Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 12, 13 & 14

December 12, 2014
The Rombeiros' Christmas House
Visit the Rombeiro's Christmas House in Novato this weekend.

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.

There's also holiday ice skating at numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers, and amazing decorated holiday houses. Also, check out our North Bay Christmas Tree Farms and Lots article.

Friday, December 12

  • Snow Days Family Fundraiser
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Friday-Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Bundle up the whole family and come to the museum's newest family fundraiser: Snow Days. Explore the museum transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with REAL SNOW! Young museum visitors will enjoy playing in the snow, learning the science of snow, and participating in special winter-themed activities and programs. It’s sure to be a fantastically frozen good time. Tickets: Members $10; General $15. Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Fort Baker, Sausalito. For more info, call (415) 339-3900 or visit their website.
  • San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
    War Memorial Opera House

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 & 7 pm
    San Francisco Ballet’s awe-inspiring production is like no other, with colorful, larger-than-life scenery, over 200 dazzling costumed characters, and of course Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Performances of Nutcracker begin on Friday, December 12 and run through December 29. Ticket prices start at $26. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or  visit their website.
  • Marinwood's WinterFest Family Event
    Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 5–7 pm
    Come celebrate the holiday season at Marinwood's annual WinterFest! Ticket prices include: photos with Santa, arts and crafts, face painting, bounce house, holiday treats, live music and more... Tickets: $10 in advance kids ages 2–12, $12 at the door. Adults are free! Location: 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Zoo Lights Preview
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5–8 pm

    As a warm up for the full-on fun of Zoo Lights, the zoo is extending hours for these special weekend nights in December. Come enjoy the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights. Shop at the all-new Holiday Marketplace, see the reindeer romp, enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa at Cafe Playfield, and hum along to seasonal music as you play in the Elinor Friend Playground. Adults $5, kids 14 and under $5, kids 3 and under: free. For more information, visit their website.
  • Le Petit Cirque de Noël
    Marin County Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Friday–Sunday, 6–7:15 pm

    Let Petit Cirque de Noël presents A Magic Box under the Big Tent at Marin Country Mart. Tickets: free for children age 18 and under; $15 adults. Tickets required for seating and can be purchased at the Trading Post or on Brown Paper Tickets. To reserve tickets, call the Trading Post at (415) 448-5043. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, December 13

  • Breakfast with Santa
    Ross Valley Fire Station, San Anselmo
    Saturday, 8 am
    & 10 am
    Bring the family to the annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Ross Valley Fire Station. There will also be a toy drive so be sure to bring a toy! Limited seating. Tickets: $6 children, $8 adults in advance or $8 and $10 adult at the door. Register by calling (415) 258-4640. Location: 777 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo. For more info, call (415) 258-4600 or visit their website.
  • Breakfast with Santa
    San Rafael Community Center
    Saturday, 8:30 am & 10 am

    Breakfast with Santa features pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice, milk, coffee and a surprise treat from Santa! Two seatings: 8:30am (doors open at 8:15 am, barcode: 22661) and 10 am (doors open at 10 am, barcode: 22662). Cost: $5 children, $7 seniors/adults. Pre-registration is required; please specify seating time when registering. Share the joy by bringing a can of food to donate to the Marin Community Food Bank. Location: 618 B Street, San Rafael. For more info call (415) 485-3333 or  visit their website.
  • Holiday Fun at the Farmer's Market
    Marin County Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm
    This holiday celebration will be packed with fun family-friendly activities, including writing and sending a letter to Santa, complimentary photos with Santa, children's entertainment, holiday cookie decorating, pony rides, face painting, and seasonal music and caroling. Snack on festive holiday treats and beverages, including savory toddies for adults, Hoppy Holidaze Christmas Ale from Marin Brewing Co. and warm apple cider. In addition to a great selection of farmers' market organic produce, pastured meats, artisan cheeses, baked goods, nuts, jams, confections, wreaths and holiday flowers, you can also shop for unique farm inspired locally made arts and crafts. Donations of gently used and new toys will be accepted. For more info, visit their website.
  • Breakfast with Santa
    Belvedere Community Center
    Saturday, 9–10:30 am
    Music, crafts, a tasty breakfast, and a visit with the Big Man! Photo opportunity with Santa, so bring your camera. Cost: $15 per person. Please call (415) 435-4355 for reservations. Reserve your seats in advance as space is limited and tickets will not be available at the door. Location: 450 San Rafael Avenue, Belvedere. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bookmarks Annual Teddy Bear Tea
    Belvedere-Tiburon Library
    Saturday & Sunday, 9:30 am, 10:30 am & 11:30 am

    You and your favorite bear are welcome at the Teddy Bear Tea. Wear your holiday finest, and enjoy refreshments, music, stories and crafts. Proceeds will benefit the Children's Library. Tickets $25 per person. For children 2 and up. Location: 1501 Tiburon Boulevard, Tiburon. For more info, call (415) 789-2665 or visit their website.
  • Let it Snow, Novato!
    Novato City Hall
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm, carriage rides from 5:30 pm–8:30 pm

    Kids... put on your mittens and come play in the snow. Sleds and all other festivities will be provided free of charge. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will arrive by fire truck at 11:30 am and kids will be able to get their pictures taken with the jolly pair. There will be free candy canes and balloons. Children will also be able to enter a coloring contest and get their faces painted. Live music and more. Free. For more info, visit their website.
  • Wreath Making Workshop
    McNears Beach Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–1 pm

    Bring the beauty of nature to your front door with a festive, homemade wreath! Join rangers at McNears Beach Park for a day of sipping hot chocolate, listening to holiday tunes, and creating your own natural wreath to take home. Fresh greenery, pinecones and other natural materials will be provided. You may bring your own decorations to use. This event is ideal for ages 7 and up; no experience necessary. Rain does not cancel this event. RSVP appreciated but not required. For questions or to RSVP contact Ranger Sarah Burkhart at Location: 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Sausalito Winterfest
    Downtown Sausalito
    Saturday, 10 am–7 pm

    Kids holiday activities take place from 10 am–2 pm, and the Holiday Fine Art and Craft Fair takes place from 10 am–7 pm. For more information, visit their website.
  • A Holiday Magic Toy Box Tea at Falkirk
    1408 Mission Avenue at "E" Street, San Rafael
    Saturday and Sunday, seatings at noon & 3 pm
    The tea is an old-fashioned tour de force in the elegant Queen Anne Victorian Falkirk Mansion. Homemade tea sandwiches and sweets are served, along with tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages. Features include life-sized toys, a raffle, and plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure you bring your teddy bear or other favorite toy! This extremely popular event is by reservation only and always sells our early! Reserve your spot by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online here. The cost is $25 for adults and $22 for children, or $45 for an adult-and-child combination ticket. For more info, visit
  • Kids Book Event: A Cookie for Santa
    Book Passage, Corte Madera
    Saturday, noon

    Author Stephanie Shaw reads her book, "A Cookie For Santa." "The Gingerbread Man" mixes it up with "The Night Before Christmas" in this cleverly constructed Christmas story about a smart cookie who avoids becoming Santa's midnight snack. Location: 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. For more info, call (415) 927-0960 or visit their website.
  • Fifth Annual Teddy Bear Tea à la Française
    Red Hill Church of San Anselmo
    Saturday, 11 am–12:30 pm
    Come for tea and hot cocoa, finger sandwiches, holiday cookies, and fun! You and your little ones will enjoy tea service, traditional live holiday music, a fireside telling of The story of Christmas in English and French, and a professional photo seating! Each child should bring his or her own teddy bear (or nounours) to share tea time with and dress in dapper holiday style! Free (donations are accepted but not expected). RSVP required at Location: 921 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo.
  • San Francisco Bazaar Holiday Show
    Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason

    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–6 pm
    Celebrate the eighth year of this locally produced art and craft show. Shop the handmade market, participate in DIY workshops, enter the Crafty Raffle, eat local food, enjoy live entertainment, and more. First 200 people in the door get a custom tote bad and limited-edition print. Free admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Forest Wreath & Garland Workshop
    San Francisco Presidio
    Saturday & Sunday, noon–5 pm

    Join us for this all-ages event and learn how to make a unique "field and forest" wreath made entirely from natural materials collected from around the Presidio. All supplies will be provided for this free workshop, however, we encourage participants to bring along their own embellishments such as ribbons, old cards, fabric scraps, and small mementos to make your wreath a one-of-a-kind piece of art! Location: Pershing Square, Main Post at Arguello Boulevard and Sheridan Avenue in the Presidio. Free. Reserve your spot here. For more info, visit their website.

Rainy Day Holiday Fun: Easy Playdough Snowmen

December 11, 2014

Playdough snowmanKids love sculpting with Play-Doh, and it's easy to make at home for a fun rainy day activity. You probably have all of the ingredients sitting in your pantry right now!

We whipped up a batch of white "snow-dough" to make some cute holiday snowman decorations. It was an easy and fun craft for the kids to make. This recipe makes quite a bit of dough—equivalent to two large cans of Play-Doh. If you don't need that much, feel free to cut recipe in half.

To make your own snow-dough, you'll need:

Some of Our Favorite Family Holiday Movies

December 9, 2014

The Snowman videoDuring the holidays, we're inundated with Christmas-themed movies and TV specials of all different kinds. But what's really worth watching? Being something of a family of movie buffs, we decided to put together our list of favorite holiday movies, so here are seven seasonal offerings that we think are worth repeat watching each December.

The Snowman

Based on the picture book of the same name by Raymond Briggs, The Snowman is short 27-minute animated film that tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve, only to find that it comes to life later on that night and takes him on a magical journey to the North Pole.

There’s no dialogue to speak of, except for some introductory narration by David Bowie (yes, David Bowie). The Snowman, with its musical interlude featuring the haunting song Walking in the Air, beautiful animation, and messages of friendship and loss, is a true classic. Your kids will love it, and I challenge any parent not to get choked up by the end.

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

December 9, 2014

The Rombeiros' Christmas House

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

Their home is something that truly has to be seen to be believed, and photos don't really do it justice. There are something like 140,000 lights as well as countless figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front and side yards, walls, and roof of the Rombeiro house. Apparently they start setting the whole thing up in August.

Le Petit Cirque de Noël and More Holiday Fun at Marin Country Mart

December 8, 2014

Le Petit Cirque de NoëlThis holiday season, make sure you stop by Marin Country Mart in Larkspur Landing for some winter cheer and fun! Taking center stage at Marin Country Mart this December is Le Petit Cirque de Noël, which takes place in the Big Tent from December 12 through 24. Created by French expatriate and Bay Area resident Michel Michelis and his circus company, Le Cirque de Bohème, Le Petit Cirque de Noël presents charming original performances that will delight the whole family.

Le Petit Cirque de Noël will present two new shows at Marin Country Mart, A Magic Box, on December 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, and 19 and Le Rêve de Noël (A Christmas Dream) on December 23 and 24. Performances begin at 6 pm. Admission is free for children 18 and under are free, and $15 for adults. Space in the Big Tent is limited, so all attendees must have a ticket. To reserve tickets, call the Marin Country Mart Trading Post at (415) 448-5043.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

December 8, 2014

Slow cooker chicken tortilla soupFall and winter are great times to use your slow cooker, since it's perfect for making long-simmered comfort food favorites that hit the spot on a cool evening. Try out this recipe for a Mexican-style tortilla soup. The technique couldn't be easier: you just throw almost everything in the cooker and let it go all day, adding beans and corn at the end.

Everyone likes this because you can personalize your bowl with various garnishes, like avocado, cheese, sour cream, and more. Fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked paprika give this soup a delicious smoky flavor, but of course you can use the normal varieties of these ingredients, too.


  • 1 32-ounce carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

Easy Holiday Recipe: Peppermint Bark

December 8, 2014

peppermint barkIn my opinion, peppermint should be the official flavor of the holiday season! This white chocolate peppermint bark candy is a holiday staple in our house, and is quick, delicious, and kid-approved. My kids love the fact that smashing up candy canes is part of this recipe.

Peppermint bark is really easy to make, and doesn't mess the kitchen up nearly as much as making cookies does. Feel free to omit the nuts or mix in something else that you think would be tasty. My mom makes hers with both the almonds and dried cranberries.


  • 2 12-ounce bags white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Take a Family Hike to the Fairway Waterfall in Novato

December 7, 2014

Fairway Waterfall Novato Marin County Open SpaceWhen the weather turns wet, it can be a lot of fun to head outdoors and take a hike, especially when there's something exciting to see at the end of the trail, like a rushing waterfall. Marin's waterfalls are some of the county's hidden treasures, and are best appreciated when they're running full force in winter and spring. The Fairway Waterfall, also known as Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall, is a seasonal waterfall that can be found on a trail at the end of Fairway Drive, in Novato's Country Club neighborhood.

The trail to the Fairway waterfall is short and easy and the trailhead is conveniently located, so it's a perfect hike for kids. So bundle up, put on those puddle stompers and raincoats, and head outdoors for a waterfall hike!

The trailhead is at the site of what looks like was supposed to be a gated development that never went anywhere—there's a gate and short section of street and that's it. Park the car and walk down the paved street to the start of the trail. You'll notice a burbling creek—the Arroyo de San Jose—running alongside the path. Bear right and take the lower trail, where you can cross the creak by means of a board placed across it; if you take the upper trail on the left, you'll have to wade through the water to ford the creek. The water here can get really deep if there's been recent rainfall, so use caution.

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 9+

December 6, 2014

birds glitter boardsFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've also reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers, kids ages 3 to 5, and kids ages 6 to 8.

Ages 9+ Indoor Fun

Birds Glitter Boards
A set to create fantastic sparkly pictures of birds surrounded by wonderful patterns. Use this set to create pictures of different birds surrounded by wonderful patterns, brought to life by the sequins. Designed for older children, this kit is a great way of encouraging them to be creative. $19.99

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