If you've driven the stretch of Point Reyes–Petaluma Road between Novato and Petaluma lately, you've probably seen the signs for the farm stand in the barn near the entrance to Red Hill Ranch, just north of Novato Boulevard. We decided to check it out the other day and are glad we did!
Pull into the driveway and follow the signs directing you to the farm stand. Owner Kitty Dolcini offers a wide selection of fresh seasonal produce, free-range farm eggs, and grass fed beef at her small stand in on of the ranch's old barns. Much of her produce is grown on the ranch, which leases some of its land to County Line Harvest, a leading local organic producer. Other produce—like summer fruit—comes from quality growers elsewhere in Northern California.
Summertime is fair time, and the first fair of the season is Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Fair, which takes place at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds from Wednesday June 20 through Sunday, June 24. The Sonoma-Marin Fair is not quite but almost a county fair, and offers a wide range of fun and exciting attractions, competitions, events, and activities for the entire family.
This year's Sonoma-Marin Fair theme is "Straight to the Golden Gate", in celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge's 75 anniversary. Celebrate this historic milestone with a 20-foot history wall, educational and informative exhibits, and event a 48-foot replica of the bridge.
You'll also see livestock shows, exhibits, chef demonstrations, K9 Kings flying dog show, a destruction derby, and even the famous World's Ugliest Dog Contest! Of course there are also traditional carnival rides, including a kiddie carnival for younger children.
And what would a fair be without live music? The Sonoma-Marin Fair has numerous musical acts on its schedule, including War, Night Ranger, Lonestar, and 38 Special.
As with most fairs, there's a ton of stuff to do and see, so check their website for a complete schedule of activities, concerts, events, and entertainment. Special days this season include:
Wednesday, June 20: Everyone's a Kid Day—check out attractions specifically designed for kids and teens, and enjoy admission at the$10 kids' price for everyone before 5 pm.
Sometimes it seems like the days of the old fashioned ice cream parlor are a thing of the past, but then you run across a place like Petaluma's Lala's Creamery. Located right downtown on Petaluma Boulevard North (across from Starbucks Coffee), Lala's is a retro temple to all things ice cream, and it's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. Heck, it's probably worth a trip up to Petaluma just to go there!
Step through Lala's Victorian façade and into their cool and clean ice cream parlor. In keeping with the exterior architecture, the indside of Lala's makes you feel like you've stepped back into the 1890s, with crisp white paintwork, marble tables, exposed brick walls, swiveling stools at the counter, and a black-and-white checked tile floor.
Step up to the counter and order your treats. Your choices, including a selection of seasonal ice cream flavors and a variety of soda fountain creations, are written on chalkboards. Lala's makes their ice cream in small batches on-site from local ingredients, and uses it in old school indulgences that you and your family probably have never had before (but your parents and grandparents might recognize some of them).
Over the last couple of years we've heard a lot of great things about Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms. This family-run farm produces humanely raised pastured chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cattle on 300 acres just across the Sonoma County line. In addition to raising and selling their products, they're committed to educating the public about life on the farm, healthy food, and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Tara and Craig Smith were inspired to start the farm in 2009 after reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and today you can purchase their products at local farmer's markets, their on-site farm store, and through their popular CSA delivery program, which includes their meats and eggs as well as produce and dairy products from other local organic producers.
Tara Firma farms also offers free farm tours on weekends at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. We decided we had to visit and check it out, so we headed up to Petaluma for a farm tour last weekend. It was a fantastic experience for both parents and kids!
My kids and I have been wanting to visit Expedition Island, the exciting indoor adventure play space up in Petaluma. We recently had the chance to check it out when my five-year-old daughter was invited to a birthday party there. I wasn't sure if my daughter was too young for the daring activities offered there—like zip lines, rope swings, a climbing wall, and a wobble bridge, but she and all of her friends couldn't get enough!
When partygoers arrive, they're fitted for safety harnesses and informed of the house rules, and are then ushered into the large, warehouse-like space of the Island, which is decorated in a tropical motif. Here they're free to play and have fun.
Kids climb the stairs to the upper level, where helpful attendants guide them through the activities they want to participate in, and make sure that everyone has a good safe time. If a zip line stops mid-trip, helpers down below make sure everyone gets to the other side. After our play session on the Island, we headed to a private party room for pizza and cake.
When we want to get a bite to eat in Petaluma, one of our go-to family friendly restaurants is Old Chicago Pizza. Located in the 1876 Lan Mart Building in downtown Petaluma, Old Chicago has been serving up distinctive Chicago-style deep dish pizza for over 30 years. Both my husband and I went there when we were growing up, and we're happy that it really hasn't changed a bit. It's a great place to relax after a day of pumpkin hunting in the fall, and we think it's even worth the special trip up from Marin.
Walk up the steps and around the corner, following the Old Chicago signs. The dining room, with its bare brick walls and big chandelier kind of makes you feel like you've gone back in time. (Rumor has it the building once housed a brothel, and Old Chicago is located in what used to be the parlor.)
This weekend we took the kids to the first pumpkin patch of the season (but certainly not the last). We visited the Adobe Pumpkin Farmin Petaluma, located at the intersection of Adobe Road and East Washington Street. We've sort of made it an annual tradition to visit Adobe on its opening weekend, which usually coincides with the Weekend Along the Farm Trails event. Adobe Pumpkin Farm is also usually the first pumpkin patch to open in the fall, so it's a fun kick-off to the season. Since it's still early in the season they were still putting the fiinishing touches on many things, and some of the attractions like the Haunted Barn and the Christmas Shop were not yet open.
Located just minutes from the suburban sprawl of east Petaluma, Adobe Pumpkin Farm is a real farm that, in addition to pumpkins, also grows flowers and a variety of vegetables. Here you can pick your own pumpkin from a large field, or choose from already-picked varieties in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. Plenty of wheelbarrows are available for hauling your pumpkins back to the Pumpkin Barn and to your car. You can also buy gourds and fresh-cut flowers.
Summertime is fair time, and the first fair of the season is Petaluma's Sonoma-Marin Fair, which takes place at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds from Wednesday June 22 through Sunday, June 26. The Sonoma-Marin Fair is not quite but almost a county fair, and offers a wide range of fun and exciting attractions, competitions, events, and activities for the entire family. This year's Sonoma-Marin Fair theme is "Preserve Tradition".
Come see livestock shows, exhibits, chef demonstrations, Hambone Express pig racing, a destruction derby, and even the renowned World's Ugliest Dog Contest! There's also a cowboy boot camp, art, craft, and model-making workshops, wine tasting, and of course traditional carnival rides, including a kiddie carnival for younger children.
And what would a fair be without live music? The Sonoma-Marin Fair has scheduled the ne plus ultra of county fair musical acts, Rick Springfield, along with the Charlie Daniels Band, '70s rock icons Blue Öyster Cult, and more.
Anyone who loves stickers, knows about Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory. Located just north of Marin in Petaluma, I’ve been wanting to take my kids on their famous factory tour so we can see how their stickers are made.
This family-owned company is a must-visit place for families in the Bay Area. For $3 per person, you get a guided tour, a goody bag of stickers, and more. Tours are held Monday through Thursday by reservation only. You can give them a call at (800) 429-4549 to schedule a tour. Tours last about an hour.