By Michelle Lee
As a long-term resident, it sometimes feels like there’s not much to do in this quiet small town where the bars close at 10:00 pm and the streets are empty by 9:00 pm – how many can relate? However with recent remodels, expansions, and initiatives, it’s clear that the City is facilitating and promoting social gatherings and community events. With two main hubs on either side of the city, Palo Alto residents have extensive opportunities to get involved, indulge in personal development, and enjoy recreational activities.
Servicing the south side of Palo Alto, Mitchell Park Center was completely rebuilt in 2014 to add environmentally-friendly features and a 15,000-square-foot community complex with multiple rooms to socialize in or rent out for events. The joint library space features lively, public art installations and ample space to lounge around and get lost in a good read. Casual and cozy Ada’s Café and a free, drop-in teen-center complete the complex, with a safe and supportive environment for children to play video games, board games, basketball, and more with their peers.
Right outside of the community center lies the 21.4-acre park, featuring multiple sports courts, a fenced dog run, children’s play area, quarter-mile jogging and walking paths, and picnic areas. Originally designed by Robert Royston and named after J. Pearce Mitchell, a Stanford professor, two-term mayor, and 31-year Palo Alto City Councilman, this park still garners national and international recognition for its inclusive and family-friendly appeal. Residents of all ages can stroll through and spend a day in nature here. In 1969, El Palo Nuevo was planted in the park as a companion tree to the iconic El Palo Alto tree downtown. The Magical Bridge Playground, recognized as the nation’s most innovative playground, provides an all-inclusive space for children and adults of all physical and cognitive levels to enjoy.
Adjacent to this bustling and popular establishment, the Palo Alto Little League Clubhouse, Wilbur Playground, Fairmeadow and Herbert Hoover Elementary, JLS Middle, Challenger School, and Charleston Shopping Center all conveniently await within a half-mile radius.
A mere three miles away on the opposite side of town, at the intersection of the highly-desirable neighborhoods of Green Gables, Community Center, Professorville, and Old Palo Alto, Rinconada Park awaits. This 19-acre multipurpose park lined with live oaks and majestic redwoods offers a wide range of facilities including swimming pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic areas, and jogging paths. Directly across the street rests Rinconada Library, formerly known as the Main Library prior to its $18 million renovation in 2015, complete with a dedicated teen space, study rooms, community rooms and gardens, and high-tech conference rooms.
Sharing the same lot, the Palo Alto Art Center provides an all-ages, all-levels recreational space for residents of Palo Alto and surrounding cities to indulge and learn a new craft. Classes are offered on a variety of topics, including ceramics, painting, drawing, jewelry, printmaking, and more. Family workshops, pre-school through high-school level classes, and a teen leadership program are also offered for young children and new families.
On the north side of the park, Lucie Stern Community Center provides a central hub for residents to come together, socialize, and host events in a beautiful garden setting with Spanish-Mediterranean architecture built by famous architect Birge Clark. TheatreWorks, Palo Alto Players, and Palo Alto Children’s Theatre surround the center, providing entertainment and performing art shows. Children can take acting classes here, including camps, production experiences, and outreach programs which are integrated into the PAUSD K-12 curriculum. Hands-on science educational experiences are also offered at Junior Museum & Zoo, which is currently under construction and temporarily relocated to Cubberly Community Center, but will return to its original location with more diverse exhibits in 2020. Walter Hays Elementary School completes this corner, while Addison Elementary also rests only a couple of blocks away.
Palo Alto is not only one of the top Silicon Valley cities with world-renowned company headquarters, but also a city devoted to providing its residents the best living experience possible. With millions of funding poured into improving and renovating city centers to provide better facilities and meet modern needs, people of all ages have something to enjoy as a pastime in this great city. Palo Alto is no longer just a city that’s great to raise kids in; it’s a beautiful place to live a full life.