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Have you heard? Heymama is launching a chapter in San Francisco this month! To welcome our new members—and entice other heymamas to vacation on the West Coast—we’re presenting an in-depth weekend guide to scenic Marin County, just over an hour’s drive from the Golden City. Your local experts: Courtney Leary, Cynthia Pillsbury and Jen Lane, the trio of mom founders behind Oliver Guide. (That’s Jen pictured above with her son, Jack.) Launched in 2017 and based in San Francisco and Marin County, Oliver Guide is a platform for trading travel recommendations with friends and other likeminded adventurers. Start packing!

Weekend guide to California’s Marin County—with or without kids

GETTING THERE

We recommend flying into San Francisco International Airport, which allows you to cross the stunning Golden Gate Bridge en route. (Oakland is an alternate airport option, but the area tends to get snarled in traffic.) Since Marin comprises several small towns, you’ll need a car—or car service—to really see the sights.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Cavallo Point, Sausalito: the most luxurious accommodations in Marin. With a high-end spa, delicious food and beautiful private setting hidden away from the town center, it’s ideal for a couples’ getaway.
  • Waters Edge Hotel, Tiburon: Here you’ll get great views and convenience—not to mention complimentary breakfast delivery in your room. The hotel is walking distance to shops and restaurants, as well as the ferry.
  • The Lodge at Tiburon: This is the spot for travelers on a budget—or who are just looking for a comfy place to crash. Rooms here are basic but inviting, and amenities include a pool and a tavern serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like Waters Edge, The Lodge is within walking distance to town attractions.

WHERE TO GRAB LUNCH

  • FISH, Sausalito: Swing by this place on a sunny afternoon or early evening and enjoy fresh, delicious seafood on decks beside the bay. FISH is a bit pricey for the casual atmosphere (and cash-only), but we say it’s worth it.
  • Luna Blu, Tiburon: Also offering deck seating, Luna Blu specializes in Italian-style seafood. The owners are lovely (and make some of the best tomato soup we’ve ever tasted). Space is limited, so call ahead for reservations, whether you’re planning a fun ladies’ lunch or a family supper with well-behaved kids.
  • Shoreline Coffee Shop, Mill Valley: This hole-in-the-wall gem is one of the county’s best breakfast, brunch, lunch spots. Fresh, organic ingredients with a Mexican twist, served up in a casual “everyone knows your name” atmosphere, make it an ideal stop after an early-morning hike—or a very late night on the town.
  • Parkside Cafe and Siren Canteen, Stinson Beach: Take your pick of irresistible baked goods, salads and smoothies at Parkside, or delicious tacos and other Mexican treats at Siren Canteen. You’ll have to wait on nice days, but the views are so good you won’t mind.
  • Michael’s Sourdough, San Rafael: Chow down on the world’s best deli sandwiches, served on Michael’s housemade signature bread.
  • Urban Remedy, with locations in Mill Valley, Larkspur and San Rafael, is where wellness junkies go to grab soups, salads, juices and bars.

BEST RESTAURANTS FOR DINNER

  • Picco, Larkspur: Located in Cynthia’s hometown, Picco is an institution that never disappoints. The restaurant’s signature tuna tartar and avocado bruschetta make a scrumptious start to a memorable meal. The place is always packed, so make a reservation or grab a table at Pizzeria Picco, their sister spot next door.
  • Village Sake, Fairfax: When it comes to sushi, most people in Marin recommend Sushi Ran. We prefer the more underground vibe of Village Sake. Located in crunchy downtown Fairfax, it feels a million miles removed from busy San Francisco. The sake alone will transport you.
  • Farley Bar at Cavallo Point: Get here early to snag an outdoor table on the deck; there’s no better way to catch the sunset than with a tangle of truffle fries and a glass of wine. 
  • Buckeye, Mill Valley: Here you’ll enjoy traditional upscale dining in a cozy setting—think big fireplace and gorgeous seasonal decorations. The lively bar makes Buckeye a good pick for date night, while the kid-friendly brunch brings in families.
  • Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael: Head here if you’re a music fan. Owned by Grateful Dead cofounder Phil Lesh, this restaurant/performance venue is a great spot to catch live acts. A large protected lawn and play structure lets kids burn off energy while adults kick back in Adirondack chairs.
  • Playa, Mill Valley: Upscale Mexican food in the heart of town. Don’t overthink it. Order the steak and a margarita pitcher.
  • Perry’s, Larkspur: upscale comfort food for a casual family dinner. Head here on Wednesdays for half off bottles of wine.
  • Marin Joe’s, Larkspur: This Marin original is where old-school natives congregate. Belly up to the bar and treat yourself to a martini and Caesar salad.
  • Beerworks, Mill Valley: It’s not just about the amazing brews. Some of our favorite meals have been had at this snug Mill Valley spot!
  • Cucina, San Anselmo: Italian classics served right—in a quaint, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Pizzalina, San Anselmo: Wood-fired goodness for the kids, with a frozen yogurt spot right next door.
  • Avatars Indian, Sausalito, Mill Valley and Larkspur: This incredible family-owned chainlet dishes up authentic samosas, curries and more.
  • Farm Shop, Marin Country Mart: Great for group dinners and drinks—order a few pizzas and lots of small plates to share.

GET MOVING

  • Marin is all about the hikes! One of our faves: Baldy Mountain. Starting at Phoenix Lake in Ross, the trek takes about 1.5 hours round trip. Wear sunscreen and a hat—the hike is exposed. Add a stop in downtown San Anselmo and try the famous Chinese Chicken Salad from Comforts.
  • Tennessee Valley: another favorite spot to hike. Head any direction from the Tennessee Valley parking lot and you’ll be blown away by views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco. For a treat, replenish with a cold beer at Pelican Inn.
  • Climb the Dipsea stairs. Rising from downtown Mill Valley, the steps lead to a spectacular network of trails on Mount Tam.  America’s oldest trail race, the Dipsea Race, happens every June. Want to compete this year? Apply for entry starting March 15.
  • Run, walk or bike the Tiburon bike path that begins at Blackie’s Pasture and points toward downtown Tiburon. A park along the way and pastries at the end—from Caffe Acri—should keep everyone motivated.
  • Pilates ProWorks is the best Pilates workout to kickstart your day … and leave you sore for a week! To get your om on, we recommend Now Power Yoga.
  • Sea Trek, Sausalito: Rent stand-up paddleboards or kayaks, then explore the Bay on your own or join up with a trip. The moonlight kayak is especially fun.

SHOP & CHILL

  • Marin Country Mart, Larkspur: Think of this outdoor shopping destination as a cool anti-mall. Highlights include the clothing and home boutiques (Roberta Roller Rabbit, Hudson Grace, Intermix) and George — thee place to shop for your four-legged friend. A Saturday farmer’s market has face-painting for kids.
  • The shops in downtown Mill Valley (Carolina, Summer House, Guideboat and Bloomingayle’s at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard, 7 on Locust, Stick & Ball and Poet and the Bench are favorites) and downtown Larkspur (we love Haven!) are great places to pick up some “souvenirs” for yourself.
  • The Hivery, Mill Valley: This inspiring female-only coworking space offers amazing events and speakers. Check out their calendar before your trip.
  • Seaplane Adventures, Mill Valley: truly no better way to “sea” the beauty of Marin.
  • Ferry ride into the city from downtown Tiburon for dinner or lunch at the ferry building or just for a round-trip activity with kids. Wine, beer and snacks are served on board.
  • Venture to Angel Island via the Angel Island Ferry from downtown Tiburon. Hike or bike the area,  or just sprawl out on the big green lawn. On Friday and Saturday nights in summer, enjoy the Angel Island Ferry Sunset Cruise. Really fun to pack a picnic and float around the Bay.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito: world-class hands-on children’s museum with a view of the San Francisco and Golden Gate bridges.
  • Take in a concert at Sweetwater, an amazing music venue in downtown Mill Valley. Look close and you may spot Phil Lesh in the audience.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • It’s best to avoid driving around 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, when school lets out and traffic backs up throughout the towns.
  • No matter the season, you will likely need a coat. Pack layers!
  • Marin is super casual. Jeans are almost always appropriate.

Want more vacation motivation from heymama? Here’s how time off makes you a better boss.

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