Spotlight on San Rafael, the County Seat of Marin

Spotlight on San Rafael, the County Seat of Marin

San Rafael is a historic city founded in 1817 by Spaniard Juan Bautista de Anza and is the county seat of Marin County. Whether you’re strolling through the Downtown District or discovering unique dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities, we can guarantee you’ll never be wondering what you should do next.

Visit San Rafael and see the pastel pink church with a tall bell tower featuring a cross on top and a statue. The building has arch-shaped windows, additional crosses, and a staircase leading to the entrance. It is surrounded by trees and a clear blue sky in the background.


Explore San Rafael’s Mission San Rafael Arcangel, which was established in 1817 as a health-focused assistencia to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. The 1949 replica of the original Spanish mission stands as a testament to the region’s history, with the Mission Chapel welcoming visitors daily for self-guided tours.

Next, make your way to ArtWorks Downtown, a nonprofit art center in the heart of San Rafael that offers a diverse artistic experience with four galleries, artist studios, and a variety of events. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this cultural hub provides a space for artists and the community to connect.

For film enthusiasts, the Smith Rafael Film Center provides a comfortable setting to enjoy an array of cinematic experiences. This nonprofit arts organization focuses on screening first-run independent, foreign-language, and documentary films from its three state-of-the-art auditoriums.

A nighttime street view features the illuminated marquee of the Rafael Theater, displaying the name "Rafael" in vertical neon letters. The street, ideal for anyone looking to visit San Rafael, is lined with trees and buildings, and a few cars and pedestrians are visible under the glowing city lights.

Things to Do

Downtown BID Events

Venture into the center of San Rafael by exploring the San Rafael Downtown BID Events. Downtown Fourth Street and its side streets come alive with Victorian charm, diverse eateries, coffee shops, breweries, and wine bars. Experience the eclectic mix of small businesses, from bookstores to clothing boutiques. The calendar is brimming with events like 2nd Friday Art Walks, West End Block Parties, Film Festivals, Small Business Saturday, May Madness Car Show, and vibrant Farmer’s Markets.

Kayaking with 101 Surf Sports

For water sports enthusiasts, 101 Surf Sports specializes in Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), windsurfing, wingfoiling, surfing, and kayaking. They also offer lessons, gear rentals, board repair, guided tours, and more.

A serene coastal scene with a long pier stretching into calm waters. Two kayakers paddle near the beach, and a small shack stands at the base of the pier. Overhanging eucalyptus branches frame the view, with a lush green hillside in the background under a clear sky. Visit San Rafael for this tranquil escape.

China Camp State Park

Nestled on the southwest shore of San Pablo Bay, this 19th-century Chinese shrimp-fishing village features vintage structures and a small museum that offers insights into the rich Chinese-American history of the area.

Discover the 15 miles of multi-use trails meandering through oak woodlands and ascending 1,000 feet to San Pablo Ridge. The park caters to outdoor enthusiasts keen on hiking, trail-running, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

It’s also a great place for people who love mountain biking, and if you decide to bike into the park, take advantage of the “Hike and Bike-In” camp sites available only at the park’s Back Ranch Meadows

Explore, indulge, and make the most of your visit. For the best places to stay in Marin, plan your stay with Marin CVB at

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