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 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.
  • San Rafael 38th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland
    Downtown San Rafael
    Friday, November 28, noon–8 pm & Saturday, November 29, 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 (12–4:30 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–12 pm). Location: On Fourth Sreet from B Street to Lootens Place in downtown San Rafael. For more info, 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.

Get Creative with Nana's Mobile Sewing Parties

November 18, 2014

Nana's Mobile Sewing PartiesIf you have a hands-on kid who likes to make and create, check out Nana's Mobile Sewing Parties for your next birthday party. Nana's aims to bring the long lost art of sewing back into our communities, and teach children to sew, one party at a time. They'll work together with you and incorporate your party 's theme into a cool sewing project that everyone will love. Party guests will sew their creations and then take them home to forever remember the day.

The excitement begins to build as Nana's team arrives and sets up the sewing machines. Nana's brings three new Babylock sewing machines, which are easy for a beginner seamstress to operate, to each party.

Preschool Profile: Lycée Français de San Francisco

November 17, 2014

Lycée Français de San FranciscoEstablished in 1967, Lycée Français de San Francisco (LFSF) offers a unique opportunity for young children to learn and grow in a truly international environment. LFSF operates on three campuses: primary and secondary schools in San Francisco, and a new, fully renovated preschool and primary school campus in Sausalito. From a very young age, students learn to express themselves as curious and motivated learners, exchanging cultural and linguistic perspectives within a rich and diverse student body representing 65 nationalities and 35 languages overall. You can learn more about the school and its programs at lelycee.org.

Please describe your school’s philosophy. What is it all about?

Rooted in the French national curriculum, with close ties to the French government and the AEFE worldwide network of French schools, LFSF teaches children by immersing its students in language and culture from day one. Non-francophones are able to integrate our classrooms though the kindergarten level.

Weeknight Recipe: Easy Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup

November 17, 2014

Mexican chicken and rice soupAt this time of year, my family and I love making a warm pot of comforting soup for dinner. The kids love chicken soup in all its forms, so I created this Mexican-inspired version of chicken and rice soup to mix things up a bit.

This definitely isn't your run-of-the-mill bowl of chicken soup—it's simple but delicious and everyone loved it. Filled with chicken, rice, and vegetables, you can also mix in garnishes to personalize your bowl.

While the "right" way to make this is probably to simmer a whole chicken for a long time, this weeknight one-pot-meal is easy and quick to put together with boneless skinless chicken breasts and good quality chicken broth.


Family Road Trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

November 16, 2014

Monterey Bay AquariumOne of our favorite family getaways is a visit to the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's about a three-hour drive from Marin, making it possible as a day trip, but even better as an overnighter or long weekend with the family.

We loaded up the car and drove down to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium last week, and found it as fun and educational as ever. Fall and winter may even be the bast times to visit, since you can avoid the coastal fog that blankets the area in the summer, and the tourist season crowds have subsided a bit.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, and we're willing to bet that it is. The exhibits reflect the aquarium's mission to research and educate the public about the biodiversity of Monterey Bay and the California coast, and they're fascinating.

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