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Summer Nights: Free Outdoor Movies for Kids

Spread your blanket and start packing the cooler for dinner because movie night in the park is back. Free outdoor movies are the ultimate summer kickback, making you feel like you’re already on vacation – or living the small-town life with friendly neighbors. Here’s your guide to the best places to catch a great flicks as a family for cheap this summer.

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San Francisco
Dolores Park, Union Square and Washington Square Park are three popular spots where you’ll need to arrive early to stake your spot this summer. Presented by Film Night in the Park (find the full schedule at this link), the films are geared to older kids and will include:

The Princess Bride on August 3 in Dolores Park
Singin’ in the Rain on August 17 in Union Square
Moonrise Kingdom on September 7 in Washington Square Park
Skyfall on September 21 in Dolores Park

Dining: A block from Dolores Park, stop by Bi-Rite Market or Dolores Park Café for a quick and tasty bite to go. Around Washington Square, stop at Molinari Delicatessen and marvel at the salame hanging from the ceiling, or grab a burger at Mo’s. At Union Square, grab a meal to go at the food market under Macy’s or the food court at the Westfield Shopping Centre.

Movie Night

Marin
Fairfax, Mill Valley, Greenbrae and San Anselmo are the cities where movies for the preschool crowd will play, also as part of Film Night in the Park, including:

Hugo on June 21 in Mill Valley
Brave on July 20 in San Anselmo
The Road to El Dorado on July 27 in San Anselmo
The Lorax on August 6 in Mill Valley

Older kids will get a kick out of: Jurassic Park on June 29, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on July 6, Singletrack High on August 16, and The Avengers on August 17, all of which are showing at Creek Park in San Anselmo.

Dining: In Mill Valley, you can grab a slice of artisan vegetarian pizza at Tony Tutto Pizza or stop at the Mill Valley Market for freshly prepared food and produce. In San Anselmo, both United Markets and Taqueria Mi Pueblo will satisfy your young ones’ appetites.

In Larkspur, enjoy some of your kids’ favorite movie titles in the courtyard every Wednesday at the Marin Country Mart. Here’s the summer schedule:

Toy Story on June 26
Sound of Music on July 3
Wreck It! Ralph on July 10
Shrek on July 17
Brave on July 24
Lion King on July 31
Mary Poppins on August 7
Ratatouille on August 14
Cars on August 21
101 Dalmatians on August 28

Dining: You don’t need to stray far from the Mart to find good eats. Delicious food options are available in the courtyard: El Huarache Loco and Rustic Bakery.

Peninsula
If you live south of San Francisco, the movie picks are just as amazing, with a bonus of warm weather and Silicon Valley temperatures to justify short sleeves. Movies on the Square in Redwood City are notoriously fun and well-attended, featuring major blockbusters to please crowds of all ages on the quaint square in front of City Hall. Lasting even beyond the summer, the Redwood City movie nights are one of the best ways to enjoy balmy nights on the Peninsula. Showing on Thursdays at sundown, the 2013 lineup includes:

Madagascar 3 on June 20
Back to the Future on June 27
Life of Pi on July 11
The Hunger Games
 on July 18
The Rise of the Guardians on July 25
OZ: The Great and Powerful on August 1
The Sandlot on August 8
The Croods on August 15
The Avengers on August 22
A League of Their Own on August 29
Short Circuit on September 5

film night in the park

East Bay
In Danville, the city cultivates a small-town feel with its Moonlight Movies, a family-friendly outdoor movie festival on the Town Green on Friday nights. The best part? Show up at early and let the kids enjoy crafts and activities before the movies start at sundown. This year’s movie selection includes:

Harry and the Hendersons on June 28
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone on July 12
Up on July 26
The Avengers on August 9

Dining: For an Italian bite as the sun sets, stop at Mangia Mi before the show and browse through their gourmet Italian foods including pasta and pizza. Their weekend lines can be long, though, so plan ahead.

In Oakland, Jack London Square hosts Waterfront Flicks on Thursdays throughout the summer. Get there early to play trivia games or take in the waterfront. This year, the offerings are:

Life of Pi on June 27
Brave on July 25
Skyfall on August 8
The Goonies on August 22

On Friday nights, Jack London Square will host their very sing-along movies where theatergoers are asked to dress in the theme of the movie and sing and dance along with the flick. Check out the two showings happening this fall:

Mamma Mia on September 13
Little Shop of Horrors on October 4

Dining: Right at Jack London Square, you will find lots of dining options from takeout to sit-down dinner.

film night

Tips, Tips, and More Tips
Now for a few tips for a great outdoor family movie night, read this!

- Bring a flashlight for the end of the night.

- Locate the restrooms when you arrive. They might be a block away, so plan accordingly.

- Arrive early to get a good spot (low-back lawn chairs are allowed but strollers block the view for people behind you).

- Bring a sleeping bag for everybody and PJs and a pillow for the kids if they want to cozy up – and maybe fall asleep!

- If you forgot your picnic, these events usually have popcorn, candy and drink concession stands.

- Last but not least, consider making a donation for the showing of these movies. It’ll show your appreciation and keep the tradition going strong.

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What movie will you being going to see this summer?

– Laure Latham

Photos courtesy of Film Night in the Park‘s facebook page

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