25 Inexpensive (or Free) Things to Do for Families in August

August 1, 2017

Bat Night returns to Olompali State Park on Saturday, August 5.

August is here—and with it the last few weeks of summer vacation! You don't have to break the bank to have a great time with the kiddos, either! Here are 25 great ideas for great affordable activities and outings in Marin and the Bay Area in August, all of which are free or really inexpensive. Keep in mind some of these activities require advance registration, so check before you go.

  1. Visit the de Young Museum in San Francisco for free on the first Tuesday of the month, August 1, 9:30 am–5:15 pm
  2. Meet Presidio first responders and see plice and fire displays and demonstrations on National Night Out. August 1, 4:30–7:30 pm.

Visit a Museum for Free in August

July 31, 2017

Bay Area Discovery MuseumThe Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito is free on the first Wednesday of the month.

Did 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 and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing in our ultimate guide to San Francisco Bay Area museum free days below.

Bat Night Returns to Olompali State Historic Park in Novato

July 31, 2017

Bat Night

This Saturday, August 5, 2017, Bat Night returns to Olompali State Park in Novato. This fun family event features an evening of bat-related crafts and activities and a chance to meet live bats in person. You'll also get to see bats exiting the park's old barn at night. It's a lot of fun, and you'll learn about the vital role bats play in our ecosystem.

Bat Night starts at 6 pm with bat snacks, bat mask decorating, bat info, a raffle, bat houses, and a chance to meet real live bats. A presentation by NorCal Bats follows at 8:30, and bats will emerge from the barn at dusk. Bring a flashlight and chairs or blankets to sit on while observing bats.

Amazing Family Sleepovers in the Bay Area and Beyond

July 31, 2017

Monterey Bay Aquarium Overnight
Photo courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you're looking for a fun and unique overnight experience for the family, try camping out at a museum, aquarium zoo, or wildlife center! Popular family destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California like the California Academy of Sciences, the Marine Mammal Center, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the San Francisco Zoo, the USS Hornet Museum, and Safari West all offer exciting programs where families can spend the night. It's be kind of like the movie Night at the Museum, except that the dinosaurs and dioramas won't come alive after hours (we hope)!

Needless to say, all of these events require advance reservations and have limited space, so register for your awesome overnight adventure soon! Many of these venues also offer overnight programs for scouts, schools, and other youth groups. All information is correct at time of posting; check each location’s website for complete information, pricing updates, and a schedule of events.

Homemade Pizza Night with Chef Daddy

July 30, 2017

homemade pizza

I know some people who say that pizza is one of those dishes that's always better when you dine out. I respectfully disagree! While that might be true for topping-laden old-school American pizza, we've been successfully making some pretty wonderful Italian-style pizzas right here at home. Unfortunately, we lack a wood-burning pizza oven in the backyard (someday…), but we get some good results in a regular home oven with a little preparation and a few tricks.

As for tomatoes, I often use good quality canned plum tomatoes pureed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clove of garlic. If I have really good fresh tomatoes, especially the ones that come out of our garden in the summer, I'll often just slice them thinly or puree them on their own.

Fall Music Classes for Kids in Marin

July 29, 2017

Music Class

My kids have always really loved music, and I think that's due in part to taking music classes like these starting when they were really little. We tried a few different classes around Marin and the North Bay, and really like the Kindermusik programs offered here in Novato by Music with Melissa. Regardless of which program you choose, there is a music class for every child from newborn to grade school.

If you’re thinking of getting your child involved in a music class, then now’s the time to sign up. Many classes will resume their sessions in September. Here’s an updated list we’ve put together of a variety of local music programs and classes. If we’ve left out your favorite class then please let us know, or, better yet, leave a comment and tell everyone why you and your kids love it!

"Hot Amphitheater Nights" Kicks off Tonight!

July 29, 2017

Hot Amphitheater Nights Novato

Novato's Hot Amphitheater Nights free concert series kicks off tonight, Saturday, July 29, from 5 to 7 pm at Hamilton Amphitheater Park! Tonight's performer is San Francisco's Royal Jelly Jive, a retro-modern band that blends jazzy cabaret sounds with funk, rock, and soul.

Bring your family and friends and pack up your blankets, lawn chairs and picnics for this fun free event. Kona Ice will be on hand selling shave ice, too. The next concert takes place Saturday, September 9 and features nostalgic music from Mexico and the Caribbean by Cascada de Flores. For more info, visit www.novato.org/concerts.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for July 28, 29 & 30

July 28, 2017

Day Out with Thomas
Day Out With Thomas chugs into Roaring Camp Railroads in the Santa Cruz Mountains this weekend.

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, July 28

  • Day Out With Thomas
    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: $20 advance, $24 for peak times—Saturdays and Sundays 10:30 am–2:30 pm, $24 at the gate. Tickets required for everyone aged 2 and up and include all entertainment and activities as well as a 25-minute train ride. Parking $8 per vehicle. Location: Graham Hill Road, Felton. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Children's Garden Series: Unique Derique
    Esplanade at 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. A beloved Bay Area institution, the Unique Derique is a prince among clowns, an internationally esteemed performer who has honed a singular blend of physical comedy and hambone body percussion. Location:  This performance will take place at Esplanade at Yerba Buena Gardens, near the MLK, Jr. waterfall.For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Game Day!
    South Novato Library
    Friday, 3–4 pm

    Did you know the Library has games? Join us every Friday for Friday Game Day! We have Jenga, Battleship, Operation, and MORE! It's fun for the whole family! Free. Location: 931 C Street, Hamiliton, Novato. 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. This Friday: The View from Hollywood. 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: Tam Valley All Stars. Food available for purchase. Location: 60 Tenessee Valley Road, Mill Valley. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.
  • Friday Nights on Main
    Main Street, Downtown Tiburon
    Friday, 6–9 pm

    Bring the family to some outdoor dining, live music and dancing on Main Street in downtown Tiburon. We celebrate the good life with Ol’ Blue Eyes, Jonathan Poretz that is, with a  swingin' tribute to Frank Sinatra and the fabulous music of the Rat Pack era.  Location: Main Street, Downtown Tiburon. For more information, visit their website.
  • Jazz & Blues by the Bay
    Gabrielson Park, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Jazz & Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in Sausalito is a free event. Lawn seating available (first-come first-served). This Friday: The Kenya B Trio (blues/jazz). For more info, call (415) 289-4100 or visit their website.
  • MTC presents: Seussical
    Mill Valley
    Friday& Saturday, 7 pm and Sunday, 2 pm

    Bring the family to this weekend's Teen Production Camp production of Seussical. Tickets: $5. Puchase tickets here. Location: 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Preview Marin Shakespeare: The Three Musketeers
    Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, San Rafael
    Friday, 8 pm, Saturday, 4 and Sunday, 8 pm

    T
    he hot-headed D’Artagnan and his misfit Musketeer mates serve the King with swashbuckling zeal through a series of dashing and exciting exploits.  A comic adventure for the whole family to enjoy. One for all, and all for one! The Amphitheater will be open for picnicking 1 hour prior to curtain. Free parking is available in the lot at 890 Belle Avenue, and in the main Dominican parking lot at Grand and Acacia near the Conlan Recreation Center. The most accessible parking is in the Belle Avenue lot. Tickets: adults $ 15, child $10. For more info, or to purchase tickets, visit their website.
  • Seussical: The Musical
    Alcazar Theatre, San Francisco
    Friday, 8 pm & Saturday, 2 & 8 pm

    Now one of the most performed shows in America, Seussical is a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza! Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, Once On This Island and Ragtime) have lovingly brought to life all of our favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy Mayzie, and a little girl with a big imagination—Jojo. The colorful characters transport us from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos. Tickets: $20–$100. Location: 650 Geary Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Outdoor Movie Night: Ms. Doubtfire
    Pier 39, San Francisco
    8:45–11 pm

    Grab your blankets and settle in for a free screening of local favorite, Ms. Doubtfire. This film is rated PG. Location: Pier 39, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, July 29

  • 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, 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, 9:30 am–5 pm

    Come watch our adorable Magellanic penguin chicks waddle through the Zoo to their new home on Penguin Island.  With much pomp and circumstance, this event celebrates the chicks' graduation from “Fish School” where they lose their fluffy down, learn to eat whole fish, swim and accept food from their human keepers.  Once these little ones have made it around the pond, they’re reunited with the rest of the penguin colony where they will remain for their adult lives. Free after zoo admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Berkeley Kite Festival
    Cesar E. Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina
    Saturday and Sunday, 10 am–5 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.
  • Fort Ross Festival
    Fort Ross State Historic Park
    Saturday, 10 am–6:30 pm

    Celebrate summer at the annual Fort Ross Festival! This incredibly diverse event reflects the rich history of Fort Ross. Skilled volunteers will be working alongside Kashia, Russian, Alaska Native, and early Ranch communities to offer family-friendly activities, both soulful and rollicking performances, hands-on crafts, and live demonstrations. Join the fun as we celebrate with music, song and dance, great food, and our fourth annual Beer Garden with live Americana music, all in the beautiful coastal setting that is Fort Ross. Admission: $20 per car. For more info, visit their website.
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival
    Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    Come and join the 2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival that attracts garlic-lovers from around the world. It’s “Summer’s Ultimate Food Fair” with three full days of incredible food, beverages, arts & crafts, live entertainment, and cooking competitions. Location: 7050 Miller Avenue, Gilroy. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bay Area Children's Theatre presents: The Rainbow Fish Musical
    Children's Fairyland, Oakland
    Saturday, 10:30 am & 2 pm and Sunday, 10:30 am & 4 pm

    Come with us under the sea for The Rainbow Fish Musical, a world premiere based on the award-winning book by Marcus Pfister about the joy of finding friendship through sharing. Book, music and lyrics by Austin Zumbro. Playing in Oakland and San Francisco. Tickets: $20 per person. Location: 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland. For more info, visit their website.
  • Creative Family Fun: Make Your Mark with Nature Stamps
    Presidio Officers’ Club
    Saturday, 11 am–4 pm

    Drop in for imaginative craft-making based on the Presidio’s natural and cultural heritage. Featuring different crafts every weekend! Nature in the Presidio is filled with so many interesting patterns and shapes. What happens when you add ink to those patterns and put them to paper? Come find out by making nature stamps with us. Registration not required, but preferred. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, Pershing Square (across from the Presidio Officers' Club), San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Storytelling with Ane Carla Rovetta
    Martin Griffin Preserve, Stinson Beach
    Saturday, 1–3 pm

    Ane Carla Rovetta is not only a Master Storyteller, she is also an illustrator who draws the animals in a story in front of her audiences! Come sit and listen to her tales of the OLD Days. Then, watch, as she creates more lively animal images with vivid strokes of chalks that she makes. You will be transported to the magical time when the animals could speak. Suitable for ages 5 years and older. Tickets: $20 non-members, $15 members or students, free for children under age 18. For more info, visit their website.
  • Disney's Tarzan
    Berkeley Playhouse
    Saturday, 1 & 7 pm, Sunday, noon & 5 pm

    With a thrilling score from one of pop-music’s greatest icons, Phil Collins, Tarzan is the ultimate story of a unique family drawn together by fate and bound by love. Audiences will journey to the African jungles in this vibrant production that features a live percussive environment, stunning acrobats, and a heartfelt story about what it means to be a family. Tarzan is this summer’s most exciting musical event.Tickets: $25–$40. Purchase tickets here. Location: 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Performance by Circus Bella
    Pickleweed Park Soccer Fields, San Rafael
    Saturday, 2–3 pm

    Circus Bella is coming back to San Rafael for the sixth year in a row bringing its 60-minute, open air, one-ring circus to Pickleweed Park. Lots of fun for all - acrobatics on the ground and in the air, mind boggling juggling and madcap clowning! The show features professional acts set to an original score by local composer Rob Reich, performed by the Circus Bella All Stars. Location: 50 Canal Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

Eco-friendly Lunchbox Supplies for Back to School

July 27, 2017

PlanetBox

When it comes to back-to-school, green is the way to go! Instead of throwing away plastic and paper products and sending them to the landfill every day, why not invest in some reusable eco-friendly lunch box supplies for your kids this school year?

The examples listed below are stylish and durable and should last for years. Our family owns several of the products that I’ve listed here, and we use them all the time for school lunches, snacks, and picnics. Many of these products can be purchased at local retailers throughout Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Reusable Lunch Bags and Boxes

  • PlanetBox
    www.planetbox.com
    San Rafael-based company PlanetBox creates stainless steel lunch kits that fit neatlly into soft cloth carrying cases. They come in three different sizes—Launch, Rover, and Shuttle—in a variety of designs and colors. Sets come with a cool magnet set of your choice with which to decorate your lunchbox. Prices start at $39.95. (Pictured above.)
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