It's not every day that the circus comes to town, but it'll be here in Marin this Memorial Day weekend! American Crown Circus sets up its big top on the grounds of St. Vincent's School for Boys in Marinwood, just south of Novato, on May 24, 25, 26 and 27. American Crown Circus is a family run, bilingual circus that features acrobats, high wire acts, and clowns (but no exotic animals). Read about our visit to the circus last year here.
The circus is the major fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise, which has brought a professional traveling tent circus to Marin every year since 1997. Profits from the circus support local community projects.
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.)
Still looking for a fantastic preschool experience for your child? Marinwood Preschool, a highly regarded local school offering classes for children ages 2 to 4, still has a few openings for this fall.
In Marinwood's Parent-Toddler Class for 2- and 3-year-olds, parents and toddlers will meet new friends, create art, and enjoy music, storytime, and outdoor adventures. Marinwood Morning School is for 4-year-olds, and prepares children for kindergarten in a play-based, half-day program.
Marinwood classes are lower in tuition costs than most other early childhood programs in Marin County. Classes are held at Marinwood Community Center, 775 Miller Creek Road in San Rafael.
For the past few years, Novato Sunrise Rotary has brought the American Crown Circus/Circo Osorio to St. Vincent's in Marinwood for a series of performances over Memorial Day Weekend. This year we made it a point to go, since we always seem to have missed it in years past. So, not sure exactly what to expect, we rolled up to the big top on Friday night.
Standing in a freshly mowed hay field, the blue-and-yellow striped big top is actually quite a sight to behold. If you have advance tickets you can walk right in, otherwise pay at the ticket window in the circus truck parked near the tent. Inside the tent is a single circus ring surrounded by grandstands and a small concession stand selling popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, sodas, and other treats. We took our seats and waited for the show to begin.
Are you still looking for a fun Spring Break camp for your child? Marinwood Recreation Department in San Rafael offers an exciting Spring Break Camp with lots of fun hands-on and outdoor fun for ages 3–12 April 9–13.
The camp is divided into two age groups: Camp Grasshopper for ages 3–4, Camp Cricket for ages 5-7 and Camp Dragonfly for ages 8–12. Campers will participate in separate activities including arts, crafts, sports, group games, swimming and much more. The camp counselors are dedicated to providing a safe and fun environment for children to interact, meet new friends and participate in exciting recreation and activities.
The one-week camp is Monday–Friday from 9 am–3 pm. The cost is $160 for residents and $180 for non-residents. Before care is available from 8–9 am ($25 per week or $7 per day drop-in) and after care is available from 3–5 pm ($50 per week or $14 per day drop-in). Drop-in $40 a day. Camp goers need to bring a sack lunch, two snacks, water, swim suit, towel and sunblock to camp daily. There's a sibling discount is for full week registrations too.
Not planning on taking off to Tahoe during the upcoming "Ski Week"? If you need to find something fun for your kids to do over mid-winter break, Marinwood Recreation Department offers an exciting Mid Winter Break Camp from Tuesday–Friday, February 21–24, 2012.
Miller Creek School Gym will be transformed intoo a ski holiday right in Marinwood, with fun for all. The camp is divided into three age groups: Camp Bunny Slope for ages 3–4, Camp Snowshoe for ages 5-7 and Camp Bobsled for ages 8–12. Campers will participate in activities including games, arts and crafts, cone ball, and gaga ball.
Marinwood's Ski Week Camp starts at 9 am, with pick-up at 3 pm at Miller Creek Middle School. Campers enrolled in after care will walk over to Marinwood Community Center, where pick-up begins after 3:30 pm.
The cost is $127 for residents and $144 for non-residents; there's a $10 discount form siblings. They also offer a drop-in for $40 a day. Before and after care is available: 8–9 am, $20 per week or $7 drop-in; 3–5 pm $40 per week or $14 drop-in.
If you still need to shop for those Christmas dinner groceries, you can pay a visit to two Marin County farmer's markets today. The Marinwood Community Farmers Market and the Marin Country Mart Farmers Market are both open on Christmas Eve from 9 am to 2 pm.
Find fresh produce, bread, meats, eggs, seafood, flowers, and more. While you're there, pick up a cup of freshly brewed coffee or even lunch. The Marin Country Mart Farmers Market has kids' entertainment from musician Christopher Smith and Scott the Storyteller, and if you shop at the Marinwood Community Farmers Market today you'll get a free gift (supplies limited).