I just graduated from the University of Southern California and, light of my homecoming, I want to share the vacation hotspot that I call home, Silicon Valley. You don’t have to be a computer nerd, drive a Prius, or be friends with a Mark Zuckerberg to take delight in the hiking trails, beautiful open air Stanford Shopping Mall, culinary delights, or happening nightlife in downtown Palo Alto.

Start your Silicon Valley excursion in downtown Palo Alto. Order unbeatable buttermilk pancakes from Peninsula Creamery.  This 1950s inspired diner has been a Palo Alto tradition for breakfast, lunch, and dinner since 1923. I love their egg white omelets and you can’t leave without having one of their infamous real ice cream shakes such as cookies n’ cream, peanut butter chocolate, mint chocolate chip, or fresh banana or strawberry.

Take the afternoon to walk around the shops along University Avenue. Hit up hot spots like Lululemon or one of the many chic boutiques. When you have worked up an appetite from all your shopping you can’t miss out on my favorite spot in town, Sprout. Custom design your own salad with seared ahi tuna, juicy steak, sesame crusted tofu, fresh chicken breast, roasted brussel sprouts and peppers, creamy goat cheese, shaved sharp white cheddar or any of their other delicious, gourmet salad toppers. They also serve spring rolls, sandwiches, soups, wine, beer, and coffee that won’t disappoint.

Once your wholesome and refreshing lunch has rejuvenated you,  enjoy a hike up the dirt trails of Windy Hill in Portola Valley or if you’re not as outdoorsy, the concrete trails of The Dish in Palo Alto. I regularly hike and run both of them. I can’t get enough of the gorgeous panoramic views!

For dinner, I highly recommend Nola a New Orleans inspired restaurant. This Cajun restaurant closes its doors to anyone under 21 after 9pm. The food is delicious and you must have one of their infamous mojitos. When the clock strikes nine, grab a table and converse with Facebook and Google employees, Stanford students, and other Silicon Valley up and comings. If you want to switch up the scene throughout the night, hop over to The Old Pro (it’s right next door to Nolas!) and ride the mechanical bull in this collegiate sports bar. End the night at the Patio or Rudy’s for their packed dance floors.

After a full day of Bay Area mayhem, take a trip to the natural hot springs of Tassajara, or at least get close to it at Watercourse Way Batthouse Spa. Enjoy your own private room complete with a multi-jetted wood tub, sauna, and cold plunge. They also offer aromatherapy, hot stone treatment, skin care, massages, and even couple massages.

End this get-a-way with a trip to my favorite frozen yogurt spot, Fraiche. Their yogurt is organic and homemade from scratch with a probiotic- focused culture giving it all the health benefits as regular yogurt.  Choose from their fat-free flavors: natural, vanilla, or their 98% fat free valrhona chocolate or 99% fat free soy. They also feature an additional flavor that ranges from mango to pumpkin. Top your yogurt with any of their outstanding toppings like dried figs, fresh baked brownie bites, homemade mochi, fresh fruit, granola, shaved dark chocolate, or pure fruit purees.


-Emily Freeman



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