We tend to forget about the wonderful spots to visit right in our own backyard. This last weekend I took the kids down to University Ave in Palo Alto for an inexpensive lunch at Pluto's (it was less than $25 for the 3 of us), they have great kids options. We got to sit in the table they have on the front window and people watch which can be entertaining. Following lunch we hopped back into the car and drove up University Avenue for 5 minutes onto the Stanford Campus and the Cantor Art Center.
The Cantor Art Center - A Free Visit!
Driving up University Ave (which becomes Palm Drive on campus) and taking a right on Museum Way, you'll find parking on the approach to the museum. Weekend parking was free, but pay attention to the signs. Parking in front of the museum, you are just steps away from your first installation. To the east of the parking lot is an installation by Andy Goldsworthy (who is know for his pieces in the presidio). It's a serpentine piece made of stone in a long trench, and very easy to miss but worth it to go have a look.
As you enter the museum, you might be tempted to skip talking with the docents at the front desk, but don't. They can tell you about any special programs going on, and you can have the kids check out free art boxes with sketch pads and art supplies for your visit. It's a plastic box much like a briefcase and the kids will feel pretty cool walking around with them. There are many spots around the museum to have a sit down and let the kids draw upon the inspiration all around.
The museum is a good medium size, so it's not hard to make it to all the galleries and installations. Some pieces of note are listed below, and they are well worth seeking out as you make your way around. It's pretty fun just to wander around, and find a place to sit with the kids and their art boxes for a bit.
Rodin Gallery and Sculpture Garden
There is an extensive collection of Rodin's work here including a version of The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. These are just two of the approximately 170 pieces of work collected here. The Thinker is pretty large, and it's interesting to see it not only from ground level but also from the gallery above. There also seem to be more pieces scattered around the campus like the Burghers of Calais. There are also docent led tours available at various times.
19th & 20th European Galleries
There is a lot to see here including one of the last Picasso paintings before he entered his 'blue' period. There is the Mondavi gallery set up in the old european fashion with a number of works all next to each other - and with a comfortable place to sit there is a lot of inspiration to draw from.
Sequence by Richard Serra
The kids really enjoyed Sequence, and outdoor sculpture you can walk (or run) through. We found it pretty exciting and spent quite a while walking back and forth through it.
When we returned our art boxes, we were surprised with some lovely paper frames to store our artwork in. You will love these art boxes and all te thought that went into them.
One last thing to note is the Cool Cafe with it's terrace overlooking some of the Rodin Statues outside, a nice spot to grab a snack with the kids. Go enjoy a bit of culture, it's free and very worth a visit.