Things To Do in Mill Valley!

By Katie Mehrer (Posted April 15, 2009)

Mill Valley is so close to my heart. The beauty of this area just can’t be exaggerated, with its ready access to Mt. Tamalpais and the Bayfront Park path where my family likes to bike. The walls of my home are covered with incredible photos I’ve taken at the Bonita Point lighthouse, a place where I like to go sometimes, just to get inspired. When my husband and I hike the Tennessee Valley Trail and take in the meadows, wildflowers, and redwoods, it reminds me that there is no place on earth I would rather live.

One of the signature events that puts this area on the map, so to speak, is our fall Arts Festival, which has been going on since my grandparents’ day, back in the fifties. Held in Old Mill Park, it always features some of the best area musicians, including everything from folk/rock singer-songwriters to Latin dance bands to gypsy jazz. The children’s stage is also incredible. They have marionettes, face painting, magicians, and craft activities, so there is really something to entertain everyone all day long. But, of course, the main purpose of the festival is to give exposure to the area’s many talented artists. Strolling the booths and picking up unusual home decor, paintings, and gifts is one of the shopping highlights of my year!

I keep busy in the fall, what with September’s Arts Festival coming right before October’s Mill Valley Film Festival. It has a reputation as a real filmmaker’s festival, with its focus on international features, documentaries, shorts, and children’s films. This is certainly not your typical movie-theater fare, but when I look at the listings, there are so many interesting, new films and so many fascinating filmmakers to get to know, I often don’t know where to start. A lot of talented filmmakers have launched their careers at this well-known event, which was named by Screen International as a Top-10 US film festival.

One of the best advantages of living on the California coast is, of course, the nearby vineyards. So come summer, I always gather some girlfriends together and head to the Gourmet Food and Wine Tasting held in Lytton Plaza. More than 70 wineries are represented there, and they aren’t the usual ones you find at Bay Area public tastings. You can taste from Baldassari Family wines, Lewelling vineyards, and all kinds of other great small-scale wineries. Area chefs provide gourmet food as well, so we don’t get to shnockered. It’s always a great day out, and supports all that is local in our economy. The Tiburon Wine Festival and the Cupertino Art and Wine Festivals are also good ones to explore, or just head to the hills and tour Napa Valley itself!
But on a less self-indulgent note, April provides Mill Valleyans an opportunity to give back to the community with “Mrs. T’s Mill Valley Beautification Day,” which is held (when else?) on Earth Day. Honestly, I don’t know who Mrs. T is, but she should get some kind of medal. Between the “litter brigades” and the tree planting, it is a wonderful feeling to get involved in the community this way. Then later, when you pass by a park, you can say, “I planted that tree!” or “I cleaned that fountain!” What a fantastic way to pass a day outdoors!
If you have little girls, like I do, don’t miss the Alice In Wonderland Spring Faire, also in April. It is surreal, for sure, but do not be afraid. The Falkirk Cultural Center brings characters in full costume together with puppet shows, tea on the Great Lawn, croquet, and everything Wonderlandesque.

Springtime also brings the Larry Lautzker Memorial Day Parade. This year’s theme is “Yes we will!” and reflects the fact that our community has a powerful will to embrace its small town values. It’s great to set up a lawn chair and watch the incredible floats and local bands that march through town. Kids can continue the fun with games and entertainment at the Mill Valley community center, afterward. Spring fever has spawned numerous other nutty ideas as well, such as the Marin Human Race, which is the most casual fun run ever invented, and a huge fundraiser for Marin County. It includes a pancake breakfast, so don’t count on losing any weight!
Yes, there is plenty to do in Mill Valley, but at the core, this is really a quaint, quiet small town, and that’s how we like it. So when I get overwhelmed by the festivals, the wines, the incredible restaurants, and all the entertainment available, I just take a hike up Mount Tam and let it all slip away.

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