Book a Family Photo Session with Marin Photographer Shannon Chiminiello

October 13, 2014

Shannon Chiminiello PhotographyMarin Mommies presents a sponsored article by Shannon Chiminiello Photography. Book a photo session now for the 2014 Holiday Season by calling (415) 497-6054.

If you are looking for a quality, experienced photographer to document your family or special event in a unique way, look no further than Shannon Chiminiello Photography!

Recognized for her unique style, Shannon is in-demand for families who are looking for something other than your standard "cookie cutter" photo session. Shannon creates one-of-a-kind photo session experiences that are low-stress for parents and fun for children (even dads have a great time!). With gentle direction, a deep commitment, and just the right blend of activity, natural portraits, and "camera unaware" moments, Shannon will capture your family or special event in a way only she can. If you are looking for a session that is full of variety, designed specifically for your family, images that are real and that will focus on relationships and feeling instead of stiff posing and fake smiles, then contact her today to book now.

Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze

October 13, 2014

Petaluma Pumpking Patch and Amazing Corn MazeA multiple-time winner of the Marin Mommies Pumpkin Patch Poll, the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze is the big Halloween pumpkin patch that you see on the side of Highway 101 just north of the last Petaluma exit. You may even have been stuck in southbound traffic caused by rubberneckers slowing down to look at it and its amazing maze and pumpkin field!

Petaluma Pumpkin Patch, a Halloween fixture in Sonoma County since 1993, is popular for a number of reasons. For one, it's a real pumpkin patch that's not too far from civilization—it's right off the North Bay's major freeway. Second, it offers a nice mix of real country attractions and other more commercial activities like bounce houses, climbing walls, and pony rides. Third, their pumpkin prices are really reasonable: from $1 for mini pumpkins and gourds to $11 and up for really large examples.

Old-Time Family Fun at the Tolay Fall Festival

October 12, 2014

Tolay Fall FestivalYesterday we made our annual visit to the fantastic Tolay Fall Festival at Tolay Lake Regional Park outside of Petaluma. The festival, held over two weekends in October—this weekend and October 18 and 19, is the successor to the popular pumpkin patch held at the park's former incarnation as Cardoza Ranch. The Tolay Fall Festival is much more than a pumpkin patch, however. It's an old-fashioned, down-to-earth celebration of fall with tons of fun activities for the whole family, and one of our favorite autumn happenings in the Bay Area. It's a wonderful event that has plenty to do for kids of all ages.

Of course there's a pumpkin patch—it's huge and located way out in the back 40 of the park, and you need to take a tractor-drawn hay ride to get there. But there are also plenty of other other attractions, exhibits, and hands-on activities. Our children enjoyed making old-fashioned corn husk dolls, carding wool, spinning yarn, and dipping candles, and more.

There's also an animal area with the opportunity to pet some friendly goats, scarecrow-making, a world championship pumpkin-seed-spitting contest, lawn games, a giant straw maze, a demonstration of old farm equipment and early gas engines, archery for kids and grownups, an astronomy display, a Native American village, and more.

Marin and Sonoma Pumpkin Patches 2014

October 11, 2014

Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin PatchFall is in the air, which means Halloween is just around the corner and local pumpkin patches will soon be open! For those seeking that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, we present our annual guide to pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers that on-the-farm experience and the Godmother's Pumpkin Patch at St. Vincent's offer an exciting Halloween experience for families. For more real live farms offering pumpkin patches this season, head up north a short distance to rural Sonoma County, where you'll find them in relative abundance.

We visited as many of these pumpkin patches as we could last year, and have posted links to our reviews of them below. We'll make an effort to visit again this year, and we'll add our updated reviews when they're written. We're sad to report that one of our favorite fall destinations, Peterson's Farm in Petaluma, is no longer hosting its Halloween pumpkin patch, although they are open for school fields trips to learn about beekeeping and farm life.

We've included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. Hours are correct as of the time of publishing, but keep in mind that things can change, so it's a good idea to check a pumpkin patch's website or give them a call before you go. Many activities and special events take place on weekends only, too. Some pumpkin patches may close during rainy weather as well.

As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open during the whole month of October, although a few open in late September and some run through early November. Admission to pumpkin patches is free unless otherwise noted.

Trade in Your Costume at the Marin County Costume Swap and Halloween Festival at Marin Country Mart

October 11, 2014

Halloween Costume Swap Marin Country MartClear your closets of those old kids' Halloween costumes and find new-to-you ones at the 5th Annual Marin County Costume Swap at the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur. This year's swap takes place under the Big Tent on Saturday, October 25 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Marin Country Mart Farmer's Market's Halloween Festival.

Other fun during the Halloween Festival includes an organic pumpkin patch, an expert pumpkin carving demonstration, giant pumpkins (guess their weight!), apple pressing and fresh apple juice, kids' music from 9:30 to 10:30 am, a pup costume parade at 11 am, face painting, pony rides, and kids' Halloween crafts.

What is a costume swap, exactly? It's when you bring in your child's costume from a previous year and trade it in for a "new-to-you" costume. This is your chance to reduce, reuse, recycle, and keep those old costumes out of the landfill!

Marin Family Weekend Fun for October 10, 11 & 12

October 10, 2014
Tolay Fall Festival
The annual Tolay Fall Festival takes place near Petaluma on Saturday and Sunday.

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.

Most Halloween pumpkin patches in Marin and Sonoma counties are now open—see our list here.

Friday, October 10

  • Fleet Week 2014
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, various times

    Fleet week returns to San Francisco, along with the Blue Angels, who will perform again over San Francisco Bay on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3 pm. Fleet Week also includes a parade of ships (Friday, noon–1 pm), ship tours, band concerts, and more. Free admission; airshow bleacher seat tickets at Marina Green $50–$60. For more info, visit their website.
  • Not Afraid of the Dark Hike
    Old St. Hilary, Tiburon
    Friday, 6–7:30pm

    Halloween is coming but we’re not scared; come enjoy Old St. Hilary’s at night! Join Ranger Felicity Hartnett for a short one-mile hike at sunset with beautiful views of San Francisco. This hike is ideal for young adventurers and their families as an introduction to night hiking. Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring a flashlight or headlamp. RSVP’s are appreciated but not required at FHartnett@marincounty.org. Meet at the gate at the end of Lyford Drive in Tiburon. For more info, visit their website.
  • Film in the Fog: Ghostbusters
    Presidio, On the lawn behind Presidio Dance Theatre
    Friday, 5:30–9 pm

    Bring the whole family out for a magical night under the stars featuring an outdoor screening of the popular comedy film Ghostbusters, accompanied by live music and food from Off the Grid's tasty food trucks. Bring a picnic or purchase wine, beer, and delicious grub at one of the food trucks! Music from ukulele-slinging, harmony-singing sensation the Paper Dolls. Movie starts at 7 pm. For more info, visit their website.
  • Children's Filmfest: Hoppity Goes to Town
    Old Mill Park, Mill Valley
    Friday, 8 pm

    Mill Valley Film Festival has partnered with the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and the city to present a free outdoor film screening of Hoppity Goes to Town, the delightful 1941 animated film by the Fleischer Brothers—a takeoff on Jimmy Stewart films that will have everyone swinging to jazz and crooning love songs. No ticket required; movie screening is free with general admission seating. Please bring your own blanket or low beach chair. Snacks may be purchased with proceeds to benefit community programs. Location: 17 Cascade Way, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, October 11

  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids from 10 am–2 pm, crafts by SCRAP from 9 am–2 pm, children's music or storytelling from 9:30–10:30 am, and more live music from 11 am–12:30 pm, as well as fresh produce, prepared foods, and great local restaurants. For more info, visit their website.

Experience Life on the Farm at McClelland's Dairy Pumpkin Patch

October 10, 2014

McClelland's Pumpkin Patch PetalumaMcClelland's Dairy is a family-run, certified organic dairy farm located just west of Petaluma, and their annual Halloween pumpkin patch just keeps getting better and better every year. McClelland's is relatively low-key but bustling, and it offers a lot of fun for families, especially if you have small children or are just looking for a more genuine farm experience. If you haven't been there yet, it's definitley worth putting on your fall family itinerary.

The entrance to McClelland's can sneak up on you a little, so keep an eye out for their signs as you head down Bodega Road into the Two Rock area west of Petaluma. Turn into the dirt driveway and follow it over a little bridge to the dairy farm. On your left you'll see their three-acre pumpkin patch, where you're welcome to go pick that perfect Halloween pumpkin off the vine. Ample parking is available in the meadow on your right.

Pumpkins and More at the Tolay Fall Festival

October 9, 2014

Tolay Fall FestivalMany families in Marin and the North Bay have fond memories of visiting the popular pumpkin patch at Cardoza Ranch outside Petaluma. In 2005, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department acquired Cardoza Ranch, also known as Tolay Lake Ranch, turning its 1,737 acres of farmland into a county park.

Tolay Lake Ranch is a unique spot, with a freshwater lake, wetlands, diverse wildlife, and 8,000 years human habitation with extensive archaeological and historical sites. Tolay Lake Regional Park is currently under development and access is restricted, although the public can visit the park through a day-use permit program.

The Sonoma Regional Parks Department keeps the spirit of the old Cardoza pumpkin patch alive by holding the annual Tolay Fall Festival, now in its eighth year. This popular event takes place over two  weekends in October, October 11–13 and October 18–19, from 11 am–5 pm.

In addition to Halloween pumpkins in the huge pumpkin patch, the festival features a plentiful harvest of gourds, squash, multi-colored corn, and other produce, as well as a pumpkin seed-spitting contest, ranger-led hay rides, a giant straw maze, a Native American village with demonstrations, the Night Time Creatures Barn with the Creepy Crawly Critters Room, live animals, nature hikes, old-fashioned crafts , lawn games, and more.

Marin's Five Favorite Playgrounds for Family Fun

October 7, 2014

Pioneer Park in NovatoOne of the questions we often get asked is "What's the best playground in Marin?" Rather than give our opinion, again, we decided to put that question to our readers via social media, and to let you choose the top five playgrounds in Marin County. So, without further ado, here are the five best playgrounds in Marin, as chosen by Marin Mommies readers, along with the five runners-up:

Number 1: Pioneer Park, Novato

Pioneer Park must be a favorite of families in Marin, since it was the first choice by a wide margin. This large park has a recently improved playground with tot lot and equipment for older kids, as well as plenty of lawns, picnic areas, and shady trees. There are also tennis courts, restrooms, a bandshell, and even an historic cemetery to explore on the hill adjacent to the park. Location: 1007 Simmons Lane, Novato 94945

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