Here in Marin, we're fortunate to able to choose from many unique and often independent locally owned toy stores. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about—great for play-testing—and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia.
Yes, the toy store of yore still exists, despite the arrivals of gigantic big-box retail monsters in the neighborhood. We love visiting our local independent toy stores for birthday and holiday gifts or for a special treat, and a visit to one is usually a lot of fun for everyone in the family, too. Also, many of these stores offer gift wrapping, too, making getting that special gift even easier.
Five Little Monkeys
852 Grant Ave, Novato 94945
(415) 898-4411 www.5littlemonkeys.com
Starting at the northern tip of Marin, nestled in cozy downtown Novato is Five Little Monkeys and this shop means toy business. From puppets and dolls to dress-up and books, there is something for kids of every age. They have locations in Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, too.
It goes without saying that every Holiday season Santa Claus is an extremely popular guy. He and his small army of little helpers will be making the rounds for photos, breakfasts, and other holiday fun at various shopping centers and other locations in Marin County and beyond. (And of course you'll need to tell him what you want for Christmas, too!)
Here's our 2016 guide to photo ops with Santa and more. We make every effort to assure that all listings and hours are as accurate as possible, but occasionally Santa has to take a break to feed the reindeer or tidy up his beard, so make sure to stay on his "nice" list and call or check the venue's website before visiting. Santa's elves are still finalizing his holiday schedule, so check back here for updates throughout the season.
Photos with Santa
Town Center Corte Madera
November 25–December 24
Shopping during the holidays at Town Center Corte Madera is always a festive occasion for the entire family, with a chance to have a free photo for the kids with Santa Claus, have your gifts wrapped for free by volunteers from Hospice by the Bay, and enjoy some live music to provide the holiday spirit. Schedule: Friday, Saturday, Sunday November 25–November 27, 11 am–4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, December 3–4, 11 am–4 pm, and daily December 10–11, 11 am–4 pm and December 17–24, 11 am–4 pm. More info: www.shoptowncenter.com
Twice a year, warehouses in Bel Marin Keys area of Novato open their doors to the public to offer terrific wholesale deals direct to you! This year’s sale will take place from Thursday November 17 to Saturday November 19, from 10 am to 5 pm.
When it comes to back-to-school, green is the way to go! Instead of throwing away plastic and paper products and sending them to the landfill every day, why not invest in some reusable eco-friendly lunch box supplies for your kids this school year?
The examples listed below are stylish and durable and should last for years. Our family owns several of the products that I’ve listed here, and we use them all the time for school lunches, snacks, and picnics. Many of these products can be purchased at local retailers throughout Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Reusable Lunch Bags and Boxes
San Rafael-based company PlanetBox creates stainless steel lunch kits that fit neatlly into soft cloth carrying cases. They come in three different sizes—Launch, Rover, and Shuttle—in a variety of designs and colors. Sets come with a cool magnet set of your choice with which to decorate your lunchbox. Prices start at $39.95. (Pictured above.)
Love the idea of buying your food at the farmer’s market, but don’t have the time or opportunity to make it part of your shopping routine? Farmigo is here to help! This startup works with local farmers and producers to offer families weekly deliveries of fresh produce, prepared foods, bread, eggs, meat, seafood, and more. It’s kind of like a CSA—in fact, Farmigo created the software that many CSA programs use for membership and online ordering—but one where you can choose between many different offerings.
Spring is in the air and Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Are you ready for some shopping deals? Starting Thursday, April 28 through Saturday, April 30, many of the businesses in the Bel Marin Keys Warehouse district (just off 101 in South Novato), will be opening for you. This sale has a wide array of items for your delight; including brightly colored kitchen gadgets (Kuhn Rikon), nutrient rich seaweed spa products (SeaBenefit), stunning and unique jewelry pieces (Alexis Jewelry), funky boots and sunscreen products (Mike Childs USA), gorgeous Italian décor (Via Graceffo) and fine wine (Starry Night Winery) to name just a few. There is something for everyone!
When we're in San Francisco, one of our favorite spots for an afternoon of shopping and dining is Japantown. A trip to Japantown, which is located in the city's Western Addition neighborhood, is a great way to take in Japanese culture, and it's certainly less effort than taking the family on a trip to Japan! San Francisco's Japantown is the largest and oldest Japanese neighborhood in the United States.
Japantown, or Nihonmachi, was established in its present location following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and flourished in the early years of the 20th century. After suffering a downtown during World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans, the area was rejuvenated in the 1950s and '60s. The centerpiece of this six-square-block enclave is the Japan Center Mall. It and the surrounding area are home to numerous Japanese restaurants, shops, and grocery stores.
The Japan Center Mall is a fun place for a family outing, especially if the weather is cold or rainy (not a rarity in San Francisco). The mall is anchored by the large concrete Peace Pagoda in an outdoor plaza, where it also hosts popular local events like the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, held over two weekends in April, and the Nihonmachi Street Fair, which takes place in August.
It's that time again—the Appel & Frank Babes & Babies Shopping Event takes place at St. Mary's Cathedral Patron's Hall in San Francisco on Saturday, November 3, from 9:30 am–2 pm. New and expecting moms, you are invited for a fun day of shopping, education and information!
Shop from 65 local designers and companies offering baby and toddler clothing, accessories, gear, toys, resources, and much more, all at discounted prices, of course. There will be awesome gift bags for the first 200 families, play spaces and activities for the kids, and a raffle with great prizes including a Stokke highchair, Joovy stroller, and a Medela Pump in Style breastpump.
You'll also find informational seminars from on topics including sleep training, diapering, cord blood registry, and more.
Marin Mommies readers get discounted admission of $5 for two people with the code MARINMOMMIES when ordering in advance at www.appelandfrank.com. Regular admission is $5 each online or at the door.
Stock up on waste-free lunch gear from Fabkins, Mimi the Sardine and Lunchbots tonight Wednesday, August 15 at Mimi the Sardine's Corte Madera Store. They'll have items up to 40% off, including organic cotton napkins, stainless steel containers, Mimi Kids items (lunchbugs, backpacks and more!), and the entire Mimi Home Spring/Summer Collection.
Enjoy wine and nibbles while you shop! It all takes place from 3–6 pm at 305 Montecito Ave A, Corte Madera.
We're also giving away a fabulous Mimi the Sardine lunch clutch to one lucky Marin Mommies reader! To enter to win, send an email with "Mimi" in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59 pm on Friday, August 17. We'll choose a winner at random. See our full giveway rules and terms here.