The major sight in Palo Alto is of course Stanford University (at the end of University Ave., Stanford, 650/723-2560, www.stanford.edu). Stanford is one of the top universities in the world, and less than a tenth of the high school students who apply each year are accepted.
The visitors center sits inside Memorial Hall (Memorial Auditorium, across the street from Hoover Tower, www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo, Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.) and can help you with campus maps and tours. Definitely download or procure a map of campus before getting started on your explorations, as Stanford is infamously hard for newcomers to navigate.
For a taste of the beauty that surrounds students on a daily basis, begin your tour with The Quad (Oval at University Ave.) and Memorial Church (Main Quad, you can’t miss it). Located at the center of campus, these architectural gems are still in active use. Classes are held in the quad every day, and services take place in the church each Sunday.
Almost next door to the Quad lies Cantor Art Center (Lomita Dr. and Museum Way, 650/723-4177, www.museum.stanford.edu, Wed.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs. until 8 p.m.). This free art museum features both permanent collections of classic paintings and sculpture donated by the Cantors and other philanthropists, as well as traveling exhibitions.
On the other side of the Quad, down Palm Drive towards town, the Rodin Sculpture Garden (Lomita Dr. and Museum Way, daily 24 hours) finds favor with students who visit at night. The sculptures in the garden were cast in France from Rodin’s originals and include the surprisingly petit-in-person Thinker and the Gates of Hell.
Perhaps the single most visited spot on the Stanford Campus is Hoover Tower (daily 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.), the tall tower that’s visible from as much as 30 miles away and from incoming airplanes. For great views of the Bay Area, head on up to the observation platform and take a look around.
Farther toward the edges of campus lurk two more treasures. The Dish (http://dish.stanford.edu) perches high on the Stanford hills, visible from Palm Drive and many other spots on the Peninsula. Along Junipero Serra Drive/Campus Drive East, several trails run up the hillside to the Dish. Once up the hill, you can hike back down-the observatory and radio telescope are not open to visitors.
Built by the Stanford Research Institute in 1966 to study Earth’s atmosphere and later used to communicate with spacecraft and satellites, the Dish rarely sees any action these days. But “hiking the Dish” along the many pedestrian trails is a time-honored Stanford tradition.
The second monument to science stretches for a full mile across Stanford land into the hills, though the building stays level. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (2575 Sand Hill Rd,, Menlo Park, 650/926-2204, www.slac.stanford.edu), or SLAC to its friends, is one of only a few research facilities of its kind in the world. Here atoms are launched at one end of the building and reach high speeds before smashing into a barrier at the other end. Stanford researchers study the smashed pieces, increasing the body of knowledge about the subatomic world.
Due to a massive construction project and shift in research focus, tours were suspended at the time this was written. Call SLAC for current information about public tour hours and prices.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition