Our Top 10 Spooky Halloween Movies for Families

September 19, 2016

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were RabbitHalloween is a few weeks away, and there's nothing much better than watching a spooky (but not too scary) movie with the family and sharing a big bowl of popcorn. I polled everyone in our family to find out what their favorite Halloween movies were, and we came up with this list of ten that we think are must-sees.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (G)

Wallace and Gromit, the ever-charming cheese-loving claymation duo, star in this clever sendup of monster movies, where something horrible ravages gardens and threatens a village's veggie-growing competition. Cute and clever with plenty of jokes (including a few that only grown-ups will get). Ages 3 and up.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (G)

This Halloween classic has been family favorite since 1966, so you probably watched it when you were a kid. Charlie Brown still gets nothing but rocks while trick-or-treating, Linus is always positive that the Great Pumpkin will pay a visit to the pumpkin patch, and it's still funny and touching. For all ages.

Weekend Along the Farm Trails Takes Place September 24 & 25

September 19, 2016

Weekend Along the Farm Trails Peter Pumpkin PatchNorth Bay farms are now abundant with the fall harvest. Sonoma County Farm Trails, the folks who produce the world-famous Gravenstein Apple Fair, invites families to head out to the farms for Weekend Along the Farm Trails on Saturday and Sunday, September 24 and 25. The free, self-guided tour provides fun for the whole family.

From 10 am to 4 pm both days, visitors can tour their way through Sonoma County and stop in at the participating farms of their choice. Guests can take part in demonstrations, petting friendly farm animals, hayrides, corn mazes, games and crafts for kids, tastings, cooking demos, flower arranging, and more. Some locations charge modest fees for special tours and activities, but entry to all farms and most activities are free of charge.

Many stops will offer snacks, lunches and epic picnic sites. Farm stands will be open for fresh-from-the-source purchases. Guests are encouraged to pack a cooler for toting home farm-fresh treasures.

Homemade Hummus is Easy to Make, Delicious, and Healthy

September 18, 2016

hummus and pita wedgesOnce something found mainly in health food stores and Middle Eastern restaurants, hummus is now a mainstream snacktime staple available in every local supermarket. I've found most of the grocery store versions of this garlicky, lemony garbanzo bean purée to be uninspired and not all that authentic, but fortunately it's really easy to make your own hummus at home, and we make sure to have the ingredients on hand for whenever a hummus craving hits!

My kids love hummus (my daughter's been a certified hummus fanatic since she was a toddler), which is fantastic, since it's both tasty and healthy. I like to serve it with homemade whole wheat pita chips, but it's also great with carrot sticks and other dippable veggies. I even pack it into my kids' school lunches. This recipe involves no cooking, and the kids can help out with it, too.

Southern Marin Mothers' Club Private School Fair

September 18, 2016

SMMC Marin Private School FairIf you're a Marin County parent looking into private schools for your children, make sure you plan on visiting the third annual Southern Marin Mothers' Club Private School Fair, which takes place at Brandeis Marin school in San Rafael on Thursday, September 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Most private schools in southern Marin, as well as many other schools throughout the county, will be represented at this event.

This fair is designed for parents looking for private school kindergarten options for their children in Marin as well as parents wanting to switch schools or who are new to the area. This year's speaker, Dana Nelson-Isaacs, will discuss admission, financial aid, and affordability. The parents will then circulate around the school tables and learn about the differences between the programs.

The fair begins at 6:30 pm Brandeis Marin school in San Rafael. Children, with the exception of infants in arms, should not attend this event. Light snacks and drinks wil be provided.

Marin and Sonoma Pumpkin Patches 2016

September 17, 2016

Peter Pumpkin Patch

Fall has arrived, and for those seeking that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, here's our annual guide to pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a real on-the-farm experience and the Godmother's Pumpkin Patch at St. Vincent's is a local tradition and an exciting Halloween experience for families. For more real live farms offering pumpkin patches this season, head up north a short distance to rural Sonoma County, where you'll find them in relative abundance. We visited as many of these pumpkin patches as we could last year, and have posted links to our reviews of them below. As always, we'll visit again this year and update our reviews.

We've included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. Hours are correct as of the time of publishing, but it's still a good idea to check a pumpkin patch's website or give them a call before you go in case anything changes. As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open during the whole month of October, although a few open in late September. Pumpkin patches listed here are open through October 31 unless otherwise indicated.

Pumpkin Patches Further Afield

September 17, 2016

Pumpkin PatchWhile there are plenty of awesome pumpkin patches to choose from in Marin and southern Sonoma counties (see our list of those here), you can find other great places to pick up pumpkins and other Halloween and autumn treats throughout the greater Bay Area. Maybe you're headed on a road trip to the south bay, or bound for the grandparents' house in Sacramento this October—there's probably a pumpkin patch on the way. Here are a few out-of-town pumpkin patches, in Solano, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties, that we've visited at one time or another or had recommended to us.

Solano County

Western Railway Museum Pumpkin Patch Festival

5848 Highway 12
Suisun 94585
(707) 374-2978
Saturdays and Sundays, October 8–23, 10 am–5 pm

The Western Railway Museum in rural Solano County holds its celebrated annual Pumpkin Festival every Saturday and Sunday from October 8–23. Ride a vintage electric express train to the pumpkin patch at Gum Grove Station for pumpkins, tractor rides, games, music, a hay fort, a pumpkin launcher, and pumpkins for sale, of course. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 65+, and $10 for children 2–14. Admission includes museum entry, unlimited train rides, picnic area use, and parking. Reservations are not accepted.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for September 16, 17 & 18

September 16, 2016

Blue Fairy at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival
Family fun awaits this weekend at Mill Valley's 60th annual Fall Arts Festival in Old Mill Park.

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.

Friday, September 16

  • French Storytime (L'Heure du Conte)
    San Anselmo Library
    Friday, 11–11:30 am

    For children of all ages and their parent or caregiver. Talk, sing, read, and play together. Share books, stories, rhymes, music in French. No registration required. Parents/caregivers are expected to stay with children during all storytime sessions. Free. Location: 110 Tunstead Avenue, Council Chambers, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Fun Days
    South Novato Library
    Friday, 3–4 pm

    Enjoy an afternoon of fun with the family at the South Novato Library. Whether it’s story, art, music or science, this drop-in program promises to be packed with fun! Location: 931 C St., Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Circus Vargas: The Big One is Back!
    Village at Corte Madera
    Friday, 4:30 & 7:30 pm, Saturday, 1, 4 & 7:30 pm, Sunday, 1, 4 & 7 pm

    See the world premiere of Circus Vargas presents iLUMINOUS, an all-new, high-energy extravaganza. Be wowed by death-defying stunts, flying aerialists, exhilarating acrobats, and uproarious clowns under a music filled, blue and yellow Big Top. Kids can learn circus skills at the free, interactive pre-show 45 minutes before each performance. After the show meet and take pictures with our performers. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.
  • Full Moon Hike at White Hill
    Friday, 7–9 pm

    Come see nature's fireworks—clear skies, bright stars, and a magnificent full moon. Join rangers for a nature walk to experience this unique preserve after dark. We’ll discuss nocturnal animals and things that go bump in the night! This event is ideal for all ages. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Shakespeare by the River: As You Like It
    Foundry Wharf, Downtown Petaluma
    Friday, 7 pm, Saturday, 2 pm & Sunday, 4 pm
    Bring the family out to experience Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It by the Petaluma River. Free. Location: 2nd and H Streets, Petaluma. For more info, visit their website.
  • Film Night in the Park: Pan
    Creek Park, San Anselmo
    Friday, 8 pm

    Film Night in the Park presents a large-screen outdoor presentation of Pan at Creek Park in San Anselmo. Bring blankets, pillows, backrest and low chairs. Free; donations greatly appreciated. Location: 451 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, September 17

  • Farmers Market & Pie Baking Competition
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Show off your baking skills and bring your best pie to the Marin Country Mart Farmers Market on Saturday at 10 am at the Big Tent. New this year is a special category for bakers 14 and under. Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids from 10:30 am–2 pm, children's crafts 10:30 am–1:30 pm, children's music or storytelling from 9:30–10:30 am, and more live music from noon–2 pm, as well as fresh produce, prepared foods, and great local restaurants. For more info, visit their website.
  • California Coastal Cleanup Day
    Various Marin locations
    Saturday, 9 am–noon

    On the third Saturday of every September volunteers all over the world converge on beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways to pick up trash and remove dangerous debris. Considered the largest marine-related volunteer event in the world, Coastal Cleanup Day is a wonderful opportunity to lend a hand and make a significant difference. There are over 35 sites in Marin to choose from. Check the list here.
  • NatureBridge Coastal Cleanup Day
    Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito

    Saturday, 9 am–noon
    Celebrate the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day with stewardship at Rodeo Lagoon. Coastal Cleanup Day is the highlight of the California Coastal Commission's year-round  Adopt-a-Beach program. This is a great way for families, students, service groups, and neighbors to join together to take care of our fragile marine environment. Free. For all ages. Register here. For more info, visit their website.
  • San Marin Garage Sale
    Saturday, 9 am–1 pm

    Shop 'til you drop at the big multi-family garage sale in Novato's San Marin neighborhood. For more info, visit their website.
  • Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival
    Old Mill Park, Mill Valley
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–5 pm

    The 60th Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival will showcase over 140 fine artists from all across the country and offer live music and children’s entertainment under the redwoods. The juried works include prints, jewelry, paintings, woodwork, photography, and sculpture. See full schedule here. Cost: $10 general admission, $5 students and seniors, free for kids under 12. Location: Old Mill Park, Throckmorton Ave and Old Mill Street. For more info, visit their website.
  • Father Goose's Tales
    Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
    Saturday, 10 am, 12:30 & 3 pm and Sunday, 10 am & 12:30 pm

    Marin Theatre Company (MTC) kicks off its 2016–2017 Family Series with Father Goose's Tales. In this production, Mother Goose has taken the day off and Father Goose must take over her duties, including storytelling! Father Goose's Tales is written and performed by Jim Napolitano, who brings the nursery rhymes, stories, and songs to life through innovative shadow puppetry, and is ideal for children ages 4 to 8. Tickets are $18 for children under 14 and $22 for adults. Order online at tickets.marintheatre.org, by phone at  (415) 388-5208, or in person at the MTC box office at 397 Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website.
  • 2016 Korean Day Cultural Festival
    Union Square, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10 am–4 pm

    We invite you to come celebrate with us with live Korean performances, food and cultural experiences on September 17th at Union Square in San Francisco! Free but RSVP is required. For more info, visit their website.
  • Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden Plant Sale
    College of Marin Indian Valley Campus, Novato
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    Shop for plants and produce this weekend at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden. On Sunday, there will be family activities from 1 to 3 pm including a scavenger hunt, face painting, fall farm crafts, and more. For more info, visit their website.
  • International Dragon Boat Festival
    Lake Merritt, Oakland
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–5 pm

    The California Dragon Boat Association presents the 21st Annual Kaiser Permanente Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival at Lake Merritt, Oakland! Cheer on the fleet of colorful 40-foot dragon boats as they race to the beat of Chinese drums. This two-day, admission-free festival brings a weekend of world-class dragon boat racing, spectacular cultural performances, delicious food, a variety of clothes and crafts vendors, and kid-friendly activities in Dragon Land where games and arts and crafts await. For more info, visit their website.
  • Junior Chef Classes: American Girl Pancake Party
    Williams-Sonoma, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 10 am

    Support a great cause—and have fun while you’re doing so! In this hands-on class with American Girl™, we’ll make pancakes together and, of course, eat our delicious creations! For ages 8+. Cost: $40 per child includes an American Girl™ for Williams-Sonoma Pancake Kit (30% of the proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry!) Call the store to reserve your spot (415) 924-6799. Location: The Village at Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • Circus Vargas is in town!
    Corte Madera Library
    Saturday, 10:30 am

    Performers from the Circus will entertain families at the Corte Madera Library. It’s a high-energy extravaganza which is currently touring California. Look for the bigtop near Nordstrom, then head to the Library for a chance to meet and greet stars from the show. For more information, call (415) 924-6382. Location: 707 Meadowsweet, Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • A Year With Frog & Toad
    The Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Downtown Berkeley
    Saturday & Sunday, 10:30 am & 1:30 pm
    The Tony Award-nominated musical, based on Arnold Lobel's beloved stories, is back in Berkeley at a new venue! Come celebrate friendship in glorious song, as our heroes, Frog and Toad, hop through a season of comic adventures with their animal friends. Recommended for age 3 and up. This performance runs 65 minutes with no intermission. Purchase tickets here. Location: 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. For more info, visit their website.

Truckee Is Perfect for a Fall Family Getaway

September 15, 2016

Donner Lake Truckee

While winter and summer are the most popular times to visit Truckee and the Lake Tahoe area, fall can be a fantastic time for a family trip up the mountains. The weather is often beautiful, fall color abounds, summer’s tourists and winter’s skiers are absent, and there’s still plenty to do in an amazing place. And it’s not too far away, either.

We love events like the annual Fall Festival at Tahoe Donner, a mountain community and ski area just outside town. This laid-back autumn event, which takes place this year on October 8, features family fun like pumpkin carving, arts and crafts, food, pony rides, archery, a petting zoo, and much more.

While many of Tahoe Donner’s summer programs close in the fall, the community still boasts some great restaurants and other upcoming fall events, including their free Light Up the Night holiday kick-off event in late November. Tahoe Donner offers great family winter sports opportunities, too, including cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even fat biking at their Alder Creek Adventure Center.

Calling All Bakers! Enter Your Pie in Marin Country Mart Farmers' Market 6th Annual Pie Baking Contest

September 13, 2016

Pie baking contest at Marin Country Mart Calling all bakers! This Saturday, September 17, enter your award-winning pie in the sixth annual Pie Baking Contest at the Marin Country Mart Farmers' Market in Larkspur Landing. If your friends and family constantly rave about your pies, then this is your chance to show off and potentially win a prize! There will be two categories: adults and kids 13 and under.

The pie contest is the Farmers' Market's most popular event, and drew nearly 40 entrants last year. Entries will be judged by six local food experts, including pastry chefs, pie entrepreneurs, and food writers. They'll judge pies on tast, presentation, and flakiness of crust. Winners will be announced at 1:30 pm on the Farmers' Market live music stage.

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