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Toys and Games, Cool Products, Local Business, Coupons, Baby Gear, Children's Clothing, Toy Stores, Bargains, Holiday Cards, Christmas Tree Farms, Green, jewelry, Art Galleries and Open Studios, Consignment Sales, Shopping, Family Cars, Grocery Stores, Trader Joe's, Farms, Pumpkin Patches, Special Offers, Supermarkets, Target, Garage Sales, Websites, Farmer's Market, Wineries, Day Out, Candy, Health Clubs
These moist, flavorful, not-too-sweet cookies are excellent for snacks, breakfast or dessert. Full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, your kids probably won't even realize they're snacking on something that's good for them!
Slide Ranch is a great place for family members of all ages. We tried out one of their family farm days in the past and my kids had a great time petting the sheep planting seeds, milking a goat, and making nature crafts. They offer guided tours and lots of hands-on activities, including collecting eggs from chickens, planting seeds, sampling from their organic garden, learning to make crafts and food just like the early farmers, and exploring the nearby tide pools.
Slide Ranch is located off of Shoreline Highway in Muir Beach. Below is a list of their upcoming spring events. Their programs often sell out quickly, so you need to plan ahead if you are interested in participating. Register for programs online at www.slideranch.org.
Spring Family Farm Days
Family Farm Days at Slide Ranch are relaxed four-hour programs that feature a wide range of activities related to the day's theme. Cost: $25 per person; age 2 and under free.
Looking for a unique gift? Local illustrator and cartoonist Michael Capozzola creates fun and whimsical hand-painted name art that's perfect for the nursery or a child's room. Each personalized creation is made with pen and ink and watercolor on cold-press paper. Inspired by vintage playbills and concert posters, they're bright and colorful, with each letter made out of different objects and shapes.
Michael is a San Francisco-based cartoonist whose work has appeared in Mad Magazine, McSweeney's, and WIRED. His cartoon, "Surveillance Caricatures," ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, for four years, too. He started creating name art as gifts for friends, and soon the commissions and requests came pouring in. You can see examples of Michael's name art work on his website. www.paintedbabynames.com, where you can order your own creation, too! While he refers to them as baby names, they're really gifts delightful for kids of all ages.
Here in Marin, we're fortunate to able to choose from many unique and often independent locally owned toy stores. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about—great for play-testing—and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia.
Yes, the toy store of yore still exists, despite the arrivals of gigantic big-box retail monsters in the neighborhood. We love visiting our local independent toy stores for birthday and holiday gifts or for a special treat, and a visit to one is usually a lot of fun for everyone in the family, too. Also, many of these stores offer gift wrapping, too, making getting that special gift even easier.
Five Little Monkeys
852 Grant Ave, Novato 94945
(415) 898-4411 www.5littlemonkeys.com
Starting at the northern tip of Marin, nestled in cozy downtown Novato is Five Little Monkeys and this shop means toy business. From puppets and dolls to dress-up and books, there is something for kids of every age. They have locations in Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, too.
For many families, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to get or to start thinking about getting their Christmas tree. For many, there's no better way to get a tree than to take the trip to one of the many North Bay Christmas tree farms and cut one down themselves! If playing lumberjack isn't your thing, there are plenty of local lots in Marin that offer quality trees for your holiday.
We've linked to our Christmas tree farm reviews where appropriate. Keep in mind that many of our Christmas tree farm reviews were written last year or earlier and some information may be out of date. We'll be hitting the road to check out this year's Christmas tree farms in person, so make sure you check back for updates.
Although we make every effort to make sure our information is up to date, please keep in mind that Christmas tree farms and lots do go out of business (there used to be many more in Petaluma and Sebastopol, and even one in Olema), and may be closed due to weather or other conditions. Make sure you call, email, or check their website before you go.
Marin County Christmas Tree Lots
There aren't any cut-it-down-yourself Christmas tree farms in Marin, although there are a number of well known Christmas tree lots where you can pick out that perfect tree and immerse yourself in that holiday spirit. Here are some of our favorite Christmas tree lots (if you have your own favorite you'd like to share with us, let us know).
Cousins' Christmas Trees
7416B Redwood Boulevard, Novato 94945 Daily, 9 am–8 pm
This family-run Christmas tree lot in Novato offers quality Noble, Douglas, and Grand firs, as well as wreaths, garlands, and other holiday products. Cousins' also offers a goat petting zoo; arts and crafts; bake sales; free hot cider, cookies, candy canes; visits with Santa on select weekends; and more. Cousins' Christmas Trees is partnering with Novato School Fuel, the foundation that supports Novato public schools. Open daily starting November 25 from 9 am to 8 pm. They're at 7416B Redwood Boulevard in Novato (next to Chianti restaurant). More info at www.cousinschristmastrees.com or (415) 250-6117.
If you want to have the experience of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree, you're going to have to pack up the family truckster and head north on Highway 101 to visit our neighbors in Sonoma County. There, you'll find a selection of Christmas tree farms mostly concentrated in the rural areas of western Petaluma and Sebastopol.
We made our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving trip to the three Christmas tree farms located in Petaluma—Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms 1 and 2 and Larsen's Christmas Tree Farm—to see what they had to offer this season. There's nothing that gets you in the holiday spirit more than visiting a tree farm. Did I mention that they're great places for holiday photo ops, too? You can also check out our rundown on the tree farms further north in Sebastopol.
It's time to think about getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite any inconvenience.
For the hopeless holiday romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and it's usually a lot of fun, too. Those annual trips to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories, and now it's a tradition with my own family
There aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago), so to get the real Christmas tree farm experience you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms are clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa.
It goes without saying that every Holiday season Santa Claus is an extremely popular guy. He and his small army of little helpers will be making the rounds for photos, breakfasts, and other holiday fun at various shopping centers and other locations in Marin County and beyond. (And of course you'll need to tell him what you want for Christmas, too!)
Here's our 2016 guide to photo ops with Santa and more. We make every effort to assure that all listings and hours are as accurate as possible, but occasionally Santa has to take a break to feed the reindeer or tidy up his beard, so make sure to stay on his "nice" list and call or check the venue's website before visiting. Santa's elves are still finalizing his holiday schedule, so check back here for updates throughout the season.
Photos with Santa
Town Center Corte Madera
November 25–December 24
Shopping during the holidays at Town Center Corte Madera is always a festive occasion for the entire family, with a chance to have a free photo for the kids with Santa Claus, have your gifts wrapped for free by volunteers from Hospice by the Bay, and enjoy some live music to provide the holiday spirit. Schedule: Friday, Saturday, Sunday November 25–November 27, 11 am–4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, December 3–4, 11 am–4 pm, and daily December 10–11, 11 am–4 pm and December 17–24, 11 am–4 pm. More info: www.shoptowncenter.com
Still need ingredients for your Thanksgiving feast? Finish up your shopping at tomorrow's (Wednesday, November 23) special Thanksgiving Farmers Market from 8 am to 1 pm at Northgate Mall, 6000 Northgate Drive (next to Sears) in San Rafael.
There will be no San Rafael Farmers Market on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24. That way we all get a little extra time to prepare our feasts, and the farmers get the day off too!
The Civic Center Farmers' Market in San Rafael (temporarily located to Northgate) offers lots of organically grown produce, breads, eggs, fresh cut flowers, prepared food, and more. For more information, visit www.agriculturalinstitute.org.