Best Places to Visit in the North Bay

It never gets old, crossing sparkling San Francisco Bay to Marin County by ferry or via the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, a destination in itself. Discover outstanding beauty of both the manmade and natural varieties, from oyster-rich Tomales Bay to a towering redwood forest. Spot migrating California gray whales and rare tule elk, learn how cheese is made, visit a goat farm, take a walk on the San Andreas Fault.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Seaplane Adventures

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Photo: Courtesy of Bay Area Discovery Museum

Bay Area Discovery Museum

557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito
415.339.3995

The Bay Area Discovery Museum provides fun, hands-on STEAM experiences that develop 21st century skills for children up to the age of 10. BADM offers creative outdoor and indoor activities that encourage exciting yet safe play so families can learn and explore together, and each program is influenced by research-backed learning goals. As children engage in different activities, parents are supported to identify these moments of creative development. Check out the Painting Gallery, Building Challenge, Mud Kitchen, or Instrument Walk among others, or go hang out at the BADM Beach — it’s all worthwhile. bayareadiscoverymuseum.org

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Photo: Courtesy of SF Travel Association

Gravity Car Barn Museum

Mt. Tam Gravity Car Barn, Verna Dunshee Trail, Mill Valley

What do Charlie Chaplin, Susan B. Anthony, Jack London and Thomas Edison (here’s a film he made of his adventure) have in common? They all ventured to the bucolic Marin County to take the E-ticket ride of the times — The Crookedest Railroad — eight-and-half miles of over 260 turns, from 2,571 feet to sea level, down Mount Tamalpais, which operated from 1896 to 1930. Today, this historical gem can be celebrated at the Gravity Car Barn. Our suggestion is to make the day of it, either hike or drive on a weekend, as the museum is usually open to the public from noon to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. friendsofmttam.org

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Photo: Courtesy of SF Travel Association

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito
415.921.5858

Get up close and personal with one of the modern wonders of the world, once dubbed as “the bridge that couldn’t be built.” Drive, walk, or bicycle across the 1.7-mile span for the sheer thrill of its powerful majesty, then follow signs for Vista Point at the northern end of the bridge. Signature fog permitting, this rest stop provides the ideal vantage point for postcard-quality iconic bridge, bay, and city skyline panoramas. Tip for drivers: When the parking lot is full, Vista Point closes. Alternatively, park at the bridge’s southern end, which has more spaces, and walk over the bridge. goldengate.org

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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Novato

Marin MOCA

500 Palm Drive, Novato
415.506.0137

If you’re seeking a dose of culture, venture up to Novato where Marin Museum of Contemporary Art connects art, community, and artistic expression. Located at the historic Hamilton Field, the museum offers contemporary exhibits and education programs for art-lovers of all ages. Marin MOCA has a main gallery as well as the Ron Collins lobby gallery, the Second Floor gallery, a museum store, an education program, and artist studios. The exhibitions in all three galleries change every seven weeks. marinmoca.org

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Photo: Courtesy of Joe Mattazoni/Wikipedia

Mount Tamalpais State Park

3801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley
415.388.2070

Superlative is the word that comes to mind when describing the views. Criss-crossing the diverse mountain faces, some overlooking the ocean and the bay, 100 trails and mixed use fire roads create a well-connected system of varying difficulty and distance for hikers of all abilities. Dramatically draped with ever-shifting layers of fog and sunshine up to an elevation of 2,572 feet, microclimates abound including stately redwood forests. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the proximity of Mt. Tam to residential Marin County communities and to the city is a major plus for day trippers. parks.ca.gov

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Photo: Courtesy of NPS

Muir Woods National Monument

1 Muir Woods Rd., Mill Valley
415.561.2850

Just 12 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge’s northern end, this rare, towering forest of coastal old growth redwoods is a compelling natural attraction. Protected since 1908, the tallest of these giants reaches over 250 feet and is almost 800 years old. Follow a park ranger to learn more or take a self-guided tour via a flat boardwalk or along the hiking paths. Operated by the National Park Service, Muir Woods is open 365 days a year. Reservations for parking and the shuttle bus are required for entry. Dress warmly. No cell phone service. nps.gov/muwo/index.htm

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Photo: Courtesy of The Museum of International Propaganda

The Museum of International Propaganda

1000 Fifth Ave., San Rafael
415.310.1173

Tom — who lived in Socialist Czechoslovakia most of his young life — and his wife Lilka Areton, have been collecting political propaganda during their frequent travels for over 30 years. Their collection represents the political art of more than 25 countries, including North Korea, Cuba, Nazi Germany, Vietnam, Iran, and the Soviet Union. The objects on display were mostly designed and financed by various governments, dictators, and special interests with specific political goals in mind. The exhibits guide visitors through seven themes, techniques and styles of propaganda. museumofpropaganda.org

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Photo: Courtesy of Dennis Anderson/Visit Marin

Point Reyes National Seashore

1 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station
415.464.5100

Fill the fuel tank and the picnic basket in the tiny town of Point Reyes Station (cheese heaven) before venturing out to explore the vast seashore. See wild coastal beaches, rookeries of seals plus estuaries, farms and ranches, herds of tule elk. High on a headland, spot migrating whales from the 150-year-old Point Reyes Lighthouse. Highlights include windswept Limantour Beach and Drake’s Beach where a plaque explains its connection to the 16th century explorer. Walk through Cypress Tree Tunnel in Inverness and along San Andreas Fault at Earthquake Trail near Bear Valley Visitor Center. nps.gov/pore/index.htm

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Photo: Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Sausalito

Sausalito Visitor Information Kiosk
El Portal, Sausalito
415.331.1093

Dubbed “the second best ferry ride in the world,” hop on at one of two departure points in San Francisco — either the Ferry Building or at Fisherman’s Wharf. Catch views of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. No reservations are needed for the 30-minute journey across San Francisco Bay to Sausalito and bicycles are allowed. Step ashore in the heart of downtown in the charming, Mediterranean-style village of Sausalito, a tourism magnet for strolling that’s filled with shops, art galleries, restaurants. Take in awesome views of a sparkling bay dotted with sailboats with the city silhouette as a backdrop. visitsausalito.org

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Photo: Courtesy of Seaplane Adventures

Seaplane Adventures

242 Redwood Hwy., Mill Valley
415.333.4843

For a truly unique experience, it doesn’t get much more special than Seaplane Adventures. Owner Aaron Singer offers one-of-a-kind air tours via seaplanes, giving guests a bird’s eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the San Francisco skyline, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Sausalito, and much more. Flights are available throughout the day including popular sunset flights — excellent for engagement proposals, anniversaries or romantic dates, and a must if you’re in the North Bay. seaplane.com

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Photo: Courtesy of AIM

Sunday Marin Farmers Market

3501 Civic Center Dr., San Rafael
415.472.6100

The North Bay is home to world famous farms and dairies located throughout West Marin and Sonoma County. Back in 1987, the first Sunday Marin Farmers Market opened with a few stalls offering fresh produce, artisan meats and eggs. Today the market is a bay area foodie magnet featuring nearly 200 local farmers and ranchers, specialty food purveyors and more offering fresh, organic goods, live music, prepared food and gifts. Scuttlebutt has made as far as The New York Times, which listed the Sunday Market as one of the top places to visit in Marin. Open every Sunday, rain or shine. agriculturalinstitute.org

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