Stanford’s most-overlooked spaces for learning or lounging

Whatever you want to say about the traffic Stanford causes or the tuition it charges, it’s the mid-Peninsula’s central park: free, open to all and full of little surprises. You’ve done the Rodin Garden, the Cantor and Anderson, Memorial Church and Hoover Tower. So here are five spots to learn, lunch, think and chill we bet you haven’t discovered yet. And, yep, free and open to all.

Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion

Sitting in the shadows of the insanely-too-well-known Hoover Tower, this hidden side-building is currently showcasing WWI posters and memorabilia, drawn from the Hoover Institution’s vast archives. The bold graphic posters encouraging families to purchase war bonds or grow victory gardens are a reminder of a time when mass media were just coming into their own. Past exhibits include the once-secret files of wanted Russian revolutionaries and dissident literature and photographs produced during times of significant change and conflict .

The Engineering Quad

Near the Memorial Church but hidden from the bustle, the sunken, grassy staircases of the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center are the perfect place to relax. The area is usually quiet and secluded, even during school time; grab a coffee from the engineering building’s Coupa Cafe and soak in the California sun.

The Archaeology Center

Another one of Stanford’s out-of-the-way public displays, this mini-museum features student and faculty-curated exhibits and is just a short walk from the Stanford Bookstore. Exhibits change about every six months — currently, Pacific Links examines how colonial forces shaped the Pacific. In another room, marvel at vintage finds from the excavation of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto mansion and read student reflections on what it means to be Chinese-American at Stanford.

Stanford Art Gallery

Stanford has an exceptional amount of good, free art for the public. This exhibition space just off the Oval is run by the Department of Art and Art History, and showcases stimulating, thought-provoking student-produced and curated art. Currently on display are pieces like Chapel, a compilation of footage taken over the course of a day at Calera Chapel in Texas, and Gail Wight’s Cerulean Blues, which ponders evolution, deep time, and other biological phenomenons.

Shumway Fountain

Dubbed the “Red Hoop Fountain,” this area is a great place to wind down and listen to the sound of falling water. Let your kids to frolic in the fountain (it’s ok) or grab a Guayoyo (Venezuelan-style Americano) at the nearby Coupa Cafe with outdoor tables made for people watching. Located in front of the Green Library.

Want more places on Stanford campus worth exploring? Check out our list of hidden gems.