Top 10 Marin Kids' Birthday Party Venues!

May 12, 2016

Birthday Parties for Kids Marin

There's no shortage of great places to hold your child's birthday party in Marin, but which ones are the favorites with local families? Here's our top-ten list of kids' birthday party venues throughout Marin County, as selected by us and by Marin Mommies readers. (Please note that we haven't included parks and playgrounds in this list.)

You can browse more Marin birthday party venues on our Marin Birthday Party Guide, as well as search for entertainers, caterers, party supplies, bounce houses, and more. Here they are (in no particular order):

Love2Dance

Novato's Love2Dance is not only a great place for dance classes, but for active themed birthday parties as well! Themes for Love2Dance's two-hour parties include "Pretty Princess", "Hawaiian Hula", "Hollywood", and even "Disney's High School Musical", and include lots of dancing and games like the Hokey Pokey and musical chairs. Love2Dance provides all the decorations and suppiles, and you bring snacks, beverages, and the cake! Owner Tara brings tons of energy and enthusiasm to the party and is great with the kids. Read more about Love2Dance's birthday parties here.

Splash, Slide, and Swim at the Hamilton Community Pool in Novato

May 10, 2016

Hamilton Community Pool NovatoWhen the weather turns warm, almost everyone loves going to the pool for a day of splashing and swimming in the sun. One of my family's favorite Marin public pools is the one in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, which opens for the 2016 swim season this Friday, May 13.

My kids love Hamilton Community Pool especially for the shallow kids' pool with its play structure, water slide, and water sprayers. It's a blast for kids of all ages. There's also a larger more traditional pool for more serious swimming and water play.

Experience Maker Faire Bay Area 2016, the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth!

May 10, 2016

Maker Faire Bay Area 2016

Get ready for the greatest show (and tell) on earth as Maker Faire Bay Area returns to the San Mateo Event Center. Maker Faire describes itself as “part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new!”, and it’s a family-friendly expo of invention and creativity featuring everything from technology, science, and engineering to food, art, and education. It’s a celebration of all things “Maker” that will inspire you and your family to become Makers yourselves. Maker Faire Bay Area takes place Friday through Sunday, May 20, 21, and 22, from 1 to 5 pm on Friday, 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday, and 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday.

Easy Chinese Cashew Chicken

May 9, 2016

cashew chickenWhenever we get Chinese take-out, my kids love to order cashew chicken. Like many Chinese-American restaurant staples, cashew chicken is actually easy to make at home, and requires only a couple special ingredients, which you should be able to find in the Asian foods aisle of your local supermarket. Accompany this with stir-fried green beans and steamed brown rice for a healthy weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews

Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Offers Family Fun from a Bygone Era

May 9, 2016

Playland-Not-At-The-Beach

It's a safe bet that few if any of us remember Playland at the Beach, that bygone San Francisco beachside amusement park that closed back in the early 1970s. This popular attraction, once located across from Ocean Beach near Sutro Heights and the Cliff House offered up fun like the Big Dipper roller coaster, Fun House, Diving Bell, Ferris wheel, the infamous Laffing Sal automaton, restaurants, and more. It was even the birthplace of the Bay Area's favorite ice cream treat, the It's-It ice cream sandwich! Not much remains of Playland (its site is not home to a condo development), but if you want to get a taste of what it was had to offer, head across the Bay to El Cerrito and pay a visit to Playland-Not-At-The-Beach.

Calling All Kids: Get Your 2016 Marin County Fair Entries in This Week!

May 9, 2016

Marin County FairSummer is almost here, and that means the 2016 Marin County Fair will be here soon, too. One of the things we love about the fair is the wide variety of competitions they have for kids of all ages. If your kids want to enter some of their handiwork into the fair, they'll need to act soon; the deadline for entry to all competitions is this Thursday, May 12 at 5 pm.

Children ages 5–18 can enter any number of Junior Division competitions, including arts and crafts, hobbies, cartoon art, performing arts, photography, and creative writing, not to mention traditional preserved food, horticulture, and floral categories. Do you have a prize-winning cow, goat, or chicken in the backyard? Kids can enter all sorts of livestock in the fair. Don't have a farm animal? Don't worry—kids can also enter their furry friends in the Guinea Pig, Rabbit, or Pocket Pet (mice, rats, hamsters, turtles, and other critters) competitions.

Special theme categories for 2016 include merry-go-rounds, treasure chests, time capsules, Fair Memories collages or assemblages, decorated parasols, selfies, carnival rides, Etch-A Sketch art, and more. There's bound to be something for everyone in the family to enter. My kids always love entering something in the fair, and it's thrilling to see what kind of ribbon you've won when you finally find your exhibit on display.

The Circus is Coming to Town Memorial Day Weekend

May 8, 2016

American Crown Circus as St. Vincent'sIt's not every day that the circus comes to town, but it'll be here in Marin this Memorial Day weekend! American Crown Circus sets up its big top on the grounds of St. Vincent's School for Boys in Marinwood, just south of Novato, May 26–30. American Crown Circus is a family run, bilingual circus that features acrobats, high wire acts, and clowns (but no exotic animals). Read about our visit to the circus here.

The circus is the major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise, which has brought a professional traveling tent circus to Marin every year since 1997. Profits from the circus support local community projects.

Moms Get Free Admission to the San Francisco Zoo on Mother's Day!

May 7, 2016

Barbro and Ingrid giraffes San Francisco ZooThe San Francisco Zoo and Gardens celebrates Mother's Day, with free admission for all moms. All moms who come to the zoo with their children this Sunday, May 8, 2016, will receive one free admission.

Come visit some of the zoo's new animal moms, like Barbro the giraffe, pictured here with her daughter Ingrid, Evita the giant anteater, and Sukari the African lion. Ingrid the baby giraffe was born just last month!

Mother's day guests at the zoo will also enjoy Baby Loves Disco, a daytime disco dance party for kids, which takes place on the Elinor Friend Playground from 11 am to 3 pm. This fun interactive activity also includes arts and crafts, face painting, and more.

For more info on the zoo's Mother's Day celebration and other fun family programs, visit www.sfzoo.org.

Marin Mother's Day Weekend Events, May 6, 7 & 8

May 6, 2016

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

Also, make sure you check our our guides to family-friendly Mother's Day brunches in Marin. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6

  • Breakfast with Enzo
    Sports Basement, San Francisco Presidio
    Friday, 10 & 11 am

    Enzo Garcia plays guitar, banjo, accordion, musical saw, Jew's harp, enzotar, appalachian dulcimer, slide flute, percussion and more. Recommended for children 7 and under. Drop in any time. Cost: $15 for one child & $10 per each additional child siblings under 7 months free For more info, call (415) 652-2474 or visit his website.
  • Fiddler on the Roof
    The Playhouse in San Anselmo

    Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm, Sunday, 2 pm
    The Stapleton Theatre Company presents Fiddler on the Roof. Kid-friendly. Tickets: $22 adults, student $16. Purchase tickets here. For more information, visit their website.
  • Family Film Night: The Good Dinosaur
    Presidio Community YMCA
    Friday, 6–10 pm
    Bring your sleeping bags and camp out on the gym floor while you enjoy a fun free movie on a big screen. Free popcorn and It's It ice creams. Food available from Off the Grid at 6 pm, cartoon shorts at 6:30 pm and movie starts at 8 pm. The event is indoors at the Presidio Community Y Gymnasium, 63 Funston Avenue at Lincoln Boulevard in the Presidio. Stay warm and cozy with BYO blankets and cushions. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, May 7

  • Marin Human Race 5K Race
    Marin Center Fairgrounds and Lagoon
    Saturday, 7–11 am

    The Marin Human Race is the largest collaborative fundraiser in our county! Join over 3,000 Marin residents to run, walk, or roll the five-kilometer racecourse at Marin Center Fairgrounds and Lagoon. Enjoy a community fair highlighting local nonprofits and businesses, kids’ races, live music, pancake breakfast, complimentary refreshments, prizes, kids' fair with games and activities, giveaways and more. Location: 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Petaluma Kids Gran Fondo
    Lucchesi Park Community Center
    Saturday, 9 am–1 pm
    The Petaluma Kids Gran Fondo gives youth and their families the opportunity to donate and/or fundraise for children with disabilities, local schools, and other groups. Individuals and families will celebrate together by biking, running, walking, skating, skateboarding, or rolling (wheelchairs) on one of the four course options. Participants will enjoy a complimentary lunch and a kids expo filled with bounce houses, a climbing wall, balance bike races, clowns/balloons, face painting, Three Twins ice cream, Clo the Cow, and much more. Registration fee: $10 per event. Location: 320 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma. For more info, visit their website.
  • Mother's Day at the Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm
    In celebration of Mother's Day, join us for complimentary herbal tea, for cupcake decorating with Mom and to make a special card for her. Or toast Mom with a treat from the Farmers' Market Mimosa Bar! We’ll be pouring Champagne and mixing it with Pressed Juicery’s fresh-pressed orange juice. The bar is located beneath the Big Tent, so stop by from 10-2 for a mimosa or a glass of champagne. For more info, visit their website.
  • Horse Expo
    Novato Horsemens Arena
    Saturday, 9 am–4 pm

    See horse demonstrations, get to know local horse businesss, and more at this one-day equine expo. Free! Location: 600 Bugeia Lane, Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Children's Day Festival in Japantown
    Japantown Peace Plaza, San Francisco
    Saturday, 9 am–4 pm
    There will be entertainment, food and hands-on craft activities for children in recognition of Japan's national holiday to celebrate children. Free. Food available for purchase. Location: 1610 Geary Boulevard, Japan Center, Nihonmachi Mall, San Francisco. For more info call (415) 567-5505 or visit their website.
  • Flower Crowns for Mothers and Children
    Saturday, 10–11 am
    UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

    Come make a beautiful floral crown to wear with mom to celebrate Mother's Day. We'll use a variety of greenery and flowers to put together our crowns. A fun and festive way to spend the day! Sip some tea made from flowers while you craft away. Cost: $20 Adult, $20 Child, $18 Member Adult, $18 Member Child, $12 Additional Sibling or Parent Chaperone. Registration required here.
  • Mother's Day Art in the Park
    Saturday, 11 am–1 pm
    McNears Beach Park, San Rafael

    Don’t wait until the last minute; bring your kids out to McNears Beach Park to make something special for mom! Work with rangers to create your own piece of art to give to your mom on Mother's Day. This event is self-paced, and encourages creativity in the beautiful outdoors. All skill levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Meet at the South Shore Picnic Area. Park entrance fee waived for participants. Location: 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Moms & Nature Hike
    Saturday, 11 am–12:30 pm
    Point Bonita, Marin Headlands
    What's better than a giving the gift of nature and relaxation? Let's celebrate more than one mother: Mother Nature and you, your mother, or mother figure by stretching and strolling around the Headlands with one of our naturalists. Following the free program event, we serve a delicious, optional lunch in our popular dining hall where we serve local and organic food for only $10/adult and $5/children up to 12 years old. Learn more on their website.
  • Spend Mother's Day on a Goat Farm
    Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–3 pm

    Spend Mother's Day on a family-run goat farm in Sebastopol where you can sample yogurt and artisan cheese, see newborn kids, pet baby goats, climb hay bales, and more. Admission is free! Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery is located at 5480 Thomas Road in Sebastopol. Find out more on their website
  • STEAM Saturday: Building with the Three Little Pigs
    San Rafael Public Library
    Saturday, 11–11:45 am

    STEAM powered stories, rhymes, songs, crafts, experiments, and sensory experiences for preschool children ages 3–6 and their caregivers. Please wear comfy clothes that are OK to get messy! Register at the Children’s Reference Desk, or at (415) 485-3322. Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Castles and Kites 2016
    Doran Beach, Bodega Bay
    Saturday, 11 am–4 pm

    Castles and Kites is an annual celebration of sandcastle building and kite flying at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay. At Castles and Kites, amateurs and experts are welcome to join in the fun. For kite flying, you can bring your own kite or sit back and watch others show off their kite-handling skills. For sandcastle building, free tools and molds are on loan from Sonoma Regional Parks, and long-time sand sculptors will be at work on elaborate creations. Castles and Kites is a spring tradition! Admission is free. Parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members. Location: 201 Doran Beach Road, Bodega Bay. For more info, visit their website.
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