Fabulous fun on ten dollars – could it be true? In Marin County? You better believe it, folks: some of the hidden gems, nosh-worthy food joints and kid-friendly hot spots are easy on the family budget too. Before burning a hole in the pocketbook for your locally sourced gourmet cafe, musical instruction, dance lessons, karate sessions and museum memberships, check out some of these 100% children-approved locations. After all, feeding and training a future all-star athlete, soloist or Nobel Prize winner shouldn’t have to send mom and dad to the piggy bank in hopes of scrounging up a few extra pennies! Here are some great ideas on how to enjoy Marin for $10 or less.

Fairfax Scoop
Begin or end an afternoon adventure at this one-of-a-kind organic ice cream shop cozily located within perfect walking distance from Peri Park and the rest of downtown Fairfax. The Scoop makes the sticky fingers and chocolate stains worth it with the aroma of fresh waffle cones slowly wafting up the street. Check the board for freshly whipped up seasonal flavors. Expect the line to be out the door for this favorite.

Dollar Saving Alert – Two scoops for less than $3? Yes please, totally worth the wait.

Fairfax Scoop
63 Broadway Blvd
Fairfax, Ca

San Rafael Public Library – Downtown Branch
Free reads and great storytelling – hey, this is a no brainer! This branch of the San Rafael Public Library is home to a phenomenal children’s library; don’t even think about leaving without enjoying one of the fabulous story times (varied for different ages). Find out what happened to the big bad wolf, cheer on Alexander in his No Good, Very Bad Day and sing some songs with cheery finger puppets. Arrive early for a good spot.

Dollar Saving Alert – Sign up for a library card to check out books and DVDs.

San Rafael Public Library
1100 E Street
San Rafael, CA
Online: srpubliclibrary.squarespace.com

Tennessee Valley Trail
For parents with children under the age of 6, it’s darn near impossible to find a more perfect hike than Tennessee Valley Trail. With only 1.7 miles until the breathtaking ocean view, little ones will have enough steam to run some of the way. And if they start to slow down, no worries! It’s wide, open and there’s a choice between a moderate incline and none at all. A key bit of knowledge: jogging strollers can be pushed all the way to the end of the trail, good news for those not jumping at the bit to carry their hiking enthusiast for a long stretch. The freshwater creek that feeds into the ocean makes for fun water play, as the waves are not safe for swimmers of any age.

Dollar Saving Alert – Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day watching the waves.

Tennessee Valley Trail
Mill Valley / Stinson Beach / Hwy. 1 exit
Follow Shoreline Highway until you see the Tennessee Valley Road sign
Online: nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/tennessee_valley.htm

The Marine Mammal Center
Want to know why a sea lion roars or if an elephant seal has a tusk? Head for the veterinary hospital tucked away in the beauty of the Marin Headlands, where the philosophy and focus is on educating the public about marine mammals, their environment and health. The hard working staff does so by partnering with leading scientists and other professionals. Children and parents alike will enjoy learning about these ocean animals that have been brought back from near demise in hopes of being fully rehabbed for eventual release.

Dollar Saving Alert – Admission is free. A docent lead tour is only $7 per adult and $5 per child.

The Marine Mammal Center
2000 Bunker Road
Sausalito, Ca
Online: marinemammalcenter.org

We know there’s a ton to do in Marin County on a shoe string budget. Let us know your favorite activities in the comment section below.

–Gabrielle Cullen

Photo courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center