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

December 23, 2014

New Year's Even Bell Ringing Asian Art MuseumSay goodbye to 2014 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 31st so little ones can get a taste of New Year's Eve fun without staying up past their bedtimes.

  • Noon Year's Eve
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    , Sausalito
    Wednesday, 9 am–2 pm
    Bring your family to the Museum for our annual Noon Year’s Eve Party. Dance along to DJ jams, count down to noon, and watch the ball drop in Festival Plaza. Stop by Studio 10 and make a festive party crown. Please note that the Museum is open from 9 am–2 pm on New Year’s Eve. Tickets: $11 general, free for members and infants under 6 months. Reserve your Bubbles & Beads party package for $7, which includes an exciting bubble wand, party bead necklace, snazzy sunglasses, and exciting noise maker, to help ring in the Noon Year. For more info, visit their website.
  • Annual Japanese Bell Ringing Ceremony
    Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
    Wednesday, 9:30–11:30 am

    Ring in the New Year by taking a swing at a giant 2,100-pound, 16th-century, Japanese temple bell at the Asian Art Museum. Participants may take turns ringing the museum’s bronze bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds, and ill luck of the previous year. This time slot is exclusive to members. Bell-ringing opens to general admission at 11:30 am. First come, first served. Pick up tickets to ring the bell at the admission desk. Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Easy Individual Chicken Pot Pies

December 22, 2014

individual chicken pot pieUse up leftover rotisserie chicken in these quick, easy, and delicious individual pot pies. The kids love getting their own little pies, and they really like both helping make and eating them! Topping each pie with a square of frozen puff pastry dough makes this really easy to make any night of the week.

If you don’t have any leftover chicken you can just cook up a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts for an equally tasty dish. Full of vegetables, they're meals in themselves.

Feel free to adapt this recipe to whatever you happen to have on hand—other vegetables you can use include broccoli, cauliflower, and sliced mushrooms, and you can use any kind of leftover meat, or none at all for a vegetarian version (substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth). Dried herbs may be used instead of fresh—use half the amount indicated in the recipe.

If you don’t have ramekins, you can make one large pot pie in a casserole dish and place the puff pastry dough over the top; cooking time may vary from that indicated.


10 Fun Outing Ideas for Winter Break

December 22, 2014

Rombeiro Christmas House NovatoWinter Break is 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.

Easy Handmade Holiday Bead Ornaments

December 22, 2014

Bead ornamentsYour kids can exercise their holiday creativity by making these easy and festive bead ornaments for the Christmas tree. They also look great attached to wrapped gifts as a little holiday extra.

These ornaments are simple to make, although the candy cane ornament is easier to put together than the star and probably a better project for younger children. All you'll need to make these are pipe cleaners, plastic beads in various colors and shapes, some ribbon, and scissors.

To create the candy canes, take a pipe cleaner and cut it in half. (We used holiday-colored red, white, and green pipe cleaners.) Slip one white bead onto the pipe cleaner and run it to the end. Bend over the last 1/4-inch or so of the pipe cleaner to hold the bead in place.

Seven Wonderful Winter Family Hikes in Marin

December 21, 2014

Fairway Waterfall Novato Marin County Open SpaceSince we seem to be getting a break from the rain, why not take advantage of the beautiful weather 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.

The winter landscape in Northern California can be breathtaking, too, with bright green grass and even some wildflowers showing their faces. Here are five of our favorite amazing Marin hikes for families, perfect for winter or any time, really. Remember to wear layered clothing, and it's usually a good idea to let the kids wear their rain boots on muddy winter trails.

The Fairway Waterfall

in Novato (also known as the Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall) is a fantastic destination for a winter family hike. It's short and there's an amazing payoff at the end of the trail in the form of a 30-foot waterfall!

San Francisco Symphony's "Charlie Brown Christmas" Is a Holiday Treat!

December 21, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! SF SymphonyThe San Francisco Symphony always presents wonderful family concerts for holidays. We've always really enjoyed their offerings, and this year was no exception! This season's family holiday program is A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! and we were lucky enough to attend a performance this Saturday. The classic Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of our family favorites, too, so we were really excited to experience this concert.

Concerts begin with a family friendly reception in the lobbies of Davies Symphony Hall. If you go, make sure you get there early to meet Peanuts characters, pose for pictures in Lucy's psychiatry booth and Snoopy's dog house, take in the amazing decorations, and listen to some holiday music. Drinks, including hot chocolate and Shirley Temples, and snacks are available for purchase, too. Our kids loved "Candyland", where you could buy a box and stuff it with as much holiday candy as you could for $5. (No, they didn't eat it all in one sitting.)

'Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences

December 20, 2014

Cal AcademyThis winter break, take in some holiday cheer and meet some real live reindeer at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Through Sunday, January 4, you can take in not only classic Cal Academy sights like the giant T-Rex skeleton, aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, and African hall, but special winter-themed programming and attractions as well as part of its "'Tis the Season for Science" lineup.

Visit with Willow and Yukon, a pair of live, six-year-old reindeer, in the east garden and learn about how they live in their cold northern homeland. Then, step inside the Snowman Theater to see Roaming with Reindeer, a family-friendly show that explores what life on the tundra is like for these amazing creatures.

While you're there, you'll also enjoy indoor snow flurries, caroling special holiday performances, and more. You can even meet "Santa Claude", the Academy's albino alligator mascot, and watch "Scuba Santa" at work in the Steinhart Aquarium.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 19, 20 & 21

December 19, 2014
the Nisja's Bear's House in Marinwood
Visit the Mickey Mouse House in Marinwood this weekend. It's open nightly from 6–10 pm.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this 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, opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers, and amazing decorated holiday houses. Also, check out our North Bay Christmas Tree Farms and Lots article.

Friday, December 19

  • Family Holiday Tea
    Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco
    Friday & Saturday, noon & 3 pm

    Celebrate the holidays by stepping back in time through the doors of the festively-decorated Haas-Lilienthal House for a traditional Victorian afternoon tea. Crown & Crumpet promises to delight with its perfectly-blended pots of tea, savory finger sandwiches, scrumptious scones and holiday sweets. Tea will be served in the formal dining room and parlors. Tickets: $48 adults, $24 for children 12 and under. Location: For more info, visit their website.
  • 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. Performances of Nutcracker run through December 29. Ticket prices start at $26. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or visit their website.
  • Family Concert: A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live!
    San Francisco Symphony, Davies Hall
    Friday, 4 pm, Saturday, 2 pm & Sunday, 2 and 7:30 pm

    Iconic Peanuts characters come to life in this colorful live-action performance, with animated backgrounds on the big screen, dancing, singing, and more—all with live accompaniment by the Symphony, Chorus, dancers, and narrators. This unique variety show opens with vocalist Lisa Vroman, the SFS Chorus, and the Symphony performing holiday classics. Come early and enjoy a family-friendly reception. The lobbies will be filled with festive decorations and activities, including gigantic trees, holiday photo booths, and special Peanuts décor. Tickets $12.50 and up; 17 and under half-price. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Francisco Zoo Lights
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5–8 pm

    Come get a feeling for the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights! Make your way from Entry Village to the Elinor Friend Playground for some magical playtime under the stars. Stop by to see Santa Claus to put in some last-minute requests. Grab some hot apple cider or cocoa and head over to the Playfield Lawn pay a visit to Santa's special reindeer Belle, Holly, Peppermint, and Velvet. And there will be light snow flurries at Zoo Lights, so bundle up! $7 adults, $5 kids 4–14, free 3 and under. For more information, visit their website.
  • Le Petit Cirque de Noël
    Marin County Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Friday, 6–7:15 pm

    Let Petit Cirque de Noël presents A Magic Box under the Big Tent at Marin Country Mart. Tickets: free for children age 18 and under; $15 adults. Tickets required for seating and can be purchased at the Trading Post or on Brown Paper Tickets. To reserve tickets, call the Trading Post at (415) 448-5043. For more info, visit their website.
  • Young Performers Theatre: Peter Pan
    Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
    Friday, 6:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday,1 & 3:30 pm

    The Young Performers Theatre presents Peter Pan. For all ages. Tickets: $10. Location: Building C, Room 300, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

 Saturday, December 20

  • 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, arts and crafts by SCRAP from 10 am–1:30 pm, and children's entertainment from 9:30–10:30 am. Santa Claus will be at the Poppy Store from 11 am to 2 pm for complimentary photos. For more info, visit their website.
  • Family Walk: A Winter Wonderland 

See "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Live with the San Francisco Symphony

December 18, 2014

Charlie Brown Christmas SF SymphonyThe holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas is always on our must-see list every holiday season, and this year it's being performed live at the San Francisco Symphony! A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live! features the animated backgrounds on the big screen, dancing, singing, and Vince Guaraldi's music performed by the Symphony.

This special family concert also features vocalist Lisa Vroman and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, who, along with the symphony, will perform hoiday classics ranging from an Irving Berlin medley to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". You'll also be able to add your voice as you sing along with some of your favorite carols.

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