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11 Fun Things to Do in Stanford

11 Fun Things to Do in Stanford

Feel the knowledge flood from its elegant red-tile roofs as you wander the town’s beautiful college campus in search of hidden finds.


4 min read

October 03, 2021

Ever daydreamed of a place where world-renowned art, athletics, and architecture collide? Well, that would be Stanford—the academic home of 22 living Nobel laureates, five Pulitzer Prize winners, and three recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Not too bad for a place that was originally nicknamed “The Farm,” right? Feel the knowledge flood from its elegant red-tile roofs as you wander the town’s beautiful college campus in search of hidden finds. Overwhelmed to embark on this quest all on your own? We’re here to help. Keep on reading to learn about the top fun things to do in Stanford; knowledge is power after all.

Stanford Tourist Attractions You Need To See 

1. Get Inspired at Rodin Sculpture Garden

Spanning three galleries and featuring nearly 100 Rodin sculptures, the Cantor Arts Center is one of the most important things to see in Stanford—the artist’s contributions to how the world engages with the human form are truly groundbreaking. The museum holds the largest collection of sculptures by Rodin in the United States and also presents comparative works by his rivals, mentors, admirers, and imitators.

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2. Explore the Arizona Garden

Also known as Cactus Garden, this gem is the answer to the question “Was romance even possible in between all those studies at Stanford?” The Arizona Garden was the original meeting place for lovebirds hoping to forget about their classes and instead wished to immerse themselves into a world of cooky-looking plants and cacti—romance comes in all shapes and sizes, right? Visitor faves today include columnar, barrel, aloes, as well as rosette-forming agaves.

3. Swing by the Stanford Clock Tower

With its attached, colonnaded pergola, the Clock Tower is one of the more iconic Stanford tourist attractions. The tower was built in 1983 thanks to a donation from trustee William Kimball. Located at the so-called ‘Circle of Death,’ this landmark is a masterclass in historic legacy—this is sort of a common theme at Stanford as you’ve probably noticed. The mechanical clock was built in 1901 by the Seth Thomas Clock Company, which was originally housed inside Stanford Memorial Church’s large belfry.

4. Walk around Stanford Oval

Originally a sunken water hole, the Stanford Oval was planted as a lawn in the university’s earlier years, with sheep in charge of weed control. Later, when the raised flower beds were added as a gift from a donor in 1980, the Oval soon became a picnic hotspot, flooded by students and faculty who wanted to make the best of the idyllic Santa Clara County weather.

Before Stanford became a world-class university, it was a horse farm that produced champion racehorses.

5. Pay A Visit to the Original ‘Red Barn

The O.G. Red Barn—a soaring Victorian structure now restored to its late 1800s glory—is located on the western side of the campus, ensuring maximum dramatic views. The brick stable is one of the two buildings left surviving from the Palo Alto Stock Farm, where the world’s fastest horses were trained by Leland Stanford, the owner (but you probably already knew that). Today, the barn is home to the Stanford Red Barn Equestrian Center.

Fun Stanford Activities To Do

Stanford Stadium was built in five months and opened its gates on November 19, 1921, replacing Stanford Field.

6. Catch a Game at Stanford Stadium

Football is basically woven into Stanford’s history—and Stanford Stadium has witnessed several historic events. Back in 1984, the stadium hosted Olympic Soccer matches; then came the Super Bowl in 1985, men’s and women’s World Cup in 1994 and 1999, and the list goes on and on. Make sure to drop by and take an up-close look at this building of champions and feel just how contagious the energy is on game day.

7. Hike the Stanford Dish Trail 

Search the entire peninsula and you won’t find a trail dotted with joggers as the Dish. Perhaps the draw is a large telescope perched on the foothills—where the trail gets its namesake—that makes both students and faculty come here, rain or shine. The paved pathway serpents over hills, offering Instagrammable views of the sparkling campus. If luck strikes and you visit the Dish on a clear day, you’ll even catch glimpses of enchanting San Francisco, calling you from afar.

Hoover Tower, inspired by the tower at the New Cathedral of Salamanca, was finished in 1941, on Stanford's 50th anniversary.

8. Marvel at the Views from the Hoover Tower

The 285-foot art deco edifice known as the Hoover Tower is arguably Stanford’s most recognizable and visible landmark. From the ground up, the tower serves as an orienting lantern, leading visitors to the campus. And from the observation deck—almost 250 feet up—you can see spectacular views of all the “essentials”. The Farm, Foothills, and the sparkling Bay Area are all in sight, beautiful in their unique way, offering photo ops you’ll proudly brag about to your friends.

9. Check Out the Beautiful Tiles at Memorial Church

Nestled in the heart of campus, Memorial Church is Stanford’s crown jewel. The church was one of the earliest and (still) most prominent interdenominational ones in the West. Built by Jane Stanford in memory of her husband Leland, the building is Romanesque in form and Byzantine in detail—it was inspired by the churches in Venice, especially Ravenna. But perhaps the most striking features of the church are the mosaics spread across the premises, created by different tones of green and gold for shimmering quality.

The hall is named after Peter and Helen Bing, notable donors to Stanford who donated the lead gift of $50 million towards its construction.

10. Attend a Performance at Bing Concert Hall

In a seamless bouquet of architecture, acoustics, and technology, Bing Concert Hall is a long-time university staple. Home to Stanford’s Music Department, the venue offers state-of-the-art performances that go beyond just entertaining—the senses are enveloped, showcasing the absolute finest of the university creatives. The central focus of the building is an 842-seat vineyard-style concert hall that includes a rehearsal space, artists’ suites, a music library, instrument rooms, an artist lounge, and public amenities.

11. Practice your Swing at the Stanford Golf Course

Located on campus just below the scenic foothills, this golf course is one of those Stanford activities you absolutely must try. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of golf, the links are a beauty all on their own. The sprawling championship layout is flanked by majestic oak trees, the meandering San Francisquito Creek follows you nearly half the course, and each tee boasts stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

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