Visit a Museum for Free in November

November 2, 2014

Fun at the ExploratoriumDid you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.

Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions, although the general admission fee is usually deducted from the total; see details with each museum listing below.

Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.

Lake Tahoe Ski, Snowboard & Snow Play Family Fun

November 1, 2014

Skiing at Northstar in Lake TahoeIt's no secret that it's been the dryest year on record in Northern California, but there's already 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 storms and snow this fall and winter). Many of Tahoe ski resorts are making snow like mad and have their opening days scheduled in November. Boreal is even open now!

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!

We've incuded opening days, if available. Make sure you check before you head up to the high country, though, as opening dates are tentative and dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers.

November Classes and Programs at Parents Place Marin

November 1, 2014

Parents PlaceParents Place in San Rafael has been a valuable resource for countless Marin County parents and families. This fall, they offer a wide variety of programs, from childbirth education to classes for parents and children. Here are a few of the programs they offer in November, including classes for both infant-and-child and adult-and-teen CPR and an toddler sleep class with Angelique Millette.

JAMaROO Music Time, plus bonus free play! (9 months–4 years)

JAMaROO Music Time is a fun-packed, 40-minute class that combines music, creative movement, and storytelling. Children will sing, play simple instruments, read stories, balance bean bags, and dance with streamers to a variety of music from around the world. Class themes are related to nature and the outside world.Tuesdays, November 4–18, 10–10:40 am. $39 per child; $22.50 for each additional sibling, for three-week series. Parental supervision is required. As a bonus, the playroom will be available for free play from 10:40 am until noon after each session Register here.

Adult and Teen CPR

This class teaches rescuer skills in CPR and relief of choking (foreign-body airway obstruction) for adults and teens. It presents information about the American Heart Association's adult Chain of Survival and signs of heart attack, cardiac arrest, stroke, and choking in adults. This class is suitable for all laypersons, especially family members of patients at risk for sudden cardiac death and those who want to learn rescue skills for loved ones. With Shanda Manion, CPR instructor certified by the American Heart Association in basic life support. $50. Thursday, November 6, 6:30–8:30 pm. Register here.

Marin Weekend Fun for October 31, November 1 & 2

October 31, 2014

Halloween trick-or-treat kidsHere are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this Halloween weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

Friday, October 31

  • Not-Too-Spooky Halloween
    Habitot Children's Museum, Berkeley
    Friday, 9:30 am–4:30 pm

    Come to a not-too-spooky celebration for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Play miniature golf in the garden graveyard, paint miniature pumpkins and fly paper ghosts in the Wind Tunnel. Visit the witches’ apothecary in the grocery store. Treats and prizes. Come in costume! Location: 2065 Kittredge Street, Berkeley. For more info call (510) 647-1111 or visit their website.
  • Exploratorium Family Halloween
    San Francisco
    Friday, noon–4 pm

    Join us for an afternoon of frightful, family-friendly fun and a bit of scary science. Sneak through a cemetery of dead science ideas, lend a hand to giant insects, or have a close encounter with reptiles that slither and creep. All ages welcome; costumes encouraged! Included with museum admission. Location: Pier 15, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Trick-or-Treat Fourth Street
    Friday, 2–5 pm

    Berkeley's Fourth Street invites all costumed kids to trick or treat on the street. Activities include facepainting, photo booth, live music and more. For more info, visit their website.
  • Halloween Trick-or-Treat Trail
    Downtown Petaluma
    Friday, 3–5:30 pm

    Join over 60 participating downtown Petaluma merchants for a fun and safe community Halloween for the entire family and goodies for costumed kids under 12. Prepare for a hautingly "ghould" time as the scary, the cute, the ugly and the creepy descend on Downtown Petaluma. For more info, visit their website.
  • Kids Costume Parade & Trick-or-Treating
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Friday, 4–7 pm

    Kids Costume Parade, led by Superheroes Brass & Tin Marching Band, trick-or-treating at all shops with candy from Miette, and Pumpkin Decorating at Poppy Store. Trick-or-Treat from 4–7 pm and Costume Parade at 5:30 pm. For more info, visit their website.
  • Halloween Parade and Trick-or-Treat Lane
    Sausalito City Hall
    Friday, 5:45–8 pm

    Kids of all ages are welcome to come in costume for a Halloween Parade and for some trick-or-treating. Parade begins at fire station (at 333 Johnson and Caledonia) Come on down to the Sausalito City Hall, located at Caledonia and Litho Streets in Sausalito for a spooky time. There will also be a haunted house at in the game room at City Hall from 6:15–8 pm. For more info, visit their website.
  • Santa Venetia's 6th Annual Halloween Party
    San Rafael
    Friday, 5:30–9 pm

    Join us for our 5th Annual Halloween Block Party on Adrian Way (between Mabry and Meadow). Adrian Way (between Mabry and Meadow) will be closed to all traffic for this event. Explore a haunted cemetery, check out what the witches are brewing in the Witches Kitchen, and check out the local house band playing your favorite Halloween tunes, not to mention the San Rafael Fire Department, who will be bring their best fire truck—and of course Trick-or-Treating! There is even rumor that Darth Vader will battle all Jedi-in-training... This is a fun event for the whole family. This event is FREE thanks to the Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association. Location: Adrian Way between Meadow and Mabry.

Saturday, November 1

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

    Bank of America cardholders can visit the following Bay Area museums for free this weekend: the de Young Museum, Legion of Honor, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. For more info, visit their website.
  • 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.
  • Halloween Family Farm Day/El Día de los Muertos
    Slide Ranch, Muir Beach
    Saturday, 10 am–2 pm

    The ranch will reveal some special tricks and treats during Halloween Family Farm Day. Activities may include making costumes with recycled materials, taking a spooky tour of our garden, investigating our worm compost, and cooking up some warm treats in our outdoor kitchen. We will also honor El Día de los Muertos with a fun hike to bone grove. Costume wearing is encouraged! Cost: $30 per person. Register here. For more info, call (415) 381-6155 or visit their website.
  • Fun Family Mile
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–noon

    Come out and enjoy a spectacular fall morning and gorgeous views while participating in an easygoing, one-mile walk with your family in this beautiful bayside park. This will be an easy walk, and a great way to bond as a family. 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 For more info, visit their website.
  • Dia de los Muertos Celebration
    Mill Valley Community Center
    Saturday, 10:30 am–1:30 pm

    Mill Valley Recreation joins the joyful celebration of dearly departed family, friends, and pets during the Mexican festival Day of the Dead. Join in the celebration by participating in several free activities, decorating sugar skulls, getting your face painted, and creating memory boxes. All ages are welcome! Location: 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bay Area Science Festival Discovery Days
    AT&T Park, San Francisco & Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 11 am–4 pm

    AT&T Park and Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa will become a science wonderland when the Bay Area Science Festival concludes again with this free science extravaganza. Last year, more than 30,000 people enjoyed a non-stop program chock-full of interactive exhibits, experiments, games, and shows, all meant to entertain and inspire. With more than 150 exhibits, there is something for everyone to unleash their inner scientist. For more info, visit their website.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve

October 30, 2014

Baltimore Canyon Open Space PreserveOne of the best things about living in Marin has to be the Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD). With countless miles of trails crossing unspoiled open space and wilderness areas, there's never a shortage of great hikes, amazing views, and opportunities to get close to nature.

One of the MCOSD's jewels, Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve, is a fantastic place for a family hike at any time of year. Located in the foothills of Mt. Tam between Kentfield and Larkspur, this 193-acre preserve offers some of the best scenery in Marin, and is relatively easy to get to, making it a convenient place for a day hike with the kids.

Baltimore Canyon used to be home to one of the largest concentrations of Coast Redwoods in the Bay Area, and was the site of a steam-powered sawmill that began operating in 1849 and provided lumber to the growing city of San Francisco. The name Baltimore, incidentally, was bestowed upon the area due to the Maryland origins of the sawmill's owners.

Kids Can Learn Programming with MV Code Club

October 28, 2014

MV Code ClubIf you have a technology-minded kid who wants to explore the world of computers beyond just playing Minecraft and surfing the web, then check out the offerings from the MV Code Club, which just opened its second Marin location in Greebrae's Bon Air Center. Founded last year by Mill Valley software designer Douglas Tarr, MV Code Club offers boys and girls in 1st through 10th grade coding instruction in a fun and engaging environment.

The club made the decision to expand to Greenbrae when it realized that many families were travelling to Mill Valley from as far away as Fairfax and Novato to attend classes. At the club students can explore Scratch, Minecraft mods, HTML, javascript, 3D design, arduino, LEGO Mindstorm, Unity scripting, and more. MV Code Club locations feature 4:1 teacher-student ratios, Mac workstations, Makerbot 3D Printers, Oculus Rift VR, and the latest software and hardware.

A Winter Circus for the Holidays at Cornerstone Sonoma

October 28, 2014

Winter Circus for the Holidays at Cornerstone SonomaThis Thanksgiving and Christmas, Cornerstone Sonoma presents a winter circus for the holidays by Le Cirque de Bohème. Experience the magic of a 1920s style circus based on the French tradition, featuring a magician, contortionist, jugglers, mimes, an eccentric clown, a knife-thrower, and other assorted denizens of 1920s Paris.

This intimate circus gathering takes place under the charming tent in the gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, and is limited to 130 guests per performance. Shows take place Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends only: Friday–Saturday, November 28 and 29 at 3 and 5 pm, Sunday, November 30 at 1 and 3 pm, Saturday–Monday, December 20–21 and Friday–Saturday December 26 and 27 at 3 and 5 pm.

Three Deliciously Spooky (and Healthy!) Halloween Treats

October 27, 2014

Halloween snack mummy pizzasIn October, my kids and I love to make healthy Halloween-themed treats for snacks and school lunches. Not only are all these healthy, but they’re fun to make and eat, too.

These recipes also make a great playgroup or play date activity or girl scout or cub scout project. Feel free to vary the recipes as you see fit.

Mummy Mini Pizzas


Unique Toy Stores in Marin

October 27, 2014

Toy CrazyHere in Marin, we're fortunate to able to frequent many unique and often independent locally owned toy stores. A place to take the kids while looking for the 20th birthday gift of the year. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about, great for playing, and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia.

Yes, the toy store of yore—some still exist! They’ve managed to survive the arrivals of gigantic retail monsters who’ve plopped themselves down in a cool 20,000 square feet of space in a strip mall somewhere down the road. So next time you need a gift, a new addition to the household toy inventory, or just maybe a half an hour of peace, hit up one of these super cool spots. Not only will you be supporting a local business, but the kiddos will have a blast to boot.

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