Palo Altans tend to identify strongly with the inhabitants of Garrison Keillor's fictitious Lake Wobegon, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average."
And, certainly, evaluations of the city from standpoints as divergent as education and weather continue to reinforce that notion.
Livability, an online resource used for researching communities, named Palo Alto to the No. 1 spot on its "Top 100 Best Places to Live" list, citing "mild weather, thriving economy, great cultural and natural amenities, two downtowns and one of the highest-ranked universities in the world."
It also placed Palo Alto among the top 10 cities in the nation for kids, noting the quality of schools, percentage of households with school-age children, cost of living and restaurants with kids' menus.
But Livability was not alone in lauding Palo Alto.
Gunn High School snagged No. 5 in the nation for science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM), according to the U.S. News' annual Best High Schools list, as well as No. 17 in the state as a school in general, and No. 104 nationally. The latter ranking was based on state proficiency tests, college readiness and disadvantaged students' performance.
NerdWallet, a financial website, called Palo Alto the best city for job seekers with its 3.6 percent unemployment rate, high education rate and high median income. LinkedIn noted that the three most in-demand startups Theranos, Coursera and Wealthfront are all located in Palo Alto.
The city also continued to win heavy praise, and prestigious national awards, for its efforts with technology and environmental sustainability. The Center for Digital Government named Palo Alto a "leading digital city" for the second year in a row in its population category, an award that recognizes the city's panoply of new online services and digital tools featuring real-time data. Palo Alto also picked up a Beacon Award this year from the Institute for Local Government and the Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative for its laundry list of green accomplishments, including a carbon-neutral electricity portfolio and a significant reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions.
When it comes to cutting-edge transportation, Palo Alto was named the 2014 Most Electric Vehicle Ready Community at Silicon Valley Leadership Group's Charged & Connected Symposium. The group noted the city's recent requirement for new single-family homes to have vehicle-charging infrastructure in place.
On the food front, California Avenue's Baumé earned two Michelin stars ("excellent cuisine, worth a detour") on its list of best restaurants.
Nearby Stanford University topped four of 11 categories in U.S. News' Best Graduate Schools report, including tying (with Harvard University) for No. 1 business school and making No. 2 in engineering and No. 3 in both law and education. The university also got a nod from Princeton Review as the "most LGBT-friendly campus."
But Palo Alto's detractors had a lot to say as well.
Drawing on census data, the Silicon Valley Business Journal found Palo Alto had the worst inbound commute in Silicon Valley, with close to 25 percent of inbound commutes lasting longer than 45 minutes. The average commuter into the city spends 32.3 minutes behind the wheel and 22 minutes heading out. The Business Journal also found that Palo Alto has a lousy carpooling record (5.5 percent), with 71.8 percent of residents commuting by car and 90 percent of those riding solo.
San Francisquito Creek, which flows along Palo Alto's northern border, was No. 5 on American Rivers' list of the nation's most endangered rivers with fish, wildlife habitat and public safety all threatened due to what it called the dangers of Stanford's outdated Searsville Dam.
Palo Alto only made a B- on a tobacco report card, which was issued by the Tobacco Free Coalition of Santa Clara County, Community Advocate Teens of Today and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. The anti-tobacco folks are mostly concerned about teens' access to tobacco, store ads, community outreach and tobacco policies. Perhaps the city will glean a few more points next year, after passing the ban on smoking in shopping centers last week.
Finally, Palo Alto, at No. 24, can honestly disclaim the title of most expensive ZIP code (that right belongs to Atherton, according to Forbes Magazine). The real estate website Movoto did cite the city's high median home price, high number of private schools and wide selection of art galleries as sufficient for earning Palo Alto recognition as the "snobbiest" small city in America.