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Seniors should get to know the overlooked details of Palo Alto before they graduate

Students should visit hidden treasures of our city to appreciate Bay Area attractions
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Art by Rachel Lee

Dressed in a silky green gown, I picture myself marching down the football field to get my diploma — my ticket to leaving this city behind and going off on new adventures.

In the years leading up to my senior year, I found Palo Alto to be claustrophobic and lacking diversity in things to do and places to see.

And yet, now that I’m in the middle of college applications and my last year at Paly, I feel nostalgic about leaving this place.

I’ve realized I need to give Palo Alto a little more appreciation. 

A friend and I began exploring Palo Alto and the local area a couple months ago. Every weekend, we scout out new spots to study, enjoying fresh scenery as we type our hearts out, trying to condense our entire lives into short paragraphs for college applications. 

In the process of discovering new, cute cafes around town, I learned there is so much more to this city that I didn’t give it credit for.

Despite having lived here for a large chunk of my life, I still don’t know every little nook in the area. 

After our weekly excursions, here are some of my favorite spots around town. 

Let’s start off with the Palo Alto Rinconada Library. I assume everyone has stepped foot into this library once or twice. But have you ever taken the chance to just walk around it? Trekked through the community garden where kind-hearted souls tend to their flourishing gardens? Seen the backroom where there are technology lessons for parents attentively learning how to operate social media platforms to keep up with their screenagers? 

Have you entered the teen center study room, decked out with a comfy fuzzy dark green sofa? If you take the time and explore, this place is wonderful, with people of all walks of life coexisting as they complete their own tasks.

Next stop, Stanford campus. We have this whole brilliant university right at our doorstep, but that’s not all it has to offer. My friend and I have wandered through the modern chemistry buildings, gazing at the beautiful floor to ceiling glass windows. We walked past the red U-shaped fountain, with students lined along the rim tipping their toes in the cool water. 

After exploring, we found a sunny corner and pulled out our laptops to get to work, or in my case, simply gazed off into the distance daydreaming about nothing in particular. I like to think the sheer brilliance of Stanford students powers me to be more productive.

For those feeling a bit more adventurous, bike over to downtown Menlo Park. Although it technically doesn’t belong to Palo Alto, the shortness of my bike ride makes it seem as though it does. 

Especially in the fall, the main street feels like walking through a scene in Glimore Girls, with leaves decorating the sidewalk. The smell of coffee and soft chatter fills the air as my friend and I get warm croissants from Mademoiselle Colette on the way to the Menlo Park Library.

Whenever we get exhausted from being productive queens, we simply head out to the duck pond and watch toddlers and their parents throw bread crumbs to eager, open beaks.

Study spots aren’t the only thing Palo Alto has to offer. Each Friday evening I go to Winter Lodge to ice skate. This is not an activity exclusive to those who know how to skate. There’s a certain entertainment in watching first-time skaters wobbling on the ice, trying to smile through the awkwardness of their first date. 

But really, it’s a magical place. The string lights adorning the ceiling, hay bales and pumpkins surrounding comfy sofas, and hit pop songs humming through speakers give off the perfect fairytale-like ambiance.

Of course, for my inner-city enthusiast, taking the train or driving up to San Francisco is always an option, but my focus is more on this area.

If you ever feel bored on a Friday night, drive up to Foothills instead and star gaze. Breathe in the crisp air as you let your eyes adjust to the little flickering lights. Listen as the chirping crickets lull you to sleep and forget about whatever’s on your mind.

If these places weren’t enough, consider the Stanford Theater. Positioned at the heart of University Ave., it’s hard not to miss the flickering red and white lights on the marquee. When I walk inside I’m greeted by walls covered by vintage movie posters, the smell of warm buttery popcorn and the clear sound of the ancient Wurlitzer Organ. 

I nestle into my seat as the velvet curtains rise, signaling the film is about to start. I have rewatched classics like “Roman Holiday” or “North by Northwest” at this theater, but I’ve also discovered beautiful films I never knew existed like the comedy “Operation Petticoat.” In a city constantly changing with new innovation, it’s nice to slow down and take a step back in time.

So, to all my eager seniors, get out and explore this city while you have the chance. Don’t fool yourself with the excuse that there is nothing to do here, because trust me, there are plenty of activities. Just be patient and look around.

This may be the last time you call this city your home, so get to know the hidden treasures Palo Alto has to offer.

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Olivia Atkinson, News & Opinion Editor
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