"Palo Alto - Home of Stanford University" Top 5 Page for this destination Palo Alto by AlbuqRay

Palo Alto Travel Guide: 102 reviews and 256 photos

One of the World's Great Universities

Not only is Stanford University one of the best universities in the world academically, it is also located in a beautiful place.

Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, founded Stanford University in 1887 in memory of their only child, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at the age of 15. They decided "the children of California shall be our children." The university is located on an 8000 acre site that was once Stanford's famous Palo Alto Stock Farm for trotting horses. The campus is still called "The Farm." The little town that started to grow across El Camino Real (the old Spanish "King's Road") from the university also took the name Palo Alto.

Stanford believed in a liberal education because "The imagination needs to be cultivated and developed to assure success in life. A man will never construct anything he cannot conceive." The university has always been co-ed. It's unofficial motto is "Die Luft der Freiheit weht," which translates as "the wind of freedom blows." There are currently about 6000 undergraduate students and 6500 graduate students.

Ancient Tree Is Still There

On the banks of San Francisquito Creek, there was a 100-foot giant twin-trunked redwood tree that the native Ohlone Indians knew long before Captain Gaspar de Portola's expedition came in November 1769. It could be seen for miles. It was later named El Palo Alto, or "the high tree" in Spanish. Traditional history says a flood in 1886 tore away one trunk; however, that trunk "fell" at the same time a wooden trestle bridge for the railroad was being built nearby. The old redwood still lives in a park at the intersection of El Camino Real, Alma Street and Palo Alto Avenue. In 2005, it was 1065 years old. In the 1970's and 1980's, it had termites and had to be topped but it is much healthier these days than 50 years ago. Who knows the stories El Palo Alto could tell if it could talk. See also my travelogue on El Palo Alto Views and Thoughts.

Walk the Dish

There is a private park that is part of Stanford University. On the hills is a huge radar dish. There are paved trails. When you hike there, it is called "walking the dish." It is right next to the campus but large and wild enough that you must watch out for mountain lions. Other wildlife includes ground squirrels, gophers, raptors and deer.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great weather; outstanding university; beautiful landscapes
  • Cons:Too many people and very expensive
  • In a nutshell:Beautiful place that is now overpopulated
  • Last visit to Palo Alto: Dec 2005
  • Intro Updated Jun 4, 2006
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Reviews (12)

Comments (1)

  • squidly2's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2006 at 6:34 PM

    Great tips on Stanford - are you an alum? I'm headed up there for a football game next month, but not rooting for the home team! Nice pics, I look forward to visiting. thanks!

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