In case you missed or just didn't get enough of the Marin County Fair, you'll be happy to know that the 2016 Sonoma County Fair starts Friday, July 22 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, and runs through Sunday, August 7. It's worth checking out if you've never been: it's bigger and a lot different than Marin's smaller, more intimate fair, and has more of an agricultural focus, which is natural for a more rural county like Sonoma. The Sonoma County Fair also features the largest themed flower show in the country, which is usually pretty stunning—this year's theme is "Sonoma Cinema".
The fair includes a kids' area with free age-appropriate entertainment and activities with the theme "Let's Put on a Show!" Young fairgoers can take part in a show three times a day, which might feature pirates, clowns, astronauts, or even dinosaurs. There’s plenty of lawn and shade as well as a parents rest station with changing tables and chairs for nursing. The Kids Area is open from 11 am to 8 pm, with activities and entertainment from noon to 6:30 pm.
One of our must-visit Wine Country family destinations is CornerstoneSonoma. It's a fun, family-friendly place where you can explore, play, and take in the beauty of their six acres of gardens and art installations. Of course this being Sonoma you can shop, dine, and wine taste here, too. We always make a point of visiting whenever we head up to the Wine Country. It's constantly changing, and there's always something new to see. Best of all, admission to the gardens is free!
You'll find Cornerstone just outside the town of Sonoma, across from the Gloria Ferrer winery on Highway 121, so it's easy to get to. Look for the long white picket fence and Big Blue Chair on your right as you head towards Sonoma, and you'll know you're there.
It seems like one of the summer rites of passage is piling into the car and heading to a water park, preferably one with thrilling water slides, for a day of fun in the sun. If you grew up in Marin or the North Bay, surely you spent a summer afternoon or two at the long-gone Windsor Water Works north of Santa Rosa.
These days, you'll have to venture event further away, to the East Bay or South Bay, for a taste of this summertime tradition. Here's the rundown on water parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of these parks offer thrilling water slides and gentler aquatic adventures like lazy rivers, wave pools, and kids' activity areas. (Don't forget the amusement park junk food, too!) They're fun for all ages. Note that opening days are approximate; check parks' websites for detailed schedules.
This summer, the Osher Marin JCC reprises its most popular event series: the Summer Nights Outdoor Music Festival. Bring your picnic, blanket, low-backed lawn chairs, and dancing shoes—there's fun for the whole family! Concerts take place on Saturday evenings from July 9 through August 6 at 7 pm. Dinners from a variety of local pop-up restaurants will be available for purchase, along with beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and snacks.
Best of all, kids 17 and under are admitted free, and the Kid Zone will include fun art projects and activities presented by local organizations like the JCC's Summer Camps program, 10,000 degrees, and Brandeis Marin School. Of course the playground will be open for supervised play, too!
This summer's multicultural outdoor concert lineup features:
July 9: African Music Night with Africa's most recognized and inspirational band, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. There will be a pre-concert African dance class. Food by Sol Food and Kid Zone hosted by JCC Summer Camps
July 16: Gypsy rock from Diego's Umbrella. Marin youth a capella group 'Til Dawn opens. Dinners from the Plant Café Organic, Kid Zone hosted by 10,000 degrees.
This summer, Cinemark's Summer Movie Clubhouse offers fun weekly summer movies for kids at the bargain price of only $1 per show or 10 movies for only $5! 10-show discount punch cards are limited in quantity and must be purchased in advance at the theater box office or online at cinemark.com.
All films are rated G or PG. For more info, visit their website. (Make sure you download the Summer Movie Clubhouse flyer for a $1-off coupon for a kids' Movie Snack Pack at the concession stand.)
It's hard to believe that the end of the school year is almost upon us. You can keep the learning—and fun—alive this summer by participating in the Marin County Free Library's 2016 summer learning program, Read for the Win. This summer's learning program, with an Olympics-inspired theme, encourages kids not only to read, but to play games, participate in outdoor activities, and learn by doing. The program is packed with fun activities and events for the family, so get to the library and start reading now—Read for the Win kicks Saturday, June 11.
Summer means its time for free outdoor movies in Marin and the Bay Area, so grab your blankets and pillows, pack the picnic basket, and get ready to enjoy some flicks al fresco. Here's our guide to free family-friendly outdoor movies in Marin, San Francisco, and Sonoma County. Most movies begin at dusk or around 8 pm; check the organizer's website for exact time and location.
Who doesn't love a sweet, refreshing, frozen treat during the summertime? Make it a little more healthy with sweet fresh strawberries and tangy Greek yogurt. You don't even need an ice cream maker to make this dessert.
It's fantastic scooped into a cone or frozen into ice pop molds—whatever tickles your fancy this summer. My kids and I made this sorbet with fresh strawberries that we picked up at the farmers market.
While our recipe calls for strawberries, you can use whatever fresh berries you happen to have. Frozen berries work perfectly well, too, so you can make this at any time of year. You can also feel free to substitute low-fat yogurt, but do try to use extra thick Greek yogurt; it makes a difference.
One of our favorite destinations for a quick family getaway is California's Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills. It's a relatively short 3 hour drive from the Bay Area, and there are plenty of things for families to do. You can visit historic mining towns, pan for gold, explore caves, go wine tasting (for mom and dad, of course), take a ride on a 19th-century steam train, hike, fish, and more.
The highlight of our visits to the Gold Country always Columbia State Historic Park in the Tuolumne County town of Columbia. In fact, much of Columbia is the park itself. While most of the small Mother Lode towns along Highway 49 are filled with California history, Columbia takes this to an extreme—its downtown has been preserved to represent its mid 19th-century heyday, and in fact it's the best preserved Gold Rush town in California.