1. Schools, Schools, Schools! Menlo Park, like Palo Alto and Mountain View, have some really outstanding schools. Students in this district are consistently high performers and many gain admission to top universities after high school. There are two public elementary school districts: Menlo Park and Las Lomitas. As well as many private schools which include: Trinity, Phillips Brooks, St. Raymond, St. Joseph’s (part of the Sacred Heart Schools), and Peninsula School.
2. Burgess Park. located next the Civic Center, this park features a little league baseball field, a regulation baseball field, an open play field, lighted tennis courts, a soccer field, picnic areas, and children’s playgrounds. The Burgess pool, rec center, sports center, and skate park are adjacent to the main park area. There’s also a lovely and relaxing duck pond here that’s a great place to relax and read a book.
3. Huge Library. Menlo’s library (a quick walk from Burgess Park) is one of the town’s focal points, especially for children and families. My two sons always enjoyed the Summer Reading Programs, and Storytimes are another free, entertaining, educational, and kid-approved favorite. Professional storytellers spin their magic at scheduled times throughout the week. On certain days, the stories cater to younger or older kids. The online live homework help program is one of the library’s new services. It’s totally free, and many of the tutors also speak Spanish.
4. Annual Connoisseurs’ Marketplace. This is the summer festival for summer festival lovers – and one of the best events in the area. There’s hardly anything more enjoyable than wandering a tree-lined street while local bands play during this popular festival of visual, performing, and culinary arts. It’s always the third weekend of July on Santa Cruz Avenue. This year, Organic Alley will highlight samplings of the finest organic food the area offers. Old favorites like the cooking demos and the kid’s fun zone will be up and running. The festival is always as eco-friendly as possible, and it embodies community values and the sense of civic responsibility cherished in Menlo Park and the Bay Area.
5. The Guild. This independent movie theatre is the place for real film lovers. Hard-to-find independent and foreign films play here, and the space itself has art-deco touches everywhere and velvet curtains surrounding the movie screens. Plus, it’s free refills on Mighty Leaf Tea AND all you can drink coffee (two great touches that make movie-going a lot less draining on your wallet and more pleasurable.) This is not your basic space-age blockbuster twelve screen Cinemax, and sometimes you have to put up with crackly sound or finicky seats. Nevertheless I’ve never had a bad experience here–the movies are always thought provoking, and sometimes the manager thanks you personally for coming.
6. Santa Cruz Avenue. This is the main drag of Menlo Park, where great shopping and world-class restaurants are crammed in side by side. You have endless options here – craft shops, clothing boutiques, interior design stores, bistros – literally anything you need. During lunch time it’s crawling with business professionals eating at sidewalk tables, and there are always shoppers resting on benches or teenagers hanging out in the coffee shops.
7. Every Kind of Home. Wonderful housing options here as well. New homes, green homes on Willow, ranch homes on huge lots, condos, town homes, and tons of rentals near downtown ensure you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Menlo Park when it comes to your living needs.
8. Caltrain Station. You can get anywhere from here! You can also get here from anywhere on Santa Cruz Avenue, which is the biggest plus of all. This station is literally steps from Cafe Barrone and Kepler’s Books, so if you arrive a little early you can always grab a magazine or a cup of coffee to ease your wait.
9. Kepler’s Books. When the final Harry Potter book came out last summer, Kepler’s threw the bash of the century. There was a brass band, tents selling magic charms, Hogwart’s culinary staples, and a sorting hat. Kids of all ages wandered around in robes with magic wands tucked under their arms, and it seemed like everyone from the Bay Area decided Kepler’s was the place to snag this seventh wonder. My favorite touch was the keepsake ticket handed out at the beginning. You paid for the ticket, and traded the ticket in for the book. The line of Potter fans snaked out the door and around the corner, and the Kepler’s staff did everything possible to make sure the night went smoothly. This place has a great history, and is one of the last independent bookstores standing in the Menlo Park/Palo Alto area. If they don’t have something in stock, they’re always happy to order it for you.
10. Menlo Medical Clinic. The staff here is friendly and accommodating, and the clinic gives off a good – we actually care about your health vibe – instead of that sterile, impersonal feeling. The lab staff is well trained, and it’s very clean. The doctors in this group are among the best in their fields, and everyone in the facility is professional and helpful. MMC is affiliated with Stanford Hospital, so coming here with any illness or ailment guarantees you’ll receive the best medical attention possible.