This Saturday we finally got a chance to stop by the new Farm Girl Nursery in Novato's Indian Valley neighborhood. This charming little nursery and farm is the perfect place to visit with the kids. You can meet some animals, including pigs, chickens, rabbits, horses, and a baby goat; shop for heirloom seeds and seedlings, produce, and gardening tools; and see exactly where your food comes from.
A trip to Farm Girl Nursery is a fun outing. The kids had a great time meeing the animals, seeing all the different types of vegetables, fruits, and flowers growing, and even got to snack on carrots pulled right out of the ground.
Owner Lisa Marvier is delightful and takes pleasure in showing visitors around the small farm. She introduced us her heritage chickens and pot-bellied pigs, and even dug some carrots out of the ground that she gave to our kids to eat. She also has numerous educational activities for kids planned at the nursery, including upcoming classes and a summer day camp that sounds like it's going to be a blast (for updates, sign up for their email list at the nursery or follow Farm Girl Nursery on Facebook).
My kids have been getting creative at Novato's Studio 4 Art since it opened on Grant Avenue a few years ago. We've all enjoyed their hands-on art workshops and classes. Studio owner Kebby McInroy recently opened the Studio 4 Art Annex around the corner from the main storefront, and we decided to hold my daughter's recent birthday party there. Needless to say, it was a big hit with all who attended!
The Annex is a cute little cottage that Studio 4 Art uses to hold parties, special events, and summer camps. It holds up to 20 children, who can work on a variety of different art projects around the two large tables in the space. The Annex space has bamboo floors, track lighting, kids' art on the walls, lots of natural light, and a warm, welcoming ambience.
For our party, we chose mosaic nameplates, which the girls crafted out of colorful ceramic letters and pieces of glazed ceramic tile. Each project was totally unique, and everyone was really proud of their creations. When everything's dry, you can hang them on the wall—they make great decorations for children's rooms.
Have fun and get in shape this spring at the Rolling Hills Club, Novato's family sports and fitness club. With swimming, tennis, racquetball, a fitness studio, classes, camps, and more, Rolling Hills has been a favorite of Marin families for three decades.
This spring, the Rolling Hills Club offers Marin Mommies readers free enrollment for both month-to-month and annual memberships. Furthermore, if you sign up for a year, you'll get a month for free.
Members can take advantage of discounted rates for great family activities and services like Rolling Hills’ Stingrays swim team, summer camps, children’s birthday parties, and more.
For adults, Rolling Hills offers a full fitness center with cardio and weight equipment, a day spa, personal training, tennis, swimming, pilates, a lounge (with fireplace, TV, and complimentary coffee and tea) and more. There’s even an on-site café run by students from the Culinary Institute of America.
Remember how exciting it was to get new shoes when you were little? That "new shoes" smell, the mysterious foot-measuring device, slanted mirrors, getting to run around the shop to test out a pair, and the pride you felt when you got to wear your brand new pair out and about for the first time ever.
Busy beez, a new shoe boutique just for kids in downtown Mill Valley is creating a lot of "buzz" with its competitively priced, high quality, and durable shoes for kids. They also know that putting kids in proper shoes is vital for their comfort and growth. And if you thought cute, stylish shoes were usually cheap and short-lived, think again—busy beez stocks shoes that are both high-quality and stylish.
I've been hearing great things about Nothing Bundt Cakes, the recently opened Corte Madera bakery specializing in—what else?—bundt cakes, so we decided to go check them out ourselves. Of course my kids were thrilled to go somewhere to try new kinds of cake, so I didn't have to do much to get them excited to go.
Bundt cakes, as you probably know, are those cakes baked in a ring-shaped pan. Your mom or grandma probably made them when you were a kid, but, as Nothing Bundt Cakes points out, "These ain't your grandma's bundt cakes." These bundt cakes have developed something of a cult following, and after tasting them, we know why.
Nothing Bundt Cakes carries bundt cakes in a variety of sizes, from the little bundtinis to 10-inch tiered bundt cakes suitable for special occasions. Ten regular flavors are offered, including red velvet, chocolate chocolate chip, lemon, white chocolate raspberry, carrot, and more, as well a special flavor of the month—on our visit it was lemon raspberry.
One of our wonderful readers told me about the new Cafe du Cirque, a child-friendly coffee house in downtown San Rafael that opened last week, so I had to go check it out. Cafe du Cirque was opened by Marin mom Kerstin Fleischer and her husband Tom Coleman, and features food made from fresh local organic ingredients, locally roasted coffee, and a play area for little ones near the back of the cafe. Relax with a cup of coffee or tea and a salad or sandwich while your kids play safely.
Kerstin is the mom of a three-year-old, and added the play room to the cafe because she was more than aware of the need to have a space like this in Marin. The cafe itself is clean and modern and occupies a long narrow space with lots of natural light.
My children both enjoyed Cafe du Cirque's kids' hot chocolate and fresh muffins, and my daughter liked the play area. Designed for younger children, the small carpeted play area includes toys like a play kitchen, a kids' table and chairs, a chalkboard, and a soft crawling area for babies. You can sip your coffee or eat lunch or breakfast and watch the kids while they play under the play room's festive red-and-white-striped awning.
This is the second in our series of "Day Out" articles profiling family-friendly shopping, dining, and activities in Marin's communities. Read our first article in the series: Day Out in Point Reyes Station.
While Novato doesn't have the upscale cachet of its southern neighbors like Mill Valley or Tiburon, you'll find that there's more to Marin's northernmost town than just Target and Costco. Look beyond the suburban sprawl and big-box stores and you'll find a charming family-friendly community with a small-town atmosphere that belies its large size.
Novato has much to offer for families, from its parks and open space areas to locally-run family-friendly restaurants and shops. Novato also boasts great weather—giving it its nickname of "Valley of the Gentle Seasons"—so if you wish is to escape the summer fog of southern Marin, Novato is the place to go for a little sunshine.
A great place to see what Novato is all about is in its downtown in and around Grant Avenue. Start in the Old Town neighborhood at Grant and Reichert Avenues, home to Novato's iconic city hall (housed in a a red 1890s Carpenter Gothic church), the Novato History Museum, and a number of locally run businesses and restaurants.
Powell's Sweet Shoppe has been a fixture in Novato's Old Town neighborhood for years. For a while, it looked like it was ready to close its doors, but with a new owner on board Powell's back, restocked and better than ever! If you've haven't been in for a while, or if you're never visited at all, now's the time to check it out.
You know that phrase "Like a kid in a candy store"? Whenever I walk into Powell’s Sweet Shoppe I feel like I'm re-living my childhood. It's a nostalgic, old-time candy wonderland—wander the jam-packed aisles and explore different varities of candy bars licorice, chewing gum, chocolate, hard candy, gummies, suckers, and more. You name it—they probably have it. You'll probably run across something you haven't seen, or tasted, in years.
Powell's also has a variety of regional favorite candies and chocolates, such as Moon Pies and GooGoo Clusters from the South, our own local Jelly Bellies, and even candy from Britain and Europe. If you're looking for something a little fancier, try one of the hand-made chocolate truffles they offer.
There's no shortage of great places to hold your child's birthday party in Marin, but which ones are the favorites with local families? Here's our top-ten list of kids' birthday party venues throughout Marin County, as selected by us and by Marin Mommies readers. (Please not that we haven't included parks and playgrounds in this list, though.) You can browse more Marin birthday party venues on our Marin Birthday Party Guide, as well as search for entertainers, caterers, party supplies, bounce houses, and more.
Here's our selection (in no particular order):
Love2Dance: Novato's Love2Dance is not only a great place for dance classes, but for active themed birthday parties as well! Themes for Love2Dance's two-hour parties include "Pretty Princess", "Hawaiian Hula", "Hollywood", and even "Disney's High School Musical", and include lots of dancing and games like the Hokey Pokey and musical chairs. Love2Dance provides all the decorations and suppiles, and you bring snacks, beverages, and the cake! Owner Tara brings tons of energy and enthusiasm to the party and is great with the kids. Read more about Love2Dance's birthday parties here.
Cal-Star Gymnastics: Kids can have a ball and burn off some energy at Cal-Star Gymnastics' active birthday parties. Parties at this popular Novato gymnastics studio can accommodate up to 30 children, and include time in the foam pit—with swinging ropes and a climbing wall—and trampoline, as well as free play time and a session on the mighty three-person spinning Hurricane Swing. After all that, there's time for cake. Cal-Star provides tables, chairs, and use of their refrigerator. Parties are for kids ages 1-1/2 and up (all activities are age-appropriate). Read about our birthday party experience at Cal-Star Gymnastics here.
Tutu School: This Larkspur ballet school offers princess parties for ages 2 and up. Tutu School's Ballet Birthday Parties are the perfect way to help your little swan or Sugar Plum Fairy celebrate their special day! Each and every party includes a brief ballet class, a special birthday story featuring the guest of honor, a delicious cupcake picnic, and delightful party favors.
Bay Area Discovery Museum: Consistently voted "Best Kids Party in Marin" by the Pacific Sun, Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum ranging from their themed "Birthday Bonanza" to party room rentals where you bring your own cake and goodies to the museum's Playhouse party room. Birthday party guests have full use of museum exhibits and free programs, too! BADM members get a discount, of course, as well as 10% of in their store, which stocks a great selection of birthday presents.
Marin Treks: This popular natural history museum and nature centerin Novato offers fun and educational live animal birthday bashes where kids can get up close and personal with their resident reptiles, amphibians, insects, arachnids, and other creepy-crawlies. Parties for kids ages 4–12 are available. Marin Treks also holds other hands-on events including nature hikes, science nights at the museum, drop-in hours, and more. Read our article on Marin Treks here.