Bay Area Info

Silicon Valley Farmers Markets

Image of Cherries

One great way to spend weekend mornings is to check out the freshest produce, delivered right into your town by the local Northern California farmers.  Not only do you get to pick from the best fruits and vegetables the area has to offer, but you also help your dollars go back into the local community. The Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association publishes a detailed calendar to where you can find the local farmers markets (and what vendors will be there) in your area and the SFGate publishes a more comprehensive list of cities, but no vendor information.

Here's a sampling of the farmers markets in the cities across Silicon Valley and the rest of the Bay Area; many are open year-round and some of them are open during the weekdays too.

List of Many Farmers Markets in Silicon Valley 

You can find their hours of operation and details on how to get there from the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association Santa Clara list

Since the PCFMA is interested in promoting agriculture, they list the farmers markets that are predominantly about selling produce as opposed to arts and crafts.  Since that's a pretty good indication of whether the market is more about food or being a street fair, you can choose one close by that matches your tastes.

KQED provides more links about Bay Area markets and some background about organic products and sustainable agriculture.

And If You're Around Mountain View...

There is also the Milk Pail Market which provides fresh produce at prices that are considerably less than the Safeway across the street or the Albertsons nearby.  They're open daily and I do a lot of my personal produce shopping there because I prefer to shop in the evenings.  (And nobody paid me to say that!  Or anything else on this site for that matter...)

While Milk Pail compliments this selection with a wide range of cheeses and also have some gourmet pre-cut meats you can choose from, the Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wurst-Haus on San Antonio just a block away is truly the place to go for that.  Their list of smoked meats includes an award-winning smoked chicken and a bacon that makes you question what you thought bacon was.  And after you go, everyone will know you were there because your clothes will come out slightly --- but authentically --- smoked!

Walking Tour of Santana Row

Image of Villa Cornet and Lamborghini

Who says startup companies are the only reason Silicon Valley is glamorous?  Who says you need to head up to San Francisco for the urban scene?

Santana Row is a uniquely Northern Californian fusion of design, culture and accessibility, recreating the atmosphere of Paris' Champs Elysees using a distinctly Silicon Valley neo-Mediterranean architecture.

A bustling farmers market lines the streets on Sunday mornings in quaint contrast to the exotic car meets on Saturdays.

But for all the testosterone from the horsepower and club life of the weekends, Santana Row is an amazingly eccelctic place where strollers share the spotlight with Ferraris and people of all walks of life can enjoy the live music.

This walking tour starts from the garage on Olin Avenue, which is most easily accessible from Winchester Blvd.

1.  Park Valencia

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

4.  Cocola

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

6.  Chess Courtyard

7.  CineArts

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

First stop: Park Valencia, across from the Olin Avenue parking garage

1.  Park Valencia

Live performances and ample seating make the Park Valencia a popular venue for enjoying a latte from the nearby Starbucks or just lounging around with friends on a sunny day.  The hot dog stand adds an ironic, but not self-conscious, sense of authenticity to the metropolitan environment.  And an interesting side note is the secret behind the perennially green grass.

Image of Park Valencia
Image of Park Valencia

Next stop: Walk up Olin Avenue past the Urban Outfitters 

2.  Borders and the Hotel Valencia 

The most evocative image on Santana Row is the tower which presides over the Borders, located in the Villa Cornet building.  The Borders isn't meant as a luxury store like many of the others here, but it's still Santana Row's flagship.  Across from it is the upscale Hotel Valencia whose Vbar is the trendsetter for the rest of the strip.

Image of Borders
Image of Borders

Next stop: Follow sidewalk past Hotel Valencia 

3.  Straits Cafe at the DeForest Building

Unlike its brethren elsewhere in the Bay Area, the Straits Cafe on Santana Row makes an amazing transformation from its roots as a popular Asian fusion restaurant into the epicenter of the weekend nightlife, with karaoke on Wednesdays to live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and live jazz and cover bands in between.

Image of DeForest Building
Image of DeForest Building

Next stop: Next door

4.  Cocola

The Cocola Bakery is a popular lunch spot because of its sandwiches served on fresh baguettes.  It has ample outdoor seating in the shade of the corridor under the DeForest Building, across from Straits Cafe.

While the food is a bit pricey for what you get, the convenience, atmosphere and proximity to the Valley Fair side of Santana Row make it a good place to take a load off your feet for a little while.

Image of Cocola
Image of Cocola

Next stop: Cross street and walk past Borders

5.  The Vintage Wine Bar

With its distinctive architecture and outdoor patio, the Vintage Wine Bar could get away on its looks alone.  But this haunt was named The Wave Magazine's "Best Wine Bar" in San Jose because of its abundant selection and precisely chosen pairings.

Image of Vintage Wine Bar
Image of Vintage Wine Bar

Next stop: Walk south down the courtyard

6.  Chess Courtyard

Challenge a friend to a public match in the chess courtyard.  Players of all skill levels are welcome to have a go and can be found there at all hours of the day.  There are also more traditional stone chess tables which you can use for more private matches.

Image of Santana Row Chess
Image of Santana Row Chess

Next stop: Head south to Olsen Drive

7.  CineArts

While you won't find mainstream films at the CineArts here at Santana Row, the latest indie films featured here might just bring out the cinephile in you.  The seating is almost luxurious with clean reclining seats, ample cup holders... and movable arm rests in case you're with that special someone.

Many Saturday mornings, exotic car owners and fellow car enthusiasts flaunt their wheels in the parking lot next to the theater.

Image of CineArts
Image of CineArts

Next stop: Across the street

8.  The Vintage Wine Merchants

As a bonus, after you've had a glass of cabernet at the Vintage Wine Bar and caught the latest foreign flick at the CineArts across the street, you can pick up a bottle of your favorite varietal at the Vintange Wine Merchants.

Image of Vintage Wine Merchants
Image of Vintage Wine Merchants

The Ghosts Haunting Silicon Valley Buildings: Does Yours Have One?

Image of Ghost

Tired of hearing that friendly "Howdy, Neighbor!" from the folks who live down the block?  How about the encroaching silence of a winter breeze followed by hollow footsteps falling beside you, matching your cadence as you peer over the breath on your shoulder to... nothing?

Did you ever think the odd chill you feel when you walk into a house may not be the air conditioning?  No?  Well, let's rest our left hemispheres for the moment and let our imaginations run for a little while.

As fortunes come, go, and IPO here in the only land that's had a gold rush in three different centuries, the Bay Area and its Valley of the Heart's Delight (now modern-day Silicon Valley) isn't without its own stories of mystery.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

Here in Silicon Valley we have the offspring of guilt and loneliness, a sprawling byzantine mansion whose body was contorted and twisted into a maze of corridors to stretching a mile into nowhere, with staircases into floorboards and windows peering nowhere else. 

The Winchester Mystery House is the progeny of one Ms. Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle Company fortune, whose story is one of unadulterated madness reflected in the continuing torture of this solitary Victorian property.  Our hero, the living mansion, was finally allowed to rest with the passing of poor, rich Ms. Winchester.

Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz

Reality is about perception and if people don't trust what they perceive to be true, what can they trust?  Q.E.D.  Quod erat demonstrandum.  Quod ego dico.  No hablo latin.

But your eyes will deceive you: they are designed to.  And with this deception comes magic and imagination, a world where your basic instincts about the rules of the universe, up and down, and what should be, are callously discarded. 

There are places where you can be an awakening child again, where the realm of possibility is once again endless and where the answers to life's basic questions are no longer carved in stone, but merely filled in with pencil.  Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz (an hour from Sunnyvale so we'll annex into Silicon Valley) is one of those places.

Revealing its hidden treasure, the eternal spring from which its power flows, would be like saying telling Virginia there is no Santa Claus or banning the Easter Bunny from Walnut Creek.  So, for its secret, make love not war... and stay away from Wikipedia.

Real Estate... Haunted?

Yes, my house is haunted but only with the Ghosts of Christmases past that I choose to reminisce about.  We laugh, we sing (offkey), and tell stories about the fish that got away.  They say that a casual glimpse into the past helps you see your future.  Yes, I'm just kidding but an active imagination helps keep you creative!

But some people can live in the world of the paranormal intuition and, in a reality where all the things great and small happen to good people, there is a site by Mary Pope-Handy. 

Dealing With Haunted Properties

Mary's site talks about what to do if you have a property which has been stigmatized in some way and includes everything from disclosing your ghosts to light-hearted pointers to recommended clairvoyants and psychics.  I have no idea what questions to use to see if their good at their jobs, but in this increasingly data-driven world, sometimes letting our minds meander off the beaten path is a welcome diversion.

Epilogue: My Experience with a Stigmatized Property, a Note to Agents

My most memorable moment in real estate came when I was previewing a stigmatized property.  An elderly gentleman there had committed suicide because of an extended illness and the family wanted to put it behind them and move out of the house.  This is understandable because the ghosts of people's memories surface all too frequently when you're being reminded of them.

I drove to the foothills and passed a gaggle or a gobble of wild turkeys that had setup camp on the road, and I figured that would be the strangest part of my afternoon.  It was a beautifully crisp day in the late autumn and I remember being slightly amused that the turkeys had survived Thanksgiving intact.  This was going to be a fun day.

The real estate agent showing me the property greeted me outside the door and reminded me that this was a stigmatized property --- which is a legal requirement here in California --- so I thought I was well-prepared.

The house itself would have been a proud, spacious mansion in my heart's home, New Orleans, but in this area, it was a peer to its neighbors and welcoming to boot.  I walked upstairs into a bedroom that had been used as a small office and saw that the floorboard had been exposed, its carpet and padding torn off recently in an eight-by-five foot area closest to a sliding mirror door obscuring an emptied closet. 

Strange, I thought, since this was the only room where the carpet was being replaced. 

Not so strange when I glanced at the ceiling... Needless to say, that was the end of the tour and I didn't contact that agent or their branch office ever again.  Come on, a little human decency please.

AP: Gas Tops $3 in California; Locals Thank Sherlock Holmes for Update

Image of Gas Pump
Image of Gas Pump

The reality of Silicon Valley is that you need a car to get most places you'd actually need (or want) to get to on a regular basis.  This is unfortunate because other urban-suburban regions have shown that it's both possible and practical to have large scale mass transit. 

Boston, for example, has the amazingly interconnected T which seamlessly integrates its rail, subway, bus and boat system through everywhere from its Charles River neighbor Cambridge all the way out to "You Name It, Massachusetts"!

In contrast, the Silicon Valley equivalent is a myriad of public transportation silos which include the VTA, SamTrans, BART, MUNI, and ACE, among others.  The good folks at Google helped make sense of all the acronym soup by working with to create what I call the Silicon Valley Public Transportation Wizard.  It's essential for anyone hoping to get the most out of Bay Area public transport.

The other reality of our car-based culture is that gas is expensive in Silicon Valley.  I remember a time when I loved to take random drives with friends to Gilroy or Half Moon Bay at the spur of the moment, much like we might have taken the Green Line in Boston to Sunset Grill and Tap

That type of escapade has turned from pleasure to guilty pleasure and to add salt to the wound in our wallets, the Associated Press reports that gas prices have topped $3 in California.  (Locals driving down El Camino or in the City have seen this a few times.) 

So what can people do to ease the crunch?

Save Money by Using Less Gas

The government is actually bribing people to carpool and has hosted a website to make it easier to find other willing cohorts in this cunning plan to decrease the amount of your disposable income that goes into gasoline.

Get Closer to Public Transportation

There aren't the same incentives for you to use public transportation.  Admittedly, it's not always faster and more convenient, but there are ways to make it work for you instead of the other way around.

Many large companies offer shuttles to and from local stations and, if they don't, they might be persuaded by all the good vibes they get from the community and maybe even the media for helping take cars off the highway.

People I know have also moved within walking distance of the local CalTrain so that they can get up to San Francisco more easily without running through the speed trap by Candlestick Point or waiting out the bottleneck heading up the 101 every weekend.

Hunt for Cheaper Gas (But Don't Get Mad at the Station Owner)

Some time ago I looked into buying a gas station.  The reality of the business is that, no matter how expensive gas looks to you and me, the operators don't make very much money off any given gallon.

Oil companies often own the land the station is on and know how much each station should be worth to their bottom line.  Then, they calculate how much to charge the station for gas based on, effectively, how much they think they can get away with relative to their competition and demand.  The operator adds a few cents onto the price for their margin and hopes that you stop in for coffee or a car wash --- where they actually make money.  A lot of this money goes back into the land leased from the oil company.

If anything, the operator is getting squeezed just as much as the consumer is, with one subtlety.

Costco sells gasoline and because they purchase inventory on a more regular basis (and from multiple suppliers, just ask Lex from Survivor), they can more easily take advantage of price fluctuations (i.e. when the price drops, it usually drops at Costco first).  It's of note that their target margins are the same or a little higher than an average station, but their ability to sacrifice those margins is much, much higher.  Other stations will leave higher prices to linger for a little while so they can capture profits while the market adjusts.

There are also a number of web sites that let you compare gas prices around the area.  One such site is the aptly named or, where community members post what the gas prices are at various locations. New Carpoolers Get Free Gas and Safeway Gift Cards

Whoever said "virtue is its own reward" didn't know that the 511 Rideshare Rewards Program is giving away up to $100 in gasoline and Safeway gift cards to new carpoolers in the Bay Area. 

Image of 511 Rideshare

To encourage Silicon Valley commuters to make the switch from "California carpools" (you know, where everyone going to the same place uses their own car) to real ones, they're giving away $10 in swag every five days you carpool --- and one person who carpools over 40 days will win $1,000 in cash!  The program ends Halloween 2007 or when the money runs out.  

For carpool newbies, the next logical question is, "Where do I find a carpool partner?"

Finding a Carpool Partner on

The 511 Ridematch site can automatically notify you of potential Silicon Valley carpool partners.  You start by entering your email address and password, which is used to create an account for you.  You can also optionally select the company you work at from a list pre-populated with the workplaces of existing members.

Afterwards, you're taken to a detailed form which asks you where you need to carpool to and from, what your contact phone number is, and what your typical work schedule looks like (as well as how much flexibility you have). 

There is also a more detailed form where you can enter the variations in your weekly schedule if, for example, you need to be at your daughter's soccer games every Wednesday evening at 6:30pm.

Once you've entered your information, you'll be notified of people who are good matches for your schedule.

The folks at take a broader approach to matchmaking.  They not only cover commuter carpools, they also handle carsharing for running errands and cross-country trips. 

Like 511 Ridematch, the system is free and convenient, but because they take a more Craigslist-style approach to connecting people, where people can remain relatively anonymous communicating using email aliases, encourages safety and common sense. 

Heaven for Mall Rats in the Bay Area

Stanford Shopping Center
Stanford Shopping Center

Ever wondered how your favorite shopping mall rates or whether there might be a much nicer one within a few minutes of where you're going now?  Scott Parsons of the BIGMallRat Guide to Shopping Malls has a solution.

His site focuses on Northern California and Reno, Nevada and rates some of the biggest shopping malls in and around the San Jose area.  He brings us this beautiful picture of the Stanford Shopping Center courtyard in Palo Alto to the right.

There's no surprise Santana Row (it's more urban experience than pure shopping mall) and Valley Fair get 10 out of 10 ratings and there's also strong coverage of malls in the East Bay, including the 10 out of 10 rated Stoneridge Shopping Mall, Walnut Creek's upscale Broadway Plaza, and the Fremont Hub --- which didn't fare so well in the ratings!

Any Tour of Menlo Park Starts at Keplers and Ends in Xanadu

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.

Image of House in Menlo Park
Image of House in Menlo Park

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.

  1. Kepler's
  2. Cafe Boronne
  3. The BBC
  4. Menlo Park Railroad Station
  5. Xanadu Gallery

1.  Kepler's

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.

Image of Keplers Menlo Park
Image of Keplers Menlo Park

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.

Image of Cafe Barrone Menlo Park
Image of Cafe Barrone Menlo Park

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.

Image of BBC Menlo Park
Image of BBC Menlo Park

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.

Image of Train Station Menlo Park
Image of Train Station Menlo Park

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!

Image of Xanadu Menlo Park
Image of Xanadu Menlo Park

Oak Trees and Surprising Closing Costs

Image of Peace Sign
Image of Peace Sign

Just when you thought Berkeley was becoming a gentrified shell of its former self, with the surprisingly large population of young Republicans there, KGO updates a fantastic story about local activists who are opposing the construction of a Cal gymnasium, which threatens a local oak grove.

It started off in December like any other stereotypical tree protest with demonstrators climbing the trees and making temporary residences out of their arboreal friends --- stereotypical until today...

The protesters are now claiming the oak grove could be the site of an Indian burial ground.  I'm for balancing conservation and concrete but how ironic would it be if they completed the gym and built a well-deserved monument to Native American culture? 

That isn't the only surprising fact Berkeley has in store though.

Transfer Taxes

Every time real estate is sold in Berkeley, the city levies a transfer tax on the transaction: a tax that amounts to $15 for every $1,000.  So your "average" $700,000 house will result in a transfer tax of $10,500. 

Berkeley's city transfer tax, aside from Oakland, which charges just as much, is the highest in the Bay Area.  City transfer taxes are separate from the county transfer tax, which is $1.10 per $1,000 in counties across California.

Taxes Split

For Berkeley, Oakland and all of Alameda County, the convention is for the buyer and seller to split the city transfer tax and for the seller to pay the county tax.

The buyer and seller usually split the city and county taxes in proportions based on the conventions of county in which the property is located.

More Reasonable Tax Rates in Silicon Valley

You'll find many cities in the Bay Area with much more reasonable local transfer taxes, and many with no city transfer tax at all!  Just remember, the disclaimer for this article is that, at the time of this writing, the numbers are considered accurate but are not guaranteed.  Lawyers and CYA, sorry!

Coming in at $3.30 per $1,000 are the Santa Clara County cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose, including Santana Row which many folks believe is in Campbell.  In Santa Clara County, the convention is for the seller to pay the county transfer tax, and for the seller to pay the full city transfer tax or to split it the buyer.

The city of San Mateo is a little higher at $5, but many other cities in San Mateo County have no such tax.  Like Santa Clara, the San Mateo County convention is for the seller to pay the county transfer tax, and for the seller to pay the full city transfer tax or to split it the buyer.

Silicon Valley Neighbors, Mountain Lions

Image of Mountain Lion

Image of Mountain Lion

Responding to reports about mountain lions sunbathing at the Fremont BART station, California Department of Fish and Game officials flew over the area with a helicopter and heat-sensing equipment but didn't find the offending felines.

When I first moved to Silicon Valley almost a decade ago... I spent a lot of time inside because of El Niño.  But when it finally dried out, I dismantled the ark I'd been building, and took to hiking around beautiful Northern California.

At the time I was an East Coast transplant from Cambridge so I didn't take the warnings about mountain lions too seriously, and to this day (knock on wood) I've never seen one personally.  But you do hear stories and the City of San Jose even publishes mountain lion and coyote safety tips.

There are noted attacks in Northern California, and though only 16 people have been injured by mountain lions since 1890, encounters have become more common as Silicon Valley's real estate stretches more into territory formerly claimed by big cats.  The San Francisco Chronicle notes that animals typically try to avoid people but also provides tips in case you run into one!

Walking Tour of Downtown Palo Alto

Image of Palo Alto Plaque

Palo Alto calls itself the "Birthplace of the Silicon Valley" and has a legitimate claim: it is the home of the garage where Dave Hewlett and Bill Packard founded the original Silicon Valley startup, HP.

But Palo Alto, with Stanford University to the south, has grown into an upscale community complete with an active downtown area that boasts high-end stores, an affluent atmosphere, and great restaurants.

This walking tour of Palo Alto (which means "tall tree" in Spanish) starts from its historical namesake and guides you through its historic University Avenue and many of the places that make up downtown Palo Alto's culture.

  1. El Palo Alto
  2. Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station
  3. Digital DNA
  4. The Stanford Theatre
  5. University Cafe
  6. Borders at the Varsity Theater
  7. Robaii (closed)
  8. The Cardinal Hotel
  9. Palo Alto Creamery

First stop: El Palo Alto. Palo Alto Ave. and Alma St.

1.  El Palo Alto

El Palo Alto, the redwood after which the city is named, is in Palo Alto Park, at Palo Alto Ave. and Alma St., before it connects with El Camino Real. The towering tree is believed to be over 1,000 years old and originally had two trunks before the second was lost in a storm back in 1885. It served as an easily recognizable meeting point for Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola who is credited for the discovery of San Francisco Bay by Europeans.

Next stop: Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station. Walk southeast down Alma St. toward downtown Palo Alto.

Image of El Palo Alto

2.   Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station

Built as the Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station in the 1940s, this building is the current CalTrain station for downtown Palo Alto and a reminder of the dominance of the train as a means of transportation in California during the 19th and early part of the 20th century. This historic station is still a key transportation hub connecting Amtrak, CalTrain, Marguerite Shuttle, and VTA bus services.

Next stop: Digital DNA. Walk northeast down University Ave. to Pizza My Heart.

Image of Historic Train Station Palo Alto

3.   Digital DNA

The "cyber egg" was created by Brazilian artists Adriana Varela and Nilton Marx and symbolizes Palo Alto as the birthplace of the technological revolution, and a centerpiece of Silicon Valley. The egg itself has electronic components welded into its shell of steel and resin and sits in a small courtyard where local bands often play during the summer.

Next stop: The Stanford Theatre. Across University Ave. from Digital DNA.

Image of Cyber Egg Palo Alto

4.   The Stanford Theatre

The Stanford Theatre first opened in 1925 and is one of a dying breed of classically-designed movie houses. You'll find many old black-and-white favorites, beyond and including standards like Casablanca to Hitchcock, playing there. And, to add to the ambiance, you'll often hear the Mighty Wurlitzer organ during intermissions.

Next stop: University Cafe. Walk northeast down University Ave.

Image of Stanford Theatre Palo Alto

5.   University Cafe

This upscale cafe is the epitome of downtown Palo Alto. From its open-air arrangement in the summers, to their meticulously prepared dishes, to the expensive but never boring coffee selection, the University Cafe exudes high-end Northern California living with a cultured but graceful elegance. It's not so trendy that you go there to be seen, but if you're into that, it never hurts to be seen there.

Next stop: Borders at the Varsity Theater. Walk northeast down University Ave.

Image of University Cafe Palo Alto

6.   Borders at the Varsity Theater

Unlike the Stanford Theatre, the Varsity Theater is a classic movie house that didn't make it. But while the only constant is change, the Borders bookstore uniquely fits its traditional selection into the lobby and showcase of the old theater, and uses the traditional Spanish courtyard and fountain to their full effect in greeting customers coming in from University Ave.

Next stop: Robaii. Walk northeast down University Ave. Make a right on Cowper and stop at Hamilton Ave.

Image of Borders Palo Alto

7.   Robaii (closed)

Hamilton Ave. doesn't receive nearly the traffic of the main strip, University Ave. But there are a few places that make it worth the slight detour. The first is Robaii, which has the best falafels, baba ghanoush, and hummus in all Silicon Valley --- and best of all, they have a combination platter that will give you all three!

Next stop: The Cardinal Hotel. Walk southwest up Hamilton Ave.

Image of Robaii Palo Alto

8.   The Cardinal Hotel

The Cardinal Hotel was originally built in 1924 and has evolved into an "old world" boutique hotel that carries itself with great dignity and nostalgia and even retains the neon which was added during the 40's. The Cardinal Hotel is a gentle reminder that there's still a haven for old charm of Palo Alto.

Next stop: Palo Alto Creamery. Walk southwest up Hamilton Ave.

Image of Cardinal Hotel

9.   Palo Alto Creamery

The last stop on this walking tour is the sweetest, the Palo Alto Creamery. The Palo Alto Creamery makes some of the richest milkshakes in the Bay Area, from ice cream it makes a few blocks away. This diner has a traditional feel complete with red vinyl seats and stools at the counter, but you'll find interesting variations on your standard diner fare.

Image of Peninsula Creamery Palo Alto