Explore the Final Frontier at the Space Station Museum in Novato

July 31, 2014

Space Station Museum NovatoBring your budding astronauts to learn about space exploration in a hands-on environment at the Space Station, Novato's free, kid-friendly space museum. Located in a storefront in the newly renovated Pacheco Plaza shopping center, the Space Station is a small but rich little museum that offers families and school groups a chance to explore the history of spaceflight and exploration. The museum also organizes the annual Novato Space Festival, a free family event that offers hands-on activities, interactive displays, and the chance to meet legendary NASA astronauts.

At the Space Station Museum, kids can see, handle, and even try on actual space artifacts, many of which have actually flown in space. You can try on a pair of Russian cosmonaut's space suit gloves, don a prototype space helmet designed for the Apollo missions, and even sit in a seat from a Soyuz spacecraft.

Objects on view are part of the collection of the W Foundation, a non-profit founded by Ken Winans and his wife Debbie Wreyford-Winans, and include American, Russian, and Soviet-era space equipment, clothing, photographs, a meteorite, and more. The W Foundation, which possesses one of the largest private collections of space exploration artifacts in the world, also works with organizations and events like Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, and San Francisco Fleet Week to present educational exhibits on the history of space exploration.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Tennessee Valley Trail

July 29, 2014

Tennessee ValleyTennessee Valley near Mill Valley is one of the most popular hiking and outdoor recreation spots in all of Marin County, and for good reason—it has a combination of easy walks, dramatic views, and a spectacular beach at the end of the trail. Tennessee Valley Trail, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a perfect hike for families, and can be easily managed with an offroad-capable stroller. With few hills, the 3.4-mile round trip hike out to the beach at Tennessee Cove and back is easy for hikers (and mountain bikers, too) of all ages.

Tennessee Valley Trail is also quit popular with equestrians. Miwok Livery Stables is actually located on-site, so expect to see horses pretty often.

Tennessee Valley Trail winds through the coastal hills to the beach at Tennessee Cove, and offers spectacular scenery along the way. At the end of the trail is a sandy beach where you can relax, have a picnic, and let the kids play in the sand. Like many beaches on the Northern California coast, this one is unsafe for swimming and wading with rough surf and dangerous rip currents, so heed the posted warnings and keep clear of the water.

A Family That Eats Together: Grilled Pizza

July 28, 2014

Grilled pizzaMarin Mommies presents this week's guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike.

If you have tried grilled pizza then you know how good it can be. It is most similar to a wood-fired pizza. If not, I bet you worry about things like the dough slipping through the grates or think it is too complicated. We love pizza year around in our house and I hate to cook at super high temperatures in the kitchen on hot days, which is why I took to grilling our pizza outside. Follow the below essential tips, which will make grilling pizza so much easier.


  1. Make sure that the dough you buy is room temperature if not a little warm. The warmer it is the more pliable it will be to shape into a round.
  2. Have a pizza peel and tongs at the ready.
  3. Use semolina flour to flour the pizza peel. It makes the dough slip right off.
  4. Have all your ingredients ready and at the side of your grill.
  5. Oil the grill grates with a soaked paper towel. Use the tongs to hold the paper towel when oiling the grates.
  6. Make sure your grill is very hot. Ideally hotter than 450ºF. But make sure it is not flaming as it will quickly burn the dough.
  7. Make sure your grill grates are clean and free of debris.

August Classes and Programs at Parents Place Marin

July 28, 2014

Parents Place MarinParents Place in San Rafael has been a valuable resource for countless Marin County parents and families. This summer, 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 August, including a webinar on managing aggressive behaviors in young children.

Positive and Effective Discipline: A Crash Course (3–5 years)

Starting with a basic understanding of developmental norms for 3- to 5-year-olds, we will break down the components of discipline—communication, listening, modeling, consequences, and more--to learn about improving limit-setting, encouraging responsibility, and fostering communication. With Bonnie Romanow, childhood development specialist. Monday, August 4, 6:30–8:30 pm. $40. Register here.

Explore Family Friendly Limantour Beach in Point Reyes

July 27, 2014

Limantour BeachDuring the summer, one surefire way to cool off in Marin is to head out to the beach. One family favorite in Marin is Limantour Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour boasts gentle surf, stunning views, and miles of sandy beach and is a great place to visit at any time of year.

Named after a French merchant shipwrecked here in the 1840s, Limantour Beach is located along Drake's Bay, and is close to Point Reyes Station and the Point Reyes National Seashore park headquarters on Bear Valley Road. As you drive over Inverness Ridge, you'll see evidence of the devastating 1995 Mt. Vision fire that swept through this area in the form of the young fir and pine trees that line the roadway.

Along the way, you'll find trailheads and parking areas for several popular trails, including Sky and Muddy Hollow trails, as well as a youth hostel and the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center. There are also several scenic overlooks that afford stunning vistas of Tomales Bay and the Limantour Estero.

Late Summer Means Blackberries

July 26, 2014

BlackberriesIn late July you start to see people stopped by the side of the road, poking around in the bushes. No, they're not doing anything strange—they're picking wild blackberries! Late summer is definitely blackberry season in Northern California. And what's best is that these sweet little fruits can be had for free just about anywhere, if you're willing to risk stained clothing from all that blackberry juice, as well as the occasional wound from blackberry thorns.

There is a native variety of wild blackberry, the California or Pacific blackberry (rubus ursinus), but that's hard to find these days, having been supplanted by a non-native species, the domesticated Himalayan or Armenian blackberry (rubus armeniacus). This variety, fast-growing, invasive, and considered a pest by many, was introduced as a commercial cultivar in California in the late 19th century, but like so many non-native species prevalent in the state today, it got loose and spread all over the place. An easy way to tell the difference between the two varieties is to look on the underside of the leaves. The California variety is green, whereas the Himalayan is white.

Even though blackberry bushes are often considered pesky and unwelcome, the berries are delicious, and many people take advantage of the fact that they're readily available for the taking. While they're not necessarily great to have in your backyard, they're a welcome sight along the backroads or on the trail, especially since they're a wild fruit you know is safe to eat. Free trail snacks are always welcome! On walks and hikes we can never just pass by a bush full of ripe blackberries without stopping to pick a few—more than a few, really, as the children go crazy over them.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for July 25, 26 & 27

July 25, 2014

Day Out with Thomas at Roaring Camp RailroadsHere 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, July 25

  • Day Out with Thomas 2014
    Roaring Camp Railroad, Felton
    Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10:30 am–5:30 pm

    This popular family event takes place at Roaring Camp Railroads in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can take a train ride, meet Sir Topham Hatt, and enjoy live music. Tickets to Day Out With Thomas at Roaring Camp Railroads are $20 each if purchased in advance ($24 for peak times—Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am–2:30 pm). Tickets are $24 at the gate. Tickets are required for everyone aged 2 and up. Tickets include all entertainment and activities as well as a 25-minute train ride. Parking is an additional $8 per vehicle. Roaring Camp Railroads is in Felton on Graham Hill Road. For more info, visit their website.
  • Sonoma County Fair
    Sonoma County Fairgrounds
    Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11 am–11 pm

    The Sonoma County Fair offers both a classic full-scale carnival with plenty of excitement for thrill-seekers and a separate kiddie carnival area for the little ones, with scaled down thrills and lots of excitement. Fair admission is free every day for children 6 and under; Friday is Kids' Days, with free admission for all children 12 and under. Carnival rides are an additional charge. Admission is $11 for ages 13 and up, $5 for children 7–12, and free for children 6 and under. For more info, visit www.sonomacountyfair.com.
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival
    Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    The 36th annual “Ultimate Summer Food Fair” features three days of incredible food, beverages, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. The Children’s Area includes spectacular rides, fun activities, and more. Tickets: Adults $ 20, children 6–12 and seniors 60+ $10, children under 6 free. For more info, visit their website.
  • Children's Garden Series: Crosspulse
    Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
    Friday, 11–11:30 am & 12:15–12:45 pm

    This free event is part of the Children's Garden Series at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. Using snaps, slaps, claps, and dance, Crosspulse performs with a very unique instrument, their own bodies! Taking advantage of their various cultural and artistic backgrounds, the members of Crosspulse deliver an exciting body percussion performance. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Rafael Young Performers Theater: Peter Pan, the Musical
    San Rafael Community Center
    Friday & Sunday, 3 & 7 pm

    Peter and his mischievous fairy sidekick Tinkerbell visit the nursery of the Darling children late one night and with a sprinkle of pixie dust begin a magical journey across the stars that none of them will ever forget. In the adventure of a lifetime the travelers come face to face with a ticking crocodile, a band of bungling pirates, and of course the villainous Captain Hook. Friday night is Gala Night. Tickets: $8–$15. Location: 618 B Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Family Date Nights: Mariachi Juvenil Los Cachorros
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Friday, 5–7:30 pm

    Bring your family to enjoy later hours, live entertainment, special outdoor activities, and more. All activities and performances included with all-day museum admission. Free admission for members. This Friday, enjoy the festive music of Mexico with the talented youth group Mariachi Juvenil Los Cachorros, or the Puppies. For more info, call (415) 339-3900 or visit their website.
  • Friday Nights on Main: La Dolce Vita
    Downtown Tibruon
    Friday, 6–9 pm

    Bring the entire family for a night of fun. This Friday, celebrate la dolce vita with latin rock fusion band Bautista and strolling opera singers performing Italian opera favorites. For more info, visit their website.
  • Music in the Park: T Sisters
    Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 6–8 pm

    Enjoy Friday evenings in the park, featuring live music, delicious food by Marinwood Market, wine, and beer. Location: 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Tam Valley's Creekside Fridays
    Tennessee Valley Cabin, Mill Valley
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Bring the family, pets, chairs, and blankets to the weekly free musical event. This week: Revolver. Food available for purchase. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.

Saturday, July 26

  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids from 10 am–2 pm, face kids' crafts 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.
  • March of the Penguins
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday, 10 am

    Don't miss this popular annual event—now open to the public! Watch the Zoo's four adorable adolescent Magellanic penguins waddle to their new home on Penguin Island. This event celebrates the penguin chicks' graduation from Fish School (where they lose their fluffy down, learn to eat whole fish, swim, and hang out with their human keepers) and their reunion with the rest of the penguin colony. Help them make their public debut in red-carpet style! Zoo admission applies. For more info, visit their website.
  • WIldCare Family Adventures: Oakwood Valley
    Mill Valley

    Saturday, 10 am–12:30 pm

    Oakwood Valley Trail, a little known trail in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, offers shelter and sun. We will look for the rare mission blue butterfly which is on the federal endangered species list. The Mission Blue depends on a very specific host plant called the lupine which is found in Oakwood Valley. Scan the sky and the hills for wildlife. Location: Tennessee Valley Road, Mill Valley. For more info, call Marco at (415) 453-1000 ext. 17 or visit their website.
  • The 29th Annual Berkeley Kite Festival
    Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina
    Saturday and Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

    The Berkeley Kite Festival is an amazing free family event with fun for all! From the terrific food and arts and crafts booths to the Kids' Zone, free kite making and candy drop, the Berkeley Kite Festival has something for everyone. Parking is $15 per day at Golden Gate Fields, which includes a free shuttle to event. For more info and directions, visit their website.

Hit the Trail at Indian Valley Open Space Preserve

July 24, 2014

Indian Valley Open Space PreserveOne of the great things about living in Marin is the amount of easily accessible open space. Almost everyone has at least one trailhead right around the corner, so there's no excuse not to take the family on an outdoor excursion whenever possible. One of the most popular areas for hiking, horseback riding, cycling, and more in northern Marin is Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Novato.

Located adjacent to the College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus, this 885-acre preserve is criss-crossed by a wide variety of trails, most shaded by oaks and California bay laurels, making it a pleasant place to go for a hike on a hot day. During various times of the year you can find a waterfall, wildflowers, and peaceful Pacheco pond, which is often teeming with wildlife like toads, frogs, fish, and newts. It's a popular destination for school groups studying our ecosystem.

The main trail is Indian Valley Fire Road. It's flat, wide, and well maintained, and it's a great place for walking, a bike ride, and even a hike with an off-road stroller. You'll often find horses and their riders as well as dog-walkers here. (Dogs can be walked off-leash on the fire road, but must be on-leash on all other trails.) Other trails that branch off from the fire road include Pacheco Pond Trail, the wonderfully named Buzzard Burn Trail (named after what happens to unfortunate birds that land on the nearby power lines), and the Waterfall Trail. Some of these involve pretty easy elevation changes.

Find Fresh Seasonal Produce at Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden in Novato

July 24, 2014

Indian Valley organic Farm and GardenThis spring and summer, the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden on the grounds of College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus is a great place to get organic fruits and veggies. A project of College of Marin, Conservation Corps North Bay, and the UC Cooperative Extension, this 5.8-acre certified organic education farm and garden is open to the public for produce shopping on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm from March through October.

Bring your own bags and browse the farm stand for a wide variety of seasonal produce grown right there on-site. Right now, you can get artichokes, beets, radishes, chard, kale, leeks, and more. They also sell plants like poppies and other flowers, fruit trees, and several kinds of strawberry plants.

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