Family Picnics at Marin's Cheese Factory
April 26, 2011Posted by pamela |
Spring is officially here, and with the weather warming and wildflowers blooming, one of our favorite family activities is to head outdoors for a picnic. One of our absolute favorite Marin picnic spots is on the grounds of the Marin French Cheese Company, located just west of Novato on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road.
If you haven't been to the Cheese Factory (as it's known to locals), then you've surely seen it as you've driven out to the Point Reyes National Seashore from Novato or Petaluma. Both my husband and I grew up visiting this place, and of course now we come here with our own family. It's well worth the trip at almost any time of year.
The Cheese Factory has been in business producing cheese from Marin's high quality milk since 1865, and is a favorite place of Bay Area residents and visitors alike. The Cheese Factory has been making cheese in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1865, when it started delivering its product—a soft fresh cheese—to saloons and restaurants in San Francisco. They still make this original cheese, known today as Breakfast Cheese, which you can sample and buy in their on-site store.
The Cheese Factory is more famous, however, for their award-winning Rouge et Noir brand European-style cheeses including Brie (available in several flavors), Camembert, Schlosskranz (similar to Limburger or Liederkranz), quark, and more. Most of the cheeses are available for purchase in the store, along with other picnic staples like locally baked baguettes, crackers, chips, and olives, making it a visit a great excuse for an impromptu al fresco lunch. The Cheese Factory also sells good pre-made deli sandwiches (try to get the ones they make using their own Brie) and ice cream, as well as beer, wine, sodas, coffee, and other drinks.
They also offer a factory tours for all those interested in the cheese making process. Tours are held daily between 10 am and 3 pm. Cheese production actually takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so make sure you come then to see the cheese makers in action. Make sure you check in the store, though, as the schedule does vary.
On one side of the store is a group of picnic tables and a pond that is usually filled with ducks and geese. My kids love to run around the grass area that surrounds the beautiful pond and feed the birds. Many people bring a blanket and picnic lunch and park themselves in front of the pond for a relaxing afternoon. We've even seen people fishing in the pond.
When we want to picnic at the Cheese Factory, we usually head straight in to the back of the building, where you'll find a huge lush green lawn with picnic tables scattered all around. There are plenty of trees for ample shade, and the area is sheltered from the wind, making it a great spot to spread out a blanket or two and spend the afternoon. It's never crowded, so the kids have plenty of room to run around and play. We often see families set up volleyball or badminton nets, and balls and Frisbees are a must! And if you get hungry or thirsty, there's plenty of food and drink available just around the corner. There's also a lighted, covered BBQ area you can rent for parties and other group events.
The Cheese Factory is located between Novato and Nicasio on the Point Reyes–Petaluma Road. Technically, its address is 7500 Red Hill Road in Petaluma, but you'll have the best luck finding it if you look for it on the west side of the road about a half-mile south of where Novato Boulevard intersects Point Reyes–Petaluma Road. It's a great place to stop for provisions on the way to the Point Reyes, too. The Cheese Factory occasionally hosts art shows and other events, and there are two kinetic sculptures—metal pivoting arms with wagon wheels on the end—sited on the back picnic area lawn.
The front parking area can get pretty busy on nice weekend days, with cars, bicycles, and motorcycles in abundance. Plenty of additional parking may be found in back (to the left of the buildings) near the picnic area.
Fore more information, visit www.marinfrenchcheese.com or call (800) 292-6001 ext. 12.