Marin Playgrounds: South Hamilton Park in Novato

December 5, 2017

South Hamilton Park, Novato

South Hamilton Park, also known as Airport Park and Palmisano Community Play Park, is nestled in a quiet corner of Novato's Hamilton Neighborhood. In a nod to the area's former role as an air force base, the playground here features some aviation-themed equipment. Adjacent to sports fields and with an expansive play area, this was one of my kids' favorite hangouts when they were little and we lived close by.

10 Great New Holiday Picture Books for Kids

December 5, 2017

Holiday Books

Who doesn't love snuggling up on the couch on a cool December night with a great book to read together? Here are our picks for 10 fantastic holiday-themed kids picture books. Thanks to Clare Doornbos at Book Passage in Corte Madera for starting off our list with some of her picks for great new books. Find them all at your local Marin County library or bookstore.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

December 4, 2017

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

Hiking with children is a great way to get them into the outdoors and introduce them to nature, but it can be a bit of a challenge. Small legs seem to tire out faster than larger ones, and when they outgrow both the stroller and the backpack it's best to seek out some shorter hikes with few hills or elevation changes that the whole family can enjoy with a minumum of complaining. One of our favorite easy family hikes can be found at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, on the northern end of Novato.

The Rombeiro Christmas House in Novato: You Have to See It to Believe It!

December 4, 2017

The Rombeiros' Christmas House Novato

Every December, Marin's power grid is yet again put to the test by the annual unveiling of the Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive in Novato. Sure, every neighborhood has its decorated houses, but the Rombeiro house is a different thing altogether. Edmundo Rombeiro and his family have been putting together this Christmas house to end all Christmas houses for the past 26 years, and every year it gets bigger and more elaborate.

'Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences

December 3, 2017

'Tis the Season for Science

This winter break, take in some holiday cheer at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Through Sunday, January 7, 2018 you can take in not only classic Cal Academy sights like the giant T-Rex skeleton, aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, and African hall, but special winter-themed programming and attractions as well as part of its annual "'Tis the Season for Science" lineup.

Step into the museum's East Garden and hit the ice on their holiday ice rink, which offers 55-minute skating sessions for visitors this winter. Skating costs $12 ($10 for Academy members) and includes skate rental.

Visit Marin's Amazing Lighted Holiday Houses!

December 2, 2017

Rombeiro Holiday House Novato Marin County Christmas

Perhaps our favorite thing about the holiday season is visiting amazing lighted and decorated holiday houses here in Marin. We've been taking in the displays all of these houses for years, and visiting them again each December is like dropping in to see an old friend. We love to find out what sort of wonderful new displays have been thought up for the season!

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 1, 2 & 3

December 1, 2017

Reindeer Ridge tree farmRide the train and cut down your own Christmas tree at Reindeer Ridge Tree Farm in Sebastopol.

There's also holiday ice skating at numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, as well as opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers. Looking to get a tree this weekend? Check out our article, Marin & Sonoma Christmas Tree Farms & Lots.

Friday, December 1

  • Christmas House at West End Nursery
    San Rafael
    Friday & Saturday, 8 am–5 pm, Sunday 9 am–4 pm

    Get in the holiday spirit and visit the amazing Christmas House at San Rafael's West End Nursery. This magical setting includes lights, decorated trees, and more. It's a holiday must-visit in Marin. Free admission; ornaments and decor are for sale. Location: 1938 5th Avenue. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Ice Skating in Union Square
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–11:30 pm

    Union Square, San Francisco's main shopping district, gets into the ice skating spirit during the holiday season with an outdoor ice rink sponsored by Safeway. 90-minute sessions start on every even hour. Admission: $18 for adults (includes skates), $13 for children 8 and under. Information: (415) 781-2688 or visit their website.
  • Marin Center Holiday Craft and Boutique Sale
    Marin Center, San Rafael
    Friday–Sunday, 11 am–8 pm

    Shop for special holiday gifts. There will be original artworks, crafts, jewelry, woodworks, silk scarves and more by some 35 hand-selected local artists there’s something for everyone on your holiday list. With over 700 items priced from $5 to $250. Free admission. Location: Marin Center Exhibit Hall, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
    Friday, 11 am & Saturday 1 & 4 pm and Sunday, 2 pm

    Bring the family for this beloved Bay Area holiday tradition. ODC/Dance enlivens Margery Williams’ classic tale of a well-worn nursery rabbit that becomes real. Told though music, dance and a powerful narrative, The Velveteen Rabbit celebrates the unique relationship between a little boy and his stuffed rabbit, and the enduring power of love. Tickets range from $15 to $65. For more info, visit their website.
  • 47th Annual Holiday Crafts Fair
    Dance Palace Community and Cultural Center, Pt. Reyes
    Friday, 4–9 pm and Saturday, 10 am–5 pm, Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Vendors will sell their handcrafted treasures—ceramics, chocolates, clothing, fiber arts, glasswork, herbs, metal and woodwork, jams and jellies, jewelry, oils, ornaments, paintings, soaps, toys, and much more. Location: 503 B Street, Point Reyes Station. For more info, visit their website.

Visit a Museum for Free in December

December 1, 2017

Bay Area Discovery MuseumThe Bay Area Discovery Museum is free on the first Wednesday of the month, December 6.

Did you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.

Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing in our ultimate guide to San Francisco Bay Area museum free days below.

Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.

Bank of America Museums on Us—December 2 & 3

Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders get free general admission on the first full weekend of every month. Present your card and a photo ID for admission (one free general admission per cardholder). Get full details here. Participating museums include:

Double-Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

November 30, 2017

Double-chocolate candy cane cookies

These moist and chewy cookies contain plenty of two iconic holiday ingredients: chocolate and candy canes! They're the perfect addition to a holiday cookie platter, and I bet Santa wouldn't turn his nose up to a couple of them on Christmas Eve. If you really want to supercharge the peppermint flavor, replace the vanilla with peppermint extract. My kids think the crushed candy canes on top of these cookies give them plenty of peppermint flavor, so I usually just leave it at that. These are also great made with whole-wheat pastry flour, but plain old all-purpose flour is fine, too.


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