Three simple reasons why Palo Alto, California is like Reston, Virginia

Business travel often takes you to places you normally wouldn’t visit. I’d never plan a vacation to Peapack, New Jersey, for example, and London, Ontario is another that surely won’t make anyone’s “bucket list.” The upside, however, is that you get to see places you’d never visit otherwise. And, you remember that “off the beaten path” – the goal very committed traveler – isn’t necessarily sexy. This is what I’m seeing right now as I sit in Palo Alto. The conference I attended is behind me, and I’m killing some time before catching a flight home.

What I can’t shake, a feeling that’s been with me since I arrived in town on Tuesday, is that I’ve been somewhere like this before. I spent a couple of months in Reston, Virginia on business back in 2003, and the parallels stood out immediately.

Are Palo Alto and Reston brothers from another mother? I think so, and here are three simple reasons why:1. They are immaculate: when I was in Reston, I was blown away by the absence of litter … and the absence of dirt. The place is frighteningly clean (in a creepy, Monaco-esque way), and I wouldn’t be shocked if you could do surgery on the street with no fear of infection. Palo Alto is no different. I feel like I should take my shoes off before crossing University Avenue.

2. Planning is crucial: Both Reston and Palo Alto carry the ethos of a planned city. The seductive curves of Boston’s narrow streets are not to be found, and centuries of mismatched architecture – of the sort you’d see in Manhattan – have no home in Palo Alto or Reston.

3. These cities are purpose-driven: Reston, of course, arose as something of an enclave for employees of the federal government. There are some businesses in town, and they have effectively become part of the purpose. For Palo Alto, subtract “government” and add “Stanford.”

It’s eerie, right?! A country separates these twin towns, but the connection, if only spiritual, will never be severed!

[photo by richardmasoner via Flickr]

Garden Court Hotel’s $9 million renovation reforms the ‘staycation’ concept

The Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto is hoping more Californians stay local.

Now that the $9 million renovation is complete, the Garden Court Hotel is hosting a special ‘staycation’ package. Reserve a King Deluxe Suite as part of the “Hometown Tourist Package” for $299 and get the following free amenities:

  • Champagne and Shokolaat Welcome Amenity
  • $50.00 gift certificate for dining at Il Fornaio (choice of dinner or breakfast to only be used during this stay)
  • Valet overnight parking
  • Complimentary wireless Internet connection

In addition, the hotel is offering free upgrades to locals who show their ID at check-in.

As part of the Garden Court Hotel‘s renovation, all the guestrooms have been newly redesigned by Spanish interior designer Pablo Paniagua. The bathrooms were redesigned with white-grey marble that compliments the silver fixtures and dark wood, with deep soaking tubs and rain showers. What’s a new bathroom without some new products? Indulge in Molton Brown luxury bath products and fresh gardenias. In addition, each room features HDTV screens, iDesign Cube Clock Radios for iPods and complimentary wireless Internet access.

The majority of the guestrooms include French doors and private patios that look out onto the open-air tiled floor courtyard and fountains of the hotel. Guestrooms vary in amenities but many feature a separate aerated spa-tub, fireplace and breakfast nook. The penthouse suite offers guests deluxe king accommodations, a bathroom with separate aerated spa-tub, luxurious marble rain shower, an airy living room with private bar, fireplace, fresh flowers and two private landscaped patio gardens with fountain.

Not bad for a night away from home.