An Afternoon in Palo Alto

An Afternoon in Palo Alto

Recently we were looking for a low key day, deciding to stay close to home. Palo Alto is just a short drive for us, and there are a number of free or cheap things there to keep us entertained. 

Our Saturday started with a quick visit to the American Heritage Museum (we almost chose the Junior Museum), followed by an inexpensive dinner at Pluto's on University Avenue, then a very affordable double feature at the Stanford Theater where we saw two black and white movies from the 30's along with The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ which literally pops up out of the stage at intermission. 

Downtown Palo Alto is adjacent to the Caltrain station, or if you drive there is usually ample free parking (weekdays there is usually a 2 hour time limit, but no meters). The Museum of American Heritage isn't a huge walk from the Caltrain station, but the Junior Museum is. The rest is an easy walk from downtown Palo Alto. 

Below are some of the details along with some alternate options.  

Palo Alto Junior Museum

This is a bit more for the younger set, but still fun for all. Inside there are activities and things to climb on, and outside there is a small zoo with bats, rabbits, ducks, snakes, and so much more. Just outside the museum is a lovely park with a couple of playgrounds too. 

It can get pretty crowded on the weekend, and the parking lot can be a bit much, so you might consider parking down the street for sanity sake. 

Free (donations appreciated)
Junior Museum & Zoo
1451 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: 650-329-2111

Museum of American Heritage  

Located just south of downtown with ample street parking the house, garage, and garden share a glimpse of American inventions over the past 200 years. You can visit an early 20th century kitchen, a 1920's general store, the Marshall Mathews Garage (along with 1915 Model T Ford Touring car), a small print shop, and the Ruth Bell Lane Memorial Garden. There is also a lovely park and playground across the street. 

Free (donations appreciated)
351 Homer Avenue
Palo Alto, California 94301
Phone: 650-321-1004

The Cantor Museum

We've written about the Cantor Museum in the past. Located on the Stanford campus, this incredible collection is free to visit and lovely to stroll around. Plus they have family events on Sunday's and Art Boxes you can check out anytime so the kids can draw when inspiration strikes when walking through the museum. 

1-2-3 Things — Artist for the day at Stanford’s Cantor Center for the Arts

The Stanford Theater  

Dating back to 1925, this fully restored theater shows a very affordable double feature along with The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ that rises out of the stage in front of the screen between features. There is a wide range of films played here. We watched an older Hitchcock film 'The Lady Vanishes' followed by 'The Wicked Lady', both starring Margret Lockwood. I didn't expect the kids to want to stay for both features, but they did and we had a good laugh, especially at the second movie. Added bonus, the concession stand offers very reasonably priced popcorn, candy, and drinks. 

Our cost for the evening at the theater for a double feature with snacks and a musical interlude, $24.50 (cash only). 

  • $7 - One adult ticket
  • $10 - Two kids tickets (@ $5 each) 
  • $4.50 - Three medium popcorns (@ $1.50 each)
  • $3 - Three small soft drinks (@ $1 each)
221 University Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Pluto's Palo Alto

Primarily serving salads and sandwiches along with some select entrees, this is a great option for us. They have a decent selection of kids options that come with a nicely portioned entree, a side, a rice crispy treat (made in house), and a drink.  

Dinner for 1 adult and 2 kids: $20 (cards accepted)

  • $9 - Choose your own (main) salad with added flank steak
  • $10 - 2 kids dinners (@ $5 each) with entree, side, rice crispy treat, and drink
482 University Avenue @ Cowper
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: 650-853-1556

Pizza My Heart

This is always a tasty, affordable, quick option for us with locations all over the Bay Area. Plus there is one directly across the street from the Stanford Theater. The three of us can each grab a slice and share a salad, with soda's for around $20. 

220 University Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: 650-327-9400