Tucked away in an enchanted grove on Mount Tamalpais is an old alpine chalet owned by the Marin Chapter of the Nature Friends Tourist Club. Three times a year, their members open the clubhouse to the public for a few fun-filled days of dancing and sausage-eating. Kinderfest is such a joyful celebration and a wonderful way to introduce your children to Bavarian culture. Get ready to drink, dance, and be merry!
When to go: Festival days include Maifest in May, Sommerfest in July, and Kinderfest on Sunday, September 15 from 12:00 pm-6:00 pm.
How to get here: It can be a bit tricky following the breadcrumbs to the cottage, but here are our foolproof directions. The Tourist Club is roughly 30 minutes from San Francisco. Exit Highway 1 North to Muir Woods. Continue on Hwy. 1, bearing right toward Mt. Tamalpais where the road splits. At the four-way intersection, continue straight on Panoramic Highway. Turn left on Ridge Avenue and park in the lot on the right. Follow the driveway a quarter mile down to the clubhouse.
To hike in: Park near Mountain Home Inn on the side of the Panoramic Highway. Walk down to the Panoramic Trail and follow the sign marked “Redwood Trail.” This easy trail takes approximately 20 minutes to walk until you arrive at the lodge.
What to bring: If you’re hiking in to the lodge, wear comfortable shoes (for walking and dancing!). Bring plenty of water, hats and sunscreen for sunshine, and jackets for late afternoon fog. It’s cash only, so make sure you bring your dough for the wieners, snacks, and beer.
What to do: Take in the idyllic views of Muir Woods below from the uppermost balconies of the lodge. Explore the clubhouse for an inside peak into their long history. You might even want to sign up to become a member and participate on one of the work days.
A Bavarian polka band will strike up their oompah-pah-pah around 2:00 pm. Swing your little partners and tie up your lederhosen for a ripping good folk dance across the wooden floors. The polka music is usually loud and boisterous and perfect for toddlers new to German music and revelry. For your less dancing-inclined little ones, board games are also available to play on nearby picnic tables.
Club members will be pouring pitchers of beer and serving home-cooked German specialties like sausages, kraut, and apple strudel. Lines can be long to get into the event, but be patient with the volunteers.
Admission Info: Admission is $15 (CASH ONLY). Children under 14 are free and no dogs are allowed.
The Tourist Club is one of the Bay Area’s most coveted hidden gems. Have you been? Do your kids love cultural festivals as much as ours do? Leave us a comment below!
— Nicki Richesin
Photo credit: Tourist Club SF