Ever stopped in the heart of San Rafael to explore?  Gerstle Park, with its lovely Victorians, is the perfect neighborhood for just that.  The Italian community who once lived there made their own wine, and you can still find grapevines growing in some backyards.

What to do: Stroll along the tree-lined streets and you’ll come to the eponymous playground with its great play areas for both tots and older kids.  It even has a resident dragon to climb on!

Next stop is WildCare, adjacent to Albert Park. A favorite spot on the Marin field-trip circuit, this wildlife rehabilitation center is staffed primarily by volunteers who tend to the sick animals (now you know who to call the next time you find an ailing skunk under your porch). Drop-in visitors are not permitted in the hospital, but you can say hello to the wood duck, ground squirrel, barn owl, and others in their homes around the courtyard.  Be there at 12:30 or 4:30 for feeding time for the pelican and cormorants.  Admission is free, but they do have a donation box.

How to get there: San Rafael is located in lovely Marin County, only about twenty minutes north of San Francisco on the 101.

When to go: Gerstle park is lovely to visit any day of the week, and WildCare is open 9 am- 5 pm, 7 days a week, which is convenient for families with busy schedules!

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Where to grab a bite: At lunchtime, head to Muffin Mania, famous for its irresistible vegan muffins and other delights. There are high chairs and you can eat outside, reliving your fun outing just south of San Rafael’s central downtown.

How to dress: Since this is such a play-happy day, wear comfortable, can-be-dirtied clothes for both you and your tot.

Cost of trip: Potentially free! Unless you’re lured in by the tantalizing goodies at Muffin Mania.

Bonus: Check out their monthly Family Adventures: this July they are touring the seashore to look for creepy-crawly creatures. All Wildcare Family Adventures are in English and Español.

Online: http://www.justplaygrounds.com/play/sanrafael/gerstle/index.htm

http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/site/PageServer?pagename=homepage

—Annie Sheldon