Ten Fun Family Things to Do on Thanksgiving Break

November 21, 2016

Snow sledding in San Rafael
Go snow sledding in downtown San Rafael at the annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland

Thanksgiving week is next week, and since most Marin County schools give kids the entire week off, you'll probably be looking for ways to keep them occupied before and after Turkey Day. Here are our top 10 activities for families for Thanksgiving break:

  1. Go snow sledding in downtown San Rafael at the annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland.
  2. Go ice skating at a Bay Area skating rink like Marin on Ice at Northgate and the Bay Area Discovery Museum's Iceless Skating Rink.
  3. Get a head start on the holidays at the West End Nursery Christmas House in San Rafael.
  4. Take a fantastic fall hike with the family.
  5. Make a cute pumpkin turkey centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.

Festive Holiday Teas for the Family in Marin and San Francisco

November 20, 2016

Holiday Tea Falkirk

Holiday teas are a fun seasonal treat for children and their parents, whether they're at a local library or a fancy hotel in the city. There are several in Marin this season. Holiday teas are popular and space is often limited, so reserve your spot as soon as possible if you plan to go. Here are a few of our favorites in Marin, San Francisco, and the Wine Country.

Marin

A Holiday Magic Toy Box Tea at Falkirk

Saturday and Sunday, December 10 & 11 seatings at noon & 3 pm
1408 Mission Avenue at "E" Street, San Rafael
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! The Magic Toy Box Tea is hosted by the Cultural Affairs Service League. This extremely popular event is by reservation only and always sells our early! Reserve your spot by calling (800) 838-3006 or online here. The cost is $28 for adults and $24 for children or $50 for an adult-and-child combination ticket. For more info, visit www.falkirkculturalcenter.org.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 18, 19 & 20

November 18, 2016

PIER 39 holiday Christmas tree lighting San Francisco
PIER 39 Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on Saturday and Sunday. Photo: PIER 39

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, as well as opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers.

Friday, November 18

  • Bel Marin Keys Holiday Warehouse Sale
    Bel Marin Keys, Novato
    Friday & Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    On Friday and Saturday, many of the warehouses in the Bel Marin Keys will open their doors for direct-to-seller deals waiting for you. This semi-annual sale is one of the hidden shopping gems in Marin County and has been in existence for over 20 years! Shop for a wide variety of goods from food and wine to decor and fine art. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Ice Skating in Union Square
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–11:30 pm

    Union Square, San Francisco's main shopping district, gets into the ice skating spirit during the holiday season with an outdoor ice rink sponsored by Safeway. 90-minute sessions start on every even hour. Admission: $11 for adults, 7 children 8 and under. Skate rental $6. Information: (415) 781-2688 or visit their website.
  • Embarcadero Center Holiday Ice Rink
    Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco
    Friday & Saturday, 10 am–11:30 pm and Sunday, 10 am–9:30 pm
    The Bay Area's largest outdoor ice rink offers 90-minute skating sessions Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 9:30 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 11:30 pm. Admission is $11 for adults and $7 for children ages 7 and under; skate rental is $5. They also offer group rates, as well as birthday parties and private rentals. For more info, call 415) 837-1931 or visit their website.
  • Santa Photos
    Northgate Mall in San Rafael
    Friday & Saturday, 10 am–9 pm and Sunday, 11 am–7 pm

    Northgate in San Rafael invites children to visit Santa and have their picture taken with Santa Claus at his winter wonderland house in the Macy's wing. Breaks on Friday and Saturday (breaks 1-1:45pm & 3:45-4:30pm), and Sunday (break 2-3pm). For more info, visit their website.
  • French Storytime (L'Heure du Conte)
    San Anselmo Library
    Friday, 11–11:30 am

    For children of all ages and their parent or caregiver. Talk, sing, read, and play together. Share books, stories, rhymes, music in French. No registration required. Parents/caregivers are expected to stay with children during all storytime sessions. Free. Location: 110 Tunstead Avenue, Council Chambers, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin on Ice
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Friday, 2
    –10 pm, Saturday, noon–10 pm, Sunday, noon–9 pm
    This Saturday, Marin on Ice opens for another season of outdoor ice skating at San Rafael's Northgate Mall, where it runs through January 11. Marin's only holiday ice skating rink features 6,300 square feet of real ice and will be open daily for outdoor skating. Skating is $15 per person, which includes skate rental. Private ice cabanas will also be available for rental and "Skate Buddies" are available for beginners. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Fun Days
    South Novato Library
    Friday, 3–4 pm

    Enjoy an afternoon of fun with the family at the South Novato Library. Whether it’s story, art, music or science, this drop-in program promises to be packed with fun! Location: 931 C St., Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival
    Embarcadero Center, San Francisco
    Friday, 4–7 pm
    Four iconic buildings lit with 15,000 holiday lights, fireworks bursting in the sky and a magical show presented by Disney on Ice. The Building Lighting Ceremony begins at 5:30 pm and live performances from Disney On Ice presents Frozen! The Building Lighting Ceremony at Embarcadero Center is a San Francisco tradition and the official start of the holiday season in the City. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Nights at the de Young
    de Young Museum, San Francisco
    Friday, 5–8:45 pm

    Friday Nights at the de Young are after-hours art happenings that include a mix of live music, dance and theater performances, film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, artist demonstrations, hands-on art activities, and exhibition tours. The café offers a delicious prix-fixe menu and specialty cocktails, and the Hamon Tower observation level is open until 8 pm. For more info, visit their website.
  • Tam Valley Craft Fair
    Tam Valley Community Center, Mill Valley
    Friday, 5–9 pm & Saturday, 10 am–3 pm
    Shop for unique holiday gifts at this year's Tam Valley Craft Fair. Location: 203 Marin Avenue, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.

Sonoma and Napa Wine Country Family Holiday Fun

November 15, 2016

Cornerstone Lighting of the Snowmen
Don't miss the annual Lighting of the Snowmen Holiday Festival at Cornerstone Sonoma

One of the benefits of living in the North Bay is having the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa right in our own backyard. It's a short trip from Marin but a world away, especially during the holidays, when the area does itself up in style.

Here are some selected family-friendly holiday events and happenings in Sonoma and Napa, as well as a few of our favorite places to visit in the Wine Country. There's nothing quite like taking in the Wine Country scenery (and maybe a glass of pinot noir) on a crisp and clear December day! Some of these events require tickets or advance reservations, so make sure you check for availability before you go.

Sonoma Valley

Victorian Christmas Crafts Workshop
General Vallejo's Home, Sonoma
Sunday, November 20, 11 am–3 pm

Craft handmade, affordable historical gifts or stocking stuffers at General Vallejo’s Home. Meet a special holiday guest. Free admission for ages 12 and under (accompanied by an adult), $2 for ages 13–17, and $3 for adults. Rain or shine. More information

Bel Marin Keys Warehouse Sale: A Holiday Shopping Tradition for Over 40 Years!

November 15, 2016

Bel Marin Keys Holiday Warehouse Sale 2016

Marin Mommies presents a sponsored shout-out from the Bel Marin Keys Holiday Warehouse Sale, which takes place November 17–19 from 10 am–5 pm.

Twice a year, warehouses in Bel Marin Keys area of Novato open their doors to the public to offer terrific wholesale deals direct to you! This year’s sale will take place from Thursday November 17 to  Saturday November 19, from 10 am to 5 pm.

Does It Really Snow in Downtown San Rafael?

November 14, 2016

Snow sledding in San Rafael

Does it really snow in Downtown San Rafael? Well, no... not very often. But that doesn't mean that they can't truck a bunch of the frozen white stuff for sledding on the Friday after Thanksgiving!

Snow will arrive in Marin as part of the 37th annual Downtown San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland, which takes place Friday, November 25. The event happens on Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place. Enjoy the Parade of Lights, Winter Wonderland, holiday market, tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment, and more! Free snow sledding and kids' activities take place from noon to 4:30 pm and 6 to 8 pm, and the Holiday Marketplace runs from noon to 8 pm.

Magical Holiday Train Rides in the Bay Area and Northern California

November 14, 2016

The Polar Express Train Ride Santa Cruz
The Polar Express Train Ride on the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway. Photo courtesy Premier Rail Collection

There's something magical about taking a special holiday outing with the family on a train! While the popular Polar Express train rides at the California State Railroad Museum and Railtown 1897 sold out way back in October, you can still find plenty of other opportunities in the Bay Area and Northern California to celebrate the holidays on board a train, including and all new Polar Express Train Ride in Santa Cruz. But get your tickets as soon as you can—most of these rides will sell out.

Chef Daddy Barbeques the Thanksgiving Turkey

November 14, 2016

Thanksgiving turkey on the barbeque

This year, as I've done for several years now, I'll cook our Thanksgiving turkey on the charcoal barbeque grill. This is, in my humble opinion, the best way to cook a turkey, hands down. And it frees up the oven for more important Thanksgiving fare, like pie!

Cooking the turkey on the grill has long been my family's favorite way of doing so. I know a lot of people like to deep fry their turkeys in one of those turkey fryer contraptions, but as Captain Kirk shows in this cautionary video, it can be hazardous to life and limb.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

November 13, 2016

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

Hiking with children is a great way to get them into the outdoors and introduce them to nature, but it can be a bit of a challenge. Small legs seem to tire out faster than larger ones, and when they outgrow both the stroller and the backpack it's best to seek out some shorter hikes with few hills or elevation changes that the whole family can enjoy with a minumum of complaining. One of our favorite easy family hikes can be found at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, on the northern end of Novato.

This 552-acre preserve features wide and gentle trails that are perfect for families. They're easily manageable with an off-road capable jogging stroller, and kids' bikes should be able to tackle the fire roads with ease. You'll share the trails with plenty of hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, as well as birders checking out the countless shorebirds and waterfowl that make their homes in the adjacent wetlands.

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