Neighborhood Spotlight: The Willows, Menlo Park

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The Willows is an eclectic neighborhood with a unique history nestled between Menlo Park and Palo Alto.  It’s a place where neighbors still do each other favors and kids walk or bike to school, a place where people stop to talk to each other on the street and feel safe walking at night.  There’s even a beautiful creek that runs along its southern border. If this sounds like your perfect slice of Americana, The Willows neighborhood could be for you.

The History

Back in the late 1800s, Leland Stanford convinced the city of Palo Alto to institute a ban on all alcohol sales.  This ban stayed in place for almost a century but it didn’t do much to stop the locals from heading beyond the city limits to grab a drink.  In fact, the place they most frequented was a place called Whiskey Gulch, a strip of liquor stores and bars that sprung up just outside the city limits in what is now The Willows neighborhood.

As the concentration of bars and liquor stores increased, so did petty crime and that caused property values to fall.  But in the 1970s, Palo Alto repealed the ban on alcohol and slowly, Whiskey Gulch disbanded. As the liquor stores and bars left the area, petty crime fell and property values began to rise again.  Because of this, redevelopment efforts began The Willows neighborhood in 2000 and property values have been increasing ever since.

The Vibe

In The Willows neighborhood, you’ll find people of different ages and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who work in a variety of fields (not just tech). There are older ranch-style homes next to sleek modern construction, all with well-maintained yards that vary from leafy to Coastal California desert-scape. It’s a place where you can raise a family or retire, a place where you can build your forever home or buy a starter house. Basically, The Willows is a neighborhood that meets the needs of its residents, no matter what those needs are.  

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The Commute

Perhaps most notable for its 10-minute drive to Facebook’s headquarters, The Willows neighborhood also offers great access to Highway 101 and both Menlo Park and Palo Alto Caltrain stations.The Schools

The Schools

There are a number of schools located within a short walk or bike ride of The Willows neighborhood:


Roberts School

Building Kidz Menlo Park

Public Schools:

Willow Oaks Elementary School

The Laurel School Elementary (both Upper and Lower Schools)

Menlo-Atherton High School

Private Schools:

Alto International School (pre-k through 12th grade)

The Peninsula School (preschool through 8th grade)


Stanford University is a 10-minute drive.


The Fun Stuff

Not only is The Willows neighborhood within walking distance to downtown Palo Alto, but it’s a less than a 15-minute drive to the Stanford Shopping Center and the Palo Alto Golf Course, and within a 30-minute drive to Half Moon Bay and tons of hiking and biking trails.

If you’re looking for a local spot to grab a good cup of coffee or bite to eat, head to Cafe Zoe.  This great neighborhood restaurant has a friendly atmosphere and solid food choices in addition to trivia nights, live music on Fridays and walls full of local art.

The Numbers

TIn 2002, the median home price in The Willows was $750,000, in 2018, it was $2,457,500.  That’s an increase of 228%. Just between 2017 and 2018, median home prices rose 18%. So if you’re looking to buy in a neighborhood where you can still expect rapid appreciation in your home’s value, The Willows should be on your list.

The Willows is a vibrant neighborhood located in the heart of Silicon Valley where residents enjoy great schools, restaurants and easy access to all the Bay Area has to offer.  It’s close to excellent employment opportunities, higher education and the recreation that brings balance to life.