When you're making the rounds at Marinwood's amazing decorated Christmas houses, like the Bear House and the Mickey Mouse House, it's kind of easy to overlook Linda's Snow Village. Linda's Snow Village isn't so much a decorated house as a unique holiday display set up in front of a home on Miller Creek Road (near Quietwood Drive).
It's a definite holiday must-see, though, so make sure you don't miss it when you're in the area. 2010 was rumored to be its final season, but to our delight we've found it up and running again the past two years!
You can find Linda's Snow Village on the east side of Miller Creek Road. Spot the elf holding the colorful sign and you're there. The Snow Village itself is in a sort of white wooden hut or kiosk in the driveway. It's hard to miss, as it's pretty big and it's wrapped in colored Christmas lights. Inside the kiosk you'll find hundreds—maybe thousands—of little lighted buildings, cars, figurines, animals, an HO-scale model train, and even a flying saucer, all arranged in a sort of mid-century snowy winter wonderland. It's mesmerising and fascinating and definitely a change of pace from the more ornate holiday houses.
One of my children's favorite decorated and lighted Christmas house is the Mize family's Mickey Mouse House (AKA "Mickey's Christmas House") in Marinwood. Visit it, and you'll see why it's so popular! The Mickey Mouse House, located at 417 Blackstone Drive (at Las Gallinas Avenue), looks to be just a regular lighted Christmas house at first glance.
Get out of your car and walk up the short driveway, though and you'll see why it's worth a visit for kids of all ages. Every evening from 6 pm to 10 pm, the two-car garage is opened to reveal two galleries of what has to be every Walt Disney toy, decoration, and gimgrack ever produced, all artfully arranged in two spectacular holiday displays.
We haven't counted, but we think that every Disney animated character from the past 50 years has to be represented here, somewhere. Every year, the newest Disney movie characters are welcomed to the party. Last year it was Mater and Lightning McQueen from Cars 2, as well as Phineas and Ferb; this year it's Princess Merida from Brave and Vanellope von Schweetz and Wreck-It Ralph from the movie of the same name (hint: Mickey's reading them a story).
There are many communities in Marin that really go above and beyond the call of duty when getting into the holiday spirit, and of all the places in the county I think that Marinwood, the neighborhood sandwiched between Novato and San Rafael, has the most decorated holiday houses per capita!
It's only natural then that one of our favorite Christmas houses happens to be located in Marinwood: the Nisja Bear house, which has been delighting Marin and Bay Area families for over 30 years. Every year there's something new to look at, and plenty of old favorites to visit again.
We make it a point to visit the Bear House a few times every season, since it's always fun to see and there's so much going on there that sometimes you need multiple viewings just to take it all in. The children, natually, can never get enough, and they've been coming here since they were babies. For those of you who haven't yet seen the Bear House, it's definitely worth the trip from anywhere in Marin, or anywhere in the Bay Area for that matter. (We're lucky that's it's relatively close to our house.)
Every December, Marin's power grid is yet again put to the test by the annual unveiling of the Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive in Novato. Sure, every neighborhood has its decorated houses, but the Rombeiro house is a different thing altogether. Edmundo Rombeiro and his family have been putting together this Christmas house to end all Christmas houses for the past two decades, and every year it gets bigger and more outrageous.
Their home is something that truly has to be seen to be believed, and photos don't really do it justice. There are something like 120,000 lights and countless figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front and side yards, walls, and roof of the Rombeiro house. Apparently they start setting the whole thing up in August.
When you visit, you'll notice that there's a glowing neon "open" sign in the window near the front door. Yes, the Rombeiros, who do live here, open their house to thousands of complete strangers every year, allowing them to wander through the house and check out the decorations inside. Last year they welcomed over 41,000 visitors (that's right—41 thousand) and even nine tour buses! We visited the house, which happens to be in our neighborhood, on opening night last Saturday, and were greeted by Mr. Rombeiro in his Santa Suit at the front door.
Today is the first Saturday in December, which means that the Rombeiro Christmas House in Novato opens tonight. If you see only one decorated holiday house this year, make it this one! It's been a Marin tradition for over 20 years, and a favorite with families from all over the Bay Area.
Marvel at the 120,000 lights and small army of Christmas figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front yard and the house itself. And you can go inside, too—just look for the lit "open" sign by the front door and head on in to check out the holiday wonders inside.
We'll review this year's edition of the Christmas House after we visit tonight—who knows what new features await. Until then, you can see some photos of last year's house and read about our visit in our article here.
One of our first holiday outings is to the famous Christmas House at San Rafael's West End Nursery. We just checked out this season's edition yesterday, and it's a spectacular as ever. As a matter of fact, I think it might be their best effort to date!
The venerable West End Nursery has been operating in San Rafael's Sun Valley neighborhood since 1909. The Christmas House is located on the grounds of the nursery in a Victorian house that's over a century old. It's filled to the brim with Christmas trees and decorations, and it's pretty amazing.
There are 50 lavishly decorated and lighted trees throughout several rooms, as well as candles, Santas, nutcrackers, angels, snowmen, and just about every seasonal decorative item imaginable. Each room has a different theme, including kitchen (located in the house's kitchen, naturally), baby's room, outdoors, music, sports, pets, food, international, and more.
Note: Sadly, 2010 was the final season for the Marinwood Christmas House. It won't be back this year, so enjoy these photos from last Christmas.
Last year, the most exciting holiday news in Marin was that the famous Marinwood Christmas House was back! At the time it was rumored to be a one-time-only event, undertaken in honor of the late Charles "Dooley" Stitham, who put together this impressive display for decades and who passed away in 2009. We're glad to report that it's here again this year and as awesome as ever!
Anyone who grew up in Marin—especially in San Rafael and Novato—in the past 40 years certainly has fond memories of this amazing decorated house. It was the Christmas House; the one all others aspired to be and the most amazing Christmas house ever. Lighted and decorated and full of colorful animated figures, dolls, toys, and holiday scenes, the Marinwood Christmas House is another of Marin's holiday must-sees. It's open daily through New Year's Day 5–10 pm.
To us, the holiday lights and decorations at Novato resident Kirt Donaldson's house on Vineyard Road were the stuff of legend, mainly because we never were able to see them—until now. For the last year or two, the house remained undecorated through the holiday season, but we're happy to report that this year it's back and well worth checking out, especially if you're in the area visiting the Rombeiro Christmas House.
The front yard of the Donaldson house is covered in lights, figurines, and inflateables. Giant lighted candy canes serve as posts to hold strings of icecicle lights that criss-cross the yard. Speakers play jolly holiday tunes. And there's a snow machine. Seriously. Actually, it's not really snow in the way that snow really is (i.e. frozen water flakes) but foamy water bubbles churned out by machines on the roof that really do look like snow. The effect is impressive and it's the closest thing we're probably going to get to snow here in Marin, at least not without having to drive to the top of Mt. Tam on those rare snow days.