Outdoor Activities

Hiking, nature walks, beaches, and more.

Fun, Sun, and Sand at San Francisco's Crissy Field

June 19, 2015

Crissy FieldThe San Francisco Presidio's Crissy Field has undergone many changes in its lifetime, from tidal marsh to military airfield to one of the Bay Area's premier recreation areas. Crissy Field is a great place to spend the day with the family, and has a wonderful mix of outdoor attractons, amenities, and local businesses, as well as spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Crissy Field is a fantastic destination for walking, bicycling, kite flying, or playing at the beach. It offers a waterfront promenade and trails that are popular with dog walkers, runners, and cyclists (and parents, judging from the number of strollers we usually see there), as well as a clean stretch of sand along San Francisco Bay.

The water here is perfect for wading and playing in the gently lapping waves. Lawn areas and picnic tables, some with charcoal grills, are available, too, so bring a picnic and your beach blanket and umbrella and spend the day. Torpedo Wharf, a pier on the north end of the field, is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing.

"Peter Pan" Soars at the 2015 Mountain Play!

May 26, 2015

Peter Pan Mountain Play 2015

When we learned last year that the 2015 Mountain Play production was Peter Pan, we were really excited. We attended the opening performance of Peter Pan on Sunday and we were definitely not disappointed! Sir J.M. Barrie's timeless tale of the Darling Children, the boy who wouldn't grow up, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys was presented in its 1954 Broadway musical form, with classic songs like "I Gotta Crow", "I'm Flying", and "I Won't Grow Up", among others. This year's production was directed by Michael Schwartz, with musical direction by Debra Chambliss, and choreography by Nicole Helfer.

The Mountain Play's Peter Pan is fast-paced with plenty of singing, dancing, and audience participation. Before the show, groups of pirates and Lost Boys roamed the audience to pose for photos and get the crowd excited for the performance to come.

Insider's Guide to the 2015 Mountain Play: Peter Pan!

May 4, 2015

Peter Pan cast 2015 Mountain Play

One of Marin County's most beloved and unique events is the famous Mountain Play—an outdoor theater experience high on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais that's been going strong for over a century! This year's 102nd Mountain Play production is the timeless Broadway musical Peter Pan, based on J.M. Barrie's classic tale of the boy who wouldn't grow up, the villanous Captain Hook, and the Darling children, and Neverland.

Featuring classic songs like, "I Won't Grow Up", "I Gotta Crow", and "I'm Flying", the Mountain Play's production of Peter Pan is directed by Michael Schwartz and features Melissa Wolfklain as Peter Pan, Jeff Wiesen as Captain Hook/Mr. Darline, Susan Zelinsky as Mrs. Darling, and Davide Yen as Smee. Musical direction is, as usual,  Debra Chambliss.

Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 24 and 31, and June 7, 13, 14, and 21. General seating ticket prices range from $25–$40, and children 3 and under are free. Reserved seats start at $60. Order tickets online here or by phone at (415) 383-1100.

A Visit to the Marine Mammal Center

April 28, 2015

Marine Mammal Center

Ever wonder who takes care of the seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals that end up stranded on California's coast? Marin's Marine Mammal Center has been on the scene rescuing and caring for sick, injured, malnourished, and abandoned marine mammals—including elephant seals, seal lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and even whales—since 1975. Currently, the Center has over 200 patients—it's the busiest they've ever been—so it's a great time to visit and learn about what they do.

Located at Fort Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands, the Marin Mammal Center's new $32 million facility opened in the summer of 2009, and offers daily tours, as well as educational activities for the entire family, especially on Marine Science Sundays. It's a wonderful destination as an outing on its own, and as a not-to-miss part of a visit to the Headlands.

Tips for Biking Safely With Your Child

April 18, 2015

cycling safety photoMarin Mommies presents a guest article from Fairfax Cycling Camp, who offers some tips for families on bicycle safety. Visit them online at www.fairfaxcyclingcamp.com.

From cargo bikes laden with young children, to parents and kids on their own bikes, the popularity of biking is growing in Marin and nationwide. This is something to  celebrate! The health benefits of biking are numerous, and consuming less gas gives the earth a little extra breathing room. As cyclists and owners of Fairfax Cycling Camp, we are happy to share some tips and resources to help you bike more safely with your child. We teach our campers these skills every week during our summer mountain bike camp.

Helmets, Helmets, Helmets!

Helmets are required by law for all children under 16 in California. Helmets protect your child’s developing brain from trauma which could come from even a seemingly small bump.

Just like on an airplane when you are told to secure your own oxygen mask prior to helping another, make sure your helmet is on properly before biking with your child. This does two things; first, you are protecting your brain and doing your best to make sure you’ll be around to take care of your child in the event of an accident; second, you are modeling appropriate behavior for your child. Research consistently shows that children learn by watching what the adults around them are doing. You are setting an example for your child, one that you hope they will follow long after they’ve begun riding on their own.

Shhh… Don't Tell Anyone About Chicken Ranch Beach

February 1, 2015

Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness

When the weather warms up (even if it's in the middle of winter!), it's time to take advantage of it and head to the beach. Good, safe swimming beaches with warm weather can be hard to come by in Marin County and the Bay Area, but they're there if you know where to look. Some of them are hidden gems known only to locals and other insiders. Chicken Ranch Beach, located on Tomales Bay just outside the West Marin town of Inverness, is one of those well kept secrets. (So do us a favor and don't tell anyone about it, OK?)

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.

Hiking with Kids in Marin: Deer Island Open Space Preserve

September 16, 2014

Deer Island Open Space PreserveOne of the great things about living in Marin is that you're never far from open space and nature. A favorite Marin spot for a quick outdoor getaway is Deer Island Open Space Preserve in Novato. Just a few minutes away from Highways 101 and 37 it's a calm oasis of nature that's perfect for a short and easy hike with children.

Despite its name, Deer Island really isn't an island. It used to be one at one time, but now it's a small hill surrounded by grassy meadows and seasonal wetlands. At this 135-acre preserve you'll find two main trails, the Deer Island Loop Trail, which circles the preserve, and the De Borba Trail, which leads up and over the hill. Two short spur trails take you to other parts of the preserve.

The 1.8-mile Deer Island Loop Trail is relatively flat and even with only minor elevation changes and is a great hiking choice for families with kids. It passes through grasslands and oak and bay forest and provides plenty of stunning vistas of northern Marin, including wetlands and Novato Creek. There's even a tumbled-down old farm to look at along the way.

Take a Family Hike at Santa Margarita Island Open Space Preserve

September 4, 2014

Santa Margarita Island Open Space Preserve in San RafaelFamilies looking for a short, easy hike with interesting things to see along the way should check out Santa Margarita Island Open Space Preserve in northern San Rafael. Located in the Santa Venetia neighborhood just east of the Marin Civic Center, this small preserve really is a little island surrounded by tidal wetlands. It's home to numerous birds and other wildlife, so make sure you bring your binoculars!

Open the gate and walk across the little bridge onto the four-and-a-half-acre island. You'll see pilings and concrete walls, which are the remains of a failed development from the early 1900s that sought to transform the area into a Venice-like town, complete with canals and gondolas (and hence the name Santa Venetia). The bridge is a great place to look for shorebirds that live in the wetlands, including egrets, black-necked stilts, and the endangered California clapper rail.

Once over the bridge, you'll be on the trailhead. Go right or left—it doesn't matter, because the whole trail is a flat, .3-mile loop. It's easy for hikers of any age, and can probably be managed with an off-road capable stroller, too. No bikes are allowed here—just hikers and equestrians.

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