Family Friendly

A Place to Play

Grassy or paved, Marin’s designated play spaces are ideal for picnics, socializing and hanging upside down or out. They’re where friendships are made and relationships renewed (or ended). So much happens at the park, even while we’re just sitting on a bench. We’re grateful for these three green oases within our county borders.

73) Hal Brown Park at Creekside: This Greenbrae park (pictured) is named for the recently departed and beloved supervisor. Formerly Creekside Park, the entire area has been upgraded to include a naturethemed tot area with a climbing wall, turbo slide, oversize sculptures of California clapper rail nests, a tricycle track complete with traffic signs, and a 17-foot spiderweb climbing net. Parents will also appreciate the new restrooms and water fountains and views of Mount Tamalpais.

74) Stafford Lake: Calling all disc golfers — or anyone wanting to see one of the finest disc golf courses in the world. The 139-acre Stafford Lake Park in Novato is actually popular for all sorts of lakeside recreation, including fishing (catfish and bass), volleyball, nature walks and picnics. Community-minded boosters are also raising funds for a 17-acre Stafford Lake bike park.

75) Old Mill Park: Many families have found respite here on a hot sunny day or protection from the elements in the surrounding redwood grove. Named for the historic site that gave Mill Valley its name, this is a favorite stop for folks with children and those just seeking a spot to sit and contemplate life.

Kids SalonEntrepreneurial Innovation

76) Leave it to popular hairstylist Christopher Downs and über-merchandiser Paul DeMartini (Williams-Sonoma, West Elm) to come up with the Rosetta stone for Marin teens’ grooming needs. Benni’s is a full-service one-stop shop for kids too old for the Panda Room but not ready for diPietro Todd. In the space of the former Mill Valley General Store on Throckmorton, the crew at Benni’s offers not only haircuts but mani-pedis and temporary or permanent hair color. “The whole vibe of the place celebrates humble materials, and a lot of the merchandise gives back,” DeMartini says. “You can fill bottles with our own shampoo and conditioner and bring back the containers for a discount.”

Kids Welcome

These restaurants not only offer healthy kid-approved entrées, they’re easy spots for parents to relax and enjoy a night out en famille.

77) Pacific Catch: From sushi to fish tacos to the big-enough-to-share wasabi bowls, the menu at this Corte Madera establishment makes everyone happy. Moms, don’t miss the mojitos.

78) Ambrosia Pizza: With one of the largest wine-by-the-glass menus around and now serving gluten-free pizza, this is “the” post–sporting event spot. Located in Larkspur.

79) Dipsea Cafe: For one of the cutest snapshots of parenthood, get to Mill Valley’s Dipsea Cafe (pictured) a few minutes before it opens. You’ll see mostly dads with wide-awake toddlers and infants in car seats, waiting in line for that first glorious cup of coffee.

80) Toast: While both locations are popular with families, the spacious Novato location gets the nod for delicious food, great service and a courtyard outside where kids can run around while Mom and Dad savor a glass of wine together. Also located in Mill Valley.

81) Wipeout: For the TVs showing surf footage on every wall, beach-inspired menu and friendly “don’t worry about that spilled margarita, ma’am” staff, we raise our flip-flops to Wipeout. It’s an inviting Greenbrae family meal spot, especially Tuesday nights when kids eat free.

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Editors' Choice 2012, Best of Marin