Family Road Trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

November 16, 2014

Monterey Bay AquariumOne of our favorite family getaways is a visit to the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's about a three-hour drive from Marin, making it possible as a day trip, but even better as an overnighter or long weekend with the family.

We loaded up the car and drove down to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium last week, and found it as fun and educational as ever. Fall and winter may even be the bast times to visit, since you can avoid the coastal fog that blankets the area in the summer, and the tourist season crowds have subsided a bit.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, and we're willing to bet that it is. The exhibits reflect the aquarium's mission to research and educate the public about the biodiversity of Monterey Bay and the California coast, and they're fascinating.

Family Fun at the New Presidio Officers' Club in San Francisco

November 15, 2014

Presdio Officers' Club San FranciscoThe Presidio Officers' Club re-opened to the public back in October, and if you haven't had a chance to check it out yet you definitely should put it on your list of things to do with the family! This "new" destination is actually one of California's most historic buildings, with portions dating back over 200 years to when it was created as part of the Spanish colonial El Presidio in 1776.

Once a gathering spot for military officers and their families, the Presidio Officers' Club underwent a $30-million-dollar renovation and now serves as a public space offering fascinating exhibits, fun family activities and public programs, unique works of art, and more. Admission is free, too! We had a chance to visit last weekend, and it's a fantastic destination for families in the Bay Area.

Fall Registration for Shalom Explorers

November 14, 2014

Shalom ExplorersMore Bay Area families are joining together for an exciting learning experience that puts parents in the driver’s seat and offers kids a powerful, fun, and interactive educational environment. Shalom Explorers—a Jewish learning initiative for K–2nd graders that launched last year in Marin, incorporates indoor and outdoor activities based on stories, values, and practices rooted in Jewish tradition.

As a group of Explorer families, parents choose from and customize 34 individual lesson plans. For each learning session, three families choose a role they feel comfortable in—one host, one snack provider, and an educator—and then receive support and materials to carry out the learning journeys for their kids. Parents are transformed from the passive chauffeur dropping off children at a congregation into leading roles in their children's education.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 14, 15 & 16

November 14, 2014
Christmas House at West End Nursery San Rafael
Visit the amazing Christmas House at West End Nursery in San Rafael.

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, November 14

  • Santa Photos at Northgate
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Friday & Saturday, noon–8 pm, Sunday noon–6 pm

    Northgate in San Rafael invites children to visit Santa and have their picture taken with Santa Claus at his winter wonderland house, in the Macy's wing. Individual photos and packages are available. Santa takes breaks from 3–4 pm (2:30–3:30 pm on Sundays). More info:
  • Tam Valley Arts and Crafts Fair
    Tamalpais Valley Community Center
    Friday, 5–9 pm & Saturday, 10 am–3 pm

    Shop for great crafts by local vendors and enjoy crafts for kids and more. Free admission. Location: 203 Marin Avenue, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Fiddler on the Roof
    The Playhouse, San Anselmo
    Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm & Saturday & Sunday, 1 pm

    Fiddler on the Roof, performed by 75 young people from throughout Marin County tells the story of Tevye, who is belabored by the difficult problems of raising and supporting his five daughters in Tsarist Russia. The show features songs like "Sunrise, Sunset," "Tradition," "If I Were A Rich Man," and many more. Tickets: $15. For reservations and ticket information, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit their website.
  • Throckmorton Youth Performers: Seussical the Musical
    142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley
    Friday, 7:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 2 pm

    Based on the splendid works of Dr. Seuss… anything's possible! Tickets: $18 general, $14 students, $45 reserved. Location: 142 Throckmorton Avenue, in downtown Mill Valley. For more info, call (415) 383-9600 or visit their website.

Photos and Breakfast with Santa Claus

November 13, 2014

photos with santa clausIt goes without saying that every Holiday season Santa Claus is an extremely popular guy. He and his small army of little helpers will be making the rounds for photos, breakfasts, and other holiday fun at various shopping centers and other locations in Marin County and beyond. (And of course you'll need to tell him what you want for Christmas, too!)

We make every effort to assure that all listings and hours are as accurate as possible, but occasionally Santa has to take a break to feed the reindeer or tidy up his beard, so make sure to stay on Santa's "nice" list and call or check the venue's website before visiting.

Photos with Santa

  • Santa Photos
    Northgate Mall in San Rafael
    November 14–December 24

    Northgate in San Rafael invites children to visit Santa and have their picture taken with Santa Claus at his winter wonderland house in the Macy's wing. Individual photos and packages are available. Santa will be on hand Monday–Saturday from noon–8 pm, and Sunday from noon–6 pm. Santa takes breaks Monday-Saturday, 3-4 pm Sunday, 2:30–3 pm. More info:
  • Free Pictures with Santa
    Strawberry Village, Mill Valley
    November 22, noon–2 pm

    Get free 4x6 professional photos with Santa and meet Rudolph in the Strawberry Village Piazza on November 22. Also enjoy free face painting and balloon twisting. More info:

Family Holiday Performances at Marin Center

November 11, 2014

Stapleton Ballet Nutcracker at Marin Center this Holiday SeasonYou can always count on finding a variety of wonderful holiday performances for the whole family at Marin Center in San Rafael, and the 2014 season is no exception. There’s definitely something for everyone, so bring the family to one of these Marin holiday classics. Many of these productions sell out early, so order your tickets soon to avoid disappointment.

Marin Center is located off Civic Center Drive at 10 Avenue of the Flags in San Rafael, adjacent to the Marin County Civic Center. It comprises two of Marin County's premier performance venues: the 1,960-seat Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium, which hosts major concerts, performances, and events, and the smaller, more intimate 315-seat Showcase Theater.

For more information on Marin Center, including seating charts, tickets, directions, and a full schedule of events and performances, visit the County of Marin's Cultural Services website.

New Storytelling Series at Marin Waldorf School

November 11, 2014

Marin Waldorf School Storytelling SeriesDo you and your kids love a great story? Come to Marin Waldorf School on Tuesday afternoons for their new Storytelling Series!

Stories are presented by Marin Waldorf's preschool and kindergarten faculty, and take place in the school's warm and welcoming classrooms. Stories are appropriate for children ages 3 to 6. Best of all, this program is open to the public and free of charge!

Storytelling Series programs take place from 3:30 to 4 pm on the following Tuesdays: November 11 and December 16, 2014 and January 16, February 3, and March 24, 2015. Please arrive early, as stories begin promptly at 3:30 pm. The first story, on November 11, is A Caterpillar's Voice.

Marin Waldorf School is located at 755 Idylberry Road in the Lucas Valley–Marinwood area of San Rafael. To get there, take Highway 101 to the Lucas Valley Road exit and head west on Lucas Valley Road. Turn right onto Miller Creek Road, then left onto Idylberry Road. Marin Waldorf School will be on your left.

Create a Cute Pumpkin Turkey Centerpiece for Thanksgiving

November 11, 2014

Pumpkin turkey centerpiece craftEvery fall, my daughter is obsessed with pumpkins. She loves all the different shapes and sizes of pumpkins and winter squash, so we end up buying more than we can really use (there's only so much butternut squash soup and pumpkin pie you can eat).

A couple years ago we worked together to create this cute pumpkin turkey centerpiece for Thanksgiving. We've made it a tradition to make one every year! We created it using a small “sugar pie” pumpkin (available at most grocery stores—we got ours at Trader Joe's for $1.99) and craft supplies that we happened to have on hand.

This is a fun autumn project that’s easy to make for children of all ages (with a parent's help), and it looks fanstastic on the dining table. My kids and I like to write what we're thankful for on the paper tail feathers, too.

To help you out, we made a template for the turkey head, wings and feathers, that you can download here; it's formatted for a standard 8.5 x 11-inch letter size sheet of paper.

Healthy Slow-Cooker White Bean Soup with Ham

November 10, 2014

Slow cooker ham and bean soupThis healthy and tasty white bean soup with ham is a hit with everyone in our family. It's also a breeze to make; one of those slow-cooker recipes that's truly easy.

Put everything in the slow cooker in the morning, set it on "low" and walk away. Then come back later to dish up a delicious hearty soup at dinnertime, one that's perfect for these chilly winter evenings. It freezes well, too.

This version includes smoked ham, which you could easily leave out for a vegeterian or vegan version.

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