Known for its mansions and exclusive country clubs, this luxurious Bay Area town is one of the best places to live in California, with a wealth of employment opportunities for digital nomads.
Atherton is a small town of about 7,000 people in the Silicon Valley region of California. It’s roughly equidistant from San Francisco to the north and San Jose to the south, and in many ways serves as a suburb for both major cities. Thanks to that, Atherton consistently ranks as the most expensive zip code in the United States, and has the highest per-capita income in the country. This has its benefits too, though, and Atherton is considered one of the best places to live in California from a quality of life standpoint. Wealth and luxury have been synonymous with Atherton since its founding. The first resident was entrepreneur Faxon Atherton, who built a 640-acre estate in the area in the 1860s. Other wealthy families soon followed, incorporating the town as a strictly residential community in 1923. While some of those large estates have since been broken up, the majority of properties in Atherton are 1 acre or more to this day, and its neighborhoods have maintained their fully-residential character even through the tech boom of the 1990s.
Where to live in Atherton
All of Atherton’s neighborhoods are convenient to at least one of the major highways running through the area, so where you live won’t make much of a difference in your commute times. Cost of living is likely to be your main consideration when choosing where to live, especially for nomads and freelancers in early stages of their careers. The vibe of Atherton’s neighborhoods ranges from rural to suburban, with quiet residential areas available in all of them, so you don’t need to live in a mansion to enjoy the town’s high standard of living.
Best Neighborhoods in Atherton
There are levels to the luxury in Atherton. If you want to experience the ultimate in upscale living, neighborhoods like West Atherton and Lindenwood have the multi-million dollar properties and country clubs you’re looking for. The next step down on the luxury ladder would be areas like Atherton Oaks, where mansions nestle side-by-side with more modest family homes. If you’re looking for something a little less ritzy, the Lloyden Park area is a great place to look at, and has a more close-knit community feel than many of Atherton’s neighborhoods. The spacious properties west of Alameda are where you’ll find the most rural vibe, ideal for nature lovers looking for peace and quiet.
West Atherton is a very secluded, rich and well-connected Atherton community nestled deep into the wooded suburban-side. The district enjoys the many grand, dazzling homes that are ever so present within the city. The biggest luxury to West Atherton is its proximity to Stanford University.
Quick Facts About AthertonFor most people, Atherton’s wealth is its defining characteristic. There’s more to this small town than money, though. Here are some facts to round out your knowledge of this unique town:
It was once a flag stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad.The railway stop in Atherton was mostly put in place for the convenience of local estate owners. It’s still operational, though only on the weekends.
It’s home to some of the tech industry’s biggest players.Among the well-known residents of Atherton are executives like Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and Frazad Nazem, the former CTO of Yahoo! and a well-known angel investor.
California’s athletes love it, too.The Bay Area isn’t just for tech workers. Jerry Rice is a long-time resident of Atherton and Stephen Curry chose Atherton as his home base when the Warriors moved to San Francisco in 2019.
Some of its homes were designed by famous names.The Arthur F. Mathews House in Atherton is one of two homes in the county designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Lindenwood neighborhood also has a number of homes designed by Joseph Eichler.
The size of land plots is regulated by the city.One way the early settlers kept Atherton all-residential was by keeping the land in massive plots. While you’ll find some smaller lots in Atherton, new developments must be built on plots of at least 1/2 acre.
Its Menlo Circus Club is one of the most exclusive in the country.The initiation fee to become a member of Menlo Circus Club is a whopping $250,000, and dues are $500 a month. It takes more than money to join, too. Newcomers must be sponsored by an existing member, and can only join if there are no objections from other members of the club.
It has more oaks than redwoods.The nearby redwood forests get more press, but the area around Atherton was an oak plain before it was settled and was known as Fair Oaks until its incorporation.
One of its early wealthy residents turned his estate into a park.Holbrook-Palmer Park is the only public recreation site in Atherton, with 22 acres of gardens, ball fields, and playgrounds. The land was left to the town by the estate’s last owner, Olive Holbrook-Palmer, in 1958.
Work in Atherton
Like many towns in the Bay Area, the tech industry dominates the economy in Atherton. Companies like Facebook, Google, Genentech, and Twitter are among the top employers. There are also a number of prestigious universities and medical centers in the area, such as UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, diversifying the local economy. The unemployment rate in Atherton is lower than the national average, and it’s an excellent place to build a career in industries like software development, education, and health care. In most cases, salary rates are higher in Atherton than for similar positions elsewhere in the country, though this is balanced out by the comparatively high cost of living.
How good is Atherton for Digital Nomads or Remote Work
Remote work is changing how the global workspace operates. In a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, remote work is rapidly on the increase all around the world—especially in a place like Atherton. And about 25% of remote workers describe themselves as digital nomads—those who like to travel or stay in cities around the world while they work. So, how good is Atherton for both of these growing movements?
Average Internet SpeedGiven its location in Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise that Atherton enjoys crazy fast internet speeds. Atherton’s six internet providers have an average connection speed of 185Mbps, with top reported speeds of 10,000Mbps.
Work-friendly Coffee ShopsCoffee culture is strong in the Bay Area, and most of the region’s cafes offer free Wi-Fi. Here are the best spots for camping out with your laptop: S’Bastian’s Coffee: This quiet neighborhood coffee shop also serves local beer and delicious food, so it’s a great place to relax after working, too. The friendly staff and bright, uncluttered space make it easy to get down to work. Coffeebar Menlo Park: A variety of seating options and ample power outlets make Coffeebar an easy place to find a workspace. Their menu of light lunch fare is excellent brain food to power through your work day. Philz Coffee: The Palo Alto location of this local chain is a top study spot for Stanford students, so you definitely won’t be the only one on your laptop. The quiet environment, strong Wi-Fi, and tasty coffee all make this a great work space.
Coworking SpacesYou’ll find a variety of coworking spaces in Atherton, including locations for international chains as well as independent local organizations. Here are the top-rated spots: Innerstate Coworking: This spot in Menlo Park offers a variety of workspaces, from open seating to private offices. Members get 24/7 access to the space, as well as amenities like a full kitchen, networking events, and use of office equipment. BootUP World: For entrepreneurs and tech freelancers, the community and mentorship programs at BootUP World are its main advantages. Their collaborative workspace includes both open and dedicated desks, along with virtual office space and conference room rentals. HanaHaus: Located in nearby Palo Alto, this dynamic coworking space lets you pay by the hour and has an on-site cafe with delivery right to your workspace. Their workshops and networking events are an excellent way to find a nomad community. If none of Atherton’s coworking spaces satisfy your needs, nearby cities like San Francisco and San Jose have their own slew of options to choose from. This makes Atherton one of the easiest places to find a coworking space in the United States.
Suitable Level for Digital NomadsAtherton is an excellent place for digital nomads to grow their careers, particularly for those in the tech industry--that is, if you can afford it. The high cost of living can be a concern for digital nomads. The trade off for that high cost is a remarkably high standard of living, with excellent access to the outdoors, super fast internet speeds, and an idyllic year-round climate. You’ll also have easy access to tons of dining and entertainment options, with both San Jose and San Francisco within quick driving distance for anything you can’t find in the immediate area.
Visa RequirementsCitizens of 39 countries can enter the United States for stays up to 90 days with no visa through the Visa Waiver Program. This includes nations in the EU as well as Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. For citizens from other nations (or stays longer than 90 days), you’ll need to apply for a temporary work visa. The US uses a lottery system for visas and the process of obtaining one takes a long time to complete, so you’ll want to start the ball rolling before you travel. The H-1B visa is the most popular and general option, though O or P visas can be a better choice for certain professions. Check with the US embassy in your country to find out which visa is right for you and the requirements for application.
Food and Drink in Atherton
The culinary scene in Atherton represents a good variety of cuisines and styles that’s true to the city’s diverse population. For a casual vibe, The Refuge is a popular spot with locals, especially for late night eats, with a menu of delicious sandwiches and burgers. The Dutch Goose is another unique local bar/restaurant, with a rear patio space and classic arcade games to entertain you while you eat. There are plenty of upscale dining options in Atherton, too. For Mediterranean and French food, check out Left Bank in Menlo Park. Camper (Santa Cruz Ave) serves upscale comfort food, including house-made fresh pasta. For upscale American fare, check out Selby’s (Redwood Oaks) or Oak + Violet (Menlo Park). If you’re more in the mood for Asian food, Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine has unique tropical cocktails along with a full menu of Thai classics. For Chinese/American fusion, I Dumpling is a popular spot. Vegans and vegetarians will have plenty of choices, too, like Skewery by Meso, which serves traditional and vegan-friendly Mediterranean fare.
Top 6 Things To Do in Atherton
While Atherton’s location in Silicon Valley makes it a tech-forward town, it’s also a great place for nature lovers. Outdoor activities are some of the region’s top attractions, ranging from local spots like Sharon Park to large state parks like Baylands Nature Preserve and Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. Shopaholics will adore Atherton, too, with its plethora of shopping centers, farmers markets, and independent shops like Cheeky Monkey Toys and Kepler’s Books. If you’re a movie buff, check out The Guild, a historical theater that screens cult classic movies and independent films. For live music, you’ll find everything from intimate local shows at dive bars to big-name acts at the Center for the Performing Arts.
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts
328 Lomita Dr, Stanford
1100 Monte Rosa Dr, Menlo Park
Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve
10 Old Stage Coach Rd, Redwood City
215 Bay Rd, Menlo Park
701 Laurel St, Menlo Park
Red Morton Community Park
1120 Roosevelt Ave, Redwood City