If you need a break from the urban jungle gym (pigeon chasing, Muni racing and the like), we recommend a day in Kentfield and Ross, a pair of perfectly manicured, neighboring Marin County suburbs with plenty to offer families, from the best bike paths for kids to playgrounds for little pixies. Here’s our list for how to live like a local for the day in these two charming towns.

creek_side_park

Hal Brown Park by Ed H via Four Square

Play

Hal Brown Park at Creekside
This newly renovated (2011) playground features toddler area with sand and water features, a trike track and plenty of swings. For bigger kids, a 17-foot climbing net and turbo slide are of just some the draws here. There are also 2 large volleyball courts and plenty of spots to picnic. The park runs along the creek, and little ones will love walking out on the dock and watching all the birds. Clean bathroom alert!

Bon Air Rd.
Kentfield, Ca
Online: marincountyparks.org
Pixie Park
What started in 1952 as a private playground built for the children of volunteers at the Marin Art and Garden Center is now one of Ross’ most coveted play spaces for kids 7 and under. Pixie Park is a members-only co-op playground, maintained and run by the parents and grandparents who use it. Members are issued a key to the fenced-in area, which includes a playhouse, age-appropriate climbing structures and swings. Membership fees start at $160 per year.

30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Ross, Ca
Online: pixiepark.org

 

Explore

Kent Woodlands
There are plenty of great trails running through this luxury residential development. Crown Road is light on cars and ends at a fire road that is perfect for strollers or biking with kids. Parking is easy, and a variety of trails lead to a small waterfall, or even the top of Mt. Tam if you and your crew are feeling ambitious.

Map it 

College of Marin
When school is out on the weekend, the big open campus is relatively empty and offers great spaces for kids to wander. During summer months, the college offers public swim lessons and daily drop-in pool hours that are a hit with local littles. The Corte Madera Creek bike path cuts through the center of campus and travels along the creek to downtown Ross
835 College Ave.
Kentfield, Ca
415-457-8811
Online: marin.edu

Corte Madera Creek Path
This path is ideal for bikes and strollers, and offers more than just pretty scenery. It actually connects a host of kid friendly locals, including Ross Elementary, College of Marin, Kent Middle School, Bacich Elementary, Marin Catholic High School, Bon Air Shopping Center, the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and Hal Brown Park, with its modern playground.

Map it

phoenix_lake

Phoenix Lake by Sara V via Four Square

Natalie Coffin Greene Park and Phoenix Lake
This park is perfect for families, and offers everything from trails along the creek to a paved single track path around the lake (2.5 miles and a hilly). A handful of trails leave directly from the parking lot, but the lot is small and usually full by 9 a.m. Insider tip: Park in downtown Ross and add the ½ mile walk into the park to your plan.

Lagunitas Rd & Glenwood Ave
Ross, Ca

Map it

Ross Common
A walkable shopping and green space adjacent to downtown, Ross Common runs two blocks and has a playing field at its center—usually hosting a soccer or little league game. It’s a great place to wander and people watch. Tell the kiddos to keep an eye out for local artists who set up their easels and sketch or paint the scene.

Map it
Online: townofross.org

Miss Sara’s Ballet School
For tiny twinkle toes, this is the sweetest dance school in town. Classes start for kids as young as 2. Don’t miss the school’s (abridged) performance of the Nutcracker at the Marin Civic Center on December 21.

23 Ross Common
Ross, Ca
415-450-1425
Website: misssaras.com

Shop

Breaking Away Bicycles
Get your two-wheelers tuned up, or pick up any last minute accessories before your big ride at this local bike shop.

7 Ross Common
Ross, Ca
415-461-2959

Busy Bees
This children’s clothing shop has something to suit every style, from pretty dresses to cool swim wear.

30 Ross Common
Ross, Ca
917-796-9771
Website: busybees-kids.com

half_day_cafe

Half Day Cafe by Joe C. via Four Square

Eat

Woodlands Market and Café
This is a great spot for brunch and lunch, and the kids’ menus have plenty of popular options. There is plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating, and even offer a few sofas set with coffee tables (one outside), which are popular with parents. If you’re planning a picnic or just need a snack to go, the main market has everything you could possibly need.

799 College Ave.
Kentfield, Ca
Phone: 415-457-8163
Online: woodlandsmarket.com/cafe/

Ambrosia Pizza
Offering pasta, pizza, salads (and a generous by-the-glass wine list), It seems everyone in town loves this dependable pizza joint. Plenty of free parking in back, but come early, especially on weekends, as it gets busy. Closed Mondays.

850 College Ave.
Kentfield, Ca
415-454-9292
Online: mainstreethub.com/ambrosiapizza

Marche Aux Fleurs
Craving an extra-special night out, but can’t score a sitter? If you drop into this lovely French bistro on the early side (they open at 5:30), you and the kids will feel right a home. Thursday is burger night.

23 Ross Common
Ross, Ca
415-925-9200
Online: marcheauxfleursrestaurant.com

Half Day Café
This place specializes in hearty breakfasts of all stripes, from scrambles to griddle cakes to benedicts, and many of them on are offer through the lunch hour (as well as burgers, tacos, salads and more). Housed inside an old auto garage from the 1930, and family owned by the same folks for more than 20 years, this spot has plenty of charm—and plenty of loyal customers: On weekends the line can stretch into the parking lot, so for impatient eaters, weekdays are your best bet.

848 College Rd.
Kentfield, Ca
415-459-0291
Online: halfdaycafe.com

Ross Grocery
Known to the locals as “Eddie’s” this longtime grocer and sandwich shop turns out salads, sandwiches and even impressive heat and eat dinners from their cute little corner location (now owned by Woodlands Market). It’s right down the road from the local school, so this place gets overrun with kids once the bell rings.

1 Poplar Ave.
Ross, Ca
415-461-9343
Online: rossgrocery.com

Do you have any tips for families visiting Ross and Kentfield? Let us know in the comments below! 

—Erin Feher