During El Nino’s latest visit, the hunt for wide-open spaces within running distance of the car (in case the sky should open up again) is on. When the sun makes an appearance, we’re fans of San Rafael’s uncrowded Peacock Gap park, located northeast of downtown,  just south of McNear’s Beach, off of Point San Pedro Road (make a left onto Peacock).

The fenced-in play structure for tots recalls a ship, and includes swings, slides, and ladders, as well as an inviting climbing tree that provides plenty of shade for the little ones.  They love to pile onto the wide see-saw, which can hold several kids at once. The play structure for bigger kids is perfect for climbers, and the bathrooms are just a few steps away. There’s a wide-open grassy field popular with dog owners and picnickers, as well as tennis courts.  And on the hill behind the play structures, there are hiking trails, some of which lead into nearby China Camp State Park.

Spending some of your visit hunting lizards is a highlight for most kids. The park is tucked away in a residential neighborhood (no traffic, another plus!), so there’s not much in the way of restaurants nearby. The closest spot to grab lunch, though, is a gem: Andy’s Market (688 Point San Pedro Rd.) has a deli crammed with gourmet goodies, and great sandwiches for take-away.

—Sarah Bossenbroek