Looking to do something fun but not too far? Take the family to Palo Alto and explore the entire weekend. In addition to the new Junior Museum (see this story), an abundance of places to see and things to do await.
1. Bring the bikes to check out Stanford University. Did you know that in the mid-1870s, railroad tycoon Leland Stanford snapped up 650 acres so he could raise horses and build his personal estate dubbed the Palo Alto Stock Farm? He eventually bought adjoining properties, swelling his empire to more than 8,000 acres of foothills and plains. Life seemed golden for the former California governor and senator until, in a dramatic turn of events, his 15-year-old son Leland Jr. succumbed to typhoid fever and died during a tour of Europe. Upon returning to the United States, the senator and his wife Jane dedicated themselves to building Leland Stanford Junior University an ode to their beloved boy. Tool around campus on your bikes, and stop for a bite to eat at its many eateries.
2. Shop and eat at two downtowns. After Stanford opened in 1891, Palo Alto prospered and incorporated as a city in 1894. The “dry” (alcohol-free) community flourished, absorbing Mayfield, its rowdy, saloon-saturated, next door neighbor. Today, Palo Alto features two downtown arteries – the most frequented on University Ave., and the second on California Ave., the former epicenter of Mayfield.
3. See the city’s tallest tree. Palo Alto got its moniker from the El Palo Alto, a stately redwood tree over 1,000 years old over ten stories high. See the California Historic Landmark #2 at El Palo Alto Park, a twigs-throw from Stanford Shopping Center.
4. Stay and swim at Hotel Citrine. Free bikes to ride and a warm pool to splash in. What else do you want? The newly-opened modern, 155-room, mini resort prioritizes wellness along with luxury and sustainability. Our advice: book one of its lovely suites with two giant screen TVs , bone china teacups, and custom furnishings, and your kids will love you forever. 750 San Antonio Road, 650.424.8991, Marriott.com.
5. Stay and play ping-pong at AC Hotel Palo Alto: Across from Hotel Citrine, the family will be able to watch movies until dawn on the 55-inch SMART flat-screen TVs. Unique are cozy (yes, cozy) conference rooms with living room zones and tables that morph into ping pong tables. 744 San Antonio Road, 650.565.8100, Marriott.com.
6. Gawk at the modern Anderson Collection. At first glance, the sculpture looks as though a piece of white tissue is peeking out of a dark blue Kleenex box. But upon closer inspection you see that Sam Richardson’s resin and fiberglass work is an iceberg emerging from the ocean. Richardson’s work is here through mid-March. 314 Lomita Drive, 650.721.6055, anderson.stanford.edu.
7. Learn about the Stanford family at the Cantor Arts Center: The young boy who died as a teen collected many treasures during his travels. Find out more about his family and friends. 328 Lomita Drive, 650.723.4177, museum.stanford.edu.
8. Explore response-to-pandemic artworks at the Palo Alto Art Center: Art can raise our spirits and refocus our energies, especially during times of duress. “Creative Attention: Art and Community Restoration” showcases artists’ responses to anxiety and stress. All are welcome to ponder these themes of mending, healing, and resiliency. Art center directors emphasize that the exhibit is one aspect of a broader initiative that includes art therapy workshops and community programs. Sculptures, videos, paintings, and more on view from January through June 2022. 1313 Newell Road, 650.329.2366, Cityofpaloalto.org.