Celebrate Spring with these Fun Family Outings

March 19, 2017

Japanese Tea Garden

Spring officially begins tomorrow, Monday, March 20! Daylight saving time is here, the weather is getting warmer, wildflowers are in bloom, and there are plenty of fun things for families to do. Here are some of our favorite springtime family events and outings in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. What's your family's favorite spring event?

Nature for Kids Hikes with Marin County Parks Are Fun and Fascinating

March 18, 2017

Nature for Kids Marin Parks David Herlocker

Spending time in the outdoors as a family this fall can be both fun and educational: get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks and open space preserves, take advantage of our often lovely fall weather, and learn about the natural wonders that can be found all around us. A fantastic and eye-opening way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.

The parks department's Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's many open space areas, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. The hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages, although they seem geared for kids ages 3 to 12.

Spring is in Bloom at the Japanese Tea Garden

March 18, 2017

San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden is a favorite spot for tourists in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, but it's also a great spot for local families. I've been visiting since I was a small child, and I've made sure that I introduced it to my children, too. Before I took them there, I had forgotten how magical this place is.

It's especially worth a visit at this time of year when the sakura, or flowering cherry trees, and azaleas are in full bloom. It's a magnificent and colorful spring sight that's really worth the effort to see. The kids love to explore the grounds and get some tea and a Japanese snack at the tea room.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for March 17, 18 & 19

March 18, 2017

Mt Burdell spring wildflowersTake a spring wildflower hike this weekend on Mt. Burdell in Novato.

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 throughout the Bay Area in our Family Events Calendar.

Spring has arrived...take a family-friendly farm tour or enjoy one of the many wildflower hikes.

Friday, March 17

  • Shamrock Day
    Habitot Children's Museum, Berkeley

    Saturday, 9:30 am–4:30 pm
    Top o' the morning! All day long, kids will be enchanted by the discovery of hidden "gold" throughout the museum, play with magical shimmery gak, explore shamrock art and wear green for an extra dose of the luck of the irish! For more info, visit their website.
  • Irish Fiddle and Banjo Tunes w/ John Pedersen
    San Anselmo Library
    Friday, 12–1 pm

    Celebrate St. Paddy's Day with Irish fiddle and banjo tunes played by John Pedersen, local musician and longtime proprietor of Amazing Grace Music. Everyone is welcome to attend.
    Free. Location: 110 Tunstead Avenue, Council Chambers, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Shamrock Cookie Decorating
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Friday, 2–6 pm

    Bring the kids and join us at Poppy Store for a special St. Patrick's Day treat! Shamrock cookie decorating (and eating!). For more info, visit their website.
  • Crazy Awesome Science!
    Children's Museum of Sonoma County
    Friday, 2 pm
    Bring the kiddos for a scientific demonstration followed by hands-on science. Past topics include: SPF, Elephant Toothpaste, Dry Ice Bubbles, Fizzy Rockets, Sheep Eye Dissection and many more! Museum admisson applies. Location: 1835 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. For more info, visit their website.
  • Campfire Program
    Sonoma State Historic Park
    Friday, 5:30–6:30 pm

    Bring the family for a talk with a park interpretive specialist, songs, stories and a marshmallow roast. Fun for all ages. Free. Heavy rain cancels. Location: Barracks Courtyard, Sonoma State Historic Park. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Primary & Middle School Presents: Into the Woods Jr.
    Showcase Theater, Marin Center
    Friday & Saturday, 7 pm & Sunday, 1 pm

    Be careful what you wish for as Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s cockeyed fairytale comes to life in this adaptation of their groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical. Into the Woods Jr. features all of your favorite characters—Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and his beanstalk), and the Witch in this lyrically rich retelling of classic Brothers Grimm fables. $18 adults, $12 students. For more info and tickets, visit their website.
  • North Bay Rep: Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    San Rafael Community Center
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 1 pm & Sunday, 5 pm

    Join director Sharon Boucher and other local youth and adult actors for North Bay Reps production of Beauty and the Beast! The classic story tells of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress. Tickets: $20 per person. Purchase tickets here. Location: 618 B Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Jemima Puddle-Duck and Peter Rabbit
    Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 5 pm

    A charming play adaptation of the beloved stories from Beatrix Potter will be presented at CTE/TAM Drama from March 15-19. Favorites such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck along with several of her other stories will be presented. This production is suitable for all ages. Tickets are $12/adults and $5/children and seniors. Puchase tickets here. Location: Caldwell Theater, Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • You're a Good Man Charlie Brown: The Musical
    College of Marin Performing Arts Building
    Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm and Sunday, 2 pm
    Here's the whole Peanuts gang on stage! Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and of course, Charlie Brown's best pal, Snoopy the Beagle. The play deals with a day in the life of Charlie Brown - from bright, uncertain morning to hopeful, starlit evening! Bring the whole family! Directed by James Dunn. Musical Direction by Paul Smith.  Tickets for other nights: $25, seniors $20 and COM Associates $15. Purchase tickets online here. Location: 835 College Avenue, the James Dunn Theatre, Kentfield. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, March 18

  • Sunrise Hike at King Mountain
    King Mountain Open Space Preserve, Kentfield
    Saturday, 6:15–8:30 am

    Start your Saturday with a sunrise hike. Join Ranger Blain Thompson as we walk through your local forest to watch the sun rise from the beautiful King Mountain Loop Trail (approximately 1.5 miles). This event is ideal for all ages. Degree of difficulty: Moderate. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring water and snacks. Rain will cancel. Meet at the gate at the end of Ridgecrest Road in Kentfield. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family BikeAbout
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday, 8:30–10 am

    Families can bring their bicycles to the zoo for this informative 1.5-hour, docent-led cycling tour. It’s great to be in the zoo ahead of the crowds and watch the animals start their day. Registration includes parking and zoo admission. Participants must bring a bicycle; the SF Zoo does not provide bicycles to rent. Cost: $18 SFZS members, $23 non-members. Children piggy-backing on their parents' bikes are free. Location: 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco. For more info, call (415) 753-7080 or visit their website.
  • Novato Mothers Club Kid's Rummage Sale
    Downtown Novato Recreation Center
    Saturday, 9 am–3 pm

    This huge rummage sale takes place on Saturday, March 18, from 9 am to 3 pm. You can literally get everything you need for your family: cribs, strollers, children’s clothing, maternity wear, toys, books, shoes, nursing items, and more. It's a favorite shopping event for Marin families. The sale will close from 1:30 to 2 pm. After 2 pm everything will be 50% off! Location: 950 Seventh Street, off Grant Avenue, in downtown Novato (adjacent to the Novato Gymnastics Center). Admission to the rummage sale and parking are free. Cash only. For more info, visit their Facebook page here.
  • Free Saturday Morning Zumba
    Mill Valley Community Center
    Saturday, 9–10 am

    We take the "work" out of workout, by mixing low-intensity and high-intensity moves for an interval-style, calorie-burning dance fitness party on the lawn. Once the Latin and World rhythms take over, you'll see why Zumba Fitness classes are often called exercise in disguise. Check in at the Aquatics & Fitness Center front desk when coming for class. Location: Community Center on the lawn triangle behind the Center at 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. 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 music (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • 2017 Annual Arbor Day Eco Fair
    Warm Water Cove Park, San Francisco
    Saturday, 9 am–noon
    During the annual Arbor Day celebration, there will be a focus on educating community members of all ages about urban tree care and environmental sustainability while enjoying fun-filled fair activities and informational booths. They are extremely hopeful that community youth, their families, their teachers and everyone else interested will join the fair. Location: 300 24th Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Open Cockpit Weekend
    Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Open Cockpit weekends at the Pacific Coast Air Museum are your chance to get up close to selected aircraft and look inside. We raise the canopies and open the doors to give you an unobstructed view so you can see what a genuine fighter plane, attack plane, transport, helicopter, or other type is like from the inside! This weekend, climb aboard a Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw helicopter. Museum admission applies. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family Program: Secrets of Moss and Lichen
    UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley
    Saturday, 10–11 am

    In honor of St. Patrick’s day, join our moss and lichen hunt, learn a little botany, and make a “secret garden” to take home. $15, $10 members. Registration required. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family Matinee: Ella Fitzerald's Centennial with Tiffany Austin
    SF Jazz, San Francisco
    Saturday, 11 am

    SF Jazz celebrates the centennial of one of the greatest voices in jazz and First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald! Born in 1917, Ella’s powerful tone, impeccable phrasing and uncanny scatting made her one of the most beloved vocalists in American music history. For our Family Matinee in honor of Women’s History Month, Bay Area soulful songstress Tiffany Austin celebrates the legacy of one of the most iconic figures in American music. Tickets: $15 adults, $5 children. For more info, visit their website.
  • Patchwork Series: Frances England
    Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
    Saturday, 11 am

    Frances England plays critically acclaimed indie pop for the young and young at heart. Her fifth album, Explorer of the World, will have you singing along and dancing in the aisles. Admission: $10 advance, $12 at the door. Doors open at 10:30 am. Location: 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley. For more info, call (510) 644-2020 or visit their website.
  • Creative Family Fun: Magnetic Flower Power
    Presidio Officers' Club, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–4 pm

    Drop in for imaginative craft-making based on the Presidio’s natural and cultural heritage. Featuring different crafts every weekend! With spring just around the corner, the Presidio will be blooming with wildflowers. Celebrate the return of our favorite native flowers, like Presidio Clarkia and Lessingia, by making your own native flower magnets! Drop in anytime between 11 am and 4 pm. Free. Read about our visit to the Officers' Club here. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • STEAM Saturday
    San Rafael Public Library
    Saturday, 11 am

    Come to the San Rafael Library for STEAM powered stories, rhymes, songs, crafts, experiments, and sensory experiences for preschool children ages 3–6 and their caregivers. Registration required: register at the children’s reference desk or call at (415) 485-3322. Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Young Performers Theater: Hansel and Gretel
    Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 1 & 3:30 pm

    With a bare cupboard and no food, out of desperation their stepmother contrives to leave Hansel and Gretel deep in the woods, to fend for themselves. Hansel and Gretel get caught by the Witch Wicked and fear they are doomed to be turned into gingerbread! With the help of their friends, they are able to outwit Witch Wicked and break her spell.  Come see this classic tale performed by kids for kids! This adventure is suitable for all ages!  Get your tickets today!!
     Tickets: $13.23. For more info and tickets, visit their website.
  • Spring Family Hikes at Environmental Discovery Center
    Spring Lake Regional Park, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 1–4 pm

    Are you looking for a fun, family friendly hike in a beautiful Sonoma County park? Join our naturalist staff at the Environmental Discovery Center at Spring Lake Regional Park as we explore some of the county’s different habitats and inhabitants. Three hikes start on the hour, at 1, 2 and 3PM. Wear weather appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes. For more information, call (707) 539-2865 Free; parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members. Loctation: 393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bookshelf Author Series Featuring Lemony Snicket
    Charles Schulz Museum, Santa Rasa
    Saturday, 2 pm
    Meet best-selling author Lemony Snicket, creator of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which includes 13 books that have garnered numerous awards. Mr. Snicket, a longtime fan of Charles Schulz, will talk about his admiration for Peanuts and other topics relating to despair. Tickets are free with Museum admission and available on a first come, first serve basis at the Museum starting at 10:00 am on the day of the event. Find out info, visit their website.

Craft Idea: Easy St. Patrick's Day Friendship Bracelets

March 17, 2017

My daughter wanted to do an original craft for St. Patrick's Day—the only criteria were that it was something she could do by herself, she could wear it, and that it was green. I remembered my son making a simple bead friendship bracelet a few years back, so we decided to make St. Patty's day versions. They're super easy to make, even for littler children, and are a perfect way to wear your green on St. Patrick's Day.

To make the bracelets, you'll need green plastic beads and green pipe cleaners. I found both of these at the Dollar Tree, but they're also available at most craft stores, like Michael's or Beverly.

Fine Art Summer Camps in Marin & the Bay Area

March 16, 2017

While many summer camps in Marin offer arts and crafts activities in their programs, you'll find a few that specialize specifically in art. Here's a list of specialized fine art camps in Marin and San Francisco for your budding Rembrandt or Georgia O'Keeffe. Some of the camps are actually held by museums! To find more fantastic camps, visit our 2017 Marin Summer Camp Guide. Popular camps can sell out early, so reserve your spot as soon as possible!

Studio 4 Art's Fine Art Camps

Locations: Mill Valley, Novato & Fairfax
Ages: 4–14
Dates: June 12–August 18
Cost: $265–$480 per week

Studio 4 Art's camps take place at their studios in downtown Novato and Mill Valley, where professional artists introduce campers to new and contemporary art techniques, procedures and processes. This summer they're holding a special "pop-up" camp in Fairfax. Some of the topics taught will be wheel throwing, cartooning, mosaics, sewing, fashion design, sculpture, pottery, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, oil painting, printmaking, photography, and pastels. Camps take place from 9:30 am until 12:30 or 3:30 pm;  drop-ins available depending on space. For more info visit www.studio4art.net or (415) 596-5546.

Farm Day 2017 Comes to the Marin Center Tomorrow, March 16!

March 15, 2017

Bring the family to the 33rd Annual Marin Farm Day on Thursday, March 16, 2017 from 9 am to noon at the Marin County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall in San Rafael. This free event, provides 40–50 hands-on environmental and agricultural activities specifically suited for children ages 3 to 12.

Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie for St. Patrick's Day

March 15, 2017

Shepherd's PieWith St. Patrick's Day coming up this week, my kids have been asking me to make Irish food for dinner. Since corned beef and cabbage is not exactly something you throw together after school, I've been trying other appropriate dishes from the British Isles, like this rib-sticking, easy-to-make, and kid-friendly shepherd's pie. It's essentially a beef-and-vegetable stew topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven until golden brown. I topped this version with a little grated Irish white cheddar cheese for a bit more authenticity.

This pub-grub favorite is more correctly known as "cottage pie", since it's made with ground beef instead of leftover roast lamb, but it's delicious no matter what it's called. I always try to bulk up the stew part with extra vegetables to make it a one-dish meal. My kids love this and even my picky-eater daughter asks for a second helping. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or ground lamb for the ground beef. You can also use chopped leftover roast beef or lamb in the filling.

This recipe serves 6 to 8, so we usually get two dinners out of it, reheating the leftovers on a weeknight. It actually tastes better after sitting in the refrigerator for a day or two! You can make this either in a casserole dish or in individual ramekins. The kids like the ramekins because each person gets his or her own little shepherd's pie! Watch out, though—the ramekins will be hot.


for the stew

Easy and Delicious Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day

March 15, 2017

Slow-cooker corned beef and cabbageSt. Patrick's Day is coming up, and for many that means it's time to cook that quintessential Irish-American dish: corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef—usually a tough cut of meat like brisket or round—requires long, slow, cooking over low heat to make it tender, so it's the perfect candidate for preparing in your slow cooker.

Start your corned beef in the slow cooker early in the day; there's a minimal amount of preparation involved. Some recipes call for adding most of the vegetables at the same time, but I think they turn out a bit overcooked. Instead, add them to the pot during the last two hours of cooking.

With the proliferation of vegetables cooked with the meat, there's something here for everyone in the family. Serve your corned beef accompanied by grainy mustard, horseradish sauce*, and gravy** made from the cooking liquid. Also, when it comes to corned beef, bigger is better. Much of the weight of the meat is water, and it shrinks in size during cooking, so budget about one pound of meat per diner for a generous serving and leftovers (think corned beef sandwiches… mmm…). This recipe serves about 4 people, depending on how hungry everybody is.

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