Saturday, March 06, 2010

Gay Friendly Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Gay Friendly Palo Alto
Palo Alto, where we live, is nestled in the liberal Bay Area, halfway down the peninsula between the gay mecca, San Francisco, and the 10th largest city in the US, San Jose. Location, politics and economics makes Palo Alto extremely gay friendly. It is known as an open-minded college town because of its close proximity to Stanford University as well as a cosmopolitan, high-tech center from which radiates Silicon Valley. It is where Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard started their company in a backyard garage. It is the headquarters of Facebook and the home of Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs. Many gays are drawn to its small town ambiance and it big city connections. It is not unusual to see same-sex couples holding hands while walking down the street or eating in one of the many attractive Palo Alto restaurants.
Stanford Shopping MallShopping:
Stanford Shopping Mall A beautifully landscaped outdoor mall offers plenty of shopping options for a gay man: A/X Armani Exchange, Abercrombie & Fitch, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Crate & Barrel, Gap, Macy’s Men’s Store, Nordstrom, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Pottery Barn, Swatch, Williams-Sonoma, etc.

University Avenue, Palo AltoUniversity Avenue is a great street of shopping, coffee spots, eateries and outdoor dining. A few of the appealing retail stores: American Apparel, Apple Store, Borders Books (has a small Gay & Lesbian section), Design Within Reach and The Modern Living (both fashionable furniture stores), Letter Perfect card shop (carries same-sex wedding cards), Palo Alto Bicycles (every Palo Altoian has at least one lycra bike-wear outfit), Palo Alto Sport & Toy World (good selection of competitive/Speedo swimwear), Restoration Hardware (often setup for catalogue photo shoots), Shady Lane gift gallery (fetish carved animals, trollbeads, fairies, colorful gems, fossils, etc).

Two other notable areas for shopping and dining in Palo Alto are California Avenue and Town & Country Village on the El Camino Real.

TheatreWorks, The Nationally-Acclaimed Theatre of Silicon ValleyPalo Alto has an abundance of entertainment choices that is the envy of suburbs across the country. The city is the home for several theatre companies. The nationally acclaimed TheatreWorks performs half of their season at the Lucie Stern Community Theatre (the other half is in nearby Mountain View). TheatreWorks is one of six professional theater companies in the Bay Area (others are ACT in San Francisco, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, and CenterREP in Walnut Creek). Other local community theatres companies in Palo Alto include Dragon Theatre, Palo Alto Players, West Bay Opera and Palo Alto Children’s Theatre. There is even a gay theatre, Theatre Q, which occasionally performs in downtown Palo Alto.

If movies are what you prefer, there are two excellent art-house theaters: Stanford Theater (classic films from silents to the seventies) on University Avenue and Aquarius Theater (current foreign and independent films) on Emerson Street. (There is a third movie theatre, CinéArts, but note that it is owned by Cinemark Holdings in Texas. Top management there donated heavily to take marriage rights away from California gays and lesbians.)
Rodin statue at Cantor Center for Visual Arts
For the visual arts, Palo Alto has about a dozen art galleries located around town including Bryant Street Gallery, Palo Alto Art Center and Pacific Art League. We are fans and customers of the Great American Framing Co. and Gallery. The art collection at Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University span continents, cultures, and 4,000 years of art history and includes the largest gathering of Rodin bronzes outside of Paris.
Great places to visually catch hunky, eye-candy includes the Stanford athletic fields, the Stanford Big Dish trail, Palo Alto Baylands trails and the city soccer fields.

Restaurants & Eateries:
Multitude of food choices
Palo Alto is the home for over 250 restaurants and eateries. There is something for every palette and price range, from award-winningly expensive to cheap take-out to wi-fi coffee cafes and organic frozen yogurt shops.
The most common cuisines served in Palo Alto, listed in descending order, are: Italian, American, Chinese, Pizza, Mexican, Coffee, Mediterranean, California, Thai, Deli, Japanese, and Indian.

We tend to go to restaurants on University Avenue or within a couple of blocks. Our favorite Palo Alto places, in alphabetical order: Café Epi, Cafe Renzo, California Pizza Kitchen, Empire Grill & Tap Room, Evvia, Howie's Artisan Pizza, Junnoon, Joya, L'Amour Frozen Yogurt, Lavanda, Mantra, Mediterranean Wraps, Old Pro, Patxi’s Pizza, Peet’s Coffee, Pluto's Fresh Food, Prolific Oven, Red Mango Frozen Yogurt, Reposado, Rojoz Wraps, Sancho's Taqueria, Scott’s Seafood, Siam Royal, SliderBar Cafe, St. Michael's Alley, Tai Pan, Tamarine, Three Seasons, Vino Locale and Zao Noodle Bar. (We tend to eat out a lot.)

Dinah’s Garden Hotel & Trader Vic’sAccommodations:
I don’t know of hotel/motel in Palo Alto that would not be gay friendly. Only one has sought out official GLBT designation.
TAG approved gay friendly hotel: Dinah’s Garden Hotel & Trader Vic’s. Rooms are uniquely decorated with decor from around the world – from Bali to Africa to Provincial France to the American Southwest.
We have either stayed or had friends stay at Westin Palo Alto, Sheraton Palo Alto, Crowne Plaza and Garden Court hotels.

Social Organizations:
BayLands FrontRunners is a running and walking club for lesbians, gays and friends. Currently the group has over 400 active members. They host a weekly run/walk around the Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto every Saturday morning at 9:00am. Meet in the parking lot of the Baylands Athletic Center, located at the end of Geng Road, off of Embarcadero Road, east of Highway 101.
BayLands FrontRunners, a GLBT running and walking social group
El Camino Reelers is a GLBT square dance group, in Palo Alto. Open to anyone. New class starts in September each year and meet at St. Andrews Church in Palo Alto.

Youth/Student Resources:.
The two public high schools, Palo Alto High and Gunn High, have a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Castilleja School, a private college preparatory school for girls located in Palo Alto has a Rainbow Alliance club.

The Outlet Program in Mountain View empowers local LGBTQQ youth through a range of support services, leadership trainings, and community based education and outreach.
Gay Liberation statue by George Segal at Stanford University
Stanford University’s LGBT - Community Resource Center (LGBT-CRC) provides an overview of student groups and activities for LGBT students at Stanford.
Nearby Attractions:
Outside of San Francisco there are only a few primarily gay establishments on the Peninsula or in the South Bay.
Pride Events:
Social Scene and Recreational Groups:
With terrific climate and varied terrain there is no shortage of gay activities and events. Indoors or outdoors, the Bay Area is an active man’s dream come true. There are a lot of options available. Here are a few:

Equinox: It's not fitness. It's lifeFor traditional workouts, Palo Alto has an abundance of gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, aerobic classes, yoga services and personal trainers. The largest and most popular ones are Equinox, Palo Alto Family & Page Mill YMCA, Fitness Center at Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, FORM Fitness, and Vivre Fitness.

Two local restaurants are members of the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley. Both businesses give and support generously to GLBT causes.
  • Hobee’s Resturant A local family-style franchise (2 locations in Palo Alto: Town & Country Village and 4224 El Camino Real) known for its hearty, all-day menu of pancakes, omelets and scrambles. Hash browns are gussied up with chicken-apple sausage or salsa fresca. Savory options such as huevos rancheros are served with large hunks of blueberry coffee cake. More classic fare includes burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas, pasta, and a list of hearty chicken and salmon entrees.

  • Vino Locale in Palo Alto
    Vino Locale A unique European style wine bar specializing in local wine, food, and art from the Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Benito and Alameda counties. It is located in a historic Victorian house on 431 Kipling Street in downtown Palo Alto and offers a beautiful courtyard available for outdoor dining.

Pink Spots - a resource directory of gay-owned and gay-friendly businessesPink Spots, an advertising resource directory of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses lists the following local companies for Palo Alto:
Accent Arts, Allied Brokers, Amanda Martin State Farm Insurance, Borders Bookstore-Palo Alto, Cafe Renaissance, California Café, Carlsen Audi, Chapple Electric, Charmelle 28, Classic Pet Grooming, Copy Factory, Dr. Taylor Comprehensive Foot & Ankle Care, Gadzo Law Firm, Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant, Palo Alto Bicycles, Palo Alto Café, Peninsula Piano Brokers, TheatreWorks, Theodore H. Mock Photography, and University Mission Medical Clinic.

Gay Friendly Employers:
Based on the HRC 2010 Corporate Equality Index, an annual survey report that rates corporate America's treatment of LGBT employees, 305 businesses received top ratings of 100%.

28 local Silicon Valley corporations include: AAA of Northern California, Agilent Technologies, Apple, Applied Materials, Charles Schwab, Cisco Systems, eBay, Electronic Arts, Esurance, Fenwick & West LLP, Gap, Genentech, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Intuit, Kaiser Permanente, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Levi Strauss, NetApp, Oracle, PG&E, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, Visa, Wells Fargo, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC, and Yahoo!

First United Methodist Church Palo Alto Of the more than 50 churches in Palo Alto, nine call themselves gay friendly and are listed on All Saints Episcopal Church, St. Mark’s Church, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, University Church, Covenant Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Church, Palo Alto Friends Meeting, First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, and St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. Gay friendly not listed include: Unity Palo Alto Community Church, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto.
The three largest of the seven synagogues in Palo Alto are gay friendly: Congregation Kol Emeth, Congregation Etz Chayim, and Keddem Congregation. (Our synagogue, Beth Am in neighboring Los Altos Hills, just hired a gay assistant rabbi.)

Anti-gay concerns:
Anti-Gay protests Unfortunately not everything in Palo Alto is all rainbows and glitter. There are several Palo Alto businesses and owners/management that donated significantly to a campaign of lies, hate, bigotry and discrimination in taking rights away from gays and lesbians with Prop 8. Among them are:
  • Allegis Capital, venture capital firm
  • Bob Anderson State Farm Insurance, insurance and financial services
  • D & M Motors, Inc., general car repair
  • Lee Aldinger Insurance, insurance services
  • Osborn Capital Management, real state developer
  • Phillip Fletcher DDS, general dentistry
  • Robert Wheatley Properties, real estate developer, home builder
  • Willis & Company, commercial property services
  • WSJ Properties, real estate management


Anonymous said...

I haven't visited Palo Alto yet,but hopefully this month I'll be going to this place together with my friends..!I am expecting that we will have a great time on this place knowing that the place is home for over 250 restaurants and eateries.And love foods a lot..hahah!!I like going to a certain place that I haven't visited yet like the Palo Alto..

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Anonymous said...

As a 13 year former resident of Palo Alto, and current resident of Portola Valley, I enjoyed reading your Palo Alto post very much. The reason I'm commenting is to thank you for enlightening me to the fact that my insurance agent, Bob Anderson, is a bigot who supported Prop 8. I'll begin my search for a new agent tomorrow. I will also be sure to let him know WHY I am pulling all of my policies from his business. It makes me sick to think how much money I've put in his pocket over the years. Oh well. NO MORE! Thanks again!

GuyDads said...

A more complete list of anti-gay businesses and contributors to Yes on 8 can be found at:

Dennis said...

Hey! I'm moving to Palo Alto for a travel job at Packard Hospital and as a 31 year old single gay man, I found your post so helpful! Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this fantastic post! I've lived in SV for almost a year now and I've had quite a challenging time finding out about gay life here in what I perceived to be the gay wastelands between SF and SJ. And now you've enlightenment to so much of what's available. Thank you once again. I'll check out your blog periodically to see more of the great mentions you guys have!

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