McNear's Beach Park is one of those special places that I hold close to my heart. I grew up literally around the corner from it, and spent a lot of time there as a child. It's still one of my favorite places to spend the day in Marin, especially now that I have kids of my own. McNear's Beach is a 55-acre county park located on the shores of San Pablo Bay. It's the a perfect place to go on a warm day to wade in the bay, swim in the pool, picnic, fish, take in spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area, and more.
McNear's Beach has been popular with Bay Area residents since the 19th century, when the McNear family owned most of the property in what eventually would become San Rafael's Peacock Gap neighborhood. The McNears operated a beach resort at the present location of the park, as well as a nearby quarry and brickyard.
McNear's Beach offers a variety of things to do for visitors of all ages. The beach itself is a somewhat rocky affair, with lots of broken shells and interesting stones to pick over. You can wade and splash in the shallow and gentle San Pablo Bay waters, but the biggest attraction is the swimming pool, which gets pretty busy on a hot day. In addition to the popular main pool, there's a toddler pool, too. The McNear's Beach pool opens to the public this Memorial Day weekend (May 25–27), and stays open through Labor Day.
The Mountain Play makes musical magic once again in its 100th anniversary production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. Featuring classic songs that you surely know by heart, including Do-Re-Mi, My Favorite Things, Climb Ev'ry Mountain, and Edelweiss, this year's play is directed by Bay Area theater veteran Jay Manley and features a superb cast, especially the local kids in the roles of the Von Trapp children.
The Sound of Music tells the familiar story of Maria Rainer, sent from Salzburg's Nonnberg Abbey as governess to the seven children of widowed naval officer Georg von Trapp, all under the shadows of the 1938 Nazi takeover of Austria. The Sound of Music is probably most familiar in its 1965 movie form, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
Great tickets are still available for Mountain Play performances on May 26 and June 2, 8, 9, and 16. All shows begin at 2 pm.
One of Marin County's most beloved and unique events is the famous Mountain Play—an outdoor theater experience high on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais that's been going strong for a century! This year's 100th-anniversary Mountain Play production isRodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, the unforgettable story of spirited young governess Maria Rainer, Captain von Trapp and his seven children, and Austria on the eve of the Nazi takeover.
Featuring classic songs like Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, and My Favorite Things, the Mountain Play's production of The Sound of Music is directed by Jay Manley, and features Heather Buck as Maria, Ryan Drummond as Georg von Trapp, and Susan Zelinsky (Marin Paroo in last year's production of The Music Man) as Else Schraeder. Musical direction is by Mountain Play veteran Debra Chambliss.
Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 19 and 26, and June 2, 8, 9, and 16. General seating ticket prices range from $20–$40., and children 3 and under are free. Reserved seats are available for Mountain Play Fan Club members (starting at $56); higher membership levels include perks like reserved parking and special shuttle passes. Order tickets online here or by phone at (415) 383-1100.
My family loves to go to the beach, and there are plenty of places to do this in and around Marin. While many of the beaches along the Pacific Ocean are unsuitable for swimming, there are also many beaches that are ideal spots for swimming, wading, and splashing in the water, especially on warm summer days. Here are some of our favorites. Click on the links for more info.
Abbotts Lagoon Beach
A one-and-a-half mile hike takes you over bridges and sand dunes to this beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It's home to many shorebirds, including the endangered snowy plover. A great beach for playing in the sand, but not for swimming due to dangerous surf and rip currents.
Located just off Tiburon, Angel Island State Park Pack is the largest Island in San Francisco Bay. Pack a picnic and jump on ferry to this unique island. Quarry Point and Ayala Cove are two beaches that are both sandy and protected from the afternoon breezes, so it's perfect for an afternoon of family fun. There are no lifeguards, and swimming can be hazardous because of the strong currents.
The San Francisco Presidio's Crissy Field has undergone many changes in its lifetime, from tidal marsh to airfield to one of the Bay Area's premier recreation areas. Crissy Field is a great place to spend the day with the family, and has a wonderful mix of outdoor attractons, amenities, and local businesses, as well as spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Crissy Field is a fantastic destination for walking, bicycling, kite flying, or playing at the beach. It offers a waterfront promenade and trails that are popular with dog walkers, runners, and cyclists (and parents, judging from the number of strollers we usually see there), as well as a clean stretch of sand along San Francisco Bay.
The water here is perfect for wading and playing in the gently lapping waves. Lawn areas and picnic tables, some with charcoal grills, are available, too, so bring a picnic and your beach blanket and umbrella and spend the day. Torpedo Wharf, a pier on the north end of the field, is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing.
Spring in California is spectacular, with an abundance of wildflowers, waterfalls (provided it rains), and wildlife. Before the summer heat bakes the hillside grass brown, get the family out on the trail at one of these great Marin hiking spots. These hikes are perfect for a family outing at almost any time of year, but are especially nice during the spring. These trails are easy enough for everyone in the family to tackle.
Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve near Tiburon is home to spring wildflowers and spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and Mt. Tam. The trails here are great for kids of all ages and even offroad strollers. Best of all, it's located right near Tiburon and Corte Madera.
Martin Griffin Preserve at Audubon Canyon Ranch near Stinson Beach offers miles of easy hiking trails for families, as well as fun and fascinating educational opportunities. This preserve, a nesting site for Great Herons, is only open on weekends from mid-March through mid-July.
This spring and summer, experience some of Marin's natural wonders at the spectacular Martin Griffin Preserve. Run by Audubon Canyon Ranch, Martin Griffin Preserve is a 1,000-acre preserve near Stinson Beach and Bolinas that's home to one of the West Coast's most important nesting sites for Great Egrets. These large and majestic wading birds nest in the redwood trees that surround the preserve, and can be observed every year from mid-March through mid-July.
While on our last visit the birds still hadn't arrived yet (they're due there any day now), there's still plenty for families to do. It's a fun place to spend a Saturday or Sunday, and you'll find hiking trails, scenic overlooks and observation points, ponds, a display hall, a bird hide, a picnic area, and plenty of enthusiastic and knowledgable volunteers who are happy to help children and parents and answer questions.
Spring is in bloom at Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve near Tiburon. The wildflower display is simply stunning at this time of year, and the views of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais, and the entire Bay Area are equally spectacular.
We took a family hike there this week and were amazed by the variety and amount of blooms on view. If you haven't been to Ring Mountain, it's definitely worth a visit. Make sure you bring a camera—it's a great place for a family photo.
This preserve on a hill above Tiburon was saved from development back in the 1990s, and is home to a number of rare plants, like the Tiburon Mariposa Lilly, which is found nowhere else in the world. Large boulders and rocks are scattered throughout the hillside. You'll even find remnants of Native American settlements here in the way of petroglyphs and a grinding rock.