Palo Alto, California

Tall Stick

Downtown Palo Alto
Downtown Palo Alto

I often have said to people that there are really two cities in the country where the outlook is always forward-looking - there is never really a backward-looking tendency. My banking work has taken me out to Palo Alto, what is commonly called Silicon Valley. And you sense out there is always a forward-looking outlook. And New York City.

— Harold Ford, Jr.

The Best Thing About Palo Alto

Education

The number one reason you hear families say drove their decision to move to Palo Alto is the schools. The public school system is the highest rated in California via niche.com, and in particular the high schools, Henry M. Gunn and Palo Alto High rate among the best in California and the country. The education vibe like in many college towns extends beyond excellent public schools. Stanford and a highly educated work force makes it feel like the whole place is cranking out the Saturday NYT's crossword puzzle without a sweat. If you can afford the area you’re going to appreciate the quality of the schools and the value the locals place on education.

The Worst Thing About Palo Alto?

Prices

The entire Bay Area is ridiculously expensive but Palo Alto takes it to an even higher level of insanity with a median home price in the mid $3m’s. The reasons for these absurd prices include the following: 1) The historic homes in the area are stunning and the streets maybe are even more impressive than the homes -- with massive Redwoods, and huge Maples and Live Oak trees lining the roads and shading the otherwise toasty streets. 2) Palo Alto has the most developed downtown on the peninsula and for anyone craving beautiful homes and a walkable social scene this is your best bet. 3) It has the best public schools in the state. 4) Palo Alto's proximity to Stanford/Sand Hill Road make it the spiritual and literal center of the tech community. Put all this together and you have ground central for pricey living.

Lifestyle of Palo Alto

Palo Alto, while extremely wealthy has a slightly more subdued vibe than some of the other super-elite cities in the area (see Hillsborough/Atherton). It’s family-focused with education and success in all the ways -- school, sports, careers, etc., driving the populace. Families are very involved in school and local sports leagues and overall healthy living. Parents are way into fitness and you can expect to see everyone in town in some form of fitness/yoga gear as they pick up their coffee or grab a very healthy meal in town. Palo Also is one of the most advanced in the state for bike-friendly infrastructure and it is a wonderful place for experiencing the great outdoors with the city literally surrounding by great hiking and biking trails.

You’re also just two miles from the Bay and the beautiful Baylands Nature Preserve and just 30 mins from Half Moon Bay and the Pacific Ocean. If you live here expect living with families on the go, pretty much all the time. This is a city that is in a high-performance gear and you will feel that energy in the daily lifestyle.

Schools in Palo Alto

We’ve probably spent enough time talking about the schools in Palo Alto, and how highly they rate on niche.com, greatschools.org, etc. What is amazing about the city though is how diverse the school options are given that it isn’t that big a city. There are 63 preschools and 50 elementary schools to choose from, with some offering alternative education including four Montessori schools (even one bilingual Montessori option), a quaker school, many multi-language and immersion options, and the entire range of groovy to hard-core traditional schools. If you want a particular education experience for your kids you’re likely to find it here.

Why You Should Move Here Now?

Beautiful Suburb Meets "Downtown" Lifestyle

A youngster wouldn’t find Palo Alto as exciting as San Francisco or Oakland, but a couple or a family ready to get out of a bigger city will find it more fun to live in a beautiful suburb with a real downtown. There are bars, great pan-culture restaurants, cool cafes and smarty-pants college students milling around. It's a great place to feel like you’re still living in a “city” while getting the housing and education benefits of a stunning suburb.