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ICONIC CITY: A Day Trip to Palo Alto

Apple Headquarters Palo Alto

Photo by Droneandy / Shutterstock

Home to Apple, Stanford University and the heart of iconic Silicon Valley, visit this city where innovation reigns supreme.

Palo Alto is the best known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, as well as the home of Stanford University. But you don’t need to be a tech entrepreneur or the parent of an Ivy League student to enjoy this charming city. Palo Alto is around a 30-minute drive from San Francisco or a one-hour Caltrain journey, making it ideal for a day trip—and a perfect way to escape the city when the fog rolls in, as the weather tends to be sunnier there. Silicon Valley also includes Cupertino, Mountain View and Menlo Park but Palo Alto is the best option for a day trip as it offers the most to do. Although it’s exciting to see the nearby headquarters for Facebook, Apple and Google, tourists can only walk around the campuses and cannot enter the buildings. A few exceptions are the Intel Museum in Santa Clara, as well as the Foster + Partners-designed Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino, which offers classes, products and a café surrounded by olive groves. Or head to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, which showcases 2,000 years of computing starting with the abacus.

Computer History Museum Palo Alto

Palo Alto is considered to be where Silicon Valley started, due to the number of high-profile tech companies that were launched here including Apple, Hewlett-Packard and E-trade. Today Palo Alto is home to Tesla, Houzz and IDEO, but its tech roots can be traced to 367 Addison Avenue, where the idea for Hewlett-Packard was hatched in a garage. Although the house and garage are closed to the public, visitors can walk past it and take a photo; look for the National Register of Historic Places sign out front.

In the heart of Silicon Valley it’s only fitting to pay homage to American innovation and ingenuity at the Museum of American Heritage. Situated on a quiet residential street, the museum is located in a former home and showcases American inventions that have shaped society and technology. It’s a small museum, with an exhibit dedicated to classic building toys such as Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets as well as the replica of a 1920’s general store. The current exhibit is The Happy Homemaker: History of Household Appliances; display items include vintage vacuums and stoves. Don’t miss the gardens, which are replicas of a 1943 Victory Garden complete with vegetables, flowers and fruits.

Today Palo Alto is home to Tesla, Houzz and IDEO, but its tech roots can be traced to 367 Addison Avenue, where the idea for Hewlett-Packard was hatched in a garage.

Philz Palo Alto

Philz Palo Alto

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Palo Alto

When it’s time for a caffeine break, head to the Pal Alto classic Philz. The line may be long and the tables taken over with tech bros working away on their laptops in this industrial looking space, but Philz has a devoted following for its coffee. Philz roasts its own beans and brews one cup at a time, which also explains the long lines. Try the iced mint mojito coffee or the tesora, a mix of caramel, nuts and butter.

The lines may be shorter at Blue Bottle Coffee, which offers soothing place to sip and refresh as its housed in a former Spanish style movie theater. Sip your coffee outside among the arches in the courtyard or if you need to catch up on work, the adjacent Hana House is a sleek workspace.

Cantor Arts Center

Take an Uber to Stanford University’s sprawling, leafy campus to explore the Cantor Arts Center. The museum has one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris—many of them are on display outdoors in the sculpture garden. The permanent collection spans 5,000 years and includes ancient Greco Roman pieces as well as paintings from John Singer Sargent and Andy Warhol photographs.

The museum has one of the largest collections of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris—many of them are on display outdoors in the sculpture garden.

Hanna House

If you have more time to see Stanford, schedule a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hanna House which was built in 1936 for Stanford Professor Paul Hanna and his wife (tours will resume in June 2019). The house has been nicknamed the “Honeycomb House” thanks to its hexagon shape and was Wright’s first non-rectangular house.

Nobu Palo Alto

When it’s time for lunch, stop by Nobu, located on the ground floor of the eponymous hotel. Eating Nobu-style means starting with cold dishes, followed by hot plates and then sushi. Try the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and grilled Shishido peppers, as well as the king crab tempura. If you still have room, opt for dessert at the nearby Palo Alto Creamery. The classic diner is famous for its $275 burger served with Dom Perignon to celebrate selling your company or winning that round of VC funding. With a belly full of Nobu, we suggest you go for the daily homemade ice cream flavors such as lemon custard.

Photo by Konstantin Dimopoulos

Burn off some calories with a final walk around town. Swing by City Hall to see the public art installation “The Blue Trees”. Artist Konstantin Dimopoulos colored the magnolia trees here blue with a biologically-safe watercolour to highlight global deforestation. Other final stops should include the charming Bell’s Books, which sells a mix of vintage and new books. Pick up a beautifully wrapped package of pastel macaroons from Chantal Guillon to nibble on for your journey back.

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