Menlo Park is a Tree USA city, adhering to four national standards for tree management and budgeting on forestry maintenance. Nestled into the lush greenery is a bustling area in central Menlo Park where hundreds of people will gather on a typically bright summer afternoon in Northern California, enjoying a glass of wine and walking the local scene.
This walking tour of Menlo Park starts at its cultural epicenter, the Kepler's Bookstore on the cross of El Camino Real and Ravenswood Ave.
- Cafe Boronne
- The BBC
- Menlo Park Railroad Station
- Xanadu Gallery
Any trip to Menlo Park should start at Kepler's Books and Magazines, the premiere independent bookstore in Silicon Valley. A place for literati, Kepler's fosters a community atmosphere where people are encouraged to read, debate, and generate ideas.
They run an impressive array of author events where you can speak directly with the people who've written your favorite books and while you'll never confuse it with a discount bookstore, you will find many titles that no mainstream bookstore would carry.
It's this non-mainstream mentality that keeps Kepler's on the border of going out of business. In recent years, they've announced their closure only to be bailed out at the last minute by passionate customers turned investors.
Customers love Kepler's that much and that's worthy of a starting point. It's at the intersection of Ravenswood and El Camino Real. There is underground parking beneath the building.
Next stop: Next door at Cafe Borrone.
2. Cafe Barrone
Cafe Borrone is a European-style cafe in Silicon Valley. It's a great place to get a glass of wine and a small snack, sitting outside in the expansive courtyard with a friend or a good book from Kepler's next door.
And when the sun is out, you'll find the area completely packed with a wide variety of people enjoying Northern California weather. There's something about the atmosphere that draws not only locals, but people from all over the Peninsula. If you decide to play hooky at Cafe Barrone, just remember that your boss might be there too!
Next stop: The BBC. Right next door.
3. The BBC
The British Bankers Club is an English pub complete with the bright red telephone booth. While not as popular as Cafe Boronne, the BBC offers it's own brand of atmosphere and a good selection of beers to match. You can get traditional British dishes like bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes) or sit outside and enjoy a Guinness and a cigar from the tobacco shop next door.
Next stop: The Menlo Park Train Station. Walk a block Northwest, behind the BBC.
4. The Menlo Park Railroad Station
The Menlo Park Railroad Station is the oldest passenger train station in California. The building pictured was built in 1867 and hasn't changed that much since the 1890s when the station was remodeled with Victorian ornamentation to serve the newly-opened Stanford University. It is still operational and serves to connect Menlo Park with the rest of Silicon Valley by CalTrain.
Next stop: Xanadu. Go to El Camino Real and walk up Santa Cruz Ave.
5. Xanadu Gallery
The walk up Santa Cruz Avenue brings you through Downtown Menlo Park which has great eating at the Left Bank and strong specialty stores like The Runners High.
Xanadu Gallery, which sits on the southwestern end of Santa Cruz Avenue, is home to ancient artifacts and folk art from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Almost all of the pieces in the gallery are for sale and many date back for centuries. One of the priced pieces in the collection is an andesite figure of Buddha from 9th-century Java selling for $650,000. But take heart, that's less than the price of a house in Menlo Park!