Parks and Playgrounds

Parks and outdoor recreation activities.

Explore the Beauty of Paradise Beach Park in Tiburon

January 3, 2014

Paradise Beach ParkSince the weather's been so nice in Marin this winter, and since Marin County Parks is waiving parking fees through January 5, 2014, we thought we'd check out Paradise Beach Park. Located along the shores of San Francisco Bay in Tiburon, the 19-acre Paradise Beach Park offers a beach, plenty of lawns and picnic areas, a redwood grove, and an iconic fishing pier for the anglers among us. The views from this bayside gem of a park are amazing, too, with sweeping vistas of Marin and the East Bay. If you haven't been to Paradise Beach Park, it's worth a visit.

I haven't been to Paradise Park for years, so this was a great excuse to revisit it, but with my kids this time. They had a blast exploring the beach, running and playing on the grass, and watching fish jumping and harbor seals swimming by from the fishing pier.

Hands-on Creative Fun at Berkeley's Adventure Playground

June 24, 2013

Berkeley Adventure PlaygroundDown at the Berkeley Marina you'll find one of the Bay Area's all-time classic kids' attractions: the Adventure Playground. This unique place at the foot of University Avenue is no ordinary playground, however. At first glance, it actually looks more like a junkyard than a playground, but it's actually an amazing outdoor wonderland where kids can let their imaginations and creative energy run wild and build with hammers, saws, nails, paint, and recycled materials.

Don't worry—it's not a Lord of the Flies-style free for all. Plenty of helpful young people from the playground's staff are on hand to help, encourage, and make sure everyone has a great safe time. The Adventure Playground is like a big vacant lot full of wood, tires, old boats, and more. Kids can work on their own projects or cooperate to work on larger ventures like adding on to one of the playground's forts.

It's the kind of environment that many kids these days don't really have a chance to experience, and it's been delighting Bay Area children for almost 35 years. In addition to opportunities to build and create, playground-goers can ride a zip line, slide, and swings, and play on a huge rope climbing structure or on one of the playground's many boats and wooden constructions.

Fun Places to Feed the Ducks in Marin

February 25, 2013

Feeding the ducksOne of childhood's time-honored rituals is heading down to a local pond and feeding leftover bread to the ducks. Not only is it fun for small children, but it helps get ride of that leftover bread in your pantry, too. Feeding the ducks is something my kids always loved to do, and even still enjoy, and there are a few great places in and around Marin County where hungry ducks are plentiful.

Of course feeding the ducks isn't without its risks—pesky and aggressive gulls and Canada geese often try to elbow their way into the action, and they're pretty much ubiquitous in the Bay Area these days. We always try to make sure the ducks get their fair share and try to find a way to outwit the avian interlopers!

The Marin Civic Center

The Marin Civic Center in San Rafael is home to a large pond that's home to numerous waterfowl. There's also a new playground, nice paved walking paths, lawns, picnic tables, and even an island. It's fun to go feed the ducks after an outing to the nearby farmers market on Thursdays and Sundays.

Day Out in Golden Gate Park

July 1, 2012

Golden Gate Park CarouselJust across its namesake bridge from Marin County lies a perfect day-trip destination for familes: San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This urban oasis boasts over 1,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, gardens, museums, playgrounds, and other attractions. There's so much to do here that you'll probably want to visit several times to take it all in.

Established in the 1870s, Golden Gate Park stretches from Ocean Beach in the west to the city's Haight-Ashbury district in the east, and is bordered by the Sunset and Richmond districts on the south and north, respectively. Whether your family wants to play at an historic playground, visit the penguins at the Cal Academy, take in some art at a world-class museum, or have lunch with a view of the Pacific Ocean, there's something for you to do here.

Creating Community, Making Friends, and Staying Sane, One Dish at a Time.

June 12, 2012

Playdate and potluck at Sun Valley Park in San RafaelMarin Mommies presents a guest article by San Rafael dad Joey Chandler on the growing popularity of the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck (P&P). It's a great way to make friends and meet other families in the neighborhood, and he offers some tips for starting a P&P of your own.

There is a growing movement in San Rafael that I want to share with you. This simple idea builds community, is fun for kids, and keeps parents sane.

We call it the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck and it is exactly that. We meet on Thursday nights around 5 pm at a local park and families bring food and drinks to share. The kids run and play, the adults share adult conversation and we all have a great time. Some people bring cooked dishes and others bring just a bottle of wine because the kids were having one of those days. Commuting parents join us when they get back and visiting relatives are welcomed with open arms. There is no agenda or meal assignments, just families coming together to share food and getting to know each other. These are a blast and honestly it has become one of the highlights of my week.

Santa Rosa's Howarth Park Is Worth the Trip

June 11, 2012

Howarth Park in Santa RosaWe don't find ourselves up in Santa Rosa all that often, but when we do, we make it a point to stop by Howarth Park and play for a while. This large park on the east side of town is packed with attractions and things to do, and it's well worth a visit if your in the area; it might even merit a special trip up north.

Howarth Park has been a Sonoma County fixture since the 1950s. Not only does the park boast a large, modern set of play structures, it has plenty of other attractions as well. Kids can take a trip on a miniature train, ride a carousel, meet some animals at the barn, take a pony ride, and even rent a boat to sail on adjacent Lake Ralphine.

The main "Land of Imagination" play area is divided into several sections, each suitable for different age groups. At the center of the play area is an Old West town where kids can indulge in creative play. A Native American village area is also part of the playground. An additional playground on the other side of the parking area features swings and a rock climbing wall structure.

Imagination Playground Now Open at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

April 11, 2011

Imagination Playground at the Bay Area Discovery MuseumCome down and play in Imagination Playground, a newly opened permanent exhibition at Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum. Located in the museum's Festival Plaza, Imagination Playground is a breakthrough concept in playspace design created by architect David Rockwell to encourage the child-directed, unstructured free play that is so important in nurturing children's creativity.

Imagination Playground offers kids endless possibilities for creative play. Children can use a wide array of different elements—including giant foam blocks, slides, noodles, fabric, carts, and balls—to create their own play experiences and reconfigure and modify them. They can also bring sand and water into play in their creations. Adult "Play Associates" are on hand to maintain a safe and secure environment and assure a steady supply of parts for maximum fun and creativity.

103 Things for Kids to do in San Francisco

April 28, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting activities to do with my children. Every now and then (when I get a chance) I like to take my kids into the city and try something new. I like to read The Mommy Files on SFGate and came across a great list of 103 things all S.F. kids should do in the city before they grow up. It’s an excellent list of fun and unique things to do with your children or with visiting families from out of town. Check out the list for yourself at The Mommy Files website on SFGate.

Another Marin Indoor Play Space Gone? Gymboree Play & Music in Mill Valley to Close!

March 22, 2009

baby playing in the tunnel at Gymboree in Mill ValleyFor a county with a relatively large number of families, Marin has never had a surplus of indoor play spaces for young children. While our weather is usually nice enough for outdoor play, indoor spots are appealing during cold, rainy, or hot weather, and also because of the classes and programs that many of them offer in addition to being a place to play.

Over the last year, we've lost two great resources, Playtime Safari in Novato and San Anselmo's Playdate Café, victims of unfortunate circumstance and the sputtering economy. This week, we've learned that Mill Valley's Gymboree Play & Music, a longtime favorite spot of many Marin parents, will be most likely closing its doors for good at the end of the month! The current owner of the Gymboree Play & Music franchise has decided to close it, but it was apparently bought back by Gymboree itself (which was founded in Mill Valley and is currently headquartered in San Francisco) with the intention of keeping the facility open. Unfortunately, they have not been able to renegotiate a lease with the landlord at Strawberry Village, where it is located.

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