Watching the Fireworks in Marin

June 26, 2015

For families with young children, the ritual of watching 4th of July fireworks can be a little inconvenient. Babies and toddlers are often scared of the noise (if you're close enough to hear), the summer sunset at around 9 pm means most kids are up way past their bedtime. It's even worse if you decide to wake them out of a deep sleep in time to see the fireworks (trust me, I've been there). Nothing's quite as crabby and grumpy as an overtired child, no matter how great the fireworks are.

With this in mind, we've sought out places to watch the fantastic fireworks display at the Marin County Fair that don't involve leaving the car, so the little ones can doze in peace. Obviously you can just pay your $17 and go to the fair, but again, if you've got two sleeping children in the car, this isn't going to work. Neither is driving over near the fair—it's hard to see anything from the area along Civic Center Drive, and the resulting post-fireworks gridlock around the fairgrounds is pretty miserable.

On a friend's suggestion, we checked out a fireworks viewing spot up at the Unitarian Universalist Church parking lot, which is on Channing Way off Professional Center Parkway in Terra Linda. It's potetentially ideal, situated on a hill that overlooks the Marin County Fairgrounds. This wasn't bad, but the number of places where you could actually see anything was pretty limited and it became obvious that we weren't the only people there to see the fireworks—it's a pretty popular spot. Those people who could find a spot where they could see through the trees were treated to a spectacular view, though.

Italian Street Painting Marin Returns to San Rafael with Carnevale di Venezia

June 25, 2015

Italian Street Painting MarinOver 100 street painters and dozens of mask makers come to downtown San Rafael on June 27 and 28 to show off their talents at the 2015 Italian Street Painting Marin's Carnevale di Venezia. Be transported to Venice during Carnevale, a time of elaborate maskes, costumes, and the unexpected! This event features amazing artwork by the participating madonnari, as well as great live music, children's activities, Italian food and drink, and more.

Kids can create their own street paintings at the popular Children's Avenue. 2x2-foot squares and chalk are available for purchase for children ages 2 to 12 to get creative and become madonnarii themselves!

Musical entertainment at Italian Street Painting Marin includes slack and steel guitar by Ken Emerson, the Lorin Rowan Trio, Midnight North, Good Karma Jazz Ensemble, Corinne West, and others. A Parade of Costumes featuring models in Venetian cloaks wearing spectacular masks and costumes will take place during the festival, too. The EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases Gallery will present two exhibits: children's and adult's mask-making competition entries and samples of art from the EveryLife Foundation's RareArtist Contest, which showcases art made by those touched by rare diseases and gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the Foundation's work.

On With the Show at the Marin County Fair 2015

June 23, 2015

Marin County FairThe Marin County Fair opens Wednesday, July 1, at the County Fairgrounds in San Rafael, near the Marin Civic Center. This year's Marin County Fair theme is "On With the Show."

This year, the Fair celebrates the STEM to STEAM concept, combining the arts with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to present events that are fun for the entire family. Highlights include the imaginative and innovative entertainment from Two Bit Circus, whose toolbox includes fire, lasers, and robots, as well as the interactive LEGOJEEP, an ex-USPS jeep covered in LEGO panels that will inspire visitors of all ages to get creative. Also appearing at the Fair will be Something Ridiculous, a high-energy juggling and acrobatic act, the Amazing Bubble Man, and Stars of the Peking Acrobats.

Of course there are also the more traditional fair offerings like farm animal exhibits and demonstrations and Great American pig racing in the barnyard, free (with fair admission) rides and carnival games—including the 10-story Giant Wheel and the Marin Clean Energy solar-powered carousel, appearances by the ever-popular Imperial Storm Troopers of the 501st Legion Golden Gate Garrison (from noon–7 pm daily at the Marin Galactic Outpost in the Exhibit Hall), fantastic concerts, short films and videos, demonstrations on the Blue Ribbon Stage, over 13,500 exhibits, and the Fair's biggest and most elaborate fireworks display ever, presented nightly over the lagoon at 9:30 pm.

Six Sensational Summer Hikes for Families in Marin

June 23, 2015

Sky Oaks and Lake LagunitasIt's summer, school's out, and there's no better time to experience the outdoors in Marin County. Gather up the kids, lace up those hiking boots, fill your water bottles (very important in the summer heat!), slather on the sunscreen, and hit the trail.

All of these hikes are easy enough for everyone in the family to tackle, and many are manageable with an sturdy jogging-style stroller. We've included our favorite summer hikes from all parts of Marin.

Follow the links in the titles to read more about each hike. You can also visit our Outdoors page for more ideas for family hikes and outdoor adventures this summer.

Sky Oaks and Lake Lagunitas
Sky Oaks trailhead outside of Fairfax offers numerous opportunities for fantastic family hikes. Take a stroll around Lake Lagunitas or along the shores of Bon Tempe Lake. An abundance of flat, easy fire roads and trails and a shady picnic area make this a popular spot for family outdoor outings.

Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Fair Starts This Week

June 22, 2015

Sonoma-Marin FairSummertime is fair time, and the first fair of the season is Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Fair, which takes place at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds from Wednesday June 24 through Sunday, June 28. The Sonoma-Marin Fair is not quite but almost a county fair, and offers a wide range of fun and exciting attractions, competitions, events, and activities for the entire family.

This year's theme is "Only at the Fair", and you'll find plenty of family fun including carnival rides with a kiddie carnival for younger children, pig races, a safari adventure, "Agventure Land" for agricultural fun, strolling clowns, jugglers, and silly characters, and artst and crafts and a petting zoo at Clo's Kids Corner. You'll also find livestock shows, agricultural exhibits, chef demonstrations, a destruction derby, and more. Of course the fair's famous World's Ugliest Dog Contest, will take place, too!

And what would a fair be without great live music? The Sonoma-Marin Fair has numerous musical acts on its schedule, including the Beach Boys, Tower of Power, and Tanya Tucker. All concerts are free with fair admission and begin at 8 pm.

Hawaiian Style BBQ Short Ribs

June 22, 2015

Hawaiian style short ribsThese marinated and grilled short ribs are the perfect thing for a summer backyard BBQ. They only take a few minutes to make and cook (outside of the marinating time), and the sweet-salty soy sauce-based Hawaiian marinade delivers a taste of the islands without having to get on a plane.

You can serve these short ribs in classic Hawaiian plate lunch style, accompanied by two scoops of rice and macaroni salad, but we opted to be a little healthier and make an island-style sesame-cabbage slaw that has added texture from crumbled dry instant ramen noodles.

You'll want to get Hawaiian-style—also called Maui- or flanken-style—short ribs, which are cut in thin strips across the bone. These don't need to be marinated all that long, and only need to be grilled a few minutes on each side. The marinade works great with chicken or pork, too.


for the ribs

Weekend Family-friendly Fun for June 19, 20 & 21

June 20, 2015

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

Friday, June 19

  • Children's Garden Series: The Red Panda Acrobats
    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. Combining exceptional athletic skills, traditional Chinese music, dazzling costumes, and a fast-paced show sure to amaze viewers of all ages, the Red Panda Acrobats bring the ancient art of Chinese acrobatics into the 21st century with jaw-dropping displays of strength, balance, and dexterity. For more info, visit their website.
  • Father Son BBQ
    Corte Madera Community Center
    Friday,  6:30–9 pm

    Have fun at the Father Son BBQ at the Corte Madera Community Center. This event features games, activities, and a BBQ. Cost: $20 per person. Location: For more info, visit their website.
  • Jazz & Blues by the Bay
    Gabrielson Park, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Jazz & Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in Sausalito is a free event. Lawn seating available (first-come first-served). This Friday: Mitch Wood and his Rocket 88's. Sponsored by Sausalito Sister City Committee. For more info, call (415) 289-4100 or visit their website.
  • Tam Valley's 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 Friday, The 85's will be performing. Food available for purchase. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.

Saturday, June 20

  • 11th Annual Flea Market
    Mill Valley Community Center
    Saturday, 9 am–3 pm

    Find new treasures and collectibles at bargain prices, plus the Mill Valley Seniors' Club will sell a variety of foods, drinks, snacks and delicious homemade take-home goodies! Location: 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Father's Day Weekend Fishing Derby
    Paradise Beach Park, Tiburon
    Saturday, 9 am–1 pm

    Spend the day with Dad at Paradise Beach Park in Tiburon for the Father's Day Weekend Fishing Derby. Prizes awarded for biggest fish, first fish, and heaviest fish! No fishing license required when fishing from the pier. Free. A limited number of fishing poles and bait will be provided to beginners on a first-come, first-served basis. For more info, visit their website.
  • Northern California Pirate Festival
    Vallejo Waterfront
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

    Avast, mateys! The Northern California Pirate Festival takes place at the Vallejo waterfront this weekend. The festival features piratical music and entertainment, sword fighting, vendors, and food, plus a special children's area with a 30-foot slide, special shows, contests, and the Children's School of Piracy. Tickets: $10 adults; children 11 and under free with paid adult admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Francisco Bay Area Birth & Baby Fair
    San Mateo Event Center
    Saturday, 10 am–4 pm

    Don’t miss this amazing shopping event for new and expecting parents in the Bay Area. The Birth & Baby Fair showcases local businesses and resources as well as independent designers with the aim to educate and expose new and expecting parents and young families to unique and beneficial products and services. General admission is $10 at the door. Children 18 and under are free. Location: 2495 South Delaware Street, San Mateo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Dave the Horn Guy
    Fairfax Library
    Saturday, 11 am
    Dave the Horn guy explains THE ELEMENTS OF MUSIC and THE PHYSICS OF SOUND to ages 4 and up. Instead of regular storytime. Location: 2097 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Fairfax. For more info, visit their website.

Strawberry Yogurt Sorbet Is a Healthy and Sweet Summer Treat

June 20, 2015

strawberry yogurt sorbet cone Who doesn't love a sweet, refreshing, frozen treat during the summertime? Make it a little more healthy with sweet fresh strawberries and tangy Greek yogurt. You don't even need an ice cream maker to make this dessert.

It's fantastic scooped into a cone or frozen into ice pop molds—whatever tickles your fancy this summer. My kids and I made this sorbet with fresh strawberries that we picked up at the farmers market.

While our recipe calls for strawberries, you can use whatever fresh berries you happen to have. Frozen berries work perfectly well, too, so you can make this at any time of year. You can also feel free to substitute low-fat yogurt, but do try to use extra thick Greek yogurt; it makes a difference.


Awesome Spots For a Father's Day Picnic

June 18, 2015

This Sunday is Father's Day, and the weather is fabulous! Pack a picnic and celebrate Dad's day outdoors at one of the many great picnic spots in and around Marin and Sonoma County. Here are some of our favorite places to bring our lunch (or brunch) and dine al fresco. If you want some more ideas for fantastic Father's Day activities and outings, read our article here.

  • Bear Valley in the Point Reyes National Seashore is home to the park's visitor center as well as a large picnic area complete with tables, restrooms, charcoal grills,  and drinking water. Have a leisurely lunch outdoors, and then take a hike—there are a number of different hikes and walks you can do here that are suitable for everyone in the family, including the Earthquake Trail, the Bear Valley Trail, and the trail leading to the Morgan horse ranch. Read more about Bear Valley in our article here.
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