Silicon Valley, For Fun

Despite new hotels and restaurants, the area has remained geared toward work, not leisure. Until now.

There's a mini hotel boom in Silicon Valley, with boutique properties joining Rosewood Sand Hill (rooms from $725; 2825 Sand Hill Rd.; 888-767-3966; and the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto (rooms from $295; 2050 University Ave.; 650-566-1200;, both of which, until recently, were the only luxury accommodations in the area. Two years ago, the tech-chic Epiphany (rooms from $300; 180 Hamilton Ave.; 800-224-6000; debuted 86 rooms and a restaurant, Lure + Till, in downtown Palo Alto, five blocks from Stanford University; in September, Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison bought it for $71.6 million. In January, the 23-room Clement (rooms from $995; 711 El Camino Real; 650-322-7111; opened near Stanford Stadium, billing itself as a “six-star experience” for its personalized service, including assistants who run errands and schedule appointments. Further southeast, the year-old Enchanté Boutique Hotel (rooms from $300; 1 Main St.; 650-946-2000;, with French antiques in its 19 rooms, is the first hotel in downtown Los Altos. 

Meanwhile, new restaurants are improving the area’s culinary factor. Last fall, chef Robbie Wilson’s Bird Dog (420 Ramona St.; 650-656-8180; opened in Palo Alto. The small-plates menu has received buzz, but it’s Zola (565 Bryant St.; 650-521-0651;, serving seasonal French dishes paired with an incredible wine list, that’s the can’t-miss spot. These foodie haunts are places the peninsula could never have supported before the tech boom, and they’re augmenting longtime local favorites like Palo Alto’s Bistro Elan (2363a Birch St.; 650-327-0284;, Menlo Park’s Flea Street café (3607 Alameda de las Pulgas; 650-854-1226;, Redwood City’s John Bentley’s (2915 El Camino Real; 650-365-7777;, and Woodside’s the Village Pub (2967 Woodside Rd.; 650-851-9888;

Still, these developments cater more to business travelers who want high-end spots that resemble what they’re used to in more-traditional finance cities. (They are also luring Stanford students’ parents.) That Silicon Valley has not yet blossomed into a travel destination is further evidenced by one of the area’s biggest leisure pursuits: taking selfies. Popular photo-op spots include Steve Jobs’s garage and the Facebook headquarters sign. 

How to Kill Time in Palo Alto and Beyond

What to do between business meetings if you have...

An extra hour: Do a chocolate tasting at Alegio Chocolaté (522 Bryant St.; 650-324-4500;, in Palo Alto.

An extra afternoon: Go for a 3.7-mile run around the Dish (400 Reservoir Rd.;, on Stanford’s campus.

An extra evening: Sneak in a show at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre (1 Amphitheatre Pkwy.; 650-967-4040;

An extra weekendVisit the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay (rooms from $495; 1 Miramontes Point Rd.; 650-712-7000;, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

For more on what's new in Palo Alto, see our slideshow »