Inexpensive and Fun Summer Kids' Activities in and around Marin

June 16, 2015

kids swimming summerSummer vacation is finally here, and it's time to start thinking of fun and affordable ways to keep the kids occupied now that they're finally out of school. Fortunately, parents in Marin County will find plenty for kids to do!

Here are a dozen ideas for great affordable summer activities and outings in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. From hiking to swimming to movies to farm tours, everything listed here is either free or inexpensive. You don't have to break the bank to have a great time!

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken

June 15, 2015

Grilled Mediterranean chickenSummer means it's time to fire up the grill and cook something delicious for dinner. One of the hardest things to cook on the grill is whole chicken. It's too easy to end up with a birds that's charred on the outside and underdone on the inside, but I think this technique is almost foolproof and results in a perfectly cooked chicken every time. It also speeds up the cooking time.

I like to marinate the chicken for a few hours—or overnight, if I'm thinking ahead—in a citrusy, herb-laded mixture that's full of great Mediterranean flavors. I can't say that it's purely Greek or Italian, but it uses flavors common in each cuisine. It helps to have an herb garden just steps from the kitchen door, too!

Feel free to vary this recipe to suit your taste. For example, I sometimes replace the oregano with fresh chopped rosemary for something equally delicious. Whatever variation I decide on, this is one of my go-to dishes for a summer cookout.

In addition to your standard grilling tools, you'll need a heavy weight to press down on the chicken while it's cooking. A cast iron skillet or even a brick wrapped in aluminum foil works great.


for the marinade

Kids' Summer Movie Clubhouse in Marin

June 15, 2015

Summer Movie Clubhouse Rowland Plaza NovatoThis summer, Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse offers fun weekly summer movies for kids at the bargain price of only $1 per show. You can even purchase a punch card admitting you to 10 movies for only $5! 10-show discount punch cards are limited in quantity and must be purchased in advance at the theater box office or online at All shows take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am.

All films are rated G or PG. For more info, visit their website. (Make sure you download the Summer Movie Clubhouse flyer for a $1-off coupon for a kids' Movie Snack Pack at the concession stand.)

All shows in Marin take place at the Century Rowland Plaza at 44 Rowland Way in Novato. Here's the schedule for this summer (all films start at 10 am):

Splash, Play, and Learn at the Rolling Hills Club Summer Camps

June 14, 2015

Rolling Hills Club Summer CampStill looking for a fun camp for your kids this summer? Novato's Rolling Hills Club has been a favorite spot for summer fun for many Marin families for decades, and this season the club offers a full program of exciting and active summer camps for kids ranging in age from 3 to 13.

Nestled at the foot of Mt. Burdell, the club's seven-acre campus features two outdoor swimming pools, 12 tennis courts, two racquetball courts, an outdoor sports court, an outdoor playground, grassy fields for outdoor play, and more—making it the ideal place for the perfect summer experience. Summer camps at Rolling Hills Club for 2015 include:

  • Sports & Splash Camp for ages 5–12, features fun weekly themes like "Alice in Wonderland", "Fantastical Beasts", and "Night at the Museum". Campers will be divided by age into Rookies (5), All Stars (ages 6 and 7), and Pros (ages 8 and 9), and will play basketball, tennis, soccer, and wild and wacky games. Of course swimming, in the form of free swim or group lessons, is offered every day, too. Campers receive a T-shirt, as well as healthy snacks and lunch each day. Weekly sessions run from June 15–August 14, Monday–Friday, 9 am–4 pm. $320 members/$370 guests per week, or $70/$80 per day for drop-in.

All Aboard for a Day Out With Thomas!

June 14, 2015

Day Out With Thomas at Roaring Camp Railroads.Is your child a Thomas the Tank Engine fanatic? If so, your chance to experience all things Thomas & Friends and even take a ride on a train drawn by Thomas the Tank Engine himself is coming this summer! Tickets are on sale now for Day Out With Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015, which takes place over two weekends on July 24–26 and August 1–2 at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

You can take a train ride, meet Sir Topham Hatt, enjoy live music, play in a bounce house, take in some storytelling, get a (temporary) Thomas & Friends tattoo, and even watch videos. There's something for everyone. Of course there are also plenty of ways available to separate you from your cash, with just about every conceivable Thomas & Friends product available for sale.

Date Night Yoga with Loren Altura at Pomegranate

June 13, 2015

Pomegranate Altar Marin Mommies presents a sponsored shout-out from San Anselmo's Pomegranate Prenatal Yoga & Parent Center.

Parents, get a sitter with a free $15 babysitting credit from UrbanSitter!

Love Me Like You Do

A unique way to share the love and connection in an intimate candlelit setting. Unwind and de-stress in this evening class while igniting the heat and passion from within. Bond with your partner in Loren's fun Vinyasa flow, partner poses, and deluxe savasana. Cheese and wine tasting after class.

  • Friday, June 19, 6:30–8:30 pm

Marin Family Weekend Fun for June 12, 13 & 14

June 12, 2015

Heart's Desire Beach 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, June 12

  • Children's Garden Series: Ka-Hon
    Children's Garden at 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. What’s in that box, you ask? In the hands of Ka-Hon, a gentle spring shower, a flamenco troupe, a galloping stallion, and a rumba circle. Drawing on a pan-American array of rhythms, the high-energy ensemble displays the astounding versatility of the humble cajón, a simple wooden box usually played by a percussionist seated atop it. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Night Jazz: Jeff Derby Quartet
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Friday, 6–9 pm

    Enjoy live music on Fridays in the Marin Country Mart courtyard! This Friday, saxophonist/pianist, composer, and educator Jeff Derby. 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). For more info, call (415) 289-4100 or visit their website.
  • Film Night in the Park: The LEGO Movie (PG)
    Contrati Ball Field, Fairfax
    Friday, 8 pm

    Kick off the Fairfax Festival with a free outdoor screening of The LEGO Movie (PG) in Fairfax's Contrati Field. Show time is 8 pm, but arrive an hour early for music, a raffle, and a cartoon. Bring your picnic, blankets, and low-backed lawn chairs. Popcorn, candy, and sodas available for sale. For more information, visit their website.

Saturday, June 13

  • Family Bird Walk at Olompali
    Olompali State Historic Park, Novato
    Saturday, 8:30 am–noon

    Celebrate the season with the birds of Olompali. Beginning and experienced birders are invited to join leaders Rich Cimino and Janet Bodle of Yellowbilled Tours to view Olompali's diverse avian residents as we walk the ranch road pas the park's reservoir. Perfect for the family. Cost: $8 per car-event is free. Location: new park entrance from Atherton/Redwood Blvd., Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy the best local and organic produce, flowers, pastured meats, seafood, organic cheeses, yogurt and milk, breads, baked goods, pasta, confections, olive oil, and brunch and lunch offerings! Kids can take a pony ride and visit the petting zoo (10 am–2 pm), try out some arts and crafts (9 am–2 pm) and listen to family music (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Hobby Expo 2015
    Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 9:30 am–4 pm

    The 2015 Hobby Expo offers displays and demonstrations from a dozen Sonoma County hobby clubs. There will be model railroads, RC planes, ships and cars, battling robots, war gaming and RC car racing. Plus, over 40 vendor tables, a huge raffle, Make & Take for the kids, and the ever-popular "Speed Building" contest. Location: 50 Mark West Springs Rd, Santa Rosa. For more info, visit their website.
  • Novato Festival of Art, Wine and Music
    Downtown Novato
    Saturday, 10 am–7 pm & Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

    The Novato Festival of Art, Wine, and Music is a perfect blend of unique handcrafted art, regional vintage wines, award-winning micro brews, and gourmet foods, and first-rate live music. Festival goers of all ages love the youth activities, including guided art projects, train rides, climbing wall, petting zoo, bounce houses, jumbo slides, and a dunk tank. Select artists specialize in children's books, toys, gifts, clothing and accessories. For more info, visit their website.
  • Civil War Days
    Angel Island State Park
    Saturday, 10 am–4 pm & Sunday, 10 am–3 pm

    Angel Island State Park invites you to step back in time and experience an 1860’s Union Army post during the Civil War. Witness mock battles, cannon firings, and musket demonstrations, chat with military and civilian reenactors, and even help bake bread in the camp ovens. Free. For more info, visit their website.
  • The 61st Annual North Beach Festival
    North Beach, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday 10 am–6 pm

    This event will feature over 125 arts and crafts booths, 20 gourmet food booths, three stages of live entertainment, Italian street painting, beverage gardens, children's activities and the blessing of the animals. Let your kids' creativity shine in North Beach and buy a square and street chalk at the kids' chalk art area on Vallejo Street between Grant and Columbus from 10 am–6 pm both days. For more info, visit their website.
  • WildCare Family Adventures
    Richardson Bay Audubon Center, Tiburon
    Saturday, 10 am–12:30 pm

    Enjoy a free day of discovery and learning out in nature with the family. WildCare naturalists will lead fun family outings with the objective of deepening our commitment to taking care of the planet. Location: 376 Greenwood Beach Rd, Tibruron. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Junior Chef Classes: I ♥ Zoku
    Williams-Sonoma, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 10 am

    Join us for some frosty Zoku fun! The amazing Zoku products turn out everything from quick and easy pops to slushies and ice cream. If you’d like, you can preorder your choice of a Zoku pop maker, slushie maker or ice cream maker. We’ll have it frozen and ready for you to create a cool work of art. Suitable for ages 5–13.
    Call the store to reserve your spot (415) 924-6799. Location: The Village at Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • The 38th Annual Fairfax Festival
    Fairfax Pavilion
    Saturday, 10 am-6 pm & Sunday, 11 am-6 pm

    Come hear great local music at three stages, shop for crafts and flea market treasures, enjoy fresh, wholesome food, beer, organic wine tasting, entertain the kids in the expanded children’s area, and ponder social and environmental issues at the Ecofest. Free. For more info, visit their website.
  • Presidio Kite Expo
    Presidio, San Franicsco
    Saturday, noon–5 pm

    Let your imagination soar at this colorful, family-friendly festival featuring all things kite. The artistry, diversity, and FUN of modern flying will take your breath away! The free, all-day event features Kite Making Pavilion, Giant Creature Kites, food trucks, picnics and more. Location: Presidio of San Francisco, Main Parade Ground. For more info, visit their website.

Savor the Taste of Summer with Strawberry Lemonade

June 11, 2015

Strawberry lemonadeThe warm days of summer call for something cool and refreshing to drink, and my family thinks this homemade strawberry lemonade fits the bill perfectly. The combination of sweet berries and tart lemons makes for a truly special summertime treat.

It's easier to make than you think, and it's much better than the stuff you get from a bottle or can. Plus, you have the added assurance of knowing exactly what goes into it.

You don't have to use strawberries, either—other sweet summer berries like blueberries or blackberries are also equally delicious. Any way you make it, it's fantastic!

Hit the Trail at Indian Valley Open Space Preserve

June 9, 2015

Indian Valley Open Space PreserveOne of the great things about living in Marin is the amount of easily accessible open space. Almost everyone has at least one trailhead right around the corner, so there's no excuse not to take the family on an outdoor excursion whenever possible. One of the most popular areas for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and more in northern Marin is Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Novato.

Located adjacent to the College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus, this 885-acre preserve is criss-crossed by a wide variety of trails, most shaded by oaks and California bay laurels, making it a pleasant place to go for a hike on a hot day. During various times of the year you can find a waterfall, wildflowers, and peaceful Pacheco pond, which is often teeming with wildlife like toads, frogs, fish, and newts. It's a popular destination for school groups studying our ecosystem.

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