Outdoor Activities

Hiking, nature walks, beaches, and more.

Swimming, Play and More at McNears Beach Park in San Rafael

June 21, 2017

McNears Beach Park is one of those special places that I hold close to my heart. I grew up literally around the corner from it, and spent a lot of time there as a child. It's still one of my favorite places to spend the day in Marin, especially now that I have kids of my own. McNear's Beach is a 55-acre county park located on the shores of San Pablo Bay. It's the a perfect place to go on a warm day to wade in the bay, swim in the pool, picnic, fish, take in spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area, and more.

McNears Beach has been popular with Bay Area residents since the 19th century, when the McNear family owned most of the property in what eventually would become San Rafael's Peacock Gap neighborhood. The McNears operated a beach resort at the present location of the park, as well as a nearby quarry and brickyard.

Family Fun at Marin County Beaches

June 18, 2017

Marin County Beaches

My family loves to go to the beach, and there are plenty of places to do this in and around Marin. While many of the beaches along the Pacific Ocean are unsuitable for swimming, there are also many beaches that are ideal spots for swimming, wading, and splashing in the water, especially on warm summer (and also spring and fall) days. Here are some of our favorites. Click on the links for more info.

Russian River Fun at Johnson's Beach

June 12, 2017

Johnson's Beach Guerneville

When the temperature rises, it's fun to head to a local beach and cool off. Bay Area residents have been doing this for nearly 100 years Johnson's Beach, a laid-back, family-friendly summertime getaway on the banks of the Russian River in Guerneville. There's nothing quite like lounging in an inner tube on the river on a warm summer day with redwoods towering overhead!

Seven Sensational Summer Hikes for Families in Marin

June 4, 2017

Samuel P. Taylor

When it's summer and school's out, there's no better time to experience the outdoors in Marin County. Gather up the kids, lace up those hiking boots, fill your water bottles (very important in the summer heat!), slather on the sunscreen, and hit the trail.

All of these hikes are easy enough for everyone in the family to tackle, and many are manageable with a sturdy jogging-style stroller. We've included our favorite summer hikes from all parts of Marin.

Follow the links in the titles to read more about each hike. You can also visit our Outdoors page for more ideas for family hikes and outdoor adventures this summer.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Shaded by redwoods and nestled alongside a peaceful creek, this state park in West Marin is an ideal place for a hike and picnic when the weather's hot. It's also one of Marin's premiere camping spots, and has something to offer for everyone.

Picnics, Nature and Play at Stafford Lake Park

May 30, 2017

Stafford Lake

Stafford Lake, the reservoir that provides the town of Novato with much of its drinking water, is also the site of one of Marin's favorite outdoor recreation spots: Stafford Lake County Park. There are so many activities to do at this 139-acre park, and I'm surprised my family and I don't come here more often, especially since it's literally just around the corner from our house. If you haven't been there, you've certainly passed it on Novato Boulevard on your way out to the Cheese Factory or Point Reyes. With an upgraded play area, picnic spots, fishing, and an awesome bike park for all ages, you owe it to yourself to stop by and see what Stafford Lake has to offer!

Live Reptile Birthday Parties at Marin Treks

May 29, 2017

Marin Treks Birthday Parties

Have you been to the Marin Treks Natural History Museum yet? It's a great place to take the kids to learn about nature and the environment and to have some hands-on fun with their collection of live animals. Did you know they also offer awesome birthday parties, too?

Let Marin Treks make your child's next birthday party a day to remember! You can hold your party at their museum in Novato, or outdoors in your backyard or in a local park. Marin Treks' exciting hands-on birthday adventures allow the birthday girl or boy and their guests to hold and learn fun facts about the museum's amazing collection of live reptiles. Discuss where they live, what they eat, how they avoid predators, and a whole lot more. The children are encouraged to ask as many questions as they can and then try to answer their own questions by carefully observing the animals, just like real scientists.

"Disney's Beauty and the Beast" Brings Charm and Fun to the 2017 Mountain Play

May 24, 2017

Mountain Play Beauty and the Beast

This year's Mountain Play—the 104th, to be exact—is Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and we had a chance to see it on its opening day last Sunday. This family-friendly production of the Broadway musical has loads of charm and energetic fun and is a must-see live theater experience this spring!

Adapted from the animated feature of the same name, this classic fairy tale features features memorable songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice and of course plenty of Disney fun. Beauty and the Beast is directed by Jay Manley (who also directed West Side Story on Mt. Tam last season), musical direction is by David Möschler leading a live 18-piece orchestra, and choreography is by Nicole Helfer.

Presidio Twilight Returns for Another Summer of Food and Family Fun

May 18, 2017

Presidio Twilight

Join Off the Grid and the Presidio Trust for the fourth season of Presidio Twilight! Opening tonight, May 18 on the Main Parade Ground of the Presidio, Presidio Twilight runs every Thursday from 5-9 pm and features a large selection of international cuisine, live music, sunset activities, and the ambiance of San Francisco’s national park for a one-of-a-kind experience. Lantern-lit cabanas and fire pits underscore the “picnic at dusk” atmosphere and are available to all on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost.

Hit the Trail at Indian Valley Open Space Preserve

May 9, 2017

Indian Valley Open Space Preserve

One 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.

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