One of the things I love most about winter in Marin is being able to hike to a beautiful waterfall, and when it rains families have many to choose from. The waterfalls in our list here all involve hikes of varying length, and all are perfect destinations for a family outdoor outing. There's something for hikers of every ability here.
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 24 years, and every year it gets bigger and more outrageous.
Twice a year, warehouses in Bel Marin Keys area of Novato open their doors to the public to offer terrific wholesale deals direct to you! This year’s sale will take place from Thursday November 17 to Saturday November 19, from 10 am to 5 pm.
Hiking with children is a great way to get them into the outdoors and introduce them to nature, but it can be a bit of a challenge. Small legs seem to tire out faster than larger ones, and when they outgrow both the stroller and the backpack it's best to seek out some shorter hikes with few hills or elevation changes that the whole family can enjoy with a minumum of complaining. One of our favorite easy family hikes can be found at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, on the northern end of Novato.
This 552-acre preserve features wide and gentle trails that are perfect for families. They're easily manageable with an off-road capable jogging stroller, and kids' bikes should be able to tackle the fire roads with ease. You'll share the trails with plenty of hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, as well as birders checking out the countless shorebirds and waterfowl that make their homes in the adjacent wetlands.
Want to tour Novato's spectacular holiday lights the old fashioned way this winter? Book a trip via horse-drawn carriage or wagon from Gary Sello and Indian Valley Carriage. Novato residents have probably seen Gary and his team cruising the streets at Christmas time, especially near the famous Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive.
50-minute tours start at Center Road and Wilson Avenue (across from Miss Sandie's School) at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 pm, and include a pass by the famous Rombeiro house on Devonshire Drive (and maybe even a stop to tour the inside, depending on schedule and how busy the house is). Gary's carriage seats six average size adults, and his large covered wagon seats twelve. The wagon also has rain protection, although tours will be canceled in the event of heavy rain or wind. Reservations are required, and tours do sell out during the holiday season, so reserve your spot early!
We've ridden in Gary's covered wagon before, and it's spacious and comfortable with plenty of room, and it's also a lot of fun. So get your friends and family together and book a tour before they're sold out.
What child doesn't love fire trucks and firefighters? Get your fire station fix when the Novato Fire District holds its yearly open house at all Novato Fire Stations this Sunday, October 9, 2016, from 10 am to 1 pm. Bring the kids to meet the firefighters and personnel and to learn about fire safety and what they do to support the community.
As an added bonus, there will be a live demonstration at Station 62 (located at 450 Atherton Avenue) from 1:30–2:30 pm, where you can watch firefighters in action as they simulate a rescue, extend the ladder, and more. Make sure you bring your camera for photos with the firefighters. My kids have always had a blast sitting in the fire trucks and going on a tour of the fire stations.
The Novato fire stations can be found at the following locations:
At the west end of Novato is one of Marin's outdoor gems—O'Hair Park. Sharing space with the Dogbone Meadow dog park and Morning Star Farm equestrian center, the 100-acre O'Hair Park is a great place for a family bike ride, hike or off-road stroller.
Head into the park on the Reuben Kaehler Memorial Trail, which forms an easy loop of approximately two miles. Novato Creek parellels much of the trail, and it's fun to clamber down to the creekside to look for little fish and water bugs while you're on your hike. The trail climbs gently uphill into a bay laurel forest, down into a grassy meadow, and then again into a forest.
The Bay Trail opened in the summer of 2014 in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, and it's one of our favorite Marin spots for short hike or bike ride with the kids. With easy access from several points in Hamilton and stunning views, this is a great place for families to head outdoors for an active outing.
The Hamilton section of the Bay Trail skirts the old runway of this former air force base, which has been returned to its original wetland state. The trail is flat and accessible, and welcomes walkers and cyclists to travel along the wetlands that border San Pablo Bay. It is, of course, ideal for walking with an sturdy stroller, too.
You'll find neat little lookout areas along the way, with benches and informative placards that tell you all about the bird life in the area and about the wetland restoration project. They even have stationary binoculars mounted in them so you can take a look at the wildlife out in the wetlands. The views are stunning, with Mt. Burdell to the north and Mt. Diablo to the east.
Keep your kids' swimming going this fall on the Tritons USA Swimming team at the Rolling Hills Club! The season has just started, so now is a great time to join and see what the USA Swimming experience is all about. With a passionate and experienced coaching staff led by new Head Coach Richard Nicholls, it's a great way for kids ages 5 to 18 to take their swimming skills to the next level, learn advanced techniques, and compete.
Coach Richard brings nearly 30 years of international swim coaching experience to the Tritons, who practice at the beautiful Rolling Hills Club in Novato. With a focus on smaller groups and individualized coaching and instruction, the team utilizes new techniques and training methods to help swimmers achieve their goals. It's ideal for swimmers of all ages and levels. Swimmers can compete in USA Swimming meets that take place throughout Northern California, at every level from rookie to Junior Olympics.