For Stanford students and visitors exploring campus this summer, choosing between an array of Bay Area activities can be daunting. However, if your wallet is empty after just one month of summer, consider this short list of completely free things to do on and off campus, while also experiencing the arts and nature of Silicon Valley.
What to explore on campus
Cantor Arts Center
For the artistically inclined, venture into the Cantor Arts Center to experience world class exhibitions at no cost. While the art is bound to impress museum-goers, the architecture inside is as impressive as the pieces on display. Scale ornate marble staircases to reach this summer’s exhibitions, which include Ink Worlds: Contemporary Chinese Painting and Do Ho Suh: The Spaces in Between.
The museum is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day of the week but Tuesday.
CoHo Jazz Nights
Bring some friends to Stanford’s beloved CoHo on any Monday night this summer to hear the talented Stanford Jazz Workshop (SJW) play its tunes. These jams are led by SJW faculty and showcase students who sign up to perform their original pieces or creative covers of jazz staples. While the talented musicians are sure to keep you awake for the duration of their performance, CoHo also offers coffee and dinner options for those fatigued from a day of hard work. Monday Jazz Nights start at 9 p.m. and end at 12:30 a.m. Keep your eyes peeled for other bands performing throughout the rest of the summer.
While fountain hopping may seem like a daunting experience — swimming and splashing around exposed to gawking tourists and jaded graduate students — it’s the perfect opportunity for refreshment on a hot day. One of Stanford’s many traditions, fountain hopping this summer is a must for all who have yet to partake in this iconic activity. Add your own flair for fountain hopping by organizing a quick game of water polo, playing floatie bumper cars or creating your own water aerobics class.
Lawns! Naps! Sports!
Whether lying around with a good book or playing a match of ultimate is your thing, Stanford’s abundance of fields and grassy knolls will satiate the pickiest of lawn enthusiasts. Give in to the longings of your soul by taking a well-deserved nap at the feet of the Burghers of Calais on the Cantor Center Lawn and wake up to views of Stanford’s iconic architecture. The ever-popular Meyer Green is the perfect setting to study in the sun, with sloping lawns and an up-close look at Hoover Tower. For active folks, join the amateur soccer players on White Plaza or bring a group of friends to Levin Field (better known as FloMo Field) for a game of pickup basketball among the trees.
What to explore beyond Stanford
Stanford boasts some of the best artistic and musical opportunities in the area, and the nature surrounding campus offers plenty of opportunities for exploration. If you’re tired of staying on campus and hiking the Dish three times a week, consider venturing outside of Palo Alto to some of the most picturesque natural treasures around the Bay Area.
Rancho San Antonio
Distance from campus: 16 minutes
Made for goat lovers and hiking enthusiasts alike, Rancho San Antonio is a natural oasis in the middle of Silicon Valley. The walk to the main trailhead leads you past a working farm that bustles with cows, pigs, chickens and the aforementioned goats. After spending time perusing the farm, venture up a moderately steep incline leading the hike’s destination: an expansive view of the South Bay. On a clear day, you can see the white peaks of Shoreline Amphitheater and Apple’s “spaceship” campus from the top of the hill. After taking in the view, head back down the other side of the mountain toward the parking lot for even more looks at lichen-spotted oaks and seasonal wildflowers. This hike tends to receive heavy traffic, so arrive earlier in the day or in the evening to guarantee a parking spot near the trailhead.
Wunderlich County Park
Distance from campus: 10 minutes
A close drive from the Stanford campus, Wunderlich County Park provides a quick relief from the stresses of everyday life. With a name that sounds like a fairytale kingdom, this conglomerate of forest trails transports hikers to a different dimension. Discover horse stables, eucalyptus groves and a salamander pond along the five-mile Alambique Trail. Wunderlich’s proximity to campus and shorter trail options make it the perfect destination for nature lovers with limited time.
Henry Cowell State Park
Distance from campus: 48 minutes; parking fee: $10
Located in between Felton and Santa Cruz, Henry Cowell offers an expansive network of trails and rivers weaving throughout old-growth redwoods and giant fern groves. While it’s easy to lose a day wandering through these woods into the untouched backcountry — trust me, I’ve done it — a day in this state park is worth the potential mosquito bites and sunburn. If you’re not fond of hiking far distances, drive past Henry Cowell on Highway 9 through a forest canopy to reach the beaches of Santa Cruz.
Wilder Ranch State Park
Distance from campus: 55 minutes; parking fee: $10
Although beautiful summer days and traffic-less roads collide once in a blue moon, consider braving the crowds along the Santa Cruz coastline for some spectacular views. Wilder Ranch State Park features a long trail along the cliffs of the Pacific and untouched beaches not accessible by vehicle. Old Cove Landing Trail, a flat two-mile loop, meanders along bluffs with churning turquoise water 40 feet below. During low tide, connect to the four-mile Ohlone Bluff Trail by crossing a small beach at the halfway point of the original loop.
Skyline to Sea Trail
Learn more about the backpacking itinerary here.
Skyline Road hosts infinite trailheads along the ridge it traverses, most notably Castle Rock State Park. However, if you’re an experienced backpacker or hiker, the open space preserves dotting the road set the scene for a spectacular two night backpacking trip. The Skyline to Sea Trail is a 25-mile trek spanning the Big Basin Redwoods State Park and ends north of Santa Cruz at Waddell Beach. Begin at the Saratoga Gap Vista Point parking lot and plan to spend three days wandering through the lush forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Contact Sophie Kroesche at so3.james14 ‘at’ gmail.com.