Menlo Park in the Peninsula area of the San Francisco Bay Area, is just north of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Menlo Park is known mostly for abundant high-tech employers and perhaps best known as the home of Facebook. It encompasses portions of the Stanford University campus, including the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC). Sand Hill Road is home to dozens of venture capital firms, who manage tens of billions of dollars for financing Silicon Valley technology companies that have become the economic backbone of the region.
Menlo Park is vibrant during the afternoon and evening with a quiet but charming downtown. Most businesses close by 10PM; there isn't too much to do after that. Because the slightly more urbanized Palo Alto is a short ways away, many Menlo Park residents turn there for a more expansive food scene.
The easiest way to get into Menlo Park is to take the Caltrain. Local and semi-local trains, including some express trains, stop at the Menlo Park station. From the station it's about a 2-block walk to downtown. Trains tend to run every hour and at higher frequencies during commute hours.
Menlo Park is roughly equidistant to the San Francisco airport and the San Jose airport, but SFO's status as a hub means that travelers are less likely to come through San Jose.
If you fly into San Francisco it's possible to get to Menlo Park via public transit- take the BART train from the San Francisco airport to Millbrae, then connect to Caltrain and get off in Menlo Park.
Menlo Park has a small walkable downtown area that's centered on Santa Cruz Avenue. It's about 2 blocks from the Caltrain station.
For exploring further into Menlo Park biking is a good option, the regional Sam Trans busses can get you around, and ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are very usable.
- 1 Facebook Headquarters, 1 Hacker Way. A stronghold squeezed between the freeway and the Bay, Facebook's headquarters neighbor the less-privileged Belle Haven area of Menlo Park. The large, iconic thumbs-up sign is located right in front of the campus; it is too large for selfies, but there will probably be geek tourists around to take your picture. On the other side of the sign, cloaked by the trees, you can still find the rusting logo of Sun Microsystems—the defunct tech company, once hailed for its advocacy of open-source software, which used to be headquartered here until its acquisition by Oracle in 2010. Back then, the offices used to be nicknamed "Sun Quentin", due to their resemblance with the prison of San Quentin in the North Bay.
- 2 Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), 2575 Sand Hill Rd (The center is in Menlo Park but is on Stanford University property), ☏ . M-F 8AM-5PM. A state of the art physics research faculty, SLAC is run by Stanford University for the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy. SLAC is also home to the world's longest building. SLAC offers public and private tours of the facility. For public tours, there is a signup sheet online. For private tours contact the public affairs office.
- 3 United States Geological Survey – Menlo Park Campus (USGS), 345 Middlefield Rd, ☏ . 8AM-4PM. The USGS has a huge office in Menlo Park where visitors can see various geology-related exhibits. Allow one hour for the self-guided tour. See this page for additional information. There is an on-campus cafeteria called Tectonic Grill that is open to the public. You can also obtain detailed maps before setting off on an expedition to a remote location. Free.
- 1 Menlo Park Farmers Market. Sun 9AM-1 PM. On Sunday morning Menlo Park hosts a farmers market with fresh foods from the local area. You'll find fresh produce, nuts, bread, soap, meat, and flowers. Does not run during the winter months.
- 2 Off The Grid. W 5-8PM. A collection of local food trucks and, frequently, live music.
- 3 [dead link] The Guild Theatre. Independent movie theatre that shows mostly new indie films. They often do a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- Bicycling. Menlo Park has a bicycling paths that interconnect with other cities in the south bay. Bicycles can be rented at Menlo Velo
- 4 Hike Bedwell Bayfront Park. A nice place to walk, bike, and bring children for exploring California nature.
- 5 Summer Concert Series, Fremont Park. W 6:30-8:30PM. During the summertime Menlo Park puts on a series of free concerts in the park. Local bands play a variety of music. A local grocery across the street, Draegers, sells sandwiches and gourmet fare. Pizza restaurant Amici's is also a popular choice for take-out among summer concert attendees.
- Menlowe Ballet. Community ballet company that performs several times per year in the community art space.
- 1 Kepler's Books. One of the last independent bookstores on the peninsula. It features a large selection of tech-y, science-y, and local interests as well as best sellers. Kepler's is a frequent stop for many authors on book tours.
- 2 Allied Arts Guild. A collection of shops selling art and hand made crafts. There are also gardens, and a restaurant. Some proceeds going to local children's hospital.
- 3 Penzeys. A specialty spice store. You can get spices and dried herbs from all over the world.
- 4 Menlo Velo, 433 El Camino Real. High-end bicycle shop. Rents bicycles by-the-day for exploring the Bay Area.
Breakfast and brunch
It's common in Menlo Park to hear "Let's meet for breakfast!" Even on weekday mornings you'll find people catching up and trading ideas before heading out to work.
On the weekends, Cafe Borrone is always busy for brunch service with its seating that spills out onto the patio. Since Borrone is right next to Kepler's it's easy to buy a book or a newspaper and spend the morning reading.
On weekday mornings, the preferred place for locals to meet and talk is the retro-cool Anne's Coffeeshop. It has a wide counter and booths and is a good place to stretch out and talk. On the higher-end side Coffeebar is an option off downtown for getting coffee and an artisanal baked goods.
- 1 Anne's Coffeeshop, 772 Santa Cruz Avenue, ☏ . 6:30AM-2PM. An old school diner with a big counter and booths. It's popular in the morning and on weekends and is a good place to people watch. It's cash only.
- 2 Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real, ☏ . A Menlo Park favorite for breakfast and brunch. It has a big seating area that spills out onto the plaza. The food is a California-style and tends towards being healthy.
- 3 Stacks, 600 Santa Cruz Ave, ☏ . 7AM-2:30PM. Hearty American breakfast foods with generous portions in a family-style atmosphere.
- 4 Posh Bagel, 869 Santa Cruz Ave. 6AM-5PM. A bay area chain that serves bagels with cream cheese and eggs. The bagels are made onsite and are often fresh from the oven. The seating area is limited so it's better to get bagels to go.
For lunch in Menlo Park there are a variety of choices along Santa Cruz Avenue. For a quick bite try Mama Cheli's Salvadoran food- there isn't much seating but it's easy to take-away. For a hamburger in a retro dinner you want Jeffrey's Hamburgers. For a date Mademoiselle Colette is a great choice. There are also chain options available along Santa Cruz if you hankering for fast food.
- Jeffrey's Hamburgers. A 1950s style hamburger joint. It has big booths, a counter, neon signs and car references. There's lots of seating so even when it's busy it's easy to find somewhere to sit down. The food is American staples- hamburgers, grilled cheese, milk shakes, and French fries.
- Kyosho Sushi. Upscale sushi restaurant close to the Menlo Park train station.
- 5 Mademoiselle Colette, 867 Santa Cruz Avenue, ☏ . 7:30AM-5PM. A Parisian restaurant serving lunch and pastries. The food is rich and the atmosphere cozy. There's outdoor seating for warm afternoons. It's a lunch-only spot and closes before dinnertime begins. It's a good spot for a date or an intimate conversation.
- Mama Cheli's. Serves tacos, pupusas, quesadillas, burritos, and tortas. The freshly made pupusas are worth the trip. It has some seating but it's a grab-and-go kind of place.
- Tu Casa Taqueria, 875 Hamilton Ave. At Willow Road. Parking is terrible for weekday lunch due to proximity to Facebook. This Mexican restaurant has a wide array of choices with filling portions at great prices. Try the Chile Relleno plate. You get all the chips you can eat with a light salsa. Also serves Salvadoran food. Bring cash or use the in-house ATM.
Menlo Park has you covered for French inspired food, Mediterranean, and Japanese food. There are numerous options along Santa Cruz Avenue so it's easy to walk along until something strikes your fancy.
- Black Pepper. A newer restaurant to Menlo Park. It's sits on El Camino Real. The food is Singaporean inspired.
- Bistro Vida. One of the two great French restaurants in town. It has a dark, cozy vibe with a large bar. It can get very busy and sometimes there's a wait. Has outdoor seating.
- Carpaccio. Local favorite for Italian food, very close to Menlo Park's downtown. It's often busy even on a Tuesday night. The crowd is slightly older.
- Camper. California comfort food. The name is a portmanteau of California (CA) and Mewl Park (MP). If you want to eat at somewhere that's uniquely Californian, this is the place to do it. The food is fresh Californian fare and is accordingly expensive. Has outdoor seating.
- Galata Bistro. Mediterranean comfort food. Has outdoor seating.
- Left Bank. The other French restaurant in Menlo Park. It's bigger than Bistro Vida and has a more lively bar. The atmosphere is friendly and bright. Has outdoor seating.
- 6 Sajj, 883 Hamilton Ave, ☏ . Mediterranean fast food. Excellent falafel, pita and salads. Close to facebook for a quick working lunch.
- Sultana. Great Mediterranean food. The falafel and hummus are local favorites.
Along Santa Cruz Avenue there are several chain ice cream restaurants. If you'd like to sit down and enjoy the evening Cafe Borrone has you covered with plated desserts, coffees and teas, and alcoholic drinks.
- Cafe Borrone, 1010 El Camino Real. 6AM-10PM. Right next to Kepler's Books, open late, serves drinks and desserts.
Most restaurants in Menlo Park close by 10 PM which makes it challenging to have a late night drink. While nearly all restaurants in town serve wine and beer and most have a bar there are a couple that stand out as a nice place to have a drink.
- British Bankers Club, 555 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025. If you're looking to have a drink somewhere nice British Bankers Club is hard to beat. They have two bars, one inside and one of the roof. The inside one is a long wooden bar with big windows surrounding it. California is a casual place but it's not uncommon to see men in a tie or women in a dress. The rooftop bar serves oysters and is more relaxed. Even when Menlo Park is hot the rooftop bar is still an oasis of cool.
- Refuge. Refuge is a standout for its long list of drinks on tap. There's something like 30 beers and ciders to try on tap and many many more it bottles and cans. It's very casual. The food is American-style sandwiches with an emphasis on rich comfort food.
After everything in Menlo Park closes if you'd like to continue to drink it's best to move over to University Avenue in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is 1 train stop away or a very quick Uber or Lyft ride.
Menlo Park many coffee shops. Local favorites are:
- 1 CoffeeBar, https://www.coffeebar.com/pages/menu. An upscale coffeeshop. Has a variety of espresso and pour-over coffee options and a small selection of treats and lunch options. During the day it can be hard to find a spot and there are a lot of people working on laptops.
- 2 Pete's Coffee. A California-native chain of a coffee places. The shop on Santa Cruz was an early location. It's a good place to people-watch with big windows that look out onto the street in one direction and onto a park in the other.
- Best Western Riviera, 15 El Camino Real, ☏ , fax: .
- Menlo Park Inn, 1315 El Camino Real, ☏ . The contemporary and stylish Menlo Park Inn is a unique presence amidst the charm of historic downtown Menlo Park and the Palo Alto area.
- Red Cottage Inn & Suites, 1704 El Camino Real, ☏ . It's two miles from downtown, with cottage-like rooms with private mini-patios and gardens and complimentary deluxe breakfast bar.
- Rosewood Sand Hill, 2825 Sand Hill Rd, ☏ . A luxury hotel that offers 123 guest rooms, resort amenities, 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a full-service spa, outdoor swimming pool and an on-site restaurant.
- Stanford Park Hotel, 100 El Camino Real. On the border of Palo Alto next to Stanford Shopping Center and close to Stanford University.
- Park James Hotel, 1400 El Camino Real, ☏ , ✉ Josh@parkjames.com. Upscale hipster hotel that opened in 2018. Also features an on-site restaurant called Oak + Violet.
The area code for Menlo Park and the surrounding area is 650.
Free Wi-Fi is available at the public library, which is very close to the Caltrain station.
- Menlo Park Library, 800 Alma St.
The local newspaper is The Almanac. It's available for free along Santa Cruz Avenue in newspaper boxes.
|Routes through Menlo Park|
|San Francisco ← Redwood City ←||N S||→ East Palo Alto → San Jose|
|San Francisco ← Redwood City ←||N S||→ Palo Alto → San Jose|