San Rafael Travel Guide

  • View from the top down to SF and bay area
    View from the top down to SF and bay...
    by Rebecca76
  • San Rafael, Marin County Civic Center, exterior
    San Rafael, Marin County Civic Center,...
    by egonwegh
  • California poppies
    California poppies
    by karenincalifornia

San Rafael Highlights

  • Pro
    karenincalifornia profile photo

    karenincalifornia says…

     Mediterranean type weather, beautiful scenery, local news that reads like a comedy 

  • Con
    karenincalifornia profile photo

    karenincalifornia says…

     No ice skating rink, NIMBYism 

  • In a nutshell
    Segolily profile photo

    Segolily says…

     The other end of San Francisco Bay 

San Rafael Things to Do

  • San Rafael Mission

    Originally a sub mission to San Francsico's Mission Dolores, San Rafael Arcángel was established as an independent mission in 1822. In 1834 San Rafael's mission was the first to be secularized by the Mexican government, and by 1844 it was abandoned. In 1863, President Lincoln signed an act returning all 21 of California's missions to the Catholic...

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  • China Camp Park

    Buckeye Point is part of China Camp State Park. I like this spot, kinda, because it is a short walk to the water, and it has an outdoor shower. Also a restroom. It's hardly used so there normally are few people, if not none at all. But it has its deficiencies. There is no real beach, so it's not a super easy launch. The water is shallow, and there...

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  • Looney Lu'au

    Here are the hard-working Hostesses of the event! Jessica was the PASTRY CHEF EXTRAORDINAIRE and baked all kinds of wonderful, exotic goodies! Annapet was her usual Galloping Gourmet Chef and prepared wonderful Hawaiian delicacies for us. Baby Chito just did what he does best: Pose there and look GOOOOOOD!!! ;-)

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  • San Quentin State Prison

    San Quentin State Prison is located just a few miles from San Rafael. It was opened in 1852 and is the oldest prison still in use in California. San Quentin is most famous as being California's male death row and is where all of the state's executions are carried out. Famous prisoners included country singer Merle Haggard, cult leader Charles...

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  • Marin County Center

    Public library at the Marin County Civic Center. Not a spectacular collection, but a great spot for a library, the room is right underneath the cupola of this amazing building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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  • Muir Beach

    John Muir was a Scottish-born naturalist and preservationist who helped protect the Yosemite Valley. When the last stand of redwoods was preserved in the area immediately north of San Francisco in the early 1900s, the land owners chose to name the area after Muir to preserve his legacy. Muir Woods National Monument was created by President...

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San Rafael Hotels

San Rafael Restaurants

  • Red Boy Pizza

    First off, this place rocks. I dont make travelogue for nothing. Best pizza I have had west of the hills. Set up with sidewalk seating this was a truly wonderful way to spend the evening with Mark, Jess, Jackie and Wayne. We tried two creations. BBQ chicken and the Devils Dare. I can't tell you much about the Devil's Dare as they thankfully...

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  • Shewarma/Gyro

    Falafel Hut is an absolute delight, bang in the middle of downtown San rafael, this is an amazing place for Gyros, shawarma and kababs. Chicken shawarma and Veg hummus with falafel. They have a spicy sauce at the tables that is to be used liberally till you have a runny nose for absolute pleasure.

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  • Yummy Korean food - and lots of it!

    My family dragged me here after insisting I would have no problem finding vegetarian items on the menu. They were right!This restaurant serves delicious barbecued foods, sizzling plates, and tempura. You will not leave hungry. For $8.95, you will get a huge plate of grilled meats or tofu, rice, and veggies. Even my 16 year old son couldn't clean...

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San Rafael Nightlife

  • Hang out on Fourth Street

    For nightlife in San Rafael, you can hang out on Fourth Street. The people here are very interesting, and food is pretty good. Have dinner and drinks at the Broken Drum Brewpub on Fourth Street next to the Rafael Theatre. Catch a flick at the theatre and get a latte at Starbucks.

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  • What happens when the sun goes down?

    As the sun sets over the Miwok Meadows Lu'au, it sets the mood........what else is there to do but CRANK up the music and Dance our arses off !!!(Music courtesy of Don Guan Productions)

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  • In San Rafael proper, there...

    In San Rafael proper, there are a couple places for live music, but neither of them are very savory to me.New Georges, and it's been there since I was a teenager. Sometimes they have good bands play, but the atmosphere has always felt a little grimy...4th Street Tavern in San Rafael too. They have live music, but again, the atmosphere is less than...

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San Rafael Transportation

  • Larkspur Ferry

    One day I took the Larkspur Ferry from San Rafael in to San Francisco. $6.75 for one way it was much less hectic than driving plus free parking. I sat out front and watched the scenery go by, but most of the ferry (pedestrian only) was enclosed and protected from the weather. There was a bar which I didn't visit. It was about a half hour quiet and...

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  • Take the Ferry here and away.

    Not sure if this is really in San Rafael or near but I stayed in San Rafael and used the ferry, so this is where I put the tip.To and from San Francisco and the Giants game.

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  • Major Transit Center

    San Rafael has a great transit center, named after a former mayor, C. Paul Bettini, and located at 3rd and Hetherton. It's a main transfer point for the Golden Gate Transit bus system, which serves Marin County and San Francisco.You can also get to San Rafael from San Francisco International Airport, via the Marin Airporter, and from Oakland...

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San Rafael Shopping

  • Stellar Breads and Pastries

    If you're craving some really good bread or pastries for your picnic or a snack, stop by Ponsford's Place, a tiny neighborhood bakery owned by Craig Ponsford, one of the shining stars of artisan baking in the U.S. As a young man in 1996, Ponsford won a gold medal for his breads in the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris, the first...

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  • Every GREAT town has used CD dealer

    Hoping to find that classic LP or CD that you can't get even on Amazon.com or eBay? Check out Red Devil Records, which has a large selection of LPs and a more limited selection of used CDs. My husband is a huge fan of used CDs an taught me that a used CD warehouse is the place to come for the best deals on the classic CDs. Rumor has it that Mike...

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  • You might find that LP you've been...

    If you are one of the rare people who still has a working turntable, this store is for you. Red Devil carries a sizeable collection of used LPs. They have a few used CDs, too, that can be picked up for $5.99 to $7.99 each. Red Devil also sells new releases, but you'll have to pay full retail, which is hard to do, considering you never have to pay...

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San Rafael Local Customs

  • Italian Street Painting Festival

    Every year, on the second weekend of June (one weekend before Father's Day), the City of San Rafael holds the annual Italian Street Painting Festival. The festival draws about 60,000 people and benefits Youth in Arts, a nonprofit organization that funds, you guessed it, arts programs for the youth.The artists use chalk and the artwork is amazing!...

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  • Greek Festival

    Just north of San Rafael in the neighborhood of Ignacio is the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Church. Every Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May), the church hosts a Greek Festival. The food is fabulous - it's all home cooked by the parishioners, most of whom are Greek - and it's authentic! Come by for a good time and lots of great food,...

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  • Celebrating Serbian Christmas in San...

    Serbian Christmas - Jan 7, 2004Cesnica1 package yeast1/4 cup warm water3 tablespoons sugar2 eggs (beaten)3/4 cup milk (warmed)1 cup warm water1/2 cup butter (1 cube - melted)4 cups bread flour1 egg (beaten - for brushing on dough)Dissolve sugar in 1/4 cup warm water and sugar. Combine all ingredients (except for third egg) and knead by hand or in...

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San Rafael Warnings and Dangers

  • Food / Drink

    This is an Alton Brown recipe, "Moo-less Chocolate Pie." It turned out delicious! 2 cups chocolate chips, 1/3 cup coffee liqueur 1 block silken tofu 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon honey 1 prepared chocolate wafer crust Place a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate and coffee liqueur in the bowl. Stir in...

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  • A word about straying off the trails...

    Actually 3 words.Don't do it!Our ecosystem in the open spaces of San Rafael is very fragile. Damage and scars caused by foot traffic or mountain bikes off designated trails and fire roads take years to repair.See link below for more information on the type of damage the area has suffered.

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  • Chocolate coffee pie

    This is an Alton Brown recipe, "Moo-less Chocolate Pie." It turned out delicious!2 cups chocolate chips,1/3 cup coffee liqueur1 block silken tofu1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 tablespoon honey1 prepared chocolate wafer crustPlace a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate and coffee liqueur in the bowl. Stir in...

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San Rafael Tourist Traps

  • Rixie's Profile Photo

    by Rixie Written Mar 12, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    On Fourth Street next to the Courthouse Square, there's a Cold Stone store -- the much-touted new chain that's the Benihana of ice cream. At Cold Stone you choose a flavor of ice cream and whatever additions you fancy (fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.), and they mix it for you with paddles on a marble slab.

    It's very showy but incredibly expensive: $3.09 for the equivalent of a single scoop (and one free addition) in a cup. A cone and extra additions cost more, so you could theoretically end up with a $7 ice cream cone.

    The ice cream is only okay, nothing special; you could get the same quality from the dairy case at 7 Eleven.

    Unique Suggestions: 1) Skip the coconut, which tastes like shredded styrofoam.
    2) Remind yourself that you're on vacation, when even overrated, overpriced experiences are entertaining.
    3) Walk around the corner, up A Street to 5th Avenue. There's a tiny park with benches next to the parking garage where you can sit in the shade and consume your $7 cone. Then go across the street to Mission San Rafael and visit the chapel and museum.

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San Rafael Off The Beaten Path

  • Mission Dolores

    While Mission Dolores is off the beaten path for San Rafael it is right in the heart of history of the San Francisco area. This was the first white settlement in the Bay area. Begun in 1776, while Jefferson and friends were fighting for freedom from England Father Francisco Palou celebrated Mass. Dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi it is where San...

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  • The Rouge et Noir Cheese Factory

    Take a drive out the Marin County backroads to visit the Rouge et Noir cheese factory. They make tasty brie and camembert. You can tour the facilities, buy some lunch and eat by the pond, feeding the extra bits of your baguette to the ducks!7500 Red Hill Road Petaluma, CA 94952

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  • Marin Sunrise

    I'm a sunrise freak. Odd as it sounds, my day just doesn't feel right if I don't get up in the dark. On weekends, I enjoy trekking up to the second highest peak in Marin with a flashlight and my Mp3 player. Or I'll just enjoy the sounds of nature - the wild turkeys, cooing doves and occasional peacock make their three part harmony of sorts. The...

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San Rafael Sports & Outdoors

  • I love my gym

    Nautilus of Marin is in the heart of downtown San Rafael. It's a great gym with not only plenty of weight training and cardio equipment, but a WIIIIDE array of classes from martial arts to yoga. From pilates to Fencing. Workout Equipment includes:Nautilus Cybex Hammer Strength Life Circuit Olympic Free Weights Cardio Center Includes:Entertainment...

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  • Stand up Paddle (SUP) at China Camp

    China Camp State Park is an excellent spot for launching a stand up paddleboard into San Pablo Bay, which is in the northern part of San Francisco Bay. The beach is a very easy launch. From there, one can paddle south to San Rafael, or north to Novato. Along the way are scenic cliffs and marshes. Many species of birds hang out here. I"ve even seen...

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  • San Geronimo Golf Course

    San Geronimo GC isn't right IN San Rafael, but I'm too lazy to do a separate page on the tiny Marin town of San Geronimo. We're close enough, anyway...San Geronimo is a fairly challenging (rating/slope 73.8/135 from tourney tees) 18 hole golf course nestled in a small heavily wooded valley between San Rafael and the coast. When I play here, I feel...

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San Rafael Favorites

  • Marin County Info

    San Rafael began flourishing as a city in the mid 1800's. The late 1800's attracted a lot of new residents, and many Victorian houses from that era have remained. Here in California, we think this is old. This Victorian house is now the Marin County Museum. The museum is small but does offer some tidbits of information.

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  • Even more extreme than San Francisco

    How can anything be more extreme than San Francisco? Well, San Rafael is, but only if you are referring to the weather. In the winter, San Rafael is colder and wetter than San Francisco. In the summer, San Rafael is hotter and dryer. Each area in the Bay Area has its own microclimates, and the differences between San Francisco and Marin County...

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  • Sunrise over San Pablo Bay

    San Rafael sits on the shores of San Pablo Bay, which is part of the greater San Francisco Bay. Parts of San Rafael have been developed right up to the shoreline. The southern and northern marshes, on the other hand, have been protected, creating a permanent refuge for wildlife and a place to admire natural beauty.This picture was taken in the...

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