Picnics

Family Picnics at Marin's Cheese Factory

February 3, 2015

The Marin French Cheese Company Cheese Factory

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. It's an ideal place to spend a relaxing afternoon, whether it's on a sunny winter day or during the summer, and is a must-visit place for Bay Area residents and visitors alike.

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, and it's a great first stop on the California Cheese Trail.

Creating Community, Making Friends, and Staying Sane, One Dish at a Time.

June 12, 2012

Playdate and potluck at Sun Valley Park in San RafaelMarin Mommies presents a guest article by San Rafael dad Joey Chandler on the growing popularity of the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck (P&P). It's a great way to make friends and meet other families in the neighborhood, and he offers some tips for starting a P&P of your own.

There is a growing movement in San Rafael that I want to share with you. This simple idea builds community, is fun for kids, and keeps parents sane.

We call it the Thursday Night Playdate and Potluck and it is exactly that. We meet on Thursday nights around 5 pm at a local park and families bring food and drinks to share. The kids run and play, the adults share adult conversation and we all have a great time. Some people bring cooked dishes and others bring just a bottle of wine because the kids were having one of those days. Commuting parents join us when they get back and visiting relatives are welcomed with open arms. There is no agenda or meal assignments, just families coming together to share food and getting to know each other. These are a blast and honestly it has become one of the highlights of my week.

Five Fun Family Picnic Spots in Marin and Beyond

February 22, 2012

The weather is supposed to be beautiful the next few days and I'm ready to take advantage of it. One of our favorite things to do on a beautiful day is to have a picnic and play outside in the sun. Here is our list of favorite places to enjoy a picnic, hiking and some fun with your family. Enjoy!

  • Bear Valley in the Point Reyes National Seashore is home to the park's visitor center as well as a large picnic area complete with tables, restrooms, and drinking water. Have a leisurely lunch outdoors, and then take a hike—there are a number of different hikes and walks you can do here that are suitable for everyone in the family, including the Earthquake Trail, the Bear Valley Trail, and the trail leading to the Morgan horse ranch. Read more about Bear Valley in our article here.
  • The Marin French Cheese Company, otherwise known as the Cheese Factory, is a wonderful spot for families and a picnic. Located on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road, between Novato and Nicasio, the Cheese Factory is a great spot where the kids can run and play on their expansive lawn and you can relax on your picnic blanket in a nice shady spot. Bring your own picnic or buy food at their cheese store and deli, which stocks sandwiches, ice cream, a multitude of different cheeses (of course), coffee wine, and soft drinks. Read more about the Cheese Factory in our article here.
  • McNear's Beach in San Rafael is a 55-acre county park located on the shores of San Pablo Bay. It's the perfect place to go on a warm day to wade in the bay, picnic, fish, take in spectacular views of the Bay Area, and more. There are acres of lush rolling lawn here with plenty of shade, perfect for spreading out picnic blankets and relaxing or playing games. There is a $10 parking fee, so make sure you bring exact change to leave in the parking fee machine. Hours: 8 am-5 pm. Read more about our last visit here.
  • The Sonoma Plaza is an expansive park in the heart of Sonoma, with lush green lawns, two playgrounds, fountains, a pond with ducks, and plenty of shade. It’s the perfect place for families to relax and play. We generally bring along our picnic lunch from home, or we stop on the way at Angelo’s Wine Country Deli, our favorite place to grab sandwiches, salads, drinks, and chips. Make sure to bring your picnic blanket and enjoy the town square. Read more about our last visit there.

Family Friendly Wineries: Larson Family Winery in Sonoma

November 28, 2011

Larson Family Winery in SonomaRemember back before you had kids when you used to head up to the Wine Country for a day of fun and wine tasting? You'll find that there are plenty of family-friendly wineries up in Sonoma and Napa counties, so don't stop just because you have kids in tow. Kid friendly wineries are also great places to take out-of-town family and other visitors, especially during the holidays.

What do we look for in a family-friendly winery? First and foremost, there has to be something that kids can do, other than just hang out in the tasting room and wait for mom and dad. Second, the winery should be openly child-friendly and relaxed, both for the comfort of families and for other grownups who probably don't want the disruption of kids to interfere with their Wine Country experience. Last, there should be plenty of space and somewhere to relax and have something to eat, whether you pack it in yourself or buy it on-site.

Fun in the Sun at Heart’s Desire Beach

May 28, 2011

Heart's Desire BeachWhen the temperature rises this summer and you need to get away from the inland heat, heading out to the beach is always a popular idea. Unfortunately, the beach experience in Northern California, even on a nice day, can be something of a challenge, and usually involves donning multiple layers of clothing to stave off the cold ocean wind. Swimming at beaches here often involves putting your life at risk, too, with icy water temperatures, pounding surf, and deadly rip currents posing a hazard to even the strongest swimmers.

Let's face it: most Marin beaches are beautiful and dramatic, but you're pretty much limited to walking and playing in the sand.

Fortunately, there are some great local alternatives, if you know where to look. One of our favorite places to hang out at on a sunny day is Heart's Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park. On the opposite side of Inverness Ridge from the chillier ocean beaches of Point Reyes, Heart’s Desire is a white stretch of sand running along a calm, sheltered stretch of Tomales Bay. There’s no surf to speak of, and the shallow water is warm and perfect for wading, swimming, and just having fun. The swimming area is surrounded by buoys to keep boat traffic away (except for kayaks and canoes; it's a popular launching and put-in place for those), and there's often an anchored raft to swim out to.

Day Out in Sonoma, Part I: Picnic on the Plaza

May 16, 2011

Sonoma Plaza and old City HallOne of our absolute favorite family day trips is to the town of Sonoma. Sonoma is a fantastic wine country destination for either a family outing or a weekend getawaty. About a half-hour’s drive from northern Marin, Sonoma is not as busy or as up-to-the-moment trendy as the Napa Valley, its flashier Wine Country neighbor to the east, but it manages to be at the same time both quaint and sophisticated, with a clear sense of tradition and history. Above all, Sonoma is a great place for families, since the Wine Country isn’t necessarily all about wine.

One of our favorite things to do is to stake out a place in Sonoma’s historic downtown Plaza, and have a picnic. Once the parade ground for the Mexican soldiers stationed here in the 19th century, the Plaza is an expansive park in the heart of Sonoma, with lush green lawns, two playgrounds, fountains, a pond with ducks, and plenty of shade. It’s the perfect place for families to relax and play. There's often something fun going on here, too, like art shows, a farmer's market, and even an annual ox roast celebration.

Have a Mother's Day Picnic in Marin

May 3, 2011

While Mother's Day brunch is always a fun outing for the family, sometimes you want to skip the whole fine dining experience and do something a little more original for mom. How about putting together a picnic and heading out to one of the many great picnic spots in and around Marin County. Here are some of our favorite places to bring out lunch (or brunch) and dine al fresco.

  • The Marin French Cheese Company, otherwise known as the Cheese Factory, is a wonderful spot for families, and for a special occasion like Mother’s Day. Located on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road, between Novato and Nicasio, the Cheese Factory is a great spot where the kids can run and play on their expansive lawn and you can relax on your picnic blanket in a nice shady spot. Bring your own picnic, or buy food at their cheese store and deli, which stocks sandwiches, ice cream, a multitude of different cheeses (of course), soft drinks, and an extensive selection of wine. Read more about the Cheese Factory in our article here.
  • Bear Valley in the Point Reyes National Seashore is home to the park's visitor center as well as a large picnic area complete with tables, restrooms, drinking water, and charcoal grills. Have a leisurely lunch outdoors, and then take a hike—there are a number of different hikes and walks you can do here that are suitable for everyone in the family, including the Earthquake Trail, the Bear Valley Trail, and the trail leading to the Morgan horse ranch.
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