A gorgeous Bay Area suburb, Marin County has ideal weather, miles of preserved open space, and tons of fun things to do with the entire family. We’ve rounded up eight of our favorite places to take kids in Marin, which will please museum junkies and nature lovers alike.
1. Bay Area Discovery Museum
The Bay Area Discovery Museum is an indoor/outdoor dream come true for kids six months to eight years old. Its location offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, and it has been a favorite outing of Marin families for years. Kids can choose to hang out in the art room (where they can paint windows) or explore the 2.5-acre outdoor playground. There is also a rotating special exhibit (it’s “Clifford” until September 2012). Pack a lunch to enjoy at the outdoor picnic tables or check out the recently renovated café, which offers tasty local salads, sandwiches, Rustic Bakery items, and Ritual coffee.
557 McReynolds Rd.
Sausalito, CA 94965
Cost: General Admission $11 (6 months and under free)
2. The Farmer’s Market
Start your day off with a jump in the bounce house, then catch the puppet show, story time and, if that’s not enough, you can indulge the little ones in face painting and pony rides. There are farmer’s markets all over Marin, but our favorite is at the Marin Civic Center on Thursday (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Sunday (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). As an added bonus, you may be able to do some shopping if you bring the stroller. There is coffee, a plethora of baked goods, tons of fun treats (hello popcorn), and plenty of lunch items (the pizza is delicious!).
3501 Civic Center Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94903
3. Community Center Pools
Marin is filled with community pools perfect for cooling off during the summer months. Most have kiddie pools and picnic space for making a day out of it. One favorite is the Terra Linda Community Center with its grassy lawn and tot pool. Tip: pack a lunch or take the kids across the street to Weezy’s for grass-fed burgers, then walk over to Three Twin’s organic ice cream for an extra delicious treat.
670 Del Ganado Rd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
Marin County has multiple playgrounds for kids of all ages. Check out Marin Playgrounds for a comprehensive list of the best play spots, including the newly renovated Andy Peri Park in Fairfax. This gem is fenced in and shady, with areas for both toddlers and older kids.
5. Family Friendly Hikes
Tennessee Valley Trail is a scenic family-friendly hike. It is 3.1 miles to the beach and back, making it an ideal loop for little legs or strollers. There are two parallel routes. We suggest keeping to the more level side to avoid going uphill if you’re pushing a stroller. The weather is typically cooler here, so bring sweatshirts. Also, don’t forget to pack a picnic and bring some sand toys for the beach. Note: the ocean is too rough for swimming.
6. Stinson Beach
Located in West Marin, Stinson Beach is by far the best known and most popular of Marin’s ocean beaches. The beach itself is about 3.5 acres with beautiful sand and a swimmable ocean. The family dog can even join in on the fun at a designated section of the beach. There is plenty of parking, a large picnic area with grills, lifeguards and a seasonal snack bar. Lodging and restaurants are nearby, making it an idyllic vacation spot.
7. PlayLand Sausalito
PlayLand in Sausalito offers kids plenty of adventure with bounce houses, slides, an art room, trains, and tunnels. Bonus: free organic coffee, tea, and cookies (with admission).
MLK GYM (building 6)
610 Coloma St.
Sausalito, CA 94965
Cost: $12 ($10 for Sausalito resident)
8. The Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center at Rodeo Beach and the Marin Headlands works to increase awareness about marine mammals and their environment through education and taking care of sick or injured marine animals. It provides tours to show kids how the animals are cared for and to teach them more about marine animals (best suited for slightly older kids). Tip: hike the headlands from the parking lot if you’re up for an additional adventure.
2000 Bunker Rd.
Fort Cronkite, CA 94965
—By Katie Luden
Katie Luden is a Marin County-based writer, editor, eBook publisher, and mom to two small children. Check out her website at katieluden.com.