This quaint hamlet located at the base of Mount Tamalpais, a mere four miles north of San Francisco, was once a weekend retreat for city-dwellers. In the sixties and seventies, it became a mellow hippies’ enclave and even had its own theme song written by third grade teacher Mrs. Abrams. Check out this video (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) for a nostalgic look at the town we’ve loved for decades.
What to bring: Kids love to ride bikes, scooters and other ride-on toys around the plaza on town square. Chalk for sidewalk drawings is also popular.
PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS
Location: Sycamore & Nelson Ave
A local favorite, Sycamore Park can difficult to find, as the entrance is hidden between two houses on Sycamore. Once down the path, the play area opens to a large area, with a grassy lot to the right and two large play areas, one with a play structure for big kids and a smaller Tot Lot.
Old Mill Park
Location: Throckmorton & Old Mill St
Under the redwoods just outside the library, a small playground with a deep woods feel and even a hollowed out Redwood tree that makes a great fort. Try keeping your kids out of the creek in the summer. An original Gravity Train car for make-believe rides on the old railroad also makes this a fun place to hang.
Location: Edgewood & Molino
Hidden from the road, with steep sides all around, Molina Park feels private and with limited parking, is one of the quieter playgrounds. Large grassy area is great for birthday parties.
Quiet neighborhood park near Sycamore Park. Large climbing structure for 4+, a small basketball court and a few swings and picnic tables. The downward sloping hill is attractive for scooter riders.
Location: Kipling & Lomita
One of the sunny playgrounds in Mill Valley, with east access to soccer fields, bike paths and dog park. Fenced in area makes it popular for under five set.
Location: E Blithedale & East Drive
Walking distance from downtown Mill Valley, Boyle Park has a big kids and little kids play area, as well as an open grass field, a creek and tennis courts.
Location: Linda Way & Ross Drive
Tam Junction playground with decent shade and a few play structures and separate areas for large and smaller kids. Hidden entrances on Linda Way and Ross Drive.
Location: Glenwood Ave & Eastwood Way
This park is a hidden gem for Mill Valley parents. There are two separate kids’ play areas, one for toddlers and one for big kids and a large grassy area.
Scott Highlands Park
Located near the MillValley golf course, this hidden gem has been remodeled and has lots of new bells and whistles, including a Christmas tree merry-go-round and a yellow saucer that spins. It’s fully fenced and divided into an upper and lower area.
Mill Valley Public Library
Location: 375 Throckmorton Avenue
With its vaulted wooden beamed ceilings and fireplace where you can curl up with a good book, boasts one of the most welcoming children’s rooms around. Multiple storytimes feature talented readers like Phil Sheridan.
Location: 254 Shoreline Highway, 415-380-8900
Surf, skate, art—even music lessons and beach clean ups—Proof Lab has it all. They’re compound-like with separate areas for different needs (rentals, clothing, even skate lessons) so there’s a ton to see and choose from. They host events year round, everything from crab feeds to ping pong tourneys and skate contests. Their indoor skate park is a popular spot for parties.
Location: 180 Camino Alto, 415-383-1370
Comprised of two buildings and ample outside space with dozens of ongoing activities, classes and programs . Thehe second building is dedicated to swimming and fitness and includes an indoor swimming pool with retractable roof, a 120-foot spiral waterslide, Jacuzzi spa, and outdoor patio.
Location: 12 Miller Avenue, 415-389-1312
One part retail store, one part play space, and one part community space, Sprout is known for reinventing the shopping experience for the modern mom. You’ll find variety of classes and activities like a Diapering for Dads workshop, Little Folkies music class, baby sign language, story time with JAMaRoo, and dance and creative movement (you can check out their full calendar of events here).
Location: 515 Miller Avenue, 415-381-4869
This independently owned toy store is a savior for finding cool Saturday morning birthday party gifts, as well a fun spot to spend a few hours exploring. Owned by House family, local Marin parents of four who have their fingers on the pulse of local kid product trends.
HIKING & BIKING
A favorite hiking trail is the mostly flat and paved Tennessee Valley trail (with one hearty hill to burn off those extra holiday calories), just off Hwy 101 in Mill Valley. You can even do it with a stroller, and it’s an easy 3.1 miles roundtrip for little walkers or bikers. Beach views, interesting plants, and animals galore make the time fly by for the little ones.
Cascade Falls, Downtown Mill Valley
This extremely short and easy jaunt through peaceful Redwoods and along Cascade Creek makes for a good hiking primer for toddlers and a relaxing stroll for everyone else. Amble along the wide trail, cross the wooden bridge and then marvel accordingly. The falls are a splendid sight year-round and particularly impressive in the winter and early spring.
Mill Valley Bike Path
Training wheels or no, it’s time to fill up the bike rack and start enjoying those two-wheelers for all they’re worth! The Bay Area is full of bike trails, and Mill Valley beckons with a flat, easy access through neighborhoods and shopping areas to the salt marshes (with a view of Richardson Bay), and finally, alongside the houseboats of Sausalito. Biking along this wide, multi-purpose path is leisurely enough for the whole family.
25 Miller Avenue
For spicy Asian street food, including tempting dishes (wok-fired entrees, soups and salads) and from the kiddie corner: Jake’s bowl (Teriyaki chicken over brown rice or noodles with mango). Guzzle a homemade drink like the Fuzzy G (an infusion of ginger, lemon grass and a kick of spice) or Mint-O-Mania and you’re ready to hit the road again.
22 Miller Avenue
A family-friendly ristorante to retreat to when you want to be served and feel taken care of for a little while. Doting waiters serve authentic Italian fare in a spacious dining room or on the patio for al fresco dining on warm days. Joe’s Taco Lounge
382 Miller Avenue
Technically not downtown, but only a few minutes down Miller Avenue, you’ll find . It’s your classic joint, you know, Mexican séance parlor/hot sauce stand serving up tasty fish tacos, black bean soup or tofu tostada for a fun and festive vibe.
Depot Bookstore and Café
87 Throckmorton Ave.
Grab a coffee, bagel or salad and Find a table on the patio, which faces the town square, a happening spot for local kids who ride their bikes, scooters and make chalk drawings on the square.
Pearl’s Phat Burger
8 East Blithedale Ave
Juicy burgers and fries off the town square.
430 Miller Ave
Serves up not only some of the best local kid friendly burgers, but super tasty organic milk shakes around.
17 East Blithedale Avenue, 415.388.2423
Near the square, this is a local fave with in house made gelato that can also be found being served up via their roving bicycle in the summer time.
Café Del Soul
247 Shoreline Highway, 415-388-1852
Smoothies, Organic Juices, Quinoa Salads and Gluten Free Nachos.
200 Shoreline Highway, 415-381-0298
A breakfast favorite for local Marin families. The wait for a table starts around 10 am as hikers and bikers line up for blueberry-strawberry cheese blintzes, smoothies and pancakes. always hit the spot. We guarantee a good night’s sleep for everyone!
505 Miller, 415-381-9656
Frozen yogurt with a slew of toppings available.
417 Miller Ave, 415-388-2636
Another sweet spot in Mill Valley for frozen yogurt.
Extra Side Trip: If you still haven’t gotten your fair share of Mill Valley, consider taking a trip up to family-friendly East Peak. The Mt. Tam Interpretive Association also offers docent-led Saturday hikes, year round, that are appropriate for families with kids of all ages. Check them out here.
–Nicki Richesin & Jacqui Boland