Stafford Lake Bike Park Opens This Saturday in Novato!

August 20, 2015

Stafford Lake Bike Park

Marin families have been eagerly anticipating the opening of the Stafford Lake Bike Park, and now the day is finally here! Marin County's only public bike park opens this Saturday, August 22, at Stafford Lake County Park in Novato. The first phase of the 17-acre Bike Park has features for all skill levels, including a perimiter trail, a dual slalom, a progression jump course, a beginner pump track, and a kids' learn-to-ride area.

This Saturday, everyone will have an opportunity to try out the trails and listen to live music from Ridgeway Space Station, as well as hear from honored guests and mingle with park sponsors. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Admission is free to this event, which takes place from 10 am to 2 pm. (The regular $10 park admission will be waived.) Grab your bikes and come out to the park!

Healthy Lunch & Snack Ideas for the New School Year

August 18, 2015

Healthy school lunch ideasNo matter how prepared for the new school year you think you are, it can always be challenging to figure out what to pack for school lunches and snacks. Trying to balance healthy, nutritious food and things the kids will actually eat can be difficult, too.

Here are a few of my family's favorite lunchbox treats that are not only good for you, but delicious and fun to eat, too. The kids love to help make them—I find that they usually eat food they prepare themselves (even vegetables!), so I usually let them help out in the kitchen when I can, especially when we're making their school lunches.

Tortellini Skewers

My daughter absolutely loves cheese tortellini (and what kid doesn’t?) so we make these neat little skewers for a lunchtime treat.

You’ll need:

Go Beyond Organic at Green String Farm in Petaluma

August 18, 2015

Green String FarmWhenever we visit Petaluma, we like to stop by the farm store at Green String Farm to do some grocery shopping. Located just east of town on Old Adobe Road, this sustainable local farm is just overflowing with wonderful fresh produce, especially in late summer. Their fruits and vegetables are amazing and affordable, and their farming practices actually exceed organic guidelines—they even have their own "Green String" certification program. If you haven't shopped here, it's definitely worth the trip up to Petaluma.

Green String Farm's farm store is situated in the middle of their 140-acre agricultural plot, where you can take in sweeping views of cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and the Sonoma County hills beyond. The farmstand carries just about every local seasonal fruit or vegetable you can imagine, from apples, Asian pears, and stone fruits to peppers, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, string beans, greens, beets, squash, and fresh herbs.

In addition to produce, the farm store stocks other items including grass-fed beef, eggs, cheese, olive oil, nuts, artisan bread, handmade beeswax candles, vinegar, and more.

Russian River Fun at Johnson's Beach

August 17, 2015

Johnson's Beach Guerneville

When the temperature rises, it's fun to head to a local beach and cool off. Bay Area residents have been doing this for nearly a century at Johnson's Beach, a laid-back, family-friendly summertime getaway on the banks of the Russian River in Guerneville. There's nothing quite like lounging in an inner tube on the river on a warm summer day with redwoods towering overhead!

Johnson's is a privately owned beach that's open to the public. Admission is free, although there's a parking fee on weekends and holidays, so pack up your beach gear and folding chairs and get ready for a lazy riverside day. The pebble beach stretches down to the river where you'll find a roped-off kiddie pool area where the little ones can splash and play. The river itself is cool, not very deep, and ideal for swimming, splashing, and floating around in an inner tube.

Fresh Summer Vegetable Pasta

August 16, 2015

summer vegetable pastaAfter our last trip to Petaluma's Green String Farm, I wanted to create a recipe that showcased some of the fantastic vegetables that we bought at the farm store there. My kids picked out a lot of cute little baby summer squash, and we had ripe red tomatoes, and a beautiful purple onion, too. Of course I wanted to make something that the kids would eat, too! We created this recipe that showcases these delicious summer vegetables.

We decided to make a creamy summer vegetable pasta with the little cheese ravioli from Trader Joes—my daughter loves them and insisted on having them for dinner. If you don't want to use the ravioli, you could use any kind of pasta shape for this recipe; penne or bow ties would be perfect.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag dried Trader Joe's cheese ravioli, or 1 lb pasta of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Family Fun at Marin County Beaches

August 15, 2015

Marin County Beaches

My family loves to go to the beach, and there are plenty of places to do this in and around Marin. While many of the beaches along the Pacific Ocean are unsuitable for swimming, there are also many beaches that are ideal spots for swimming, wading, and splashing in the water, especially on warm summer (and also spring and fall) days. Here are some of our favorites. Click on the links for more info.

Abbotts Lagoon Beach

A one-and-a-half mile hike takes you over bridges and sand dunes to this beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It's home to many shorebirds, including the endangered snowy plover. A great beach for playing in the sand, but not for swimming due to dangerous surf and rip currents.

Fantastic Shrek the Musical at Throckmorton Theatre

August 15, 2015

Steven Hess and Lauren Brody-Clark in Shrek the MusicalLast night my family and I had a chance to experience wonderful production of Shrek the Musical at Mill Valley's beautiful Throckmorton Theatre. There are two more performances left this weekend of this fantastic family-friendly musical and tickets are still available, so don't miss out!

Shrek the Musical features an amazingly talented cast of both children and adults, and brings to life the familiar story of Shrek the ogre, Princess Fiona, Donkey, the villanous Lord Farquaad, and almost every fairy tale creature and character you can imagine. The singing, dancing, and acting were all first rate, and the production was enlivened with puppetry (including an impressive giant dragon puppet), creative sets and props, and of course hilarious songs and dialogue.

Throckmorton Youth Programs director Steven Hess and Lauren Brody-Clarke were outstanding in the roles of Shrek and Fiona, and father and daughter Marty and Meghan Dunn were delightful as an energetic Donkey and a scheming Farquaad. Honestly there were so many outstanding actors, both kids and adults, in the cast that it's impossible to call out every amazing performance!

Marin Weekend Family Fun for August 14, 15 & 16

August 14, 2015
Fort Point Civil War Day
Step back in time and experience Living History Day at San Francisco's Fort Point this Saturday.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

Friday, August 14

  • Children's Garden Series
    Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
    Friday, 11–11:30 am & 12:15–12:45 pm

    This free event is part of the Children's Garden Series at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. This Friday, The Unique Derique delights all ages by clowning, dancing, and turning his agile limbs into a drum set or a harpsichord keyboard. His interactive performance is percussive, syncopated and dynamic. For more info, visit their website.
  • Picnics on the Plaza
    Town Hall Lawn, San Anselmo
    Friday, 5–8 pm

    Come on downtown to San Anselmo for Picnics on the Plaza on six Friday evenings this summer: Grab dinner-to-go at a local restaurant, purchase food at the event, or pack a picnic and dine with old and new friends at the plaza tables on Tunstead or on Town Hall lawn. Enjoy live entertainment and activities, and shop for fresh, organic produce at the Farm Stand. Great, music, food and family fun! Location: 525 San Anselmo Avenue, Town Hall Lawn, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Nostalgia Days Rod and Custom Car Show
    Downtown Novato
    Friday, 5:45–8 pm & Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    Now in its 19th year, this celebration of hot rods, classic cars and small-town Americana is a great reason to visit downtown Novato this weekend. This free, family-friendly event kicks off with a Friday Night Cruise, then Saturday sees Downtown Novato transform into a classic car show, all the way from 1st to 7th Street on Grant Avenue. Actress Candy Clarke (a.k.a. Debbie in American Graffiti) will be making a celebrity appearance, along with the American Graffiti Tribute Team. There will be live music on Saturday with Hot Rod Juke Box and the Deadlines. For more info, visit their website.
  • Jazz & Blues by the Bay
    Gabrielson Park, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–8:30 pm

    Jazz & Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in Sausalito is a free event. Lawn seating available, first-come first-served. This Friday: Work in Progress, sponsored by Sausalito Youth Sailing Foundation. For more info, visit their website.
  • Creekside Fridays
    Tennessee Valley Cabin, Mill Valley
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Bring the family, pets, chairs, and blankets to the weekly free musical event. This week: Tam Valley All Stars. Food available for purchase. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.
  • Shrek the Musical!
    142 Throckmorton, Mill Valley
    Friday & Saturday, 7 pm and Sunday, 4 pm
    Bring the entire family to see this family-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical. Part romance, part twisted fairy tale, and irreverent fun for everyone! Tickets: $18 general, $14 students, $35 reserved. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.
  • Film Night in the Park: Toy Story
    Creek Park, San Anselmo
    Friday, 8 pm

    Film Night in the Park presents a large-screen outdoor presentation of Toy Story (G) at Creek Park in San Anselmo. Popcorn, candy, and sodas will be sold. Bring blankets, pillows, backrest and low chairs. Film Night suggests leaving pets at home. Free. Donations greatly appreciated. Location: 451 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, August 15

  • Run for the Seals 2015
    Marine Mammal Center
    Saturday, 6:30 am–5 pm
    Enjoy breathtaking views of the Marin Headlands and the California coastline with your family as you take part in the Marine Mammal Center's fundraiser Run for the Seals. Choose from a 4-mile fun run on roads/dirt tracks and a 2-mile hill walk on a fire road. The event is open to all ages, and dogs on leashes are welcome too! Costumes are encouraged. Registration includes Run for the Seals and the Family Fun Day with free food and drinks, educational tours, and more. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family BikeAbout
    San Francisco Zoo
    Sunday, 8:30–10 am

    Families can bring their bicycles to the Zoo for this informative one- and one-half hour, docent-led cycling tour. It’s great to be in the Zoo ahead of the crowds and watch the animals start their day. Registration includes parking and Zoo admission. Participants must bring a bicycle; the SF Zoo does not provide bicycles to rent. Cost: SFZS Members: $18 per peddler, Non-Members: $23 per peddler. Children piggy-backing on their parents' bikes are free. Registration required here.
  • Fort Point Living History Day
    Fort Point, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    Join the American Civil War Association as part of commemorations of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War 2011–2015. Stop by and watch Fort Point come to life with music, marching, and the colorful uniforms of Civil War soldiers. See infantry and artillery drills and demonstrations, and learn about civilian life during the Civil War. For more info, call (415) 556-1693 or visit their website.
  • Free Bike Repair Day for Kids
    Fairfax Library
    Saturday, 10 am–1 pm

    The Bay Area Bike Mobile will be providing free tune ups and repairs for children’s bikes. The Bike Mobile can fix flat tires, adjust brakes and gears, and even replace broken or worn out parts like chains, seats, and tires. The only thing it can’t do is replace missing wheels or gears. Space is limited so arrive early to secure a spot. Location: 2097 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Fairfax. For more info, visit their website.

Explore Family Friendly Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

August 13, 2015

Limantour BeachDuring the summer, one surefire way to cool off in Marin is to head out to the beach. One family favorite in Marin is Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour boasts gentle surf, stunning views, and miles of sandy beach and is a great place to visit at any time of year.

Named after a French merchant shipwrecked here in the 1840s, Limantour Beach is located along Drake's Bay, and is close to Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore park headquarters on Bear Valley Road. As you drive over Inverness Ridge, you'll see evidence of the devastating 1995 Mt. Vision fire that swept through this area in the form of the young fir and pine trees that line the roadway.

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