Though it’s known as the world's epicenter of innovation and technology, Palo Alto is not necessarily regarded as a vacation spot. But it should be. Just a quick drive from the East Bay—but a world unto itself—Palo Alto buzzes with a palpable energy and entrepreneurial spirit that makes for a fun weekend getaway. Cruise the beautiful Stanford University campus, hike The Dish trail, tour lush gardens, or simply relax in the comfort of a luxurious hotel suite where your every food and drink wish awaits.
For that upscale respite, head to The Clement—an under-the-radar boutique hotel favored by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, who fill its 23 posh rooms on weekdays. Weekend R&R guests receive the same white-glove, all-inclusive treatment. Yes, you read that right: All your food and drinks are included with the room price, as is the in-room mini-fridge stocked with your favorite snacks and beverages. (Before their stay, guests complete a questionnaire about their preferences, and voila, said faves are waiting upon arrival.) An open kitchen also offers freshly baked cookies and a freezer stocked with artisanal ice-cream cups. You can even enjoy a charcuterie plate poolside on the rooftop patio, or sip a martini by the fireplace in the central living room. The place simply rocks—literally. Proprietor Clement Chen is a collector of guitars, several of which are on display in the hotel’s central areas. theclementpaloalto.com.
For those seeking a retreat just outside of Palo Alto, Menlo Park’s new Facebook-adjacent Hotel Nia offers another great lodging option. The utilitarian business park location belies its whimsical and playful aesthetic. A lush garden courtyard filled with unique seating areas leads to a large, cabana-flanked infinity pool and hot tub. Creative, custom artworks surprise and delight. Lobby restaurant and bar Porta Blu serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes that pair perfectly with the array of craft cocktails. hotelnia.com.
After checking in, start your Palo Alto tour by getting a bird’s-eye view; the Stanford campus’ Hoover Tower observation platform affords a spectacular vantage point. Lafayette Reservoir devotees might also enjoy a hike around The Dish, named for Stanford Research Institute’s 150-foot-diameter hilltop radio telescope. One of the South Bay’s most popular trails, it is hilly and well paved, and the reward includes additional panoramic views of the Stanford campus and the Bay Area. alltrails.com.
For something less strenuous, explore the stately traditional homes, beautiful gardens, and wide, tree-canopied streets of Steve Jobs’ former neighborhood, Crescent Park. Or, head down University Avenue to discover local boutiques, restaurants, and HanaHaus—a 15,000-square-foot community workspace where Silicon Valley creatives gather to socialize and share ideas. (Bonus: The Peninsula’s first Blue Bottle Coffee outpost is located inside too.) hanahaus.com.
You can also wander through the gloriously landscaped, 2.5–acre Gamble Gardens and the historic house at 1431 Waverley Street (free entry), or visit Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center to admire collections spanning 5,000 years, including one of the largest exhibitions of Rodin bronze statues outside of Paris—200 works in all. Admission to the Cantor galleries, gardens, and café is free. gamblegarden.org, museum.stanford.edu.
Those needing some retail therapy can browse the high-end shops at Town and Country Village and Stanford Shopping Center, where people-watching is equally entertaining. (Note that guests of The Clement have access to a complimentary Stanford Shopping Center style advisor, special discounts, and car pick-up service.) tandcvillage.com, simon.com/mall/stanford-shopping-center.
For sustenance, try local faves such as Vino Enoteca, a rustic yet modern Italian restaurant and bar specialzing in soul-warming food and drink. Other top dining spots include Rangoon Ruby, a rumored Mark Zuckerberg hangout that dishes up Burmese cuisine, and stylish bistro Bird Dog, which serves an amazing ponzu-filled grilled avocado. vinoenoteca.com, ragoonruby.com, birddogpa.com.
With luxe hotels, excellent food, outdoor and cultural activities, and great shopping—not to mention the air of innovative creativity—Palo Alto offers a unique ambience that's bound to inspire any visitor.