Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 28, 29 & 30

November 27, 2014

Garlock Tree Farm

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this holiday weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

There's also holiday ice skating at numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, as well as opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers. Also, check out our guide to North Bay Christmas tree farms and Lots.

Friday, November 28

  • Gingerbread Builders Workshop
    Bon Air Center, Greenbrae
    Friday-Sunday, 9 am-9 pm

    Bring the kiddos out to build a sweet home of their dreams. Gingerbread kits include house, candy and bag of royal Icing. Choose from 3 different sizes that range in price from $31-$52. Location: Bon Aire Shopping Center Suite #302. Reserve your gingerbread kit here. For questions, (415) 720-2193 or visit their website.
  • The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Friday-Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    The Dickens Fair runs on weekends through December 21 from 10 am–7 pm. Experience Victorian London with hundreds of costumed players, shops offering one-of-a-kind gifts and Christmas treasures, dining, and pubs. Meet Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Jules Verne, David Copperfield, Charles Darwin, and 700 costumed characters. Of course, Father Christmas himself will be on hand to join in the fun. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.
  • 35th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland
    Downtown San Rafael
    Friday, noon–8 pm & Saturday, 9 am–noon
    Downtown San Rafael will once again commence the holiday season with its Winter Wonderland, Parade of Lights, and Holiday Marketplace with arts and crafts that starts the Friday after Thanksgiving. On Friday: free snow sledding, kids activities (noon–4:30 pm & 6–8 pm), Holiday Marketplace (noon–8 pm) and the Parade of Lights (5:30 pm) with Santa and Mrs. Claus's arrival and a tree-lighting immediately after. On Saturday, kids activities and snow sledding continues (9 am–noon). Location: Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place in downtown San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Ghirardelli Square Annual Tree Lighting
    San Francisco
    Friday,  4–9 pm

    Enjoy free live entertainment for the entire family throughout the day culminating with the lighting of the Ghirardelli Square tree at 5:30 pm. This year’s festivities will include live music, children’s entertainment and a visit from Santa. Location: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street (at Beach and Larkin), San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Macy's 25th Annual Union Square Tree Lighting
    Union Square Park, San Francisco
    Friday, 6 pm

    Macy's gift to the city and San Francisco's most recognized Christmas tree will be officially lit in Union Square at 6:40 pm. Macy's 25th Annual Tree Lighting will take place in Union Square Park between Sutter and Post and Geary and Stockton Streets, right across from the front of Macy's. For more info, visit their website.
  • Cinnabar Theater Young Repertory Presents The Wizard of OZ
    Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma
    Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm

    Follow the yellow brick road with Cinnabar's Young Rep as they present the classic musical live on stage. This production of The Wizard of Oz is performed entirely by talented young artists aged 7–18. More than 65 kids take the stage to bring this beloved story to life. Admission: $15 adults, $10 your 21 and under. Location: 3333 Petaluma Boulevard North. For more info and tickets, visit their website.

Saturday, November 29

  • Fitness Hike: Hoo Koo E Koo to Huckleberry Trail
    Kent Woodlands
    Saturday, 9 am-noon

    Families can explore Baltimore Canyon and the Blithedale and Corte Madera ridges on a fast-paced hike with Ranger Ian McLorg. We will take the Hoo Koo E Koo Trail up to the ridge, come down the Huckleberry Trail and then head back to Crown Rd (approximately 5 miles total). Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring water and high energy snacks. We request that no pets (except service animals) attend. This is a rain or shine event but high winds will cancel.  Meet at the gate at the end of Crown Rd in Kent Woodlands. For more info call Ranger Ian McLorg at (415) 473-2816 or visit their website.
  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids from 10 am–2 pm adjacent to the farmer's market and live music from Scott the Storyteller from 9:30–10:30 am. For more info, visit their website.
  • Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Saturday & Sunday, 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 2 and 3 pm

    Kick off your holiday season with Gingerbread Architecture. Come to the Museum and we'll provide a kit for you and your family with everything you need to construct a creative holiday home, including gingerbread house pieces, icing and festive holiday candies. Cost per kit is $20 (Museum admission for non-members is not included). To register, visit their website.
  • Family Science Open House
    Buck Institute, Novato

    Saturday, 10 am–2 pm
    Make plans now to take a break from holiday shopping and Thanksgiving leftovers. Bring friends, family and visiting relatives to a world-class research Institute and get first-hand experience with science aimed at extending healthspan—the healthy years of life. Every half hour we will have a science experiment in our Learning Center for children of all ages. Free and open to the public; free parking. For more info, visit their website.
  • Reindeer Romp at SF Zoo
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Reindeer Romp returns with Santa's favorite reindeer friends Belle, Holly, Peppermint, and Velvet. These four majestic animals mark the return of the holidays at the Zoo and will be on exhibit through New Year’s Day. Stop by the reindeer area on the Playfield Lawn near the Elinor Friend Playground and check out the real story behind these majestic creatures. Free with Zoo admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Let it Snow! at Treasure Island
    San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am-5 pm

    Bring the family to this weekend's SNOWvember at the Treasure Island Flea Market. Come shop and enjoy more than 20 tons of snow. Enjoy more than 400 local artists, makers, designers and collectors. The snow falls at 11 am each day. Cost: $3 per person and children 12 and under are free. For more info, visit their website.
  • 57th San Francisco International Auto Show
    Moscone Center
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–10 pm
    The International Auto Show features the world’s major manufacturers displaying their 2015 model cars, SUVs, trucks, and vans. There will also be classic cars, race cars, car simulators, hot rods, and more. Admission $10, children 12 and younger free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets at the door only. Location: Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family Sing-Along: Your Song My Song!
    La Peña Cultural, Berkeley
    Saturday, 10:30–11:30 am

    ysmsJaime Lee Currier and Eric Hart are Your Song My Song! We sing classic kids’ songs, Beatles, originals, sing-a-longs, finger-plays, chants and rock ‘n roll! For ages. Cost: $5 Kids, $6 Adults. Location: 2113 Rose St., Berkeley. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Craferino
    Petaluma Veterans Memorial Hall
    Saturday, 11 am-4 pm

    The Petaluma Downtown Craft Mart presents its sixth annual “Holiday Crafterino” show, Saturday November 29th from 11am to 4pm at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building. The show brings together the best in handmade crafts and gifts and raises funds for several worthy causes. Admission: $1 donation. Location: 1094 Petaluma Blvd South, Petaluma. For more info, visit their website.
  • SFEtsy Indie Holiday Emporium
    Embarcadero, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–5 pm

    Start your holiday shopping at this weekend's Etsy event. The SFEtsy Indie Holiday Emporium is an annual market showcasing the SFEtsy team members and other artisan crafters and makers. See a list of sellers here. Location: Pier 35, 1526 Embarcadero, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Santa's Riverboat Arrival
    Petaluma River Turning Basin
    Saturday, 11:30 am
    Santa and Mrs. Claus sail into the Petaluma River Turning Basin aboard a tugboat at noon and disembark in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center on East Washington St. to greet children and distribute candy. Performers will be on hand at the shopping center starting at 11:30 am. For more info, visit their website.

Marin & Sonoma Christmas Tree Farms & Lots 2014

November 26, 2014

Christmas tree farm

For many families, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to get or to start thinking about getting their Christmas tree. For many, there's no better way to get a tree than to take the trip to one of the many North Bay Christmas tree farms and cut one down themselves! If playing lumberjack isn't your thing, there are plenty of local lots in Marin that offer quality trees for your holiday.

We've linked to our Christmas tree farm reviews where appropriate. Keep in mind that many of our Christmas tree farm reviews were written last year or earlier and some information may be out of date. We'll be hitting the road to check out this year's Christmas tree farms in person, so make sure you check back for updates.

Although we make every effort to make sure our information is up to date, please keep in mind that Christmas tree farms and lots do go out of business (there used to be many more in Petaluma and Sebastopol, and even one in Olema), and may be closed due to weather or other conditions. Make sure you call, email, or check their website before you go.

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 4 to 5

November 26, 2014

All-in-1 EaselFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers on Monday; today, we'll look at indoor fun and active play toys for ages 4 to 5.

Ages 4 to 5 Indoor Fun

All-in-1 Easel
Forget the floor, the kitchen table or–gasp!–the walls. Every little artist needs a proper wooden easel. Adjustable to grow with your pint-sized Picasso, this beauty is double-sided for communal creativity, combining a blackboard and magnetic whiteboard. The top dowel holds a roll of paper nearly 19' long, and three paint pots fit into the bottom shelf. What a work of art! $79.99

Lottie Snow Queen
Lottie is thrilled to receive a party invitation to the Lottieville Masked Ball. Inspired by one of her favorite stories, Lottie decides to dress as a Snow Queen. Wearing a silver, sparkly mask and a magnificent ice blue and frosty white gown studded with silver snowflakes will any of her friends recognize her? $19.99

This Year's Mill Valley Winterfest is Bigger Than Ever!

November 25, 2014

Mill Valley WinterfestNote: Due to this weekend's anticipated rainy weather, Winterfest will be rescheduled to Sunday, December 7.

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 this Sunday, December 7, from 11 am to 6 pm. Winterfest celebrates the holiday season with a fun-filled afternoon for children, families, and anyone who enjoys the holidays!

This year’s Winterfest will be the biggest one yet, with expanded food, new activities, and an extensive live performance program. New for 2014 is a 15-foot-tall snow globe photo booth that can hold up to eight guests at a time and blows snow inside—just like a real snow globe. It's sure to be a hit for families looking for a fun photo opportunity!

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Babies & Toddlers

November 24, 2014

fold & go trampolineThanksgiving is nearly here and of course so are the Holidays! As many parents know, finding the perfect gifts for kids can be a challenge, especially when it comes to toys. The toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, filled us in again this year to the hottest toys for this Holiday season. Five Little Monkeys' picks are based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've broken down their recommendations into lists for various age groups. First, we'll look at the most popular toys this year for babies and toddlers. Tomorrow, we'll look at toys for ages 4 to 5.

Baby (0 to 1 year)

Bead Maze by Whoozit
Beads on the run! Wooden bead run activity toy features 3 colorful bead runs, rotating gears, mini wooden Whoozit that glides on track, fabric cords and a discovery mirror. Water-based non-toxic finish. $29.99

Thanksgiving Recipe: Roasted Vegetables

November 24, 2014

roasted vegetablesWhile the turkey is usually the star of the Thanksgiving table, there wouldn't be much of a feast without a variety of delicious side dishes. One of the things I love to make on Thanksgiving—or any other time of year, really—is roasted vegetables.

Roasting vegetables in the oven at hight heat has a lot of things going for it: it's easy, it works with a variety of different ingredients, and the results are uniformly delicious! I like to use this technique on cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. They get really sweet and it's much harder to overcook them than it is when boiling our steaming them. My kids often ask for seconds of these veggies—they're that good. Carrots, parsnips, and other root vegetables are fantastic roasted, too.

Roasted veggies couldn't be easier to make: cut vegetables into chunks, toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a hot oven. That's it! There's nothing like a super simple and delicious side dish to help make your Thanksgiving less stressful.

Ingredients

ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit is a Holiday Family Favorite. Win Tickets!

November 24, 2014

ODC/Dance Velveteen RabbitODC/Dance's adaptation of the classic children's story The Velveteen Rabbit has been a holiday tradition in the Bay Area for 28 years. With music, dance, and powerful narrative, ODC/Dance tells this classic tale of a well-worn stuffed rabbit who become real, and the little boy who loves him.

This popular production brims with wit, festive costumes, colorful characters—including the 10-foot-tall Nana, a skin-horse, toy soldiers, a crocodile, dolls, and a pack of "real" rabbits, and, of course, plenty of holiday cheer. The Velveteen Rabbit features ODC's renowned company of dancers, 10 young dancers from the ODC school, a score by Benjamin Britten. This production is suitable for children ages 3 and up. Running time is 90 minutes, including one intermission.

San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker Tickets on Sale Now

November 23, 2014

San Francisco Ballet NutcrackerThanksgiving is almost here, which means it's time to start planning for the holiday season. Tickets to that time-honored holiday tradition, San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, are now on sale and going fast. Experience 200 costumed characters, dazzling scenery, and Tchaikovsky's beautiful score performed live by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

Many different performances of Nutcracker take place in the Bay Area during the holiday season, but San Francisco Ballet's is really the one that sets the standard. Did you know that San Francisco Ballet was the first ballet company to bring the Nutcracker to America, way back in 1944?

We've made it a family tradition to attend the Nutcracker every holiday season, and it's always a truly magical experience for all of us. It's really a holiday tradition not to be missed. Order your tickets now and make sure you get your preferred time, date, and seats.

Chef Daddy Barbeques the Thanksgiving Turkey

November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving turkey on the barbequeThis year, as I've done for several years now, I'll cook our Thanksgiving turkey on the charcoal barbeque grill. This is, in my humble opinion, the best way to cook a turkey, hands down. And it frees up the oven for more important Thanksgiving fare, like pie.

Cooking the turkey on the grill has long been my family's favorite way of doing so. I know a lot of people like to deep fry their turkeys in one of those turkey fryer contraptions, but as Captain Kirk shows in this cautionary video, it can be hazardous to life and limb.

Here's what you'll need to cook up your turkey on the grill. My method is optimized for your standard 22-inch Weber charcoal grill, so your mileage may vary with other kinds. I have no idea if this will work on gas grills, so if you try it and it doesn't work don't blame me.

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