Getting to Palo Alto:
Palo Alto is equidistant from both SFO and San Jose International Airports and Palo Alto Municipal Airport serves private aircrafts, if that’s how you roll! Most people will drive into Palo Alto on the 101 or take Caltrain (stop: University Avenue). Note that taxis are virtually impossible to get in Palo Alto so having a car might be a godsend when the kids run out of steam. It will also be helpful to discover many of the things to do in Palo Alto with kids.
University Avenue and Stanford
Palo Alto’s main street is a 10-block long cornucopia of organic cafes, eclectic eateries, gourmet wine bars and mainstream retailers. You could spend a whole afternoon exploring University Avenue and not even get to the side streets which house their own share of treasures. You can shop, eat, browse or simply people-watch Palo Alto’s diverse community (students, academic, technologists, entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley mums).
Stroll down and check out the Apple store (the Apple headquarters are in nearby Cupertino but for all practical purposes, Palo Alto can be considered its hometown so you gotta go see!) and Restoration Hardware.
When it’s time to dine, there is no dearth of options and this street has an astounding offering of diverse cuisines given the size of the town. But as mentioned before, it is the hub of the Valley so it caters to all tastes. An ever-popular location with kids is the famous Cheesecake Factory, which is probably where you should go if you are from outside the US. The meals are huge so don’t forget to save up for desert! If you’re looking for a more local option, check into University Coffee Cafe with its open dining space, wifi and kid-friendly menu. This too is a popular spot so try to get in before the lunchtime rush.
Before you head out, take a drive down Palm Drive to the beautiful Stanford campus, often compared with a country club! You can do a student-led campus walking tour but I would recommend just taking in the splendor at your own pace and checking out some of the sights.
The Stanford Shopping Center
The Stanford Shopping Center is one of the most upscale malls in Northern California, but even if you are not into conspicuous consumption, you can’t help enjoy a stroll down its open courtyard and taste some of the gourmet offerings like Teuscher chocolates. It’s a mall so you best be here to shop because scarcely does any place in the country house A-list names like Neiman Marcus, Saks, Tiffany & Co., Frette, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton and Burberry all under one (open air) roof. And of course, no shortage of options for the kids. Shop for basics at Gap Kids (or Baby Gap) and Gymboree, or at Macy’s, Nordtrom, Bloomingdales.
For kids’ decor and accessories, step into Pottery Barn Kids, which we love online, but seeing the goodies for real is much more fun. It’s also a great place to give the kids a stretch and a play on the many tables and puzzles they have around.
>When it’s time for lunch, head to Max’s Opera Cafe, the most popular spot at the mall. It can be a wait but the menu is extensive and it is packed with women and kids on weekdays and families on weekends. The children’s meal includes a pasta or a grilled cheese and they give you coloring as well (score!).
The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
Do your rounds at the mall while the baby takes a nap and then reward his/her good behavior with a trip to the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. This cute museum is a seven minute drive from the mall and in my opinion, the perfect place for toddlers and preschoolers. The Museum offers a bunch of interactive exhibits all focused around demonstrating scientific principles like gravity, as well as a small zoo, which is pretty impressive considering it’s in the middle of Palo Alto. Reptiles, bats, peacocks and bobcats keep the kids entertained without scaring them off like the bigger animals would. Most parents say that you can do the whole thing in 2 hours, which is the perfect time to engage a preschooler without wearing them out. The icing on the cake? It’s free, with a suggested donation of $3 (go on, do $5).