Holidays in Marin

Marin on Ice

Our annual guide to Christmas and holiday events for families in Marin and the Bay Area

Sponsored by Marin on Ice.

Some of Our Favorite Family Holiday Movies

December 8, 2016

The Snowman videoDuring the holidays, we're inundated with Christmas-themed movies and TV specials of all different kinds. But what's really worth spending your time watching? Being something of a family of movie buffs, we decided to put together our list of favorite holiday movies and specials, so here are seven seasonal offerings that we think are worth repeat watching each December.

The Snowman

Based on the picture book of the same name by Raymond Briggs, The Snowman is short 27-minute animated film that tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve, only to find that it comes to life later on that night and takes him on a magical journey to the North Pole.

There’s no dialogue to speak of, except for some introductory narration by David Bowie (yes, David Bowie). The Snowman, with its musical interlude featuring the haunting song Walking in the Air, beautiful animation, and messages of friendship and loss, is a true classic. Your kids will love it, and I challenge any parent not to get choked up by the end.

Easy Handmade Holiday Bead Ornaments

December 8, 2016

Your kids can exercise their holiday creativity by making these easy and festive bead ornaments for the Christmas tree. They also look great attached to wrapped gifts as a little holiday extra.

These ornaments are simple to make, although the candy cane ornament is easier to put together than the star and probably a better project for younger children. All you'll need to make these are pipe cleaners, plastic beads in various colors and shapes, some ribbon, and scissors.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Best Kids' Books of 2016 from Diesel

December 8, 2016

A Most Magical GirlThe holidays are here, and great books always make fantastic gifts for kids! Clare Doornbos, the children's book expert at Diesel bookstore in Larkspur, saves us all a lot of time and stress by highlighting her picks for best kids' books of 2016.

You can join Clare for storytime at the bookstore every Thursday morning at 10:30 am, where she reads classics, new kids' books, and hidden treasures. It's perfect for families with children 5 and under. Diesel is located in Marin Country Mart at 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur. For more information about Diesel and a complete schedule of events, visit www.dieselbookstore.com/larkspur or call the store at (415) 785-8177.

Younger Picture Books (ages 0–4)

Touch Think Learn ABC by Xavier Deneux
A modern graphical alphabet book with luxurious thick board pages. What makes this book so extraordinary are the cut-outs from one page which correspond with a raised part of the facing page. It's almost like a pop-up book for the very young.

Make Your Own Holiday Gingerbread House

December 5, 2016

Gingerbread House

Every year we create a gingerbread house using the nice kit sold by Trader Joe's, but last year, after constructing a house from the kit, my daughter decided she wanted to take our gingerbread house building experience a step further and create another one—this time from scratch! Fortunately, as we found out, it's easy to do and fun.

First thing you have to do is come up with a design for your house. We created a template for a basic gingerbread house that's simple to create and put together. (You can download our template, formatted for two letter-size sheets of paper; get page one here and page two here.) You can embellish and elaborate on this little house and make it your own special creation.

The Rombeiro Christmas House in Novato: You Have to See It to Believe It!

December 4, 2016

 The Rombeiros' Christmas House Novato

Every December, Marin's power grid is yet again put to the test by the annual unveiling of the Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive in Novato. Sure, every neighborhood has its decorated houses, but the Rombeiro house is a different thing altogether. Edmundo Rombeiro and his family have been putting together this Christmas house to end all Christmas houses for the past 24 years, and every year it gets bigger and more outrageous.

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Petaluma

December 1, 2016

Larsen's Tree Farm Petaluma

If you want to have the experience of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree, you're going to have to pack up the family truckster and head north on Highway 101 to visit our neighbors in Sonoma County. There, you'll find a selection of Christmas tree farms mostly concentrated in the rural areas of western Petaluma and Sebastopol.

We made our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving trip to the three Christmas tree farms located in Petaluma—Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms 1 and 2 and Larsen's Christmas Tree Farm—to see what they had to offer this season. There's nothing that gets you in the holiday spirit more than visiting a tree farm. Did I mention that they're great places for holiday photo ops, too? You can also check out our rundown on the tree farms further north in Sebastopol.

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Sebastopol

November 30, 2016

Garlock Tree Farm in SebastopolGarlock Tree Farm in Sebastopol

It's time to think about getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite any inconvenience.

For the hopeless holiday romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and it's usually a lot of fun, too. Those annual trips to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories, and now it's a tradition with my own family

There aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago), so to get the real Christmas tree farm experience you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms are clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

Visit Marin's Amazing Lighted Holiday Houses!

November 29, 2016

Rombeiro Holiday House Novato Marin County Christmas

Perhaps our favorite thing about the holiday season is visiting amazing lighted and decorated holiday houses here in Marin. We've been taking in the displays all of these houses for years, and visiting them again each December is like dropping in to see an old friend. We love to find out what sort of wonderful new displays have been thought up for the season!

When you're visiting these Christmas houses, feel free to drop a donation into the donation box, if there is one, since that December PG&E bill is probably a whopper. (Rumor has it that the Rombeiro House costs upwards of $4,000 each season!)

Go Play in the Snow! Great Places for Family Snow Play in Northern California

November 28, 2016

Tubing in the Sierras

Snow, snow, snow—the winter season in the Sierra is off to a fantastic start! While we love the skiing and winter fun at Lake Tahoe, we know that not everyone's a skiier, and sometimes families just want to go up and have some fun in the snow. While many of the Tahoe ski resorts like Northstar, Squaw Valley, and Heavenly have tubing parks, ice skating, and other winter non-skiing activities for the family, there are plenty of other places in the mountains where you can get your snow play fix without the ski resort hustle and bustle (and price tag).

Most of these snow play sites are within a few hours' drive from Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. While some have tubes and sleds to rent, others, most notably the California State Sno-Parks, offer little more than a place to park your car so you can go play in the snow. For a list of Lake Tahoe ski resorts that offer both skiing and snow play activities, read our article here.

Ring In the Holiday Season at Mill Valley Winterfest!

November 22, 2016

Mill Valley Winterfest

Mill Valley's downtown plaza will once again be filled with an eclectic mix of live music, children playing, and community togetherness when the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Mill Valley present the annual Winterfest, taking place Sunday, December 4, from 11 am to 5 pm. Winterfest celebrates the holiday season with a fun-filled afternoon for children, families, and anyone who enjoys the holidays!