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To some residents of San Rafael, the Marin County Civic Center is a fine example of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural genius. (It was the last building he designed before his death.) To others, this is simply a place where we have to do jury duty.
The Civic Center has a surprisingly good cafeteria and gift shop.
Updated Dec 18, 2003
Address: San Rafael, just off the 101
Not all hiking trails in the San Rafael area permit bicycles. If you are not familiar with the bike trails, it is best to pick up a Marin County Bicycle Trail Guide at one of the San Rafael bike shops.
The trail in this picture allows mountain bikes.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
San Rafael is about 30 minutes from the Pacific Coast beaches, and 20 minutes from Point Reyes National Seashore. See my page on Olema for things to do at the Point Reyes National Seashore.
This picture is taken from San Rafael looking westward. The Pacific Ocean and Point Reyes National Seashore are just beyond the hills.
Written Dec 17, 2003
Address: West Marin County
San Rafael has an abundance of hiking trails. Over the years, Marin County has purchased thousands of acres of open space, now accessible to the public. Thanks to these efforts, San Rafael now has miles of trails interconnecting the hills and neighborhoods.
Updated Dec 17, 2003
Address: Throughout Marin and San Rafael
Every year, the Youth in Arts Council holds the Italian Street Painting Festival in downtown San Rafael.
This year's festival is June 14-15, 2003.
Three blocks of streets in the center of town are closed off to traffic, and are marked off as large squares. Starting on Friday night, artists take their spaces (purchased by sponsors beforehand) and start their artwork. They work throughout the weekend, and thousands of people attend to watch the artists work and revel in their talents. It's so much fun!
Updated Apr 10, 2003
Address: Downtown San Rafael -- you cannot miss it.
This annual weekend art festival, sponsored by the non-profit Youth in Arts, features huge chalk "paintings" that are done directly on the street, an art form imported from Italy. The festival showcases the work of talented Madonnari (street painters), and some of the art is amazing. It's hard to accept that none of it is permanent.
There is also live music, food, and wine. Usually held in early June. Proceeds benefit Youth in Arts programs.
For more photos of the festival, see my Italian Street Painting travelogue.
Updated Jun 10, 2007
Address: Downtown San Rafael
The Marin Headlands Park is new and fairly unknown. We went there to see the seals which were the highlight of the day. But there were other things to do as well. We started at Golden Gate Bridge overlooking the entrance to the Bay. It is hard to miss that. But right away we were in a military bunker. Pocketed all along the strait dating from 1908, to WW1 and WW2 to more advanced Nike rockets were military bunkers and old gun placements. It was fascinating to imagine soldiers manning these places looking for attacks that never came.
Next was the Light House at Point Bonita. It was a short walk to the bridge which took us over the rocks to the lighthouse. Only two people at a time here so there was a little wait. We watched the ships coming and going into the bay. Then the walk down to the shore to see the seals and explore the tidal pools. Lunch was overlooking the ocean at another gun battery.
There is a great little visitors center with interactive displays about flora and fauna and the native peoples who populated this area. There were herons and fox at the lagoon and people flying kites on Rodeo Beach. Truly an interesting area, within sight of San Francisco but a world away.
Written Oct 28, 2006
The San Andreas Fault separates Point Reyes and Tomales Peninsulas from the mainland. We made our way across the fault at Inverness, and like the town in Scotland the road followed a narrow body of water north. We left Point Reyes and the seashore and lighthouse there for another day. We headed North. We passed dairy farms still operating (H and F) and stopped at the empty one at the end of the road. This was the old Pierce Point Dairy Farm and the buildings are in good condition. Signs explain the different activities of each building. Considering the road we had traveled in modern car over paved roads we marveled at the remoteness of this place when it would have been in full operation. The butter they produced was shipped to San Francisco.
We were able to see several groups of elk. There were two or three bull elk bugling and keeping their herds separate from each other.
You can walk the length of the penisula- about a 9 mile hike with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. We chose instead to head down to McClure beach. This is only one of several beaches on the peninsulas. It was a gentle quarter mile hike down to the shore of wide and soft sand where we sat on a log all afternoon. We watched the waves come in and saw some whales blowing off shore but never saw more than four other people. Swimming is not recommended due to currents. There was no charge for the farm or the Elk Preserve when we were there.
On the way back we stopped to shop at Point Reyes Station. A small town with California flavor. For shopping or eating it is the place to be.
Updated Oct 28, 2006
Officially called the John F. McCarthy Memorial Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge opened in 1956, and it supports a 5.5 mile span of Interstate-580. It is the northernmost span over the San Francisco Bay and has two lanes of traffic in each direction as will as two passageways for ships.
The $4 toll is applied westbound only.
Written Jul 6, 2007
McNear's Beach is a very easy spot for launching a stand up paddleboard. This is part of the Marin County Park system. The beach is a close walk from the parking lot, and has an outdoor shower. Launching is easy whether it's low or high tide. That's because there is a real beach there, not just the usual mud that makes up most of the shoreline in San Pablo Bay. The water can be a bit choppier than China Camp, just a little farther north. From here, you can paddle out to The Sisters, south to San Rafael, or north to Gallinas Creek.
One thing I like about this area is the few number of boats. Of course, if you are tempted to cross over to the other side, you'll need to watch out for those high speed Vallejo ferries. Also the current in the middle of the Bay, even San Pablo Bay can be quite strong. Consider that this is the single point where the Petaluma, Napa and Sacramento Rivers and all their tributaries converge.
I also like that fact that the San Pablo Bay is really large. I've paddled quite far from shore, perhaps a mile or more - not right at McNears but farther north, and I haven't even made a dent in the Bay at that point. Another plus - I haven't known anyone to be cited for not wearing a PFD. I will usually wear one, particularly if I feel like venturing far from shore. However, the few other paddlers out there usually don't.
Written Feb 9, 2011
Four Points By Sheraton San Rafael San Rafael
2 Reviews and 238 Opinions We stayed at this hotel for one weekday night in August, 2008. We paid $91 USD total on a priceline...
2 Reviews and 242 Opinions I live in san Rafael. I know San Rafael quite well. This is the best hotel in San Rafael for...