10 Fun Outing Ideas for Winter Break

December 14, 2017

Tubing in Tahoe

Winter Break is almost 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.

Win Tickets to the Little Folkies Family Band Holiday Celebration at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley

December 13, 2017

Come down to the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley for an all-ages concert of folk music for grown-ups and kids alike! The Little Folkies Family Band performs its Holiday Family Concert at the Sweetwater on Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 10:30 am. Read on to learn how to win tickets to the show.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 15–17

December 13, 2017

Mickey Mouse Christmas House MarinwoodThe San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker is a wondrful family holiday tradition.

Other Holiday Happenings: holiday ice skating, visit with Santa Claus, North Bay Christmas Tree Farms and Lots, festive holiday teas, holidays in San Francisco, and visit one of Marin's Amazing Lighted Houses

Friday, December 15

  • Christmas House at West End Nursery
    San Rafael
    Friday & Saturday, 8 am–5 pm, Sunday 9 am–4 pm

    Get in the holiday spirit and visit the amazing Christmas House at San Rafael's West End Nursery. This magical setting includes lights, decorated trees, and more. It's a holiday must-visit in Marin. Free admission; ornaments and decor are for sale. Location: 1938 5th Avenue. Event details.
  • Holiday Ice Skating in Union Square
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–11:30 pm

    Union Square, San Francisco's main shopping district, gets into the ice skating spirit during the holiday season with an outdoor ice rink sponsored by Safeway. 90-minute sessions start on every even hour. Admission: $18 for adults (includes skates), $13 for children 8 and under. For info, call (415) 781-2688 or visit their website.
  • Children’s Magical Tea
    Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco
    Friday & Saturday, noon–4 pm

    Magical Holiday Tea is open to kids and adults of all ages, and features Raul the Master Balloonatic, Face Painting by Drea, Wendy the Whimsical Elf, and a Cookie Decorating Station. Santa will visit on Saturdays, too! $75 per person; $70 with toy donation to the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive. Advance reservations required: (415) 616-6941. Location: 999 California Street. Event details.
  • San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
    War Memorial Opera House

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 & 7 pm
    San Francisco Ballet’s awe-inspiring production is like no other, with colorful, larger-than-life scenery, over 200 dazzling costumed characters, and of course Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Ticket prices start at $59. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or visit their website.
  • Holiday Party! (ages 0–6)
    Sing Dance Play, Novato
    Friday, 3:30–6 pm

    Celebrate the holidays, Music Together style! Musical play, followed by unstructured play for the whole family, geared toward children under 6. Refreshments provided. Open Play members are free; otherwise $10 per family at the door. Location: 5420 Nave Drive, Novato. Event details.
  • Zoo Lights
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5–8 pm

    Come enjoy the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights. Shop at the all-new Holiday Marketplace, see the reindeer romp, enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa at Cafe Playfield, and hum along to seasonal music as you play in the Elinor Friend Playground. Adults $10, kids 14 and under $8, kids 3 and under: free. Parking $8. For more information, visit their website.
  • Zoo Lights
    Oakland Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5:30–9 pm,
    Soar over the Oakland hills in our festively-lit gondolas and see the entire Bay Area like never before! Check out the cool new laser light shows, candy cane lane-themed Adventure Landing with rides your kids will love, an adventure on the Outback Express train, rocking around the Christmas trees and a music-themed light show. Santa will be here from 6-9 pm this weekend too. ZooLights is a separate event and is not included in regular Zoo Admission. $10 adults, $9 children 2–14 and seniors 65+, free for children under 2 and adults over 80. Event details.
  • Holiday Movie Night: Elf
    Diesel, A Bookstore, Larkspur
    Friday, 6 pm

    Meet us at the Mart to get in the holiday spirit with a screening of Elf! Enjoy complimentary hot cider or hot chocolate from Fisher's Cheese & Wine and settle in for a treat of a movie night at our favorite bookstore, Diesel. Event details.
  • Rombeiro Christmas House
    Devonshire Drive, Novato

    Friday–Sunday, 6–10 pm
    Their home is something that truly has to be seen to be believed, and photos don't really do it justice. There are something like 140,000 lights as well as countless figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front and side yards, walls, and roof of the Rombeiro house. If you think the outside is impressive, then you need to go on inside and get a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. You'll find model trains, more figurines, Christmas trees, and the biggest lighted holiday village you've ever seen. Location: 34 Devonshire Drive, off of Center Road, Novato. For more info, read about our visit here.
  • Mickey Mouse Christmas House
    417 Blackstone Drive, San Rafael
    Friday–Sunday, 6–10 pm

    One of my children's favorite decorated and lighted Christmas house is the Mize family's Mickey Mouse House (AKA "Mickey's Christmas House") in Marinwood. Get out of your car and walk up the short driveway, though and you'll see why it's worth a visit for kids of all ages. Every evening, the two-car garage is opened to reveal two galleries of what has to be every Walt Disney toy, stuffed animal, decoration, and gimgrack ever produced, all artfully arranged in two spectacular holiday displays. Read more about our visit here.
  • The Nisja Bear House
    383 Quietwood Drive, San Rafael
    Friday–Sunday, 6–9 pm

    The Nisja Bears House has been charming Marin families for 36 years. With the trains and bears and animated figures, there's plenty here to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. Check out the display case to the left of the driveway for more bears and Christmas decorations. The bear that blows bubbles is always a hit with the kids, too. Read more about our visit here.
  • 2017 Lighted Boat Parade
    Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
    Friday, 6–8 pm
    The Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District and the St. Francis Yacht Club present the oldest and largest lighted holiday boat parade on San Francisco Bay. A holiday tradition since 1994, the parade includes members of the St. Francis Yacht Club, Fisherman's Wharf Fishing Fleet, Golden Gate Yacht Club, PIER 39 Marina, and the Sea Scouts. The parade route will begin just off of PIER 39, proceeding west past Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Mason and the St. Francis Yacht Club, and will turn around off of Crissy Field to return along the waterfront. Spectators can enjoy wonderful views from Aquatic Park, PIER 39, the Marina Green, and Crissy Field. Free. Event details.
  • A Christmas Carol
    A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, San Francisco
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 2 & 7 pm, Sunday, 1 & 5:30 pm

    Featuring a lively cast of dozens, gorgeous costumes, and those deliciously spooky ghosts, the Bay Area's favorite holiday tradition returns with a sparkling, music-infused production of A Christmas Carol. Bring your family, bring your friends, and check your “humbugs” at the door! Event details.
  • Petaluma School of Ballet Nutcracker
    Sonoma State University, Rohert Park
    Friday, 7:30 pm, Saturday, 1:30 & 6:30 pm and Sunday, 11 am & 3 pm
    Petaluma School of Ballet and North Coast Ballet California present a full-length production of The Nutcracker. Tickets start at $18. Purchase tickets.
  • Santa Rosa Dance Theater Nutcracker
    Spreckels Performing Arts Center, Rohnert Park
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 2 & 7 pm and Sunday 2 pm
    Set to the beloved music of Tchaikovsky and featuring new choreography by incoming Artistic Director Joshua Trader, Santa Rosa Dance Theater invites you to spread the joy, share the magic, create an annual tradition and make memories to cherish for years to come at their production of The Nutcracker. Tickets: $30 general, $28 seniors, $25 youth 12 and under. Purchase tickets.
  • Berkeley Playhouse: Annie
    The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 1 & 7 pm, Sunday, 2 pm

    Leapin’ lizards! One of the most popular musicals of all time returns to Berkeley Playhouse in an all new production that’s going to “shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!” Perfect for the entire family.  Location: 2640 College Avenue, Berkeley. Tickets: $20–$45. Event details.

 Saturday, December 16

  • Holidays Along Farm Trails
    Sonoma County
    Saturday & Sunday, various times
    'Tis the season to celebrate with our community. Join Sonoma County farmers and producers as they open their gates and barn doors to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm. Shop their unique farmstands for your holiday meals, cut your own Christmas tree, make a gift at DIY workshops, greet farm animals, and so much more. Free. Register online for a list of each weekend's participants. Event details.
  • Wreath Making Workshop
    McNears Beach Park, San Rafael
    Saturday 10 am–noon

    Bring the beauty of nature to your front door with a festive, homemade wreath! Join rangers at McNears Beach Park for a day of sipping hot chocolate, listening to holiday tunes, and creating your own natural wreath to take home. Fresh greenery, pinecones, and other natural materials will be provided. You are encouraged to bring your own decorations to use. All skill levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Healthy snacks provided. RSVPs appreciated but not required: SBurkhart@marincounty.org or (415) 446-4424. Park entrance waived for participants. Location: 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael. Event details.
  • Craft-n-Create: Family Workshop @ the Makerspace
    South Novato Library
    Saturday, 10 am–noon

    Families are invited to meet South Novato's new librarians, Amy and Adrienne, see our amazing makerspace and create a special craft the whole family can enjoy! Drop in any time between 10–noon. Warm apple cider and cookies will be available! For ages 2 and up; children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult. Event details.
  • Fancy Flea
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–3 pm

    Meet us at the Mart to shop a curated collection of designers, artisans, artists, makers, and antique collectors. Indulge in a hot toddy from Farmshop, snack on a tamale, and have the Trading Post gift wrap your finds for free. Elsie Green will be showcasing her hand-selected French antiques and housewares alongside other local and visiting craftspeople and artists, both vintage and contemporary. Event details.
  • Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz-Carlton
    San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am & 1 pm

    Children and their favorite stuffed animals gather in the Terrace Room of the Ritz-Carlton to enjoy holiday treats and this popular family show featuring an entertaining elf and his animated sidekick and a giant teddy bear. Each child will receive a teddy bear gift and photo with the giant teddy bear to take home. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area. Cost: $125 adults, $115 children. Locaation: 600 Stockton at California Street, San Francisco. For more info and reservations, visit their website.
  • Reindeer Romp
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Santa is sending his favorite reindeer, Belle, Holly, and Peppermint to spread holiday cheer at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens! Until January 1, majestic reindeer will be romping at SF Zoo's Playfield Lawn, near the spectacular Elinor Friend Playground. Zoo admission applies. Location: Sloat Blvd. at the Great Highway, San Francisco. Event details.
  • Santa Fly-In
    Pacific Coast Air Museum, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 10 am–2 pm

    Thanks to the generous sponsorship by Active 20-30 of Santa Rosa, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be flying in on a helicopter provided by Helico Sonoma around 11 am. There will be free bags of goodies, a chance for kids to whisper their holiday wishes into Santa’s ear, an air slide and jumpee house, hot dogs and more. This free event is open to the public. Event details.
  • Holiday Wreathmaking
    Mill Valley Lumber Yard
    Saturday, 10 am–4 pm

    As we celebrate the season and let nature embrace your inner creativity. Gayle, floral designer & founder of Bloomgayles, will be teaching you tips & tricks on how to use fall-inspired flowers and foliage to make timeless home decor designs.These wreaths are no ordinary wreaths. Gayle sources only high-quality nature and winter inspired holiday foliage, pods and berries.
    Cost: $65. Get your tickets here. Location: 129 Mill Avenue, Mill Valley. Event details.
  • Reindeer Visit the BADM
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Saturdays & Sundays, 10 am–5 pm

    Come and meet Snowflake and Blizzard, two live reindeer that will be visiting BADM! Watch them roam about in Lookout Cove and learn from their experienced handlers about their diet, migration patterns and unique characteristics that have allowed them to thrive in extreme environments. Free after museum admission. Event details.
  • Great Dickens Christmas Fair
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 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. Event details
  • Gingerbread Dog House Workshop
    Charles Schultz Museum, Santa Rosa
    Saturday, 10 am–noon & 1–4 pm, Sunday, 1–4 pm

    Assemble and decorate Snoopy’s doghouse out of gingerbread complete with a marshmallow Snoopy on top. Advance reservations required. Register online or by calling (707) 284-1272. Event details.
  • Visit Santa at the Mart!
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Saturday, 10:30 am–1:30 pm

    Meet Santa Claus at the Mart each Saturday in December before Christmas! Be sure to bring your list to ask Santa for the present you want—and put your best smile on for the complimentary photo. Event details.
  • River Rose and the Magical Christmas Storytime
    Barnes & Noble, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 11 am

    It's Christmas Eve and River Rose wants to stay up all night to hand-deliver a note to Santa, but she and her dog fall asleep only to find they've been swept off on another magical adventure. Activities to follow. For all ages. Event details.
  • Patchwork Series Children's Show: The Hipwaders
    Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
    Saturday, 11 am (doors open at 10:30 am)

    Listed as one of “25 Best Bands for Kids” by TimeOut New York Kids, The Hipwaders perform danceable rock ‘n’ roll for kids & families. The band has had several top ten songs on XM/SIRIUS Radio including #1 songs, ”Hey Josie!” & "Educated Kid.” Since 2005 they’ve released 6 award-winning albums, performed across the US and continue to perform throughout the SF Bay Area. Admission: $10 advance, $12 at the door. Doors open at 10:45 am. Location: 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley. For more info, call (510) 644-2020 or visit their website.
  • Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am
    Fort Mason Center, San Francisco

    Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets is a unique 50-minute version of the Nutcracker specifically designed for families with young children. The production features a live 9-piece chamber orchestra, Brian Fisher as Drosselmeyer, musical direction by Michael Morgan, set design by Peter Crompton, costume design by Richard Battle, and production direction by Frederic O. Boulay. Tickets: $20.50–$42.50. Location: Fort Mason Center, Herbst Pavilion, San Francisco. Event details.
  • Saturdays with Santa
    Bon Air Center, Greenbrae
    Saturday, noon–4 pm
    Santa arrives by firetruck (courtesy of the Larkspur Fire Department) at Santa’s Workshop in front of Mollie Stone’s Market on the first three Saturdays of December.  Free photos with Santa for families, friends and pets courtesy of CVS. Enjoy live music, sidewalk specials, Santa’s elves and children’s activities and treats. Event details.
  • Marin City Library's 2nd Annual Snowman Social
    Marin City Library
    Saturday, 1–3 pm

    Join us for an afternoon of food, crafts, fun, and maybe a little bit of magical snowman science. Location: 164 Donahue Street, Marin City. Event details.

Winter Music Classes for Kids in Marin

December 12, 2017

Music Class

My kids have always really loved music, and I think that's due in part to taking music classes like these starting when they were really little. We tried a few different classes around Marin and the North Bay, and really like the Kindermusik programs offered here in Novato by Music with Melissa. Regardless of which program you choose, there is a music class for every child from newborn to grade school.

If you’re thinking of getting your child involved in a music class, then now’s the time to sign up. Many classes will resume their sessions in September. Here’s an updated list we’ve put together of a variety of local music programs and classes. If we’ve left out your favorite class then please let us know, or, better yet, leave a comment and tell everyone why you and your kids love it!

Corte Madera

Auditions for Spring Youth Theater Productions in Marin

December 12, 2017

Acting, singing, and dancing in a local youth theater production is a great way to get used to performing in front of an audience, and it's a lot of fun, too.

Here are the spring production registration deadlines and/or audition dates and times for the great local youth theater organizations in Marin County. Follow the links for more information and to register.

Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Full production for grades 3+. Registration deadline: Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Peformances take place Friday, April 20 and Saturday April 21. More information

Family Friendly New Year's Eve Events in Marin and the Bay Area

December 11, 2017

New Year's Even Bell Ringing Asian Art MuseumWelcome in the New Year by ringing a 16th-century Japanese temple bell at the Asian Art Museum.

Say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in the New Year at one of these family friendly events taking place in Marin and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Many of these celebrations take place earlier in the day or evening on December 31 so little ones can get a taste of New Year's Eve fun without staying up past their bedtimes. Unless otherwise noted, all these events take place on New Year's Eve, Sunday, December 31, 2017.

  • Noon Year's Eve
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    , Sausalito
    9 am–2 pm
    Ring in the New Year with your little ones at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Noon Year’s Eve! This kid-friendly affair includes music by DJ Mancub, a celebratory ball drop at noon, dancing, and various art activities like glitter crown and chandelier making. In addition, enjoy access to the museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits like Lookout Cove and Bay Hall. For more info, visit their website.

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Pfeffernüsse

December 11, 2017

I've always loved these little German spice cookies, and, after years of buying the ones from Trader Joes, I decided to try making them. They're really quite easy to make and even more delicious than the ones from the store.

The addition of black pepper may seem a little weird, but that's where the cookie gets its name (Pfeffer is the German word for pepper). It makes the cookies slightly spicy and helps accentuate the other spice flavors.

Using fresh ground spices makes a big difference—I have a small coffee grinder that's dedicated to grinding spices for recipes like this.

Ingredients

Unique Toy Stores in Marin

December 11, 2017

Toy CrazyToy Crazy at Marin Country Mart in Larkspur

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.

7 Wonderful Winter Family Hikes in Marin

December 10, 2017

Earthquake Trail Pt. Reyes

Since we're enjoying some beautiful winter weather, why not take advantage of it by taking a family hike? There are so many amazing spots in Marin County that are perfect for a hike or nature walk with kids, whether they're in a baby backpack, a stroller, or walking on their own.

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