For a short, family friendly hike in southern Marin with amazing views, head to Tiburon and the Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve. It's a great outdoor outing for all ages, and there's plenty to see along the way, including wildflowers, wildlife, and breathtaking views, making it another of Marin County's outdoor gems.
Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve surrounds the namesake church, which is now administered by the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society as a historical landmark. This rare Carpenter Gothic church was built in 1888 to serve Tiburon's Catholic railroad workers, and now serves as a venue for concerts, weddings, and special events. (Tiburon, despite its genteel image today, was at one time Marin's roughest, toughest industrial town, home to railyards, codfish canneries, and a US Navy coaling station.)
Living in Marin, you don't have to look far for a summer camp that takes advantage of some of the amazing natural resources we have right in our own backyard. Parents have several outstanding nature and outdoors oriented summer camps to choose from. Here is a selection of some of our favorite day camps in Marin that have an emphasis on the outdoors and the natural world around us. To find more fantastic summer camps, visit our 2014 Marin Summer Camp Guide.
Audubon Summer Adventures Camp is located at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Tiburon. Camp sessions start June 10 and run through August 16. Week-long sessions for kids 4–9 take place from 9 am–2 pm, include themes like Amazing Predators, The Mighty Bay, Survivor, Shark Week, and A Bug's Lide. Fees for these sessions are $330 per week. They also offer Expedition Camp ($375 per week) and On the Fly Camp ($330 per week) for children in grades 4–6, where campers deliver a little deeper into the varied habitats of Marin County and visit environments like the bay, ocean, redwood forest, and more. Extended hours untiil 5 pm are available for another $85 per week or $20 per day. Visit their website for more information and to register.
This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty, experience for them.
Our first task of the season is always to go get our seeds. We always go the heirloom route—they're so much more fun than your plain old (ahem) garden variety vegetables—and we buy our seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank, the West Coast outpost of the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. They stock a vast array of seeds for a wide variety of vegetables, many of which you probably didn't know existed.
Marin Mommies presents a sponsored article from Tender Tracks Outdoor Nature Awareness Preschool. Find out more about this unique program at their informational night on Friday, February 28, from 6 to 8 pm.
Tender Tracks Outdoor Nature Awareness Preschool is coming to Marin! This unique preschool program honors and respects the inherent need for young children to have ample time with nature, in order to develop a healthy bond and relationship to the natural world and all who dwell therein. Through stories, songs and explorations, children will go on playful adventures into the heart of nature.
Tender Tracks families drop off and pick up their children at various local natural settings. Children then participate in a morning circle with stories, songs, and a snack to get ready for the adventures and explorations of the day. If it rains, students put on boots and rain gear! Extra clothes are always kept available so the children can change into dry things after wet or muddy adventures.
This year we've resolved to spend more time outdoors as a family—to get some exercise, explore Marin County's many parks open space areas, and learn about the natural wonders all around us. A fantastic way to get out and experience nature in Marin is to take part in one of the naturalist-led family outings offered by Marin County Parks.
The Nature for Kids outings take place at Marin's open space preserves, and feature a leisurely, kid-paced hike with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. We recently took part in the Nature for Kids program at Novato's Deer Island Open Space Preserve led by Marin County Parks naturalists David Herlocker and Shannon Burke.
We all met at the Deer Island trailhead at 10 am, where David and Shannon explained a bit about the outing and gave each of the kids a small gift in the form of a neat little folding magnifying lens, something that would become useful later on in the hike. The Nature for Kids hikes are informal and unstructured, and perfect for kids of all ages. Our group of kids and parents hiked along the Deer Island Loop Trail, stopping to look when someone noticed something interesting along the way.
Ever wonder who takes care of the seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals that end up stranded on California's coast? Marin's Marine Mammal Center has been on the scene rescuing and caring for sick, injured, malnourished, and abandoned marine mammals—including elephant seals, seal lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and even whales—since 1975.
Located at Fort Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands, the Marin Mammal Center's new $32 million facility opened in the summer of 2009, and offers daily tours and educational activities for the entire family. It's a great destination as an outing on its own, and as a not-to-miss part of a visit to the Headlands.
Admission and self-guided tours are free of charge. Pick up a guide card from the information desk (remember to return it on your way out) and take a look around. At the back of the center you'll find the pools and pens where the Center's patients stay while recovering. The best place to check out the pens and their residents is from the second floor observation area. There are often volunteer docents stationed here who can answer questions about what you're seeing down below in the pens, and who the current patients are. Remember to be quiet here—you're visiting a hospital for sensitive wild animals.
On our recent visit there were numerous marine mammals residing in the Center's hospital, most of which were sea lions. It's a fun place to visit at any time of year, but its busiest starting in the spring with the appearance of many seal and sea lion pups on the California coast.
What's a butterfly garden? It's a welcoming spot filled with plants and other features attractive to butterflies. If you do things right, butterflies will eventually find your little oasis and decide to stick around and both beautify and pollinate your garden. That's the idea, anyhow. Creating this sounded like a fun and educational project, and truthfully, our backyard needed a little sprucing up for the summer, so we decided to get to work!
The first step in creating a butterfly garden is select plants that butterflies find beneficial. There are two kinds of plants: nectar plants and host plants. Nectar plants are flowering plants that provide a food source for butterflies. Host plants provide a place for butterflies to lay their eggs, which means they'll be back for another season.
Earth Day is Monday, April 22. It’s a great time to celebrate and teach our children the importance of preserving our planet’s resources. There are plenty of ways to observe the occasion here in Marin and the Bay Area, and we've created a list of local events that either celebrate Earth Day or help families learn about nature and the planet.
Earth Day with the Insect Discovery Lab at the Mill Valley Library Friday, April 19, 3:30-4:30 pm
Celebrate Earth Day with amazing rainforest insects, millipedes, walking sticks, and more! Meet and touch live insects and find out why they are so important to our environment. For age 5 and up. No sign-up needed. For more info, call 415-389-4292 x4741.
Earth Day at Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary Saturday, April 20, 9 am–1 pm Celebrate Earth Day by bringing your family and friends for a morning of naturalist led explorations, bird watching, restoration and clean-up. Learn about our bay and bird conservation and our importance in the Pacific Flyway. Even the wildflowers should be out in full force to brighten the day! Activities are appropriate for all ages, including young children. Children 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
Mrs. T's Mill Valley Beautification Day
Saturday, April 20, 9 am–noon All ages and ability levels are welcome to come and help with the beautification projects all over Mill Valley. You can help make Mill Valley both clean and green by participating in litter brigades and beautification projects at area parks, schools, and designated locations around town.
Novato Clean & Green Day 2013
Saturday, April 20, 9 am-1 pm
Bring the family and celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up our beautiful town. Help remove litter from streets, bike path, parks, creek banks and more. Some supplies will be provided. Location: Meet at Scottsdale Pond Gazebo
Earth Day at Bloomfield Farms U-Pick
Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, 10 am–2 pm
It's a special Earth Day edition of U-Pick! Come to Bloomfield Farms in western Sonoma County where you and your family can pick your own certified organic produce, including dinosaur kale, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, artichokes, and more! This Eath Day weekend, kids can take part in bee-related arts and crafts, and plant their own veggie start to take home! $30 for large box of produce; cash only. RSVP to email@example.com.
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.