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A Guided Tour of Palo Alto

Palo Alto is to technology what Wall Street is to finance or Hollywood is to movies.

Palo Alto. Silicon Valley's midwife. A magnet for ideas and money. The home of Stanford University. It's a town where working for a startup that's hemorrhaging cash is considered a status symbol. Conspicuous consumption is de riguer. Kids drive BMW convertibles. Herds of perfectly outfitted cyclists graze tree-lined streets atop $4,000 two-wheelers. The dominant local emotion: hope.

Palo Alto was a sleepy backwater university town in 1938 when Stanford grads David Packard and William Hewlett teamed up in a drafty garage (at 367 Addison Avenue) and launched a multibillion-dollar global company. In so doing, they gave birth to the notion that anyone with a good idea and access to a garage can change history. This entrepreneurial inheritance, combined with the appeal of Stanford's world-class faculty and libraries, continues to draw dreamers and visionaries to Palo Alto.

As a result, Palo Alto is to technology what Wall Street is to finance or Hollywood is to movies. There are more ideas, more get-rich-quick schemes and more gadgets with lights per capita in this town than in any other place on the planet, with the possible exception of Las Vegas. So if you're visiting in hopes of launching a new business, you're not alone. Even the cabbies in this town have briefcases stuffed with business plans. Fortunately, whether you're waiting for your technocherries to line up in a nice little line or preparing for the first day of class at the university, there's plenty to do around town.

—By Hal Plotkin

The Westin Palo Alto
Luxury Hotel near Stanford University

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