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.

Ten Fun Family Things to Do on Thanksgiving Break

November 22, 2014

It's Thanksgiving week, and since most Marin County schools give kids the entire week off, you'll probably be looking for ways to keep them occupied before and after Turkey Day. Here are our top 10 activities for families for Thanksgiving break:

Does It Really Snow in Downtown San Rafael?

November 22, 2014

Snow sledding in San RafaelDoes it really snow in Downtown San Rafael? Well, no... not very often. But that doesn't mean that they can't truck a bunch of the frozen white stuff for sledding on the Friday after Thanksgiving!

Snow will arrive in Marin as part of the 35th annual Downtown San Rafael Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland, taking place Friday, November 28. The event happens on Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place. Enjoy the Parade of Lights, Winter Wonderland, holiday market, tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment, and more! Free snow sledding and kids' activities take place from noon to 4:30 pm and 6 to 8 pm, and the Holiday Marketplace runs from noon to 8 pm.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 21, 22 & 23

November 21, 2014
Pier 39 holiday christmas tree lighting
PIER 39 Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this Thanksgiving 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.

Friday, November 21

  • Sturgeon Derby
    McNear's Beach Park, San Rafael
    Friday, 9 am–noon

    Join rangers for this popular annual fishing contest! Prizes will be awarded for the biggest fish. A limited number of fishing poles and bait will be provided first-come, first-served to beginner fishermen thanks to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A valid California fishing license is required when fishing from the shore, not from the pier. Park entrance is $5. Location: Meet at the fishing pier in McNears Beach Park in San Rafael (201 Cantera Way). For more info, contace Chief Park Ranger Dan Sauter at (415) 446-4424 or visit their website.
  • Building Lighting Ceremony & Carnival
    Embarcadero Center, San Francisco
    Friday, 4–7 pm

    Celebrate the 28th Annual Building Lighting Ceremony and Carnival at Embarcadero Center. The Building Lighting Carnival includes children’s activities, entertainment, visits with Santa and a very special appearance by Mickey Mouse. The Building Lighting Ceremony begins at 6 pm with live performances from Disney on Ice Presents: Let’s Celebrate! The countdown to the official lighting leads up to the illumination of One, Two, Three, and Four Embarcadero Center featuring 16,000 lights - followed by a grand fireworks display. For more info, visit  their website.
  • Seals & Slippers: Sleep under the Stars
    The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito
    Friday, 6 pm to Saturday 10 am

    The sleepover is aimed at children ages 6–12. The overnight stay includes eating feeding season with the seals, guided hike around Rodeo Lagoon, dinner, dessert, and continental breakfast. Cost: $85 per person. Register by contacting Kristin Ku at KuK@tmmc.org or (415) 289-7330. For more info about the sleepover, visit their website.
  • Broadway Bound Kids Presents: Annie Jr.
    Marin Center, Showcase Theater
    Friday, 7:30 pm, Saturday, 2 & 6 pm

    Leapin' Lizards! The irrepressible comic strip heroine takes center stage in one of the world's best-loved musicals. Based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray, Annie is now adapted for young performers in Annie Jr. The beloved book and score by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin features some of the greatest musical theater hits ever written including Tomorrow. Tickets: $17 adults, $15 children and seniors. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, November 22

  • Lollipopalooza Family Concerts
    Westminster Presbyterian Church, Tiburon
    Saturday, 9:30 am & 11 am

    There will be two performances of this fun sing-along concert for kids age 3–8 and their parents, featuring Tim Cain, Miss Kitty, Cindy Cohen, and Christopher Smith, along with the Dream Circle Band. Each artist has a strong and large following in the Bay Area, and when they work together they create a warm, intimate, exciting 45-minute show, perfect for young children. If you like to sing along and dance along, this is the show for you! Tickets at the door on the day of the event are $12. Kids under 1 are free. Location: 240 Tiburon Boulevard, Tiburon. To purchase tickets for the 9:30 am show or 11 am show.
  • Make A Pie for Charity
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Come make a homemade organic apple pie to be donated to the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Marin County this Thanksgiving. And don't forget to make a pie for yourself too! Purchase a ticket to make a pie for charity or yourself here. Don't forget to stop by the famers market to purchase fresh produce, prepared foods, and great local restaurants. For more info, visit their website.
  • Cool, Clear Waters Walk
    Mount Tamalpais, Muir Beach
    Saturday, 9:30 am–noon
    Take an easy two-mile walk with Ranger Lou around an ecological restoration site to learn how the needs of salmon and frogs can inspire people to create habitat for endangered and threatened species during a time of climate change. Bring water, snack, sunscreen, and hat, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes. Meet at the Muir Beach parking lot. Reservations required; call (415) 388-2596. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    The Dickens Fair kicks off Saturday, November 22 and 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.
  • Creative Family Fun: Windy Trees
    Presidio Officers’ Club, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am-3 pm

    For November celebrate the incredible art that the Presidio inspires! Using only your breath, a straw and some paint, you can be the wind that creates a beautiful tree to celebrate the fall season and the forests of the Presidio. Drop in every Saturday and Sunday between 10 am to 3 pm for imaginative craft-making based on the Presidio’s natural and cultural heritage. Best for kids aged 5–12. Free. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, Presidio Main Post, San Francisco. For more info, call (415) 561-4400 or visit their website.

Marin & Sonoma Christmas Tree Farms & Lots 2014

November 21, 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.

Festive Holiday Teas for the Family in Marin and San Francisco

November 20, 2014

Holiday Magic Toybox Tea at FalkirkHoliday teas are a fun seasonal treat for children and their parents, whether they're at a local library or a fancy hotel in the city. There are several in Marin this season. Holiday teas are popular and usually fill up quickly, so reserve your spot as soon as possible if you plan to go. Here are a few of our favorites in Marin and San Francisco.

Marin

A Holiday Magic Toy Box Tea at Falkirk
Saturday and Sunday, December 13 & 14, seatings at noon & 3 pm

1408 Mission Avenue at "E" Street, San Rafael
The tea is an old-fashioned tour de force in the elegant Queen Anne Victorian Falkirk Mansion. Homemade tea sandwiches and sweets are served, along with tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages. Features include life-sized toys, a raffle, and plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure you bring your teddy bear or other favorite toy! The Magic Toy Box Tea is hosted by the Cultural Affairs Service League. This extremely popular event is by reservation only and always sells our early! Reserve your spot by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online here.. The cost is $25 for adults and $22 for children, or $45 for an adult-and-child combination ticket. For more info, visit www.falkirkculturalcenter.org.

Bookmarks Annual Teddy Bear Tea at the Belvedere Tiburon Library
Saturday & Sunday December 13 & 14; seatings at 9:30 am, 10:30 am, & 11:30 am

1501 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon
Piping-hot cocoa, savory eats, and festive treats greet you as you step into the Belvedere-Tiburon Library's holiday themed Teddy Bear Tea for children of all ages. Delight your children with this wonderful age-old tradition. Afterwards, enjoy a holiday sing along with a special guest. Holiday stories will be read by the Children's Librarian, Alicia Bell. On your way out, get your photo taken with a large, friendly white bear and don’t forget to pick up your keepsake souvenir to take home and treasure! Tickets are $25 per seat. For more info, visit www.teddybearteainfo.com or call (415) 233-2009.

Marin and Bay Area Holiday Tree Lighting Events 2014

November 18, 2014

Ghirardelli Square Tree LightingAll across Marin and the Bay Area, communities celebrate the beginning of the holiday season with a traditional tree lighting ceremony. Here's a sampling of what's going on throughout Marin County, San Francisco, and Sonoma.

  • PIER 39 Tree Lighting Celebration
    San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday,
    November 22 & 23, noon-6 pm
    Bring the family for some holiday cheer at PIER 39's Tree Lighting Celebration on Saturday and Sunday. Experience the magic – sing songs, give hugs to our Disneyland friends and welcome the holiday season with two days of holly-jolly magic and merriment for the whole family. Tree lighting takes place at 6 pm each night as PIER 39′s majestic 60-foot tree, adorned with glistening ornaments, bows and twinkling lights, will be illuminated against a stunning backdrop of the San Francisco City skyline. For a complete schedule of activities, visit their website.

Lollipopalooza Family Concerts with Dream Circle on November 22

November 18, 2014

Dream Circle Tim Cain, Miss Kitty, Cindy Cohen, Christopher SmithThis Saturday, four superstars of Marin's children's entertainment scene—Tim Cain, Miss Kitty, Christopher Smith, and Cindy Cohen—return to the stage for their annual Lollipopalooza concert. Accompanied by Peter Penhallow and the Dream Circle Band, this fantastic foursome perform the 15th annual rendition of their fantastic family concert at Tiburon's Westminster Presbyterian Church on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

These popular concerts are filled with lots of clapping, dancing, and sing-along fun for children ages 3 to 8. There will be two Lollypopalooza performances on November 22, at 9:30 am & 11 am. All of the performers' recordings will be for sale following each concert, including the new Dream Circle lullaby CD and the wonderful It's a Holiday CD.

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