Explore: Downtown Mill Valley


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Even if you’re not lucky enough to live in Mill Valley and enjoy the good schools and great weather year-round, this charming town, with its bustling, kid-friendly downtown, has so much to offer families with young kids. Here are a few of our favorite spots for families to eat, shop, and play!

Go: Year-round! Mill Valley has plenty to offer, rain or shine.

Approximate travel time: Mill Valley is located about 4 miles north of San Francisco.

Possible lunch spots: There’s no end to the fabulous food options in Mill Valley! Not just a brunch institution, Toast Café on Sunnyside Avenue serves upscale diner classics at lunch and dinner too.  The affordable prices and fun children’s menu makes this a popular first stop for families during a day out in Mill Valley.  Mickey Mouse Pancakes will appeal to a hungry tyke’s eyes and stomach!  Or, head to Avatar’s Punjabi Burritos on Madrona Street for a South Asian spin on the taqueria classic.  Their basic burrito is filled with curried chickpeas, saffron rice, yogurt, and tamarind sauce, for starters.  If anyone in your family has a special diet, Avatar’s can accommodate your needs by making the burrito vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free. Small Shed Flatbreads is also located on Madrona and is a popular spot for families who dig the organic pizzas, salads and meatballs. There’s also the new Charlie Hong Kong, offering organic Asian street cuisine, and Champagne French Bakery and Cafe, which has yummy soup, salad, and sandwich staples and a counter-order service.

For dessert, head to Noci (formerly called Cici) on East Blithedale  for amazing, flavorful gelato. The sweet stop uses all-natural, organic and local produce whenever possible, so you and the kids can indulge guilt-free! (They’re also pretty understanding when it comes to kids and taster spoons–there’s just so many great flavors!)

Where to shop: For a kid-friendly shopping tour of downtown, start at Mill Valley Mercantile on Throckmorton Avenue to pick up a gorgeous newborn layette set from France or the perfect gift for the silver spoon crowd.  Walk down towards Miller Avenue and take a right to visit Baby & Kids Company, a large and airy boutique that carries all the designer brands when it comes to furniture, clothes, accessories, and toys.  Next stop is Henry’s Toy Shop, just a few blocks south.  Your kid will be positively overwhelmed in this fun store: Every nook and cranny is filled with items from an amazing collection of toys–from the classic Tinker Toy Set, to science projects and princess dolls.  Head back north to The Depot Bookstore and Café (pictured), a family-owned business in the old train depot station that sits in the center of town.  The bookstore takes pride in its carefully curated children’s section and friendly atmosphere.

Get an afternoon caffeine fix: Stop for a latte (and a hot chocolate for the kiddies) at Lacoppa Coffee (on the corner of Miller and Throckmorton Aves.), or take advantage of the café in The Depot Bookstore.

Where to play:After your morning of shopping, pop outside to Lytton Square, the lively plaza that sits next to The Depot Bookstore.  While there is no playground on the square, there are plenty of kids having their own fun without the equipment, in addition to friendly dogs, babies in strollers, and people-watching passers-by.

For extra fun: Mill Valley’s movie theatre–Cinearts at Sequoia–is more than 80 years old and offers choice independent movies. Also, the Mill Valley city website keeps a handy, regularly-updated list of current events for children and families.

Online: http://www.cityofmillvalley.org/

P.S. – Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais is host to the locally famous Mountain Play in the late spring/early summer. For more information, check out Explore: The Mountain Play, Mt. Tam.

—Sarah K. Choi

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