All the fun and frivolity of the Big Easy can be found right in downtown Palo Alto at NOLA. The New Orleans-themed restaurant by day turns into a fun-filled, Cajun-spiced hotspot in the evenings. The well-stocked bar offers all the favorites along with some Louisiana specialties. Gather some friends and try a Hurricane bowl — but be warned, it is a Category 5. 535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-328-2722; nolas.com
Palo Alto's Mitchell Park is the ideal spot to let your future Olympians hone their skills. You can sit in the comfortable picnic area and watch your kids play soccer or tag on the large grass athletic fields, do gymnastics on the play structures or tear it up on the tennis courts. A wading pool with a water area, skate bowl, softball field, jogging paths and dog park make Mitchell the best place to get active in Palo Alto. 600 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto
Place for a Kid's Playdate
The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is the perfect place for your children and friends to let their imaginations run wild. The museum has many hands-on, multi-sensory exhibits on topics including insects and the environment. When the kids tire of playing with the bright, interactive displays, let them run outside to see the museum's menagerie. The zoo features a serene pond area filled with turtles, ducks, rabbits and a large goose; bobcats, raccoons, bats, peacocks, ferrets and snakes round out the mix inside. The Palo Alto Museum and Zoo is sure to provide a playdate packed with action and enjoyment. 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-2111; cityofpaloalto.org/jmz
Place for Live Entertainment
The Palo Alto Children's Theatre is young in spirit but venerable in numbers — the company is in its ninth decade. Ever since the fall of 1931, when Hazel Glaister Robertson staged the Christmas play "The Perfect Gift" with a cast of 47, the group has been dedicated to putting on a show. Seasons include outreach performances in schools and summertime outdoor plays along with main-stage productions. Besides being on stage, kids learn the ropes behind the scenes: painting sets, designing props, running lights. There's also a dance studio for classes. Curtain up! 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-463-4930; cityofpaloalto.org
Place to Enjoy the Outdoors
The country club of parks. Palo Alto's Foothills Park has it all — wildlife, hiking trails, camping, fishing, non-motorized boating and vistas from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, all within a few miles of downtown. Some folks thought it was too expensive when the city committed $1.29 million in 1958 to buy the 1,400-acre preserve from Palo Alto Medical Clinic founder Russel Lee, but perhaps they've reconsidered. The controversial residents-only policy has been revisited — and reaffirmed — at least three times since the park opened in 1965. But savvy park users know the entrance gates are staffed only at peak times. 3300 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-2423; cityofpaloalto.org
Place to Go for a Run
Hikers and runners mingle with herons and egrets at this scenic, 4.5-mile rollercoaster of a loop in the Stanford foothills. The Dish serves up enough steep hikes and sharp drops to test the knees and lungs of even seasoned runners. But one doesn't have to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy the skittish squirrels, the fluttering butterflies and the panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay, Stanford University and the rolling hills around the summit of this popular landmark. Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard, Stanford. dish.stanford.edu
Web surfers also touted Coupa Cafe for solo dining and as the top coffee house in town. See the complete listing under Coffee House.
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