Even when the weather's been wet in Marin, it can be a lot of fun to head outdoors and take a hike, especially when there's something exciting to see at the end of the trail, like a waterfall. Marin's waterfalls are some of the county's hidden treasures, and are best appreciated when they're running full force in winter and spring. The Fairway Waterfall, also known as Arroyo de San Jose Waterfall, is a seasonal waterfall that can be found on a trail at the end of Fairway Drive, in Novato's Country Club neighborhood. We went to check out the waterfall yesterday and it was amazing.
The waterfall can be especially spectacular during and just after a good rainstorm, like the one we had this weekend. The trail to the Fairway waterfall is short and easy and the trailhead is easy to get to, so it's perfect for kids. So bundle up, put on those puddle stompers and raincoats, and head outdoors for a waterfall hike!
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.
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 Rombeiro house, or 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 the covered wagon before, and it's spacious and comfortable with plenty of room, and a lot of fun. So get together your friends and family and book a tour before they're sold out. (By the way, babies, infants, and small children riding on laps don't count toward the total number of riders.)
This fall, Novato's Rolling Hills Club is offering Twist & Shout, a fun new movement and music class for children ages 6 to 36 months and a parent. It's fun, fast-paced, and original. Give your child a chance to use his or her energy by grooving, dancing, jumping, twisting, and shouting!
Class activities include movement (dancing, play-acting, jumping, clapping, marching, role-play, and more), educational songs, exciting musical instruments, classical music listening, parachute play, and bubbles. The four-class session takes place on Tuesdays from 10 to 10:45 am, November 6 through December 4, and costs $50 for club members and $60 for guests.
For more information, call (415) 897-2185 or visit www.rollinghillsclub.com. The Rolling Hills Club is located in Novato's San Marin neighborhood at 351 San Andreas Drive.
If your child is naturally talented in writing, artistic or just loves to tell stories, then check out the Young Writer/Artist Bookmaking Workshops this fall at North Bay Artworks in Novato. In this workshop, children will work with writer Brenda Zahn and artist Alice Orth to create and publish a children's book of their very own.
This workshop will be offered once a month on two consecutive Saturday mornings from 10:30 am–12:30 pm or in one four-hour session from 1–5 pm. Every month has a theme.
In this four-hour art and writing workshop you'll get a professional quality published book of your child’s story and artwork, a working journal of your child's notes and sketches as tools for the future, and a fun adventure for your child for building skills and confidence!
Share this special memory and order more copies of your child’s book—they're great for holiday gifts!
Last year, volunteers at Novato's Pleasant Valley Elementary School created the Spooky Swamp, a family friendly haunted house, for the school's annual Halloween Happening for students and their families. It was so popular that they decided not only to re-create it this year, but open it to the public as well! The Spooky Swamp will be open for one night only, Saturday, October 27, from 4 to 8:30 pm.
Walk in to the school's multi-purpose room and be transported to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. One wrong turn though and you'll find yourself in the Spooky Swamp. Luckily, a hillbilly tour guide will help you wind your way through the perils of the swamp and its structures, avoiding alligators and other haunts along the way. You never know what lurks around the corner or behind that tree stump! The Spooky Swamp is a good old fashioned haunted house that's appropriate for elementary school-age children and families. There's no blood, no gore, no violent images, and the actors take care to adjust their level of scariness to the age of the children in each group.
Admissionto the Spooky Swamp is $5 per person, ages 4 and up. All proceeds go to support Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
This summer, we had a fantastic time at the first Farm-to-Table Dinner at Novato's Farm Girl Nursery. The next Farm-to-Table Dinner at Farm Girl Nursery takes place Saturday, October 20. Chef Suzanne Griffin has an amazing autumn menu planned that includes fig, prosciutto, and gorgonzola bites with maple walnuts; Thai pumpkin soup; watercress, percorino, walnut, and Asian pear salad with champagne vinaigrette; mustard, thyme, and apple marinated pork tenderloin with wine reduction; and for dessert, pumpkin bread pudding. Many of the ingredients in the dinner are sourced right at Farm Girl Nursery itself.
Sound delicious? Reserve your place at the table by calling (415) 730-6917. The dinner starts at 6 pm, and the cost is $175 per couple or $90 per individual.
Are your kids interested in outer space? Bring your budding astronauts to learn about space exploration in a hands-on environment at the Space Station, Novato's free, kid-friendly space museum. Located in a storefront in the newly renovated Pacheco Plaza shopping center, the Space Station is a small but rich little museum that offers families and school groups a chance to explore the history of spaceflight and exploration.
Kid can see, handle, and even try on actual space artifacts, many of which have actually flown in space. Try on a pair of Russian cosmonaut's space suit gloves for size, wear a prototype space helmet designed for the Apollo missions, and sit in a seat from a Soyuz spacecraft.
Objects on view are part of the collection of the W Foundation, a non-profit founded by Ken Winans and his wife Debbie Wreyford-Winans, and include American, Russian, and Soviet-era space equipment, clothing, photographs, a meteorite, and more. The W Foundation also works with organizations and events like Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, and San Francisco Fleet Week to present educational exhibits on the history of space exploration.