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.
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!
This Thanksgiving and Christmas, Cornerstone Sonoma presents a winter circus for the holidays by Le Cirque de Bohème: Somewhere. Experience the magic of a 1920s-style circus based on the French tradition, featuring an amazing cast of characters including a unicycle, hand-to-hand acrobats, tight-rope funambule, hand chair balancing, aerial fabrics, hooper aerialist, mime, clown, and more.
This intimate circus gathering takes place under the charming tent in the gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, and is limited to 140 guests per performance. Shows take place Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends only: Friday–Sunday, November 25–27 and Saturday and Sunday, December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 3 and 5 pm. (December 3 shows at 11 am and 1 pm.)
With more snow moving into the Sierras, it's time to start thinking about winter sports family fun in the mountains. While downhill skiing and snowboarding are synonymous with snow sports to many people, cross country skiing is a fun and low-key alternative to the lift lines. Cross country skiing is fun, easy to learn, and requires a minimum of equipment. Dress in warm active clothing, put on your boots and skis, grab your poles, and you're good to go!
We tried out cross country last winter, and had a great time. My kids picked it up right away—after 20 minutes on the practice loop they were off and hitting the trails. The whole family can join in, too—you can even get a jogging stroller on skis and pull your little one along, and many cross country trails allow dogs, too. An added bonus: cross country skiing is one of the best aerobic exercise activities you can do. It's a great way to get active and enjoy the beauty of the mountains in winter.
It's only October, but already there's some snow up in the Sierras, which means it's time to get ready for the start of ski and snow play season in Lake Tahoe. Many of Tahoe ski resorts have already announced their anticipated opening dates for the 2016–2017 season. Generally, big resorts with their own snow-making equipment open earlier in the season.
The Lake Tahoe area has a variety of resorts and ski areas to suit anyone's taste and budget. Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, too. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know.
We've incuded season opening dates, if available. Make sure you check before you head up to the high country, though, as opening dates are tentative and dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers. Many resorts are offering great early-bird deals on season passes, so pick yours up now in anticipation of a fantastic ski season.
Whether you're heading up to Lake Tahoe for skiing or hanging around home for "Ski Week", there are plenty of fun things to do with the kids during their time off this week! Since the weather has been amazing here lately, we've included plenty of ideas for outdoor family fun.
Here's our list of 10 fun family activities and outings in Marin and beyond for mid-winter break.
This just in: Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has failed to see his shadow, meaning that spring is on its way. All the alternate, less noteworthy groundhogs, such as Atlanta's General Beauregard Lee have concurred, so we have something of a groundhog consensus.
Groundhog Day has always been America's most underappreciated holiday, but not in our house! Our kids saw it on the calendar and have been eagerly anticipating the great day for weeks. We're extra lucky this year in that Groundhog Day coincides with that other unofficial American holiday—the Super Bowl.
Apparently Groundhog Day is derived from an old German superstition brought to America by early immigrants. The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a large rodent common in central and eastern North America. We don't see groundhogs out here, but we have a close relative, the marmot, which lives in the Sierras. There aren't any groundhogs in Germany, either, but marmots are common in alpine areas, so perhaps that's the original groundhog.
When it rains, we love to head outdoors and take a waterfall hike! Hikes with the family are especially fun when there's something exciting to see at the end of the trail, like a rushing waterfall. Marin's waterfalls are some of the county's hidden treasures, and are best appreciated when they're running full force in winter and spring. The Fairway Waterfall, also known as Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall, is a seasonal waterfall that can be found on a trail at the end of Fairway Drive, in Novato's Country Club neighborhood.
The trail to the Fairway waterfall is short and easy and the trailhead is conveniently located, so it's a perfect hike for kids. So bundle up, put on those puddle stompers and raincoats, and head outdoors for a waterfall hike! We've been hiking the trail after each recent rain storm this season to see if the waterfall is flowing yet, and we finally got what we were wishing for this week. There's not a huge amount of water right now, but the waterfall is definitely flowing (the photos here are of the waterfall in full flow last winter). It's only going to get bigger and better as the rainy season continues.
Winter Break is here! While you'll probably spend plenty of time with family and friends for Christmas, you'll also need to keep the little ones occupied, and there are plenty of fun things to do in and around Marin with the kids during their time off! Check out our list of 10 fun family activities and outings, both indoor and outdoor, for winter break.