Travel

Things to do in Palo Alto with Kids

Last week I kicked off a new series of spotlights on kid friendly activities in various towns in Silicon Valley. 15 Kid Friendly Things to Do with Kids in Menlo Park was first and now I am focusing on Palo Alto right next door!

If you do a quick Google search for “Palo Alto with kids” you’ll find several lists, but a lot of them were making general recommendations about the entire area! Everything on this list has a mailing address in either Palo Alto or Stanford so you don’t have to worry about a long car ride.

Things on this list were also chosen because they don’t require any commitments. If you’re looking for a semester long class or a summer camp the options are endless! This is a list of things you can do if you live here or if you’re just visiting for a day or a week.

Things to do in Palo Alto with kids

Explore Palo Alto with Kids

#1 Hike to the Stanford Dish

The whole family can enjoy this beautiful walk through the research grounds at Stanford University. At the top of the hill, you’ll find the huge satellite dish that gives the park its name. Stanford Dish is a great walk where you’re likely to see prairie dogs, cows, hawks, and fantastic views of Palo Alto.

#2 Stanford Cactus Garden

Formally known as the Arizona Cactus Garden, this small garden can be a little tough to find, but park at the Stanford Shopping Center and use Google Maps and you shouldn’t have a problem. The kids will love checking out all the different cacti and skipping down the path.

Arizona Cactus Garden Free in Palo Alto
The Arizona Cactus Garden is part of Stanford University.

#3 Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

This amazing little Zoo and Museum has free admission ($5 suggested donation) and is a great place for little tots to run around! It features smaller animals like raccoons, ducks, and bobcats and also has an indoor hands-on learning area.

#4 Palo Alto Library Storytime

Palo Alto boasts several wonderful libraries including the ever popular Children’s Library. The best part about showing up at the Children’s Library for story time is that you can head over to the Junior Museum and Zoo afterward! Rinconada Park is also right next door.

#5 Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

The Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is a bit of a windy drive from the center of Palo Alto, but you can get there quickly and it still has a Palo Alto address so it is being included! It’s a great place to enjoy nature, hike, and spot the occasional horse on the trail.

Kids exploring Palo Alto at Pearson-Arastradero
We took a short 1-mile hike to get to this little pond at Pearson-Arastradero park.

#6 Explore the Baylands Nature Preserve

Explore the trails or explore the marsh via kayak. The kids will love being close to nature at the Baylands Nature Preserve.

#7 IKEA

IKEA has Smaland available to potty trained kids of a certain height (37-54″) for up to an hour at a time. If your kids are too big or small, they’ll still enjoy walking around IKEA, playing on the furniture, and getting lunch at the cafeteria. Pro Tip: If it’s the weekend, forget about it. Plus, kids eat free on Tuesdays!

#8 Explore Gamble Gardens

Gamble Gardens has free admission year round and offers special events throughout the year. If you’re looking for more than a beautiful garden to explore, the historic house is also open Monday through Friday.

#9 Playgrounds

There are tons of wonderful playgrounds in Palo Alto and I won’t even try to list the best ones because they are all fantastic! Take a look at the map and you’ll be able to find one nearby no matter where you are.

Magical Bridge does get a special mention because it is so unique. It is designed to be inclusive regardless of ability, disability, age, or size. It does a great job, but because it’s so popular it can get really crowded.

Kids in Palo Alto at Mitchell Park
One of the playgrounds at Mitchell Park has these amazing tunnels through the sand box. The kids can pop up like prairie dogs!

#10 Splash Pad

You may already find yourself at Mitchell Park for the library or the playground and the Splash Pad is just a bonus! I’m never prepared for splashing so you can expect my kids to be in their underwear!

#11 Cool down at the pool

Rinconada Pool has a lap and wading pool and is open to the public. Special rates for residents, but everyone is welcome.

#12 Explore the Sculpture Garden at the Cantor Arts Center

While you’re there, check out some of the family friendly events at the Cantor Arts Center. They have story time and drop-in art studio time.

#13 Ice Skate outdoors at Winter Lodge

Outdoor ice skating during all non-summer months sounds too good to be true! We haven’t been yet, but Winter Lodge has some fantastic reviews and we’ll definitely be checking it out when it opens in late September.

#14 Visit the donkeys at Bol Park

You can play in a converted donkey pasture and every Sunday donkeys Perry and Niner will come out to visit.

#15 Spend an educational morning at the Museum of American Heritage

This museum is a tribute to the inventions and technology created and used from 1750-1950. In addition to the exhibits on display, there is also a Victory Garden typical of those grown during the World Wars. Events for children are held periodically and admission is free but with a suggested donation of $5/person.

#16 Palo Alto Children’s Theatre

The Children’s Theatre is a great way to introduce your children to the world of theatre! They have several shows throughout the year and also a series of “Playhouse Productions” for the youngest (2-6) to appreciate.

#17 American Girl Store

If you have a doll loving girl, this could be a really fun outing! They even have a salon where the doll can get a fancy hair style or pierced ears. Unfortunately, they closed the Bistro, so afternoon tea with the dolls is no longer an option.

#18 Classes at Wund3rkids

The Wund3rkids playroom itself is a bit of the pricey side for me, but their classes are wonderful and fairly priced. We have fallen in love with Silvia from “Spanish for Tots” and we love that we can drop in whenever our schedule allows. No membership or commitment required to attend classes.

Kids class in Palo Alto
Exploring in “Spanish for Tots”

#19 Drop-in play at Parent’s Place

Every week they have 2 drop-in session for kids from birth – 5 years. They also have subscription based classes and regular parenting workshops.

#20 Work out while they play at the Equinox kid’s club

Like most gyms, this is membership based, but if you’re just visiting they do offer a membership that includes access to all Equinox franchises. Check it out if there’s one in your home town!

#21 Break a sweat while they play at the Children’s Cove at OFJCC

Childcare is available up to 2 hours at a time. Members get priority but if there is space available anyone can drop off their kid for $12/hour. They also host a “parent’s night out” twice a month!

#22 Visit the Palo Alto YMCA

Membership based, but you can get a 3-day trial pass. If you’ll be in town longer and belong to the Y back home, ask them about reciprocity or discounted rates for short-term memberships. They have drop-in story times, art times, yoga, and Zumba. Plus, once a month they host a “parent’s night out”.

#23 Palo Alto Community Events

You’ll definitely want to keep your eyes open for community events during your time in Palo Alto. Expect to see something for everyone is you check back often.

The annual Stanford Pow Wow
The Stanford Pow Wow is held annually and free to the public.

 

Is there anything else that’s great in Palo Alto with kids? We’re still exploring!

What do you think?