5.5 out of 10

Palo Alto

Ranked 96th best city in California
37.3988282713763 -122.151855742288
Great for
  • Schools
  • Clean & Green
  • Safe & Sound
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Parks & Recreation
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
  • Childcare
  • Pest Free
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Students
  • Retirees
  • Trendy & Stylish

Reviews

4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Cost of Living 4/5
  • Schools 4/5
2yrs+

"Rich, focal point for local Silicon Valley"

Palo Alto is a flat, family oriented city and is the focal point for local Silicon Valley. In fact, the city includes portions of Stanford University and is home to many Silicon Valley high-technology companies (including Hewlett-Packard and Facebook). The city itself is located on the northwest corner of Santa Clara County. It spans about 25 square miles of suburban terrain and reaches well into San Francisco’s peninsula hills. Demographically speaking, Palo Alto is predominately white (65%), with a large minority of asian residents (22%).

Its large residential quarters encompasses a couple dozen neighborhoods. Within them, are miles of quaint suburban streets, which are formed in grid-like formation. And between these streets are a range of upper middle-class homes to just middle-class homes, depending on your neighborhood of choice (Old Palo Alto and crescent Park are two well-groomed has some elegant two-story homes). While driving through the neighborhood, you’ll notice the quaint house fronts and modest, but appealing yards. The bulk of house values typically range anywhere from $750,000 to over $3 million, while typical household incomes are upwards of $118,000/year (according to the 2010 US Census). And what makes the pot sweeter, is that many of these homes are within a couple miles of both the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Palo Alto is a very family oriented community with safe neighborhood streets and an elite education system. The area is primarily served by the Palo Alto Unified School System, which looks after both Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School. Both schools have an astounding track record and boast a student-teacher ratio below 15, which is almost unprecedented. Elsewhere, you can find more than 16 different private schools. You’ll find anything here from an all-girls school to a nursery-8th grade bilingual immersion school. For commuters, the city is served by two major freeways: Highway 101 and Interstate 280. Out of state travelers have the convenient option of using the the San Francisco airport, located about 40 miles north of Palo Alto. Aesthetically speaking, Palo Alto’s geography is crossed by several creeks that flow north to the San Francisco Bay. These creeks venture from Palo Alto Foothills Park and the attached Regional Preserve, which both anchor the southwestern edge of the city. It provides streams of catch and release fishing, acres of beautiful tree-lined vistas and miles of well-preserved trails through rugged woodlands.

Although Palo Alto is largely residential, there are a handful of smaller shopping areas sprinkled throughout the community which provide your common household necessities. Those looking for work will be interested to know that more than 7,000 businesses employing almost 100,000 people. Its top two employers are that of prestigious Stanford University and Stanford University Medical Center.
Pros
  • Great restaurants
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Great downtown scene
Cons
  • A little snobby
  • Very expensive
  • A Bit of Scary in East Palo Alto
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
  • Beach Lovers
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
2yrs+

"For Those With Googles of Cash"

Okay, so here’s your Rorschach test for the day. When I say Palo Alto, you think?

Stanford University, of course. Home of the Cardinal. Which is what dominates this place and what brings most people to the area. Leland Stanford’s little school has really made it. (Okay, so Stanford was never really little.)

Now despite being pretty much in the heart of the Bay Area, Palo Alto is basically still a small town with barely 60,000 people here. It is sort of like Mayberry, if Mayberry were a college town within Silicon Valley and flush with venture capital money and the soon to be leaders of the world. (Chelsea Clinton was a Stanford Alum as was former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and so were Larry and Sergei when they were working on that algorithm thingy.) But other than that it is totally like Mayberry USA.

Oh yeah, the Grateful Dead met up around here too and Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest while working around here too. But, still, it’s pretty much Mayberry.

Well, without the country folks either. The cost of living is just too high for regular folks. Even students pretty much have to commute once they don’t live in the dorms. So this is multi-million dollar home territory with a bunch of McMansions up in the hills with sort of a faux Spanish Villa feel.

As far as renting, unless you are super lucky to find one of the relatively affordable sublets (less than $1000) you will have to pay around $1600 for a studio and sometimes as high as $7000 for a two bedroom home on the high end. Put simply, the housing crisis seems to have missed Palo Alto—it is still 2007 around here.

To find affordable homes in the area you have to head into East Palo, which unfortunately if fairly notorious for gang activity. So it is kind of a trade off—super high cost of living or crime fears, which means that most people of average means (like moi) have to commute in every day and fight the impossible Silicon Valley traffic.

Now if you are lucky enough to live around here there really are some great restaurants, from super expensive French places like Baume and Chantilly to more moderate places like Vero (an Italian place) and Coconuts (a Caribbean place).

There are also movie theaters and plenty of places to shop and I hear the schools are great too if you are in the family way.
Not to mention the sports scene is nothing to sneeze at either. Definitely lots of places for those Dot Com gazzilionaires to blow their wads of cash.

A great place to live if you are part of the 1%.
Pros
  • Beautiful Homes
  • Great Shopping Scene
  • Great restaurants
Cons
  • A Bit of Scary in East Palo Alto
  • A little snobby
  • Terrible traffic
  • Very expensive
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 4/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
2yrs+

"Silicon Valley's best and brightest"

Palo Alto is one of the most well-known towns in Silicon Valley – and for good reason. Home to one of the country’s most prestigious universities AND one of the fastest growing companies – Stanford and Facebook, respectively, Palo Alto has plenty of reason to be on the map, and is a perfect representation of the old and the new Silicon Valley, respectively.

This title – no small feat to live by – comes with both perks and pitfalls. A beautifully laid-out downtown area is perfect for pedestrians – students and fine diners alike, who enjoy their fine French food and their cheap pizza and beer. From zen yoga studios to buzzing coffee shops, downtown Palo Alto is a great place for visitors from afar or just around the corner.

Houses here are beautiful and reasonably sizeable, although somewhat close together for the price at which they sell – a common phenomenon in California’s most popular places. The schools are some of the best, although many residents here choose to send their children to private school.

Speaking of which, real estate prices are exactly what one would expect for such a town. Houses are some of the most expensive in the country – don’t expect anything other than a small condo for under $500,000. And the traffic is certainly not what justifies the prices – University Avenue, the main drag, is completely congested at all but the latest hours of the night.

But if you can brave the traffic and handle the prices, this is a very, very nice place to live. And if not – it is a lot of fun to visit!
Pros
  • Great restaurants
  • Great downtown scene
  • Great medical care
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • Terrible traffic
  • A little snobby
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Hipsters
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
2/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 2/5
  • Clean & Green 2/5
  • Pest Free 2/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 3/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 2/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 3/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"Palo Alto :) :("

I used to live in East Palo Alto, and I had a lot of fun, but it was dissapointing too. I was living at the time in one of the worst areas in this city. But I am very confident on the efforts of the clean up they have tryed to do, for this neiborhood. I moved North with my parents, and i think if I would have stayed in this place, i would have been a welfare mother, or in a gang. I met my husband thier and we are now divorced with a child. This is a proven fact that my path of life was not the same as his. I had the greatest time as a teen, but i had to grow up sometime. This city is really nice if you cross the tracks and go to the good side of town. I would recommend if you are looking for a couple of people to save or help go to this side of East Palo Alto.There was consent activity that was bad, drugs and prostitution. This is just my opionion and I am sure others have a very different veiw :)

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Best Neighborhoods in Palo Alto

"One of Palo Alto's Prettiest -- and Priciest"
37.4420440435991 -122.150691658666
"Pretty but Pricey"
37.4545067130324 -122.149737194548
"Downtown shopping and condominiums galore"
37.4439684476738 -122.155230569334
4

Downtown North

3.5/5
"Every Bit as Good as University South"
37.4491571868862 -122.164603692417
5

Midtown

3/5
"Safe, family-friendly community"
37.4328571244768 -122.127537993834

Unranked Neighborhoods in Palo Alto

Barron Park

3.5/5
"Im in Love with a Barron!"
37.4122740516501 -122.134907838796
"Eichlers, Condos, and Auto Repair Shops"
37.4200313403242 -122.105604767122
"Middle Class Neighborhood by Palo Alto Standards"
37.4140232627185 -122.123224462717
""Well, if you must go to school on the west coast..""
37.4218261373756 -122.151433133856
"Great for Kids"
37.4462619689329 -122.141946540448

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