Lake Tahoe Ski, Snowboard & Snow Play Family Fun

November 10, 2015

Skiing in Lake Tahoe

It seems like El Niño is taking its sweet time in bringing us much-needed precipitation, but there's finally some snow up in the Sierras, which means it's time to get ready for the start of ski and snow play season in Lake Tahoe (and hope for more snow this fall and winter). Many of Tahoe ski resorts have already announced their anticipated opening dates for the 2015–2016 season. several are even open now, and some are even opening this weekend!

The Lake Tahoe area has a variety of resorts and ski areas to suit anyone's taste and budget. Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, too. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know!

Open House and Block Party at Safari West November 15 and December 6

November 10, 2015

Safari WestThis fall, Safari West holds its annual Open House and Block Party. Experience this spectacular zoo and wildlife preserve, located in the hills east of Santa Rosa, and its animal residents, including cheetahs, giraffes, antelopes, lemurs, and a whole aviary of exotic birds.

Hop on the Nairobi bus for a short driving tour through part of the preserve where you'll get up close and personal with some of Safari West's African mammals, including the giraffes. Afterward, take a walk to see flamingos, cheetahs, monkeys, lemurs and more. There will also be exhibits on the lawn and face painting for the kids.

The Open House and Block Party costs $25 for adults, with one child admitted free with each paying adult. Additional children age 12 and younger are $10. The party takes place on both this Sunday, November 15 and Sunday, Decebember 6 with a morning party from 10 am to noon and an afternoon party from 2 to 4 pm. Reservations are required; make reservations by calling (707) 566-3667 or emailing The party takes place rain or shine.

The Spectacular Christmas House at San Rafael's West End Nursery

November 9, 2015

West End Nursery Christmas House San Rafael

Traditionally, our first holiday outing in Marin is always to the famous Christmas House at West End Nursery in San Rafael. We checked out this season's edition yesterday during its opening weekend and, once again, it's a spectacular as ever. As a matter of fact, I think it might be the best version to date—it just keeps getting better every year.

The venerable West End Nursery has been operating in San Rafael's Sun Valley neighborhood for over a century—since 1909, in fact. The Christmas House is located on the grounds of the nursery in a Victorian house that's over also 100 years old. It's filled to the brim with Christmas trees and decorations of all kinds, and it's amazing. A visit here will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit, even it you're thinking "But it's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

Indoor Drop-in Activities for the Little Ones for Marin & Beyond

November 9, 2015

Indoor playLooking for fun indoor play spaces for the little ones? There are several places to take the kids to get them out of the house and burn off all that extra energy, especially on a cold day. Here are a few ideas for fun indoor drop-in activites in Marin County and beyond:


  • Pavilion Playgroup (ages 0-5)
    Fairfax Pavilion
    142 Bolinas Road

    Bring the little ones for some fun indoors November through April each year on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30am -12:30 pm. Indoor playtime during the soggy season! Join other moms, dads and kids at the charming red building on the hill. Children/infant to 5 years enjoy playing with toys, riding scooters and climbing on a variety of soft blocks and mats. Parents enjoy mingling, playing and drinking fresh coffee and tea. Cost: $6 per child per visit or $50 for a 10 visit punch card. For more info, visit their website.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy for Thanksgiving

November 9, 2015

Herb roasted turkey breastWhen we crave those classic holiday dinner flavors, we often grab a turkey breast roast from the market and make this easier, smaller scale, and faster version of a Thanksgiving feast. It's perfect for a nice family meal or Thanksgiving dinner if your family is smaller and you don't want to deal with cooking and storing a whole turkey. Another bonus when just cooking the turkey breast: you're less likely to overcook it since it's all you're dealing with.

I grab a handful of fresh herbs from the kitchen garden and use them in a compound butter to season the turkey breast bother under and on top of the skin. Not only does this give the turkey an amazing flavor, but it makes the skin extra crispy, too.

Put the roast in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan, pop it in the oven, and you'll have dinner in no time. I love using a cast iron skillet because it makes it easy to make gravy out of the pan drippings.

Thanksgiving Side Dish: Spiced-Cider Braised Winter Squash

November 9, 2015

Apple cider braised squashThis delicious Thanksgiving side dish has the flavors of fall—winter squash and spiced apple cider. It's easy to make, and looks pretty on the holiday table, too. If you use Delicata squash, those orange- or green-striped cream-colored oval winter squash, you don't even need to peel them, and the colors look great, too. You can also make this with cubed butternut squash or pumpkin.

I adapted this from a recipe in the New York Times but used the spiced apple cider from Trader Joe's. The spice flavors are subtle and really enchance the flavor of the squash. Feel free to substitute regular apple cider.

Get Your Tickets for San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker

November 8, 2015

San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker

November is here, which means the holiday season is starting to kick in. For many families, the holidays won't be complete without attending a performance of San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker. Experience 200 costumed characters, dazzling scenery, Tchaikovsky's beautiful score performed live by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, and the opulence of the War Memorial Opera House decorated for Christmas. Tickets to this time-honored holiday tradition are on sale now and going fast!

Create a Cute Pumpkin Turkey Centerpiece for Thanksgiving

November 7, 2015

Pumpkin turkey centerpiece craftEvery fall, my daughter is obsessed with pumpkins. She loves all the different shapes and sizes of pumpkins and winter squash, so we end up buying more than we can really use (there's only so much butternut squash soup and pumpkin pie you can eat).

A couple years ago we worked together to create this cute pumpkin turkey centerpiece for Thanksgiving. We've made it a tradition to make one every year! We created it using a small “sugar pie” pumpkin (available at most grocery stores—we got ours at Trader Joe's for $1.99) and craft supplies that we happened to have on hand.

This is a fun autumn project that’s easy to make for children of all ages (with a parent's help), and it looks fanstastic on the dining table. My kids and I like to write what we're thankful for on the paper tail feathers, too.

To help you out, we made a template for the turkey head, wings and feathers, that you can download here; it's formatted for a standard 8.5 x 11-inch letter size sheet of paper.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 6, 7 & 8

November 6, 2015
Marin on Ice
Marin on Ice opens this Saturday for another season of open air skating at Northgate in San Rafael.

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.

Friday, November 6

  • STEAM Carnival 
    Pier 48 at AT&T Park, San Francisco
    Friday 10 am–5 pm, Saturday-Sunday, 10 am–6 pm
    The event features high-tech games, interactive installations, dynamic build zones, round the clock stage shows, lab demos, aerialists, artists, food, and more. There’s something for everyone! Admission: $25 adults and $20 kids 4–12 on Friday, $30 adults and $25 kids on Saturday and Sunday; free for kids 3 and under. Purchase tickets and learn more here. 
  • Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–9:30 pm

    Get ready to skate under the sun and stars along the beautiful waterfront at the largest outdoor rink in San Francisco. General Admission – $11, Children (7 & under) – $6, Skate Rental – $5. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Craft Fair
    San Rafael Community Center
    Friday 11 am–7:30 pm

    Handcrafted items from over 60 vendors for sale. Snack bar with refreshments and homemade baked goods available all day. Sponsored by the San Rafael Goldenaires Senior Citizen Organization. Free admission. Location: 618 B Street, San Rafael. For more info, call (415) 485-3348 or visit their website.
  • Holly Fair 2015
    San Geronimo Community Presbyterian Church
    Friday, 4–9 pm & Saturday, 10 am–1 pm

    The Holly Fair is magical, with sparkling lights, live music, and the warm glow of celebration. Turkey dinners Friday, 4:30–8 pm, lunch Saturday, 11 am–1 pm, carnival games with prizes for kids. Shop for gifts, housewares, food, toys, books, DVDs, and more. Silent auction for art, jewelry, antiques, and gift certificates. Proceeds support services for local people. Location: 6001 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at Nicasio Valley Road, San Geronimo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Kids' Pajama Party
    DIESEL, a bookstore, Larkspur
    Friday, 6–7 pm

    Pull on your PJs and bring your teddy bear to the bookstore! Author Marucs Ewert and illustrator Lisa Brown will be here to read you a bedtime story. Get cozy, listen to a story or two, have some milk and cookies and get your books signed. Mummy Cat prowls his pyramid home, longing for his beloved owner. As he roams the tomb, lavish murals above his head display scenes of the cat with his young Egyptian queen, creating a story-within-a-story about the events of centuries past. Location: Marin Country Mart, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Berkeley Playhouse presents Peter Pan
    The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley
    Friday, 1 & 6 pm and Saturday, 12 & 5 pm

    Take off with Peter and the three Darling children as they fly away to Neverland! They encounter villainous pirates, a crafty crocodile, a sprightly fairy named Tinker Bell, and the cunning Captain Hook. Location: 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley. Tickets: $17–$60. For more info, visit their website.
  • El Nino Party!
    Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 6-9 pm

    We're celebrating the arrival of El Nino Marinwood style! Join us for drinks, food, raffle & live music!  Money raised from this event will go towards sand, sandbags and storm equipment. If you want to bring the kiddos, there will be $5/childcare. Location: 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, November 7

  • Free Yoga at Old Mill Park
    Mill Valley
    Saturday, 9–10 am

    The Mill Valley Recreation Department is offering a free Hatha flow yoga class the first Saturday of the month at Old Mill Amphitheater. Prepare to sweat, breathe, align and stretch in this fun, unique environment. Designed for students of all levels, this class will be held in all weather conditions except severe rain. Bring a mat, water bottle and comfortable clothing. Meet at the Old Mill Amphitheater 10 minutes prior to class. Location: Throckmorton Ave and Old Mill Street. For more info, call 415-383-1370
  • Family Fun: Fall Wake-up
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–noon

    Come out and enjoy a spectacular spring morning at McInnis Park. We will begin with a volunteer activity to beautify the park followed by a Zumba workout and a free lunch. This is a Healthy Parks, Healthy People event and ideal for all ages. All skill levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Wear comfortable athletic clothing and sturdy shoes. Water and healthy snacks provided. Questions: Contact Volunteer Coordinator Kirk Schroeder at (415) 763-2977 or visit their website.
  • Creative Family Fun: Stars and Stripes Wristbands
    Presidio Officers’ Club, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–3 pm

    Bring the kiddos ages 5 to 12 for some free craft-making at the new Presidio Officers' Club in San Francisco.November 11 is Veterans Day. Remember our soldiers by making American flag-themed wrist bands. After that, create a postcard to send to a veteran. Registration not required, but preferred. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, Presidio Main Post, San Francisco. For more info, call (415) 561-4400 or visit their website.
  • Free Junior Chef Class: Cookie Decorating for the Holidays!
    Williams-Sonoma, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 10 am

    Baking and decorating cookies is a fun Holiday activity for the entire family! In this class, we’ll share tips and tricks for making and decorating delicious cookies. Then
    we’ll taste our sweet creations! Suitable for ages 5-13.
    Call the store to reserve your spot (415) 924-6799. Location: The Village at Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bay Area Science Festival 5th Annual Discovery Day
    AT&T Park, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10 am–4 pm

    The 5th annual Discovery Day at AT&T Park features hundreds of hands-on activities, opportunities to meet local scientists and engineers, and plenty of fun and educational entertainment. The entire ballpark is packed to the rafters with science content: on the field, at every entry/exit, and every level of the ballpark. Get ready to unleash your inner scientist. Free admission! Perfect for families with kids ages 0–14. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin on Ice Opening Weekend
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Saturday and Sunday, noon–10 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.
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