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Our reservoirs are full and the rains have stopped (fingers crossed), which means…time to get your kiddos out of the house! We’ve got just the spot: South Park. The city’s oldest public park, which re-opened in March, is newly renovated and the perfect springtime destination for picnicking and play dates. It may be small but don’t let that fool you—there’s plenty of inspiration here for the whole family.

Star Structure
You’ll find the park at 64 South Park Ave in SoMa. Lucky for families, the playground got more than just a facelift. In fact, the old wooden jungle gym is now a single, giant, curving structure, maybe giving a nod to the tech and design-related energy in the area. Expect your littles to be kept fully occupied with lots of opportunities to climb, slide and explore.

Snacking Stations
Romping around this new play area will surely build an appetite Good news: South Park has different plains of grassy areas and plenty of picnic tables for BYOL. Or for any foodie families, the park is bordered by (read: easy walking/strolling/no-whining distance) favorites like South Park Cafe, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, and Blue Bottle Coffee (okay, this one’s more for the parents than the kiddos).

Coming Soon
San Francisco knows how to take care of its playdate constituency, because a couple more playground renovations are coming soon including the Helen Diller Playgrounds at the Civic Center and a new park on 17th and Folsom. That means: check back for the full report!

South Park Playground
64 South Park Ave
San Francisco, Ca


Has your family played at South Park yet?  Tell us about it!

— Copy and all photos courtesy of Mae Respicio

Posie Ice Cream: Marin’s Newest Sweet Spot

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If “grass” and “violet” aren’t words that your family would normally associate with ice cream, then we’ve got a new place for you to try: Posie. Thanks to the creativity of its owner (plus their own handy in-house pasteurizer), what you’re in for is a thoughtful spin on the classic ice cream parlor that hits just the sweetest spot.

15401071_1878065819097194_4503769452199802926_nCourtesy of Posie

The Full Scoop
Started by Kyle Caporicci, a local dad and former pastry chef (Commis, Thermidor, Campton Place), Posie offers an artisinal array of ice cream, fresh baked goods, lunch, and even to-go pints.  All of the ingredients are locally sourced, and you’ll often spot Kyle at local farmers markets gathering whatever’s in season. The shop takes root along a quaint, freshly revitalized area of Magnolia Avenue in Larkspur, and in a family-friendly space that’s bright and inspiring.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-11-23-23-amCourtesy of Posie

From Classics to Fresh Takes 
Posie’s ice cream flavors change regularly and range from classics (chocolate and strawberry), to fresh takes (Buttered Whiskey and Burnt Vanilla), to “Can I get a sample first?” (Grass-Fed, made from wheat grass and olive oil… spoiler: it’s delicious!). They make everything in-house from the cookies that go into their Cookie Monster, to the key lime curd in their Key Lime Pie flavored ice cream. Bonus: Posie also has dairy-free options and all of their cones are gluten free, so ordering for your whole family is easy.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-11-23-38-amCourtesy of Posie

Post Sugar Rush
Once the kiddos are officially sugared up, stroll across the street to Larkpur’s Dolliver Park, a magical little nook nestled by redwoods and the perfect way to burn off your new favorite ice cream.

img_7011-1Courtsey of Mae Respicio Koerner

 250 B Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, Ca
Hours: Closed Mondays; Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Lunch served daily from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Online: posie.com

Have you brought your littles to Posie yet? What did they think? Sound off in the comments!

Mae Respicio Koerner

 

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The skies have opened up, and while that means wet days at home, it means perfect powder for skiing up in the mountains. There are plenty of places in Tahoe and beyond that are perfect for getting your littles onto skis and snowboards for the first time, or for your more experienced bunnies to practice their skills. So whether you’re looking for the most tricked-out resort or else something more low-key (and low-pressure), these family favorites have lessons for all levels of little learners.

squawalpinePhoto credit:  Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Badger Pass at Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is a spectacular setting to learn how to ski with lots of learning options here for the 4–6 set through the Badger Pups Downhill Ski/Snowboard Program; packages include rental equipment, helmet and beginner lift tickets. The All Day Kids Camp is available on weekends and holidays for all your skiers and snowboarders in training (just make sure to book early!). Buses leave hourly from Yosemite Valley to Badger Pass.

7082 Glacier Point Rd.
Yosemite National Park, Ca
209-372-8430
Cost: Single lesson, $67; two-lesson package, $87
Online: travelyosemite.com

Northstar California
When you think of ultimate ski resorts, this is one of them; it has everything for the adventuring family: an ice skating rink, tubing, a bungee trampoline, and plenty of luxury accommodations from condos to The Ritz. To get your kids onto skis, The Ski + Snowboard School features their Northstar Teaching System with coaches who are consistent in their guiding styles, plus a fun beginner area for newbies. Lessons start for kids as young as 3 years old.

5001 Northstar Dr.
Truckee, Ca
800-466-6784
Cost: 1-full-day session, $198; 2-day session, $356; 3-day session, $534 (prices when booked online)
Online: northstar.com

Boreal Mountain Playground
This mid-size, ultra family-friendly mountain is one of the smaller and more affordable resorts, making it a great learning playground for kids ages 4–12. Their Children’s Snowports lessons include the Micro Explorers (ages 4–6; skiing) and Mountain Explorers (ages 7–12; skiing + snowboarding), both groups are designed for developing skills and confidence.

19749 Boreal Ridge Rd.
Soda Springs, Ca
530-426-3666
Cost: Half-day sessions, $94-114
Online: boreal.com

Diamond Peak
From breathtaking views to un-crowded runs, this resort nestled in the Incline Village has an award-winning ski school. Their Child Ski Center is geared toward kids ages 3–7 with a separate learning area and low instructor to child ratio of 1:5. There are group and private lessons, plus an all day ski school called March of the Penguins. They also have a 100% guarantee—if your personal needs are not addressed in a lesson, you’ll receive another lesson at no charge. The Ski & Snowboard School is designed for kids ages 7+.

1210 Ski Way
Incline Village, Nv
877-468-4397
Cost: Full-day session, $165-200; 2-day session, $320-375
Online: diamondpeak.com

northstar
Photo: Northstar California

Dodge Ridge
For something outside of the normal Tahoe crowds, head to Tuolumne County for the perfect low-pressure, family-friendly setting with an easy-to-navigate mountain. The kids’ program includes Intro to Snow (starting as young as age 2!), a beginners Kinder Ski + Ride (ages 4-5), and the Kid’s Club class (ages 4-12). There’s also instruction for kids with special physical or cognitive needs taught by certified Snowsports Adaptive instructors. Make sure to reserve any special adaptive ski equipment in advance.

1 Dodge Ridge Rd.
Pinecrest, Ca
209-965-3474
Cost: 2-hour program, $124
Online: dodgeridge.com

Donner Ski Ranch
Donner Ski Ranch is a great alternative to some of the higher priced resorts, it’s smaller and offers a more relaxed and low-pressure learning environment for the whole family, especially your youngest members. Snowflakes Ski School (ages 3–6) has its own kids’ room and a low student-to-instructor ratio while Snow Shredders (ages 5–6) is designed for the youngest of snowboarders. Both programs have morning, afternoon, and full day options.

19320 Donner Pass Rd.
Norden, Ca
530-426-3635
Cost: 2-hour program, $124
Online: donnerskiranch.com

Heavenly
This resort located on the California Nevada border has it all: an amazing gondola ride, varied terrain, tubing, a village with boutiques and restaurants plus (of course) a fun ski school for all levels of skiers, which includes an Adapative Ski Program taught by specially trained instructors. Ultimate bonus—it’s one of the few resorts with a state-licensed daycare, nursery and preschool for your littlest ones (6 weeks to 6 years).

3860 Saddle Rd.
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
775-586-7000
Cost: Full-day session, $83–193; 2-day session, $326–346; 3-day session, $489–519
Online: heavenly.com

Homewood Mountain Resort
Located right between North and South Tahoe with beautiful views, their daily kids’ program includes ski and snowboard lessons, as well as ski teams designed to help kids develop technical skills in a non-intimidating environment. The teams include Super Sliders (ages 4 to 12), Development Team (ages 5–15), and Ski Race Team (ages 7–15). This popular resort also has complimentary shuttles, rentals, and five on-mountain restaurants.

5145 West Lake Blvd.
Homewood, Ca
877-263-7768
Cost: Full-day session, $149–179; 3-day session, $348
Online:
homewood.com

kirkwood_skiPhoto: Kirkwood

Kirkwood
This mountain village getaway is perfect for any high-intensity, adventure-loving family, where  young skiers get deep powder and some of the best terrain in the region to learn on; the ski school offers group and private lessons broken down by age and equipment (mini groms, snowboarders 3–4 yrs.; groms, snowboarders 5–12 yrs.; mini rippers, skiers 3-4 yrs. ; Mt Explorers, skiers 5-12 yrs.). After the end of a long ski and snowboarding day, the whole family can enjoy different options with lots of dining choices, spectacular views atop the Sierra Crest, and even a zip-line excursion.

1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr.
Kirkwood, Ca
209-258-7277
Cost: Half-day session, $90; Full-day, $135 ; 2-day, $230; 3-day, $345
Online: kirkwood.com

Mt. Rose
Here you’ll find Tahoe’s highest base resort as well as a fun and easy place for the first-time bunnies in your family. The focus of their ski school is on helping beginners ages 4–10 gain technical skills in gliding, stopping, and turning while in a non-intimidating setting; lessons include rental gear and a lift ticket.

22222 Mt. Rose Hwy.
Reno, Nv
775-849-0704
Cost: 2-hr session, $115
Online: mtrose.com

Sierra at Tahoe
Combine your kids’ love of snow and Star Wars at The Burton Star Wars Experience where 3-to-6 year olds get a themed package complete with R2-D2 vests, Star Wars helmets, and plenty of Yoda references. Yoda’s Riglet Park is for “Younglings” (ages 3 – 6) while Echo Base is for “Padawans” (ages 7 – 12). There are also non-themed ski and snowboard school options for kiddos ages 3 – 12, plus plenty of fun sledding and tubing on Blizzard Mountain.

1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Rd.
Twin Bridges, Ca
530-659-7453
Cost: Full-day session, $169–199
Online: sierraattahoe.com

squaw_skiPhoto: Squaw

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
This home to the 1960 Winter Olympics can also teach your Olympians-in-training. Kids as young as 3 learn on the flats in their Snow Cubs program (about a 3-to-1 student to teacher ratio). They also have a  Teaching Tykes program, that arms parents with tips, skills, and techniques on how to make skiing and snowboarding safe and fun for their kids. And don’t forget about all of the off-hill fun including a family zone with an easy beginner lift, two moving carpets, mini snowmobiles, and the ever-important day lodge to snack up.

1960 Squaw Valley Rd.
Olympic Valley, Ca
530-583-6955
Cost: Half-day session, $139-184; full-day session,  $184-229
Online: squawvalleyalpine.com

Sugar Bowl
This is North America’s largest cross country resort, which for parents (and more advanced kiddos) means 200km of varied terrain and groomed trails across four great peaks (they also boast the shortest lift lines and least crowded slopes). At The Den, kids can hone their skiing skills, starting at the level of “Never-Ever” all the way up through “Advanced” (the school takes kids as young as 4 and is open on weekends and holidays).

629 Sugar Bowl Rd.
Norden, Ca
530-426.9000
Cost: Half-day session, $79–195; full-day session,  $175-295
Online: sugarbowl.com

MarcusHansson1
Photo credit: Marcus Hansson

Did we miss any of your favorite resorts for kids’ ski and snowboard lessons? Chime in below!

—Mae Respicio Koerner, Erin Feher

Stack It Up, Build It, Knock it Down: Where to LEGO

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Do you know the extreme pain associated with stepping barefoot on a LEGO brick? Then you must be living with a little LEGO addict! Despite their sharp exteriors, LEGO bricks can offer kids many important skills from fine motor development to creative play skills. These places all over the Bay Area provide lots of LEGO love and ample building time. The best part? Those pesky little bricks stay all over their floors—not yours!

LegoPile1Photo credit: Mae Respicio

San Francisco

Built It! LEGO Club
Books and LEGOs? Could it get any better? The San Francisco Library has drop-in building sessions throughout the year at various branches including Ocean View and North Beach. They provide all the pieces—the kiddos just bring their imaginations.

Ocean View Branch
345 Randolph St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-355-5615

North Beach Branch
North Beach Meeting Room
850 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-355-5626
Online: sfpl.org

Tech Know How
Sometimes the future engineers of America need just the slightest bit of guidance. Tech Know How provides that, and more. Their summer camps let littles as young as 5 learn about everything LEGO. The older ones (ages 14–18) can even volunteer as summer interns where they train to work in a classroom, have access to software and tech tools, and even receive a letter of completion (for extra brownie points on those college apps!).

Camp locations in San Francisco, the Peninsula, East Bay, and South Bay
Cost: Prices vary
Online: techknowhow.com

lego

Marin

Marin County Free Library
What’s better than LEGOs?  Free LEGOs! The Novato branch library welcomes your engineers-in-training and provides all the parts, which means Duplos through LEGOs for youngsters 4–14.

Novato Branch
1720 Novato Blvd.
Novato, Ca
4–5:30 p.m. every first and third Wednesday of the month. No registration required.
415-897-1141
Online: marinlibrary.org

Play Well Activity Center
Buildings, birthdays, and babysitting—all rolled into one cool place!  Well, not actual babysitting per se, but with the way kids zone out (in a good way) on those plastic pieces, you know what we mean. Be sure to ask about their sibling discount.

216 Greenfield Ave.
San Anselmo, Ca
Summer Hours:10 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day
Drop-In Cost: $10/hour per child
415-460-5210
Online: play-well.org

LegoRobotPhoto credit: Mae Respicio

Peninsula/South Bay

Build It Again with Bricks
This store has everything for your crazy little builders to go nuts: drop-ins, parties, camps, buying/selling and even photo mosaics. Yes, you too can turn your little’s school photo into an amazingly detailed LEGO portrait. Simply bring in a photo and their experts do the rest. (How cool is that?!)

398 Main St.
Los Altos, Ca
650-935-2166
Wednesday and Thursday, 12–6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Drop-In Cost: $15/hour
Online: builditagainwithbricks.com

LEGO Stores
Pick-a-Brick buffet?  Why yes, please!  These shops are pay per scoop, so check with each location for exact rates. Go crazy, South Bay residents!  They also offer monthly LEGO Club meetings where participants get to make and take home a mini model ($10/person fee).

341 Hillsdale Mall
San Mateo, Ca
Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
650-571-9020
Online: stores.lego.com

2855 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Santa Clara, Ca
Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
408-247-8071
Online: stores.lego.com

BrainVyne
BrainVyne takes unique LEGO fun and combines it with basic programming for kids in their popular spring and summer camps. Their Girl Power Robotics: WeDo program is a girl-only introduction into the LEGO Robotics WeDo program. Kids also love the combination of LEGO and Star Wars in another popular program. BrainVyne even offers LEGO birthday parties in their Palo Alto location (or another public location near you).

Camps located in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Evergreen, San Carlos, Santa Clara and Milpitas
Online: brainvyne.com

Wizbots Imagineering Programs
Combine LEGO Mindstorms with arts, crafts and low-tech building materials and STEM takes on a new meaning for young innovators (grades 2–8). They have everything from camps to parties to afterschool programs; check their website for individual Peninsula locations and programs. 

233 Highland Ave.
San Carlos, Ca
Online: wizbots.com

BuildItAgain1Photo credit: Karla Oliveira / Build it Again with Bricks

East Bay

Oakland Public Library Lego Mania Club
It’s brickmania at the Lakeview Branch, where kiddos build and explore with LEGO and Duplo. The littles will love this weekend precursor that takes place every 2nd Friday of the month.

Lakeview Branch
550 El Embarcadero
Oakland, Ca
510-238-7344
Online: oaklandlibrary.org

Play-Well Pleasanton Activity Center
The power of play is at work here with drop-in activity time for even the littlest of builders (starting at age 3 but with Duplo, natch). Activities focus on popular themes like Ninjaneering, Star Wars, and Flight, to name a few.

5737 Valley Ave.
Pleasanton, Ca
925-484-1547
Summer Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Drop-In Cost: Weekdays: $9/hour per child (all ages); 5-hour pass: $35
Online: play-well.org

Lego

Photo credit: Kate Loweth

Bricks 4 Kidz
Calling all LEGO lovers who also love Angry Birds and Minecraft! This center has not only drop-in hours, classes, camps, afterschool programs and birthday packages but they also have… (wait for it): Kids Night Out! You won’t feel so guilty about date night when you know how much fun they’re having.

3150 Balfour Rd.
Brentwood, Ca
925-684-4082
Drop-ins: Tues., 10 a.m.–noon; Wed., 4–6 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.–noon; Fri 4–6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.–noon
Cost: $5 per child
Kids Night Out every Friday from 6–10 p.m. ($25/child)
Online: bricks4kidz.com

BrickSpace
The owner of this Benicia gem combined a love of learning with a love of all things LEGO and out came BrickSpace! The littlest LEGO lovers will enjoy the preschool playtime especially their Curious Kids Love Science class which brings together LEGO fun and science experiments! After school and summer camp programs are available, as well as the ever-popular Parents Night Out program that’s offered the first Friday of the month.

946 Tyler St., Suite H
Benicia, Ca
Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

621 First St.
Benicia, Ca
Hours: Monday through Thursday 1 – 5 p.m.; Friday 12 – 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Online: brickspacebenicia.net

Living Lego-cy

Photo credit: Kate Loweth/Living LEGO-cy

More LEGO Fun

BayLUG
Join up with other Bay Area LEGO fans both young and old and become a member of BayLUG – the Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group. BayLUG has meetings where members can display their projects and the group also participates in various LEGO events around the area including Bricks By the Bay in August.

Little LEGO lovers will love the annual “Living LEGO-cy” show at the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto which takes place in December and January. You don’t have to be a member to attend this show (but members do get in free!).

Membership: $10/year for a child (with parent permission) or $20/family for the first year (fees are half after the first year)
Online: baylug.org

Did we leave out any of your favorites?  Where does your family like to go for a little LEGO action?

—Kate Loweth & Mae Respicio

See the Sights in San Rafael

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This sweet little city is anything but vanilla (unless you’re there to visit the original location of Three Twins Ice Cream). From a super skate park to some stunning architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, San Rafael is a vibrant, diverse city that’s rich with history, surrounded by peaceful oak studded valleys, and also home to Mission San Rafael Arcángel. It’s located just 20 miles north of San Francisco in the banana belt of Marin, making it an excellent escape from the city’s foggier summers. With its many different neighborhoods there are plenty of places to play, visit, and nosh in this gem of a town.

downtownSRPhoto by Skip Moore via Flickr

Play

McNear’s Beach County Park
This sprawling park with amazing bay views is perfect for year round family time, with its many lawns, gigantic pool, picnic tables, fishing pier and of course, its bayside beach. Their hours and entrance fees change depending on the season, so visit their website for the most updated information.

201 Cantera Way
San Rafael, Ca
415-446-4424
Online: marincountyparks.org

Gerstle Park
Surrounded by trees and with plenty of picnic tables and shade on hand, this is sweet place to host play dates or birthday parties (just make sure to reserve your picnic area ahead of time).

San Rafael Ave. at Clark St.
San Rafael, Ca 94901
415-450-1520

skateparkPhoto by Mae Respicio


McInnis County Skatepark

This massive awesome sea of bowls, ramps, and half-pipes is the place for kiddos to get their skate on. Scooters allowed too every day until 1 p.m.

10 Smith Ranch Rd.
San Rafael, Ca
Online: marincounty.org

Civic Center Lagoon Park
With the picturesque mountain backdrop, a fun adjacent playground, and some easy strolling and biking trails around a lagoon full of swans and ducks, this 10-acre park is a great stop after a day trip to the San Rafael Farmer’s Market.  It’s an easy place to take the kids–especially since parking is in abundance.

Civic Center Dr. & Memorial Dr.
San Rafael, Ca
Online: marincounty.org

Albert Field Park
Andersen Dr. & Lindaro St.
San Rafael, Ca 94901

Bret Harte Park
217 Irwin St.
San Rafael, Ca 94901

China Camp State Park
101 Peacock Gap Trail
San Rafael, Ca 94901

Freitas Park
Montecillo & Trellis Dr.
San Rafael, Ca 94903

Marinwood Community Park
75 Miller Creek Rd.
San Rafael, Ca 94903

Pickleweed Park
50 Canal St.
San Rafael, Ca 94901

Schoen Park
Kerner Blvd. & Canal St.
San Rafael, CA 94901

Santa Margarita Park
1055 Las Ovejas
San Rafael, Ca 94903

Sun Valley Park
Solano St. & California Ave.
San Rafael, Ca 94901

Terra Linda Park
670 Del Ganado Rd.
San Rafael, Ca 94903

Victor Jones Park
Maplewood Dr. & Robinhood Dr.
San Rafael, Ca 94901

Explore

WildCare
This amazing urban wildlife hospital treats sick and injured animals, and offers extensive educational opportunities for everyone to experience the richness of California’s ecosystems. Admission to their regular courtyard presentations is free and the kiddos get to meet (or feed) opossums, tortoises, gopher snakes, and more. Throughout the year they also offer tours, hikes, and other fun outdoor adventures geared toward families.

76 Albert Park Ln.
San Rafael, Ca
415-456-7283
Online: wildcarebayarea.org

historymuseumPhoto by Skip Moore via Flickr

Marin History Museum
Tradition is in abundance here. The museum showcases the innovation and creativity of the people and history of Marin County through exhibits and special programs. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Fees vary according to program.

1125 B St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-454-8538
Online: marinhistory.org

San Rafael Civic Center Farmers’ Market
Celebrate a vibrant local food movement at what has long been considered one of the premiere farmers’ markets in the state. This one takes up a gigantic lot and has nearly 200 local farmers, an array of artisans, tables of tasty samples, live local music, the book mobile, bouncy houses, horse rides, and petting farms all year long, rain or shine. (Yes!) And yet another reason why we heart Northern California. Sundays from 8:00am – 1:00pm.

Civic Center Dr. & Peter Behr Dr.
San Rafael, Ca

Downtown San Rafael Farmers Market
Their website says it best: “Where else can you ride a motorized bull while rocking out to a local band, and chowing down on a gyro?” This awesomeness happens on Thursday evenings from April through September, 6:00 – 9:00pm all along Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael.

4th St. between B & Cijos
San Rafael, Ca
Online: sanrafaelmarket.org

CivicCtrPhoto by Bob Daas via Flickr

Marin Civic Center
This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building is not only a National Historic Landmark but it houses a sweet little library, is adjacent to the Civic Center Lagoon Park, and hosts the ginormous vibrant farmer’s market and a ton of year-round events and performances including the Marin County Fair. Bonus: Jude Law, Uma Thurman, and Ethan Hawke have also graced its futuristic-looking lobby (remember the movie Gattaca?).

10 Ave of the Flags
San Rafael, Ca
415-473-6400

S/W Ver: 96.B0.0FRPhoto by Jim E via Flickr

Second Fridays Art Walks
Enjoy galleries, open studios, live music and noshing while strolling colorful downtown San Rafael, a perfect evening out for your artistes-in-training. Check their website for details and a map of participating venues for each walk.

Online: artworksdowntown.org

Falkirk Cultural Center
This beautiful Victorian house dates back to the 1880s and luckily is still around for families to enjoy including its gardens and ponds. The center also hosts a variety of events throughout the year like musical performances, holiday festivals, and tea parties.

1408 Mission Ave.
San Rafael, Ca
415-485-3328
Online: falkirkculturalcenter.org

Eat

Uchiwa Ramen
From pop up to full-fledged restaurant, this is the place for you and the kiddos to get your noodle fix.

821 B. St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-891-8528
Online: uchiwaramen.com

Lotus Chaat and Spices
Indian street food in Marin is the focus here with a kaleidoscope of flavors, textures and spices in the form of quick bites and full meals. It’s also a colorful Indian grocery with all kinds of delicious things like organic yogurt (made in-house, of course!).

1559 Fourth St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-454-6887
Online: lotuschaat.com

toys-floorPhoto of Pizza Orgasmica by Mae Respicio

Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Co
Admit it—your favorite go-to family dining places are only those that have toys for them… and drinks for you. (Hey, we’re not judging!) This place has a whole toy room in the back to keep the kiddos occupied, and a full menu of home brews for your end of the deal. And if you’re too embarrassed to call it by name in front of the kids, try “yellow pizza place” (which is also the easiest way to spot it).

812 4th St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-457-2337
Online: pizzaorgasmica.com

The Mayflower
Fish plus chips plus trivia night equal the perfect family date night.

1533 Fourth St.
San Rafael, Ca 94901
415-456-1011
Online: themayflowerpub.com

Mauna Loa Hawaiian BBQ
If authentic Hawaiian and Asian food is what you’re craving (who doesn’t love a little Spam Musubi from time to time?), this little hole in the wall serves up everything from barbeque beef short ribs to chicken adobo to slow roasted Kalua pig. Just enough to hold you over until your next island vacation.

810 Third St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-453-2003
Online: maunaloabbq.com

Theresa & Johnny’s Comfort Food
Classic comfort food in a quirky setting where the kiddos can request breakfast for lunch (since breakfast is served all day long!). Open every day from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

817 4th St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-259-0182
Online: theresa-and-johnnys.com

Treat

Johnny Donuts
Whole foods are great but so are “hole foods.” This is the place to fulfill all of your coffee and donut-holed dreams with everything from the classics (glazed, chocolate, and maple old fashioned) to CroDoughs and Lime Marscapone Bismark. Insider tip: they have a donut truck, great for all kinds of events (think birthdays!)

1617 4th St.
San Rafael, Ca
415- 450-1866
Online: johnnydoughnuts.com

Muffin Mania Cafe
With muffins the size of your head (okay, we’re exaggerating but you get the picture), this is a great little neighborhood spot for pastries and coffee (hot choco for the kids).

2 Bayview St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-485-1027
Online: muffinmaniacafe.com

threetwinsPhoto by Star 5112 via Flickr

Three Twins Ice Cream
Located in the Terra Linda neighborhood of San Rafael is the original Three Twins Ice Cream, dishing out organic trusty favorites like Lemon Cookie, Fair Trade Vanilla Bean Speck, and Dad’s Cardamom.

641 Del Ganado Rd.
San Rafael, Ca
415-492-TWIN (8946)
Online: threetwinsicecream.com

Silbermann’s
Another scoop stop in the Terra Linda neighborhood of San Rafael. What started as years ago as a family business still is—and a delicious go-to for homemade ice cream.

196 Northgate One
San Rafael, Ca
415-479-1657
Online: silbermanns.com

What is your favorite thing to do in San Rafael? Tell us in the comments below! 

—Mae Respicio

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In the aftermath of your holiday extravaganza, what about all the stuff left behind? We’re talking packaging and boxes and bows and broken light strings that too often become immediate landfill once January hits. Before you toss any of it check out these organizations around the Bay Area (and beyond) that help families be more green after the holidays.

ArtSuppliesTrash into Treasure


The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse
is an ecological treasure trove of inexpensive art supplies for education and creative household use.  The store was founded by two Oakland public school teachers and is 4,500 awesome square feet of reused materials.  They accept a variety of donation materials year round and holiday wise, will accept paper bags (think of all the shopping you did), corks (pop all the champagne you need to on New Year’s), and holiday gear (decor, ornaments, lights, craft supplies, ribbons, and bows).  Call ahead for donation pre-approval to be sure your materials will be accepted.

4695 Telegraph Ave
Oakland 94609
510-547-6470

Raft Bay Area gives creative ideas, affordable project materials, mentoring, and professional development to educators.  You can donate normally discarded odds and ends to their learning centers, which turn into creative inspiration for young ones.  Holiday items like mini Christmas tree lights and packaging materials like collapsible boxes and decorative/gift boxes can be donated and dropped off at their their San Jose location.  Be sure to check their website to see what’s considered suitable for donation and for student use.

1355 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose 95131
408-451-1420

Waste to Waves

Did your family score with any big ticket items?  Computers and electronics and sixty inch televisions—all packed tightly in thick walls of polystyrene packaging foam (a.k.a. styrofoam)?  Most cities don’t allow styrofoam recycling but fortunately, the Northern California organization Waste to Waves accepts clean, white, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam—the same stuff used inside of EPS/epoxy surfboards—and they recycle the material into new surfboard blanks.  They have drop off locations throughout Northern and Southern California (including our faves Aqua Surf Shop in San Francisco and Proof Lab in Mill Valley), so you can put this normally discarded material to good use

surfboard

Lights Needn’t be Landfill

If you’re not sure what do with all of the holiday lights that helped you amp up the holiday cheer on your street (not to mention amping up your electric bill), Bay Area’s Green Citizen has multiple drop off “Eco-Center” locations including in San Francisco, Berkeley, Burlingame, Mountain View, and San Jose that accept Christmas lights.

590 Howard Street
San Francisco 94103
415-287-0000

Local ACE Hardware stores across the country are also collecting broken holiday light strings for recycling through their Lights for Life program.  The broken light strands are sold to recyclers for the copper they contain to help with financial assistance for families of children with cancer.

ChristmasLights

Old Greetings Become New

The St. Jude’s Ranch for Children recycled card program takes your old holiday (and all-occasion) greeting cards to create new ones, which are sold to support programs for abused, neglected and homeless children, young adults, and families.

Mail your donations to:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

Share your tips on where to recycle holiday goods in the comment section below. 

–Mae Respicio

Photo credit: Image 1 courtesy Jessica “The Hun” Reeder via Creative Commons Flickr; image 2 courtesy Johan via Creative Commons Flickr; image 3 courtesy Susan Sharpless Smith via Creative Commons Flickr.

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If the idea of another gaudy Christmas sweater from crazy Aunt Merna, trying to chisel through rock hard fruit cake, or dressing in adult-sized gift boxes for your mother-in-law’s yearly calendar project have you longing for some simpler (and more pleasing) holiday traditions, look no further than North Bay’s Sonoma County.  With many quaint downtown areas and fresh Christmas tree lots in abundance, it’s worth the drive (at least 45 minutes north of the city) where you’re likely to find some new holiday customs for the whole family to enjoy.

lot
Walk
Yountville’s 25th Annual Festival of Lights along Washington Street kicks off their month-long Winterfest with visits from Santa, old fashioned carriage rides, foodie-approved noshing, treats for the kiddos and for the grown-ups—wine (it is Napa Valley, after all).  During the evening of the festival, the main strip comes alive with thousands of twinkling lights, perfect for a little jingle bell walk.

Yountville’s Festival of Lights
November 25, 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Along Washington St.

yountville2
Shop
Downtown Petaluma hosts its annual Holiday Open House, a perfect place for an old fashioned Christmas feeling with yummy food all day long, shopping, carriage rides, face painting, balloon art and of course, shopping.  The Holiday Open House is followed by a lighted boat parade starting at 6:00pm.  Bonus: on December 21st more than 25 Petaluma Downtown merchants on Kentucky and Western Streets and Petaluma Boulevard will be open until 9 pm, while local caroling groups spread holiday cheer (and cheer you on as you get through your shopping.  The complimentary cookies, hot spiced cider, and a roasted chestnuts cart are also good motivators!).

Downtown Petaluma Holiday Open House
December 7, all day.  A good place to start is at Petaluma Plaza
N. McDowell Blvd. & E. Washington St.

hot_chocolate
Pick (and Cut)
Sure, Home Depot’s an easy place to find your family’s yearly Christmas tree but what’s missing is the full holiday effect: a drive through bucolic scenery, the smell of freshly cut trees, and green landscape as far as the eye can see.  Head to Petaluma or Sebastopol where the Christmas Tree lots—and the candy canes—are aplenty.  Grandma Buddy’s Christmas Trees in Sebastopol has an array of “choose and cut” trees, not to mention a beautiful setting of old barns to capture some special moments on film—no filter required.

Grandma Buddy’s Christmas Trees
8575 Graton Rd.
Sebastopol 95472
707-823-4547

xmastrees_barn
Skate
Charlie Brown has helped many kiddos over the years discover the true meaning of Christmas.  Why not surprise your family with a day of Peanuts nostalgia, winter ice skating and mugs of steaming goodness (with marshmallows on top) all rolled into one?  The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa will spark happy memories of Schulz’s beloved characters while right next door is Snoopy’s Home Ice, an arena that offers a full range of skating activities.  Top off your visit at Warm Puppy Café for everything from hot chocolate and snacks to a full meal.

Charles M. Schulz Museum
2301 Hardies Ln.
Santa Rosa 95403
707-579-4452

Snoopy’s Home Ice
1667 W. Steele Ln.
Santa Rosa 95403
707-546-7147


What are some of your favorite, local holiday traditions?

-Mae Respicio

Photo credits:  Image 2 courtesy of Yountville Chamber of Commerce (Jason Tinacci Photography); image 5 courtesy of Charles M. Schulz Museum.  All others courtesy of Mae Respicio.

Hang Ten At the Bay Area’s Coolest Surf Shops

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The calendar may say it’s almost summer, but dip your toes into the ocean next time you’re at the beach and the freezing ocean temps are sure to send you scrambling back up the shore–not like that’s going to stop our little beach bums from spending an entire day playing “don’t touch the wave.” For those seeking to get off the shore and into the swells, you’ll want to be properly outfitted before paddling out to catch your first waves. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the Bay Area’s best surf shops to gear up your groms (that’s slang for young surfers). Staffed by local surfers and expert sales people, these shops have all the suits, boards, and wax you need to start hanging ten while keeping them from going numb.

Aqua-Boards

San Francisco

Aqua Surf Shop
You can see Ocean Beach right from Aqua Surf Shop, so the family can get everything they need and into the waves in no time.  Like any true neighborhood store, this cozy place knows their products and they’re happy to share their knowledge in a mellow but expert way (one of the owners is a dad himself).  They have a reasonably priced selection of boards and wetsuits for rental—a lot of parents who shop here also end up renting wetsuits for kiddos to use during swim lessons at local pools.

Bonus: the San Francisco Zoo is right across the street!  (Go for it!)

2830 Sloat Boulevard
San Francisco
415-242-9283

Aqua-Mural

North Bay

Northern Lights
Northern Lights wants to remind everyone: “Why shop at some corporate mall?  Support your local surf shop!”  This is the place to do it.  They have everything right down to the smallest surfer details for the littlest of surfers-in-training: boards and even posters, magazines, jewelry, and sunblock.  In case your kids decide they’re into land more than water, be sure to ask about their “buy back” program.  (If only music stores did that with tubas.)

17191 Bodega Highway
Bodega
707-876-3032

Live Water
Here’s your classic surf shop in an iconic beach town.  The store is located on the main strip of Stinson Beach with a big selection of gear—for buying and renting—and the knowledge to help your kids and family find the best board, wetsuits, and accessories at whatever their level.  When you’re done, head across the street straight for the beach!

Insider tip: try to go early to get suited up; they seem to get busy in the afternoons during peak season and in this tiny surfside town, parking in front of the store can get tricky.

3448 Shoreline Highway
Stinson Beach
415-868-0333

Live-Water-Shop

2 Mile Surf Shop
In the small surfing community of Bolinas you’ll find 2 Mile Surf Shop, a store that caters to all kinds of water lovers.  If your kiddos want to try an ocean sport but are on the newer end, you’ve found the right place with their broad collection of new and used boards (surf, skim, boogie, paddle), for purchase or rent.  Ask them about surf camps for kids and even group instruction.  The best part?  When you’re done, the waves are only 522 steps away.

22 Brighton Avenue
Bolinas
415-868-0264

Sonoma Coast Surf & Skate
Before visiting Sonoma Coast Surf & Skate, have your kids watch the “videos of the week” on their website, which is sure to rev them up.  This store is on the smaller end but it doesn’t stop them from providing a range of rash guards and wetsuits for kids, and friendly staff to help them find the right fit.  When the shopping’s done, you’re lucky to be right in the middle of walkable downtown Petaluma, where along the same strip you’ll find Fruit in Motion (smoothies of all kinds) and even Brian’s Comics (reading for all fankind), so everyone’s happy!

9 Fourth Street
Petaluma
707-763-3860

Surf-Shop-Int
Proof Lab
Surf, skate, art—even music lessons and beach clean ups—Proof Lab has it all.  They’re compound-like with separate areas for different needs (rentals, clothing, even skate lessons) so there’s a ton to see and choose from.  They host events year round, everything from crab feeds to ping pong tourneys and skate contests.  When you’re done shopping, check out GROW, an art and garden education center founded by Proof Lab and conveniently located right next door.

254 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley
415-380-8900

Proof-Lab
South Bay

NorCal Surf Shop
Where else would you go surf shopping in Northern California other than a place called NorCal Surf Shop?  This Pacifica staple stocks over 200 surfboards, not to mention an added bonus of all kinds of gear for your skaters-in-training too (right down to the half pipe in back where they teach lessons).  Kids have plenty to love about this place, plus the store has rentals and lessons to get your family into the ocean right away.

5460 Coast Highway
Pacifica
650-738-9283

Fun-with-Rash-Guards
Where do you like to buy your summer beach gear?

–Mae Respicio

Photo credit: all images by Mae Respicio.