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

December 4, 2016

 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 24 years, and every year it gets bigger and more outrageous.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 2, 3 & 4

December 2, 2016

Sebastopol Christmas Tree FarmCheck out our guide to North Bay Christmas tree farms and lots here.

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 and to visit Marin's amazing lighted holiday houses! 

Friday, December 2

  • Great Dickens Christmas Fair
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    The Dickens Fair runs on weekends through December 20. Experience Victorian London with hundreds of costumed players, shops offering one-of-a-kind gifts and Christmas treasures, dining, and pubs. Meet Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Jules Verne, David Copperfield, Charles Darwin, and 700 costumed characters. Of course, Father Christmas himself will be on hand to join in the fun. Purchase tickets here. 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: $11 for adults, 7 children 8 and under. Skate rental $6. 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

    Join us for some holiday cheer and shop artfully at the Marin Center’s Holiday Craft and Art Fair. With 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, you can take home something special for the art lovers in your family while supporting the true creative culture of Marin! Shop till you drop and support your local artists! 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 $75. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin on Ice
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Friday, 2
    –10 pm, Saturday, noon–10 pm, Sunday, noon–9 pm
    This Saturday, Marin on Ice opens for another season of outdoor ice skating at San Rafael's Northgate Mall, where it runs through January 11. Marin's only holiday ice skating rink features 6,300 square feet of real ice and will be open daily for outdoor skating. Skating is $15 per person, which includes skate rental. Private ice cabanas will also be available for rental and "Skate Buddies" are available for beginners. For more info, visit their website.
  • Presidio Community Tree Lighting
    San Francisco Presidio Main Post
    Friday, 5:30–7 pm
    Light the tree and sing holiday classics along with the Golden Gate Carolers. Light refreshments and kids activities will follow in the Presidio Community YMCA gymnasium (63 Funston Avenue). After the tree lighting, don’t miss the lantern-lit evening forest walk, which will start at 6:15 pm. Meet in the Presidio Community YMCA gym. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Crafts Faire
    Margaret Todd Senior Center, Novato
    Friday. 6–9 pm and Saturday, 10 am–4 pm
    Shop for handmade holiday crafts at Novato's Margaret Todd Senior Center. Free admission. Location: 1560 Hill Road, Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Dickens Family Victorian Holiday Party
    Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 6:30 pm

    Partake in a holiday treat as you go back in time to Victorian England and meet Charles Dickens, listen to him read from his famous works, watch his characters come alive (look out for Scrooge), meet and greet the true Father Christmas, play Victorian parlor games, dance and sing with our Victorian family and make traditional holiday crafts. Light food and drink will be served. A true family event. Tickets: $12 adults, $9 children. Order tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online here. Location: 1408 Mission Avenue, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Berkeley Playhouse: Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 1 & 7 pm, Sunday, 2 pm

    The Disney (and Broadway!) favorite gets the Berkeley Playhouse makeover as founding Associate Artistic Director Kimberly Dooley helms this all new production featuring a diverse and multigenerational cast of dozens. Featuring some of Disney’s most popular songs and characters, you won’t want to miss this magical musical adventure guaranteed to delight audiences of all ages. Location: 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley. Tickets: $25–40. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, December 3

  • Polar Express Train Ride
    Santa Cruz
    Saturday & Sunday, various times

    The Polar Express Train Ride departs from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, complete with dancing chefs, singing elves, and a special gift from Santa Claus himself—a silver sleigh bell. Don't forget to wear your pajamas while you enjoy cookies, hot chocolate, and a reading of The Polar Express while on board. First-class tickets still available for rides this weekend. For more info and tickets, call (877) 726-7245 or visit their website.

ARTifact Opens New Art School in Downtown Corte Madera

December 1, 2016

ARTifact Corte MaderaMarin Mommies presents a sponsored shout-out from ARTifact in Corte Madera.

ARTifact, a local leading children’s art school, has expanded to a new location in downtown Corte Madera, at 121 Corte Madera Avenue. The children’s art school has been operating in San Francisco for over seven years, serving thousands of students and families from around the Bay Area. “Many families live north of the city, so it was a natural decision to open the second location in the heart of Marin County” says Lauren Sharp, the founder.

The Corte Madera location will offer the same art enrichment programs that ARTifact has become known for: weekly Art Exploration programs for kids Pre-K/Preschool (2.5–6 years old) and After-School programs for K–12 (6–12 years old). The team of teachers also plans to host Summer Camps later in the year.

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Petaluma

December 1, 2016

Larsen's Tree Farm Petaluma

If you want to have the experience of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree, you're going to have to pack up the family truckster and head north on Highway 101 to visit our neighbors in Sonoma County. There, you'll find a selection of Christmas tree farms mostly concentrated in the rural areas of western Petaluma and Sebastopol.

We made our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving trip to the three Christmas tree farms located in Petaluma—Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms 1 and 2 and Larsen's Christmas Tree Farm—to see what they had to offer this season. There's nothing that gets you in the holiday spirit more than visiting a tree farm. Did I mention that they're great places for holiday photo ops, too? You can also check out our rundown on the tree farms further north in Sebastopol.

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Sebastopol

November 30, 2016

Garlock Tree Farm in SebastopolGarlock Tree Farm in Sebastopol

It's time to think about getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite any inconvenience.

For the hopeless holiday romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and it's usually a lot of fun, too. Those annual trips to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories, and now it's a tradition with my own family

There aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago), so to get the real Christmas tree farm experience you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms are clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

Marin Holiday Craft & Art Fairs 2016

November 30, 2016

Craft and art fairs abound at this time of year, allowing you to find great unique and often handmade holiday gifts. Here's our guide to holiday craft and art fairs in Marin County this winter. Many fairs also offer live music and performances, food and drink, and activities for the kiddos, so make a day of it!

Marin Center Holiday Craft and Boutique Sale

Marin Center, San Rafael
December 1–4, 11 am–8 pm
Free admission

Join us for some holiday cheer and shop artfully at the Marin Center’s Holiday Craft and Art Fair. With 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, you can take home something special for the art lovers in your family while supporting the true creative culture of Marin! Shop till you drop and support your local artists! Location: Marin Center Exhibit Hall, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

Visit Marin's Amazing Lighted Holiday Houses!

November 29, 2016

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 & Sonoma Christmas Tree Farms & Lots 2016

November 29, 2016

Christmas tree farm

For many families, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to get or to start thinking about getting their Christmas tree. For many, there's no better way to get a tree than to take the trip to one of the many North Bay Christmas tree farms and cut one down themselves! If playing lumberjack isn't your thing, there are plenty of local lots in Marin that offer quality trees for your holiday.

We've linked to our Christmas tree farm reviews where appropriate. Keep in mind that many of our Christmas tree farm reviews were written last year or earlier and some information may be out of date. We'll be hitting the road to check out this year's Christmas tree farms in person, so make sure you check back for updates.

Although we make every effort to make sure our information is up to date, please keep in mind that Christmas tree farms and lots do go out of business (there used to be many more in Petaluma and Sebastopol, and even one in Olema), and may be closed due to weather or other conditions. Make sure you call, email, or check their website before you go.

Marin County Christmas Tree Lots

There aren't any cut-it-down-yourself Christmas tree farms in Marin, although there are a number of well known Christmas tree lots where you can pick out that perfect tree and immerse yourself in that holiday spirit. Here are some of our favorite Christmas tree lots (if you have your own favorite you'd like to share with us, let us know).

Cousins' Christmas Trees

7416B Redwood Boulevard, Novato 94945
Daily, 9 am–8 pm
This family-run Christmas tree lot in Novato offers quality Noble, Douglas, and Grand firs, as well as wreaths, garlands, and other holiday products. Cousins' also offers a goat petting zoo; arts and crafts; bake sales; free hot cider, cookies, candy canes; visits with Santa on select weekends; and more. Cousins' Christmas Trees is partnering with Novato School Fuel, the foundation that supports Novato public schools. Open daily starting November 25 from 9 am to 8 pm. They're at 7416B Redwood Boulevard in Novato (next to Chianti restaurant). More info at www.cousinschristmastrees.com or (415) 250-6117.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Best Kids' Books of 2016 from Diesel

November 29, 2016

A Most Magical GirlThe holidays are here, and great books always make fantastic gifts for kids! Clare Doornbos, the children's book expert at Diesel bookstore in Larkspur, saves us all a lot of time and stress by highlighting her picks for best kids' books of 2016.

You can join Clare for storytime at the bookstore every Thursday morning at 10:30 am, where she reads classics, new kids' books, and hidden treasures. It's perfect for families with children 5 and under. Diesel is located in Marin Country Mart at 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur. For more information about Diesel and a complete schedule of events, visit www.dieselbookstore.com/larkspur or call the store at (415) 785-8177.

Younger Picture Books (ages 0–4)

Touch Think Learn ABC by Xavier Deneux
A modern graphical alphabet book with luxurious thick board pages. What makes this book so extraordinary are the cut-outs from one page which correspond with a raised part of the facing page. It's almost like a pop-up book for the very young.

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