cleaner smelling clothes

3 PM - Back on the road to Carmel-by-the-Sea to refresh with delicious wine from Folktale Winery & Vineyards ($$, Winery), make a reservation; road trip time is 1 hour

  • Enjoy a flight to try it all accompanied by the most scrumptious Artisan Cheese Board; time spent is 1.5 hours, flight $20, cheese $24

  • The diptych on the bottles is lovely and classic; can you collect them all?

5:30 PM - Finish the drive to Santa Cruz, check-in to your hotel and take a nap

9:30 PM - Wake up, freshen up and head out to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for some amusement

helpful links
Travel a GO-Go

Use the Google map on the left to get a lay of the land and see all the fun spots that you'll visit. Download the free PDF by clicking the icon below to have this itinerary at your finger-tips. 

How to Use the Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner to view the layers (days, points of interest, route).

If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Map account. To view, open your Google Maps, click the menu button "Your Places", select the map and it will open. 

Day Four

8:30 AM - Time to go back to San Jose for the afternoon flight, but one more tour before leaving

9:30 AM - Tour of Winchester Mystery House; time spent is 2 hours, daily estate tours $39 USD - get tickets in advance

  • Ghost hunting, doors leading nowhere, number 13 hidden in everything - this house will give you the goosebumps 

12 PM - Checked into the airport and had lunch at Tres Gringos ($$, Mexican), try the burrito

2 PM - Goodbye San Jose. Head home.

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MY TRAVELS

What is there to say about dreamy California. The cool, crisp air of the 'summer' that requires a jacket, the ability to be outside and not melt, the chill and relaxed environment. I'm surprised people actually return home from visiting. 

Palo Alto was on my radar because there was a conference happening that I got to tag along too. Will admit that I hadn't considered the city beforehand, but am very glad the opportunity presented itself. Visiting the tech giant Google, what a dream. Seeing where HP started, wow. The trees, the weather, the list goes on and on. Back to the weather, California summer makes you laugh a tad. It's the perfect weather conditions. Chilled in the morning that requires a jacket, you'll take it off by noon and it's starts to warm up and then put it back on by the evening. In Texas, we are sweating buckets by 8 AM and there are no jackets in sight. CA weather was a vacation in itself. 

Driving in Palo Alto was a surprise. First, everyone is environmentally aware so they are walking if able or they are riding their bike - and they come first. Pedestrians rule the city so be mindful of them. And you're so worried about a biker coming out of no where, that you as the driver will slow down and be super hospitable to other drivers around you. I and everyone around me basically drove like their grandmother was in the car judging them. It was glorious compared to the road-rage filled highways I'm use to.

Favorite experience was Big Sur. Although it's a drive from Palo Alto, it's worth the drive especially because you get to drive along the historic Route 1. Wind up through the tallest trees, through rolling fog to bright blue beaches - it's basically the perfect computer wallpaper.

Least favorite experience was trying to understand how to compost. I get it California, you're better than the rest of us actively saving the world - but I would do it if you would provide some guidance. Like pictures on a compost can would help; what can I add? Did love the rewarding feeling of recycling and doing my part. 

Hiking through Big Sur, drinking in Carmel-by-the-Sea, seeing the boardwalk lights of Santa Cruz, and all the genius happening in Palo Alto (hello Stanford), overall it was an amazing time and there's still so much to do and see. Looking forward to returning.

Save the world California,

Itinerary Traveler

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