Outdoor Family Fun at Marin's China Camp State Park

July 8, 2014

China Camp State Park San Rafael One of Marin's underrated treasures is China Camp State Park, located east of San Rafael. It's not as famous or flashy as other local outdoors spots like Mt. Tam, Muir Woods, or Point Reyes, but it has a charm all its own and offers plenty for families to do and see.

Situated on the shores of San Pablo Bay, China Camp State Park offers stunning views, plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails, walk-in camp sites, picnic areas, beaches, and a historic 19th-century Chinese fishing village. Topography ranges from oak woodland to grassland to salt marsh, with even some redwoods thrown in for good measure.

It's hard to believe that this park is just a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of San Rafael. I grew up in a neighborhood just a short distance from China Camp; it was always a favorite place to visit when I was growing up, and it still remains one of my and my family's special destinations for outdoor fun and adventure. It's all a short drive from nearly anywhere in Marin County, and there's almost too much to do in one day.

Family Picnics at Marin's Cheese Factory

July 7, 2014

The Cheese FactorySummer is here, and with the warm weather and time off from school, one of our favorite family activities is to head outdoors for a fun and relaxing picnic. One of our absolute favorite Marin picnic spots is on the grounds of the Marin French Cheese Company, located just west of Novato on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road.

If you haven't been to the Cheese Factory (as it's known to locals), then you've surely seen it as you've driven out to the Point Reyes National Seashore from Novato or Petaluma. Both my husband and I grew up visiting this place, and of course now we come here with our own family. It's well worth the trip at almost any time of year. The Cheese Factory is a great first stop on the California Cheese Trail.

The Cheese Factory has been in business producing cheese from Marin's high quality milk since 1865, and is a favorite place of Bay Area residents and visitors alike. In the 19th century, the Cheese Factory originally delivered its product—a soft fresh cheese—to saloons and restaurants in San Francisco. They still make this original cheese, known today as Breakfast Cheese, which you can sample and buy in their on-site store.

Kale Slaw With Creamy Buttermilk Dressing, Apples, and Walnuts

July 7, 2014

Kale slawKale is currently the leafy green darling of the vegetable world, and for good reason: it's a nutritional powerhouse. I'm always looking for creative ways to prepare it, and this kale slaw is easy to make and delicious. The sweet and tangy buttermilk dressing, apples, and walnuts balance the bitter flavors in the kale, and it keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, too.

I like to use the bumpy green Dinosaur Kale—also called Lacinato Kale or cavolo nero—which is milder in flavor than the traditional curly kind. Make some for your next BBQ or dinner party!


  • 1 bunch Dinosaur or other organic kale
  • 1 apple, chopped

The Family Friendly Summer Nights Outdoor Music Festival Returns to the Osher Marin JCC

July 7, 2014

HAPA - Summer Nights at the Osher Marin JCCThis summer the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center reprises its most popular event series: the Summer Nights Outdoor Music Festival. Bring your picnic, blanket, low-backed lawn chairs, and dancing shoes—there's fun for the whole family! Concerts take place on Saturday evenings from July 12 through August 9 at 7 pm. Dinners from a variety of favorite local restaurants will be available for purchase, along with beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and snacks.

Like last year, kids 17 and under are admitted free, and the Kid Zone will include fun art projects and activities presented by local organizations like the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Drawbridge, and the Marin Symphony. Of course the playground will be open for supervised play, too! There will even be a pop-up shop from Georgi & Willow with theme-based clothing available fo

This summer's multicultural outdoor concert lineup features:

  • July 12: Uplifting music from Africa's most inspirational band, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. Food by Sol Food and Kid Zone hosted by Drawbridge
  • July 19: Pacific Island Night with Hawaiian supergroup HAPA, hula dance performance and instruction, dinners from Mauna Loa Hawaiian BBQ, Kid Zone hosted by the Bay Area Discovery Museum

Outdoor Outings for Kids: Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes

July 6, 2014

Bear Valley Visitor Center Point Reyes National SeashoreOur go-to spot for family hikes and outdoor excurisions in Marin is the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore. Home to the park's main visitor center and headquarters, it's a wonderful place for kids and adults alike to learn about nature and local history and explore the outdoors. It has so much to offer: picnics, hikes, views, and wildlife.

The visitor center itself is always our first stop. With interesting dioramas and displays about the wildlife around Point Reyes, free audio-visual programs, and an information desk manned by helpful rangers and volunteers, the visitor center is a great place to learn about Point Reyes and its amazing natural history. You can also learn about the human history of the area, too, through exhibits on the Miwok Indians who once inhabited Point Reyes, the visit of English seafarer Sir Francis Drake in the 16th century (look for the cool cutaway model of Drake's ship The Golden Hinde in the center's auditorium), and the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Kids visiting the center can get a chance to become junior rangers by asking for a free booklet at the information desk. The booklets offer a variety of activities for kids to complete in order to earn a neat embroidered Point Reyes National Seashore Junior Ranger patch. The ranger even swore our kids in as junior rangers and announced their names over the PA system. The books have several sections, each tailored to one of the park's visitor centers, and the tasks are fun and easy to do.

Marin Family Weekend Events for July 4, 5 & 6

July 2, 2014
Marin County Fair
Meet Stormtroopers and other characters from the Star Wars universe at the Marin County Fair this weekend.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this Independence Day weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

Friday, July 4

Here are a few of the fantastic 4th of July events taking place in Marin this Friday. For a complete list of Independence Day events, parades, and fireworks displays in Marin and throughout the Bay Area, check out our article here.

  • Red, White, and Zoo
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm
    Red, White, and Zoo is the place to see all of the Zoo’s red, white and blue animals. See special animal feedings and hear Keeper Talks about the adorable red panda, white pelicans, polar bears, and more. You might even get up close to a blue-tongued skink! Also, don’t miss live animal shows all weekend long at the Wells Fargo Wildlife Theatre. If that’s not enough, stop by the Playfield Lawn for summertime concerts by kids folk band Hanna Banana, get your face painted, and enjoy the long weekend at the San Francisco Zoo. Free with paid Zoo admission. Location: The Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Novato’s 21st Annual Fourth of July Parade
    Downtown Novato
    Friday, 10 am

    Novato’s 21st Annual Fourth of July Paradeis one of the largest in the Bay Area and begins at 10 am in downtown Novato on Grant Ave. between Reichert and 7th Avenue. Every year Novato hosts 15,000 to 20,000 spectators and over 100 parade entries ranging from classic cars and vintage military vehicles to Irish bagpipers and a Chinese drum and bell corps. Along the parade route, you will also find food and refreshment booths and souvenir t-shirts. Info: www.novatoparade.com.
  • Sausalito 4th of July Parade
    Friday, 10 am

    Sausalito’s one-of-a-kind 4th of July parade starts at Second and Main Streets at 10 am, and moves along Bridgeway and into Dunphy Park at noon. A picnic in Dunphy park and games follow the parade at noon. Live music starts at noon and lasts all day. Food, dancing, family games, tug-of-war and famous traditional egg toss help make this an exciting event for the whole family. For more info, visit their website.
  • Corte Madera-Larkspur Chambers of Commerce 4th of July Parade
    Redwood High School
    Friday, 10:30 am

    One of the biggest 4th of July events in Marin, the parade boasts the elaborate floats, precision drill teams, classic cars, and the Corte Madera Town Band. Accompanying festivities at Corte Madera's Town Park take place from 9 am–5 pm include arts and crafts, food and drink, carnival games, children's activities, bounce houses, and stage shows. The parade leaves Redwood High School at 10:30 am and winds through downtown Larkspur from Magnolia Street and into Corte Madera by way of Tamalpais Street until it reaches Corte Madera Town Center. Info: (415) 924-0441 or www.cortemadera.org.
  • Marin County Fair
    Marin County Fairgrounds, San Rafael
    Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, 11 am–11 pm

    The 2014 Marin County Fair celebrates Marin's outstanding public schools with its theme Schools Rule! Come to the fair for over 12,000 exhibits, carnival rides, headline entertainment, the barnyard, an international short film and video festival, nightly fireworks, and more! Admission: $16 adults, $14 children 12 and under and seniors 65+, free for children 3 and under. For more information, call (415) 473-6800 or visit their website.
  • Town of Ross 4th of July Parade and Picnic
    Ross Common
    Friday, 11 am

    The town of Ross celebrates the 4th of July at its annual parade and picnic on the Ross Common. Festivities begin at 11 am with a one-of-a-kind parade followed by a picnic lunch and old fashioned games. Food trucks will offer a tasty selection of fare for lunch. More info: www.townofross.org
  • July 4th Fundraiser & Ice Cream Social
    Richardson Bay Audubon Center, Tiburon
    Friday, 6–9:30 pm

    Watch the fireworks over Sausalito and enjoy a family-friendly evening. Ticket price includes ice cream and popcorn and supports the Center's work. Feel free to bring your own beverages and picnic. Adults $25, children $15. Popcorn and ice cream will be available 6:30–8:30 pm. Games until dusk. Limited space—reserve your spot now. Location: 376 Greenwood Beach Road, Tiburon. For more info and reservations, visit their website.
  • Sausalito Fireworks Extravaganza
    Spinnaker Point, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–9:30 pm

    Enjoy live entertainment and a spectacular fireworks display off Spinnaker Point. Fireworks begin at 9:20 pm. This year, the display is set to music—tune in to 1610 AM or Comcast Cable channel 30 during the show. Info: www.ci.sausalito.ca.us
  • Fair Fireworks and S'Mores Feast
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Friday, 8:30–10:30 pm

    In celebration of our nation’s birthday, come see the Marin County Fair fireworks from the top of the Nike Site at McInnis Park. Rangers will roast up s’mores just in time for the firework show that begins promptly at 9:30 pm. Please dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Questions: Contact Ranger Blain Thompson at (415) 446-4423 or visit their website.

Saturday, July 5

  • Museums on Us Free Day
    Various Museums, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday

    Bank of America cardholders can visit the following Bay Area museums for free this weekend: the Chabot Space & Science Center, Contemporary Jewish Museum, de Young Museum, and the Legion of Honor. 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.
  • Point Reyes Farmer's Market
    Toby's Feed Barn on Main Street
    Saturday, 9 am–1 pm

    The Point Reyes Farmers Market features the best West Marin has to offer: the freshest locally grown organic produce, baked goods, artisan cheeses, olive oils, grass-fed beef products, homemade preserves, oysters, bee products, flowers, locally produced wool clothing, and body care products. This weekend, enjoy fun, music, and recipes from the Singing Chef, and live folk rock by Hophead. For more info, visit their website.
  • Fun Family Walk
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–noon
    This is a Healthy Parks, Healthy People event. Come out and enjoy a beautiful summer morning and gorgeous views while participating in an easy going, one-mile walk with your family in this beautiful bayside park. Please dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Water and healthy snacks will be provided. Friendly dogs are welcome, but must be leashed. Questions: Contact Supervising Ranger Audrea Bocchi at (415) 446-4423 or ABocchi@marincounty.org. Location: 310 Smith Ranch Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

2014 Marin 4th of July Parades, Fireworks and More…

July 1, 2014

Kids in the 4th of July modeCelebrate Independence Day the Marin County way! Communities across the Marin observe the 4th of July in their own unique ways. Here’s what’s going on in your community on the Friday, July 4. We will be updating the list as we learn of new events, so please check back. Please keep in mind that event details can change without notice, so please check the event links or call before attending.

You can also add your local Independence Day event to our Family Events Calendar.

Corte Madera and Larkspur

  • The Corte Madera-Larkspur festivities start off with at the 62nd Annual Independence Day Pancake Breakfast—with pancakes, sausages, fruit, coffee, orange juice, and milk—at Larkspur's American Legion Twin Cities Post 313 at 500 Magnolia Avenue. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under, with famous 1928 recipe gin fizzes for $5. Breakfast is from 8–11 am; flag raising ceremony at 7:45 am. Info: call (415) 924-6283 or  www.americanlegion313.org
  • Don’t miss this year’s 49th Annual Corte Madera-Larkspur Chambers of Commerce 4th of July Parade! One of the biggest 4th of July events in Marin, the parade boasts the elaborate floats, precision drill teams, classic cars, and the Corte Madera Town Band. Parade starts at 10:30 am. Accompanying festivities at Corte Madera's Town Park from 9 am–5 pm include arts and crafts, food and drink, carnival games, children's activities, bounce houses, and stage shows. The parade leaves Redwood High School at 10:30 am and winds through downtown Larkspur from Magnolia Street and into Corte Madera by way of Tamalpais Street until it reaches Corte Madera Town Center. The streets will close at 10 am. Info: (415) 924-0441 or www.cortemadera.org.

The Marin County Fair Opens Wednesday, July 2

July 1, 2014

Marin County FairThe Marin County Fair opens Wednesday, July 2, at the County Fairgrounds in San Rafael, near the Marin Civic Center. This year's Marin County Fair theme is "The Happiest Fair on Earth".

In keeping with this year's theme, the 73rd Marin County Fair draws its inspiration from Disneyland, Oakland's Fairyland, and the Marin Art and Garden Fair in Ross, and offers tons of family fun. This year, Game On! makes its debut, with 36 fun and interactive games for fairgoers, including giant-sized versions of classic games like Twister, Scrabble, and Operation; challenging puzzles; and a construction zone geared for toddlers with a bubble arena, large foam blocks, a LEGO wall, and more. Also, the spectacular March Fourth Marching Band will parade across the fairgrounds starting at 6 pm on July 4. This non-traditional marching band features dazzling dancers, high-stepping stilt acrobatics, and of course plenty of music.

Of course there are also the more traditional fair offerings like farm animal exhibits and demonstrations and Hambone Express pig racing in the barnyard, free (with fair admission) rides and carnival games—including the 10-story Giant Wheel and the Marin Clean Energy solar-powered carousel, appearances by the ever-popular Imperial Storm Troopers of the 501st Legion Golden Gate Garrison (from noon–7 pm daily at the Marin Galactic Outpost in the Exhibit Hall), concerts, short films and videos, over 12,000 exhibits, and the Fair's biggest and most elaborate fireworks display ever, presented nightly over the lagoon at 9:30 pm.

Tomorrow Is Children's Day and Marin IJ Day at the Marin County Fair

July 1, 2014

The Marin County Fair opens tomorrow, Wednesday, July 2! Opening day is also Marin IJ Day and Children's Day: children 12 and under are admitted free, and the Marin Independent Journal published a coupon good for $2 off fair admission.

You can download and print the coupon online here. Present the coupon at the gate on July 2 and get $2 off on one ticket. Limit one coupon per person.

Tomorrow's fair entertainment schedule can be found here. Regular fair admission is $17 for adults, $15 for seniors 65+ and children 12 and under, and free for children 4 and under. Admission includes all exhibits, entertainment, and carnival rides. This year's Marin County Fair theme is "The Happies Fair on Earth."

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