Menlo Park is a study in contrasts: beautiful tree-lined streets support a vibrant technological economy (Venture Capital of the World!), while California history lurks just around the corner. Visitors can bask in the lovely California climate while enjoying outdoor, shopping, and historical experiences.
One of the first things you'll notice about Menlo Park is its gorgeous trees, especially the California live oaks - the city tree. This is a city that is justly proud of its "Tree City USA" nickname. With over a dozen parks to choose from, you'll have to decide what kind of outdoor experience you want. Bayfront Park - the largest in the city at 160+ acres - offers gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay and the Federal Wildlife Preserve on Greco Island. Burgess Park is the place to go for the sports-oriented visitor: courts and fields of all kinds, with a playground as well. And after your athletic workout, it's also a nice place to have a barbeque.
After experiencing the outdoors in the parks, you may want to try the delights of the downtown area. Downtown - on West Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue - is especially pedestrian-friendly, so you can wander and poke around pubs, coffee houses, restaurants, and galleries to your heart's content. Kepler's, an independent bookstore, is a must-see for the intellectually curious visitor.
Whatever you choose, the mild climate will draw you towards nature, even though you're just a hop, skip, and a jump from one of the most technologically advanced areas on the planet.
It is no surprise that Menlo Park has become a venture capital haven. Menlo College and Stanford University are right next door, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is here on Sand Hill Road. Many very recognizable companies/organizations have a presence here, including (among others) Tyco, Geron, Sun Microsystems, and the United States Geological Survey. With a pool of talent like this to draw from, investors can find a healthy helping of new ideas and technologies.
You might be curious to know if the town drew on its connection with technology when choosing its name - after all, Thomas Edison did his work in Menlo Park, New Jersey. The answer is a resounding NO! The name originated in the 1850s (when Mr. Edison was still a child!). It was named by original Irish settlers after the village of Menlough in Ireland. They wrote the name on a wooden arch at the gate to their property. When the town incorporated 20 years later, they chose to keep that name. The arch, sadly, is gone now - victim of a car accident in the 1920s.
Railroad enthusiasts and history buffs will not want to miss the Menlo Park passenger rail station. Originally built in 1866 as the first passenger station in California, this California Historical Landmark was remodeled in the 1890s and is a charming piece of Victoriana. Railroad tycoon Leland Stanford used this station as his base. Another extension was added during World War I to support Camp Fremont, a training camp for National Guard troops. The station now serves CalTrain - so you can easily hop on and enjoy other Bay Area attractions while you stay in beautiful Menlo Park!