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Monday, April 28, 2014

Bay Area Neighborhood Guide: Palo Alto

I realize Palo Alto is a city, not a neighborhood. But for those who don’t live there, visiting Palo Alto for some of its kid-friendly highlights may involve more than just parking and walking. Here's the guide I wrote for Mommy Nearest, a helpful, free app with location-based restaurants, activities and shopping (with parent comments).

Here are some of our family-friendly favorites.

We’ve spent many hours at this small hands-on indoor museum and outdoor mini-zoo. Inside you’ll find changing exhibits that kids can touch, climb on and play with. Outside there are around 50 animal species, including hedgehogs, owls, ferrets and turtles (look for them in the pond while you’re crossing the little bridge). When you’re done with the museum, head outside to the adjacent park for a picnic or play time.

Hungry? Head to downtown Palo Alto on University Avenue, where you’ll find the popular Oren’s Hummus Shop. Kids love to dip the pita in the hummus, and there’s lots of other Mediterranean food (meat and vegetarian), even for picky eaters.

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop

Also on University Avenue is the retro candy and soda shop, Rocket Fizz, which might even please the adults more the kids. You’ll find taffy by the pound, in flavors like chili mango and rootbeer float, as well as international favorite candies like Australian Malteasers. Just as fun are the novelty toys and animal masks, and snacks like bacon and cheese flavored crickets. Yes, crickets. Don’t worry, they’re dead. And packaged.

Expose your kids to art at the Cantor Arts Center on Stanford’s campus. University founder Leland Stanford had his own personal art collection with 5,000 works, some of which are  on display here, along with others. The museum was founded at the same time as the university. You’ll find everything from modern art to Native American Art, works from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Plus one of the largest outdoor Rodin sculpture gardens in the world. Admission is free, which makes it easier to go to a museum and not worry about whether you and the kids are getting your money’s worth. But they’re only open Wednesday to Sunday, so plan accordingly!

When it’s hot out, locals take their toddlers to Mitchell Park, with its fun water features, sand pits and climbing structures. Plus there are bathrooms which are very convenient for changing clothes or for potty training little ones (there’s a toddler size toilet!). Lots of trees and shade as well.

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