How to Spend a Day in Palo Alto with Kids

At the tail end of summer, after bringing our son home from the NICU in Austin, I had to take him to a follow up medical appointment at Stanford University. Stanford is in Palo Alto, California about a 2 hour drive from where we live. So instead of hauling my babies up there for a 30 minute appointment and then just jumping in the car to come back, I decided to try and make a fun day trip out of it! At first it was a little hard to decide what to do, but here’s how we spent our time.

After sitting in the car for 2 hours, we were ready to get out and stretch our legs. So our first stop was to the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. This small zoo and interactive children’s museum is free,  and just asks a suggested donation of $5. The indoor museum had some animals on display as well as insect costumes for dramatic play, and a few machines that moved balls around and spat them out in interesting ways. Outside is a small zoo, we’re talking really small. But for my 2 year old, there was just enough to be entertained without having to walk long distances.


Observing the cockroaches.


Oh look, a tarantula!


Snuggling up to the bobcat statue outside.


And here’s the real bobcat!


We saw the rats with their hairless babies.


The snake decided to give an up-close hello.

I was expecting there to be a little more to see at the zoo, but for the price and for my daughter’s age it was enough. There were many other toddlers there, but I think older children might be in and out of this place in 15 minutes. The zoo had a couple shady spots to sit and have a snack, and a nice big pond in the middle with fish, birds, and turtles.

After about an hour at the zoo, it was time to head to the doctor’s office. Once we were all good to go there, my daughter and I were starving so we headed to University Avenue. There you can find plenty of restaurants, anything from casual grab-and-go food, to upscale dining. Based purely on parking location and immediate need to eat, we ended up at the Cheesecake Factory! Honestly we were both very satisfied with our food, but here are some other restaurants on University I was interested in trying:

*Oren’s Hummus Shop




Kids’ meal at the Cheesecake Factory-chicken “muggets” and fruit!

And since we were already there, I couldn’t help but make a stop by CREAM, a shop known for their ice cream cookie sandwiches. You can choose your flavor of freshly baked cookies as well as choosing the type of ice cream that goes inside. For my first time I stuck with the classic chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream. It was as delicious as you would imagine it to be! But it was also so big that I had a hard time finishing it, and I normally don’t have that problem with desserts! I saw people who came in after me order a half a sandwich. If I were to go back I would order that instead of the full size one, or split the full one with a friend. This place is known to have a line out the door, but luckily for us there wasn’t one when we got there…but there was when we left!


Ice cream sandwich for Mom, and chocolate ice cream for baby girl-though we easily could’ve shared!


Sweet treat for a well-behaved little girl!

By the time we finished our frozen treats, it was time to get in the car to head home. It doesn’t seem like we did that much, but I assure you the day was full! When you’re getting 2 kids in and out of the car, changing 2 diapers, feeding a toddler and a baby, and pumping in the car…your day goes by pretty fast! Forgive my iPhone photography for this post. I was wearing a baby in the ergo, carrying a diaper bag, and holding a toddler’s hand. Carrying the full size camera was just a little more than I could handle that day!

Check out this list for more things to do in Palo Alto! I’m still hoping to go back just to explore Stanford’s campus, hopefully we will find the time soon!