Visiting San Rafael and Marin
MARIN COUNTY CIVIC CENTER
3501 Civic Center Drive
The Marin County Civic Center was Frank Lloyd Wright's last major commission and is one of the famed architect's most distinctive designs.
The Civic Center, which spans three hills, includes a lush, 11-acre lagoon and a 20-acre park. Also on the grounds of the Civic Center complex is Marin Center, the county's largest performing arts and convention facility.
Buildings are open to the public for self-guided tours during normal business hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteer docents lead a free one-hour tour of the Center by appointment only. Call ahead at (415) 499-7009.
ST. PAUL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
1123 Court Street
Built in 1869, this Victorian Gothic church is noted for its beautiful stained glass Rose Window and redwood interior. The Rose Window was installed in 1895. (415) 456-4842.
CHINA CAMP STATE PARK
North San Pedro Road
One of the more fascinating historic sites in San Rafael, this 1,648-acre bayside park acquired its name from a Chinese fishing village that once flourished there. China Camp has hiking and horseback riding and biking trails with sweeping views of San Pablo Bay to the east, and San Rafael and the San Francisco Bay to the west. Boat launches, fishing piers, windsurfing, and plenty of picnic tables and barbecue pits round out the park's features.
Along the park, San Pedro Road hugs the shores of San Pablo Bay for a breathtaking view of the North Bay panoramas. The road is studded with jutting points with parking, barbecue pits and picnic tables. Remnants of an old pier dating back to the founding of China Camp are off Buckeye Point. People still fish there.
Also visit a preserved fisherman's cottage and the China Camp Museum. Located in the original shrimp processing plant, the museum offers self-guided tours showing photos and tools of China Camp in its heyday. For a map of the area, call the park at (415) 456-0766.
McNEAR'S BEACH PARK
McNear's Beach is one of Marin's most popular recreation areas, located off Point San Pedro Road near Peacock Gap. The 35-acre recreational area offers an outdoor swimming pool, fishing pier, two tennis courts, numerous family and group picnic areas with barbecues, and almost a mile of sandy beaches. Fee for parking and use of pool. (415) 499-6387.
GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND, INC.
350 Los Ranchitos Road
Guide Dogs are a familiar site on San Rafael's streets, in restaurants, and on buses. That's because San Rafael is home to Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., where dogs are raised and trained to assist blind people.
Free 45-minute tours are available, and include a trip to the kennels, the campus, the student dormitories, grounds, and gift shop. Monthly graduation ceremonies are also a good time to visit. Ceremony schedules are available by calling the organization.
Guide Dogs is an unusual tourist destination, but well worth the trip. Call (415) 499-4000.
MARIN BOCCE FEDERATION
550 B Street
Located next to the San Rafael Community Center, the Marin Bocce Federation manages and operates a beautiful, family oriented, 10 court bocce facility open to the public 7 days a week.The facility and the rose garden are available for private parties, fund raising and corporate team building. Our many amenities can be mixed and matched to provide varied and more flexible rental packages. Ask us how Marin Bocce can help with successful fund raising events and bocce tournament management. Call (415) 485-5583.
1600 Mission Avenue
This co-ed private high school, located on 10 acres, was formerly a military academy built in 1870. It is an austere, Italianate mansion, stripped of most of its original ornamentation. Tours by appointment. (415) 453-4550.
MISSION SAN RAFAEL ARCANGEL
1104 Fifth Avenue
Mission San Rafael Arcangel is a 1949 replica of the original Mission, which was constructed in 1817 and was second to last in the California mission chain. The building has been restored and includes a gift shop and small museum. The small, charming chapel is open to the public daily. (415) 454-8141.
76 Albert Park Lane
This center is a rescue mission for the rehabilitation of native species. Injured animals are treated and returned to their environment.
The Center has an indoor clinic and more than 20 outdoor cages for all types of animals. One-way glass windows allow visitors to observe recovering animals and birds without disturbing them. An indoor exhibit hall features habitat dioramas, hands-on exhibits, games for children, a small nature shop, and wildlife displays. (415) 453-1000.
DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
1520 Grand Avenue
Founded in 1890, the university is located on 80 wooded acres in the center of San Rafael. The four-year liberal arts college is home to many architecturally and historically significant buildings.
Dominican's library won a national architectural award for design in 1964. Campus tours arranged by appointment and a brochure is available for a self-guided tour. (415) 457-4440.
MARIN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
1125 B Street
Boyd House, home to the Marin Historical Society Museum, is a beautiful example of high Victorian Gothic set in a park-like garden surrounded by a granite and iron fence. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum houses a detailed collection of local historical photos and artifacts. Call for hours: (415) 454-8538.
The Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau (MCVB) is a private 501-c6 organization funded by a Business Improvement District (BID). The MCVB represents nine Marin communities: Corte Madera, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Tiburon, and the West Marin Visitors Bureau. We promote Marin County as an overnight destination through marketing programs, collateral materials, trade missions, and partnership with other industry-related organizations. Our mission is to develop a sustainable visitor base to Marin County, enhance the local economies, and protect the natural resources through responsible promotion. (415)925-2060.
FALKIRK CULTURAL CENTER
1408 Mission Avenue
Built in 1888, the former home of Scottish shipping magnate Robert Dollar is typical of the elaborate Queen Anne style.
The 17-room mansion was purchased through public bonds in 1974 to be preserved as a historic and cultural resource. This national landmark is surrounded by 11 acres of formal grounds, natural wooded hillside and a sculpture garden. Falkirk exhibits contemporary art in the upstairs galleries and sponsors events throughout the year with other cultural organizations. Call (415) 485-3328.
ST. VINCENT'S SCHOOL FOR BOYS
One Saint Vincents Drive
St. Vincent's, an Italian Renaissance Mission-style church, was constructed in 1855 and is designated a California historical landmark. The state's oldest home for dependent children, the school began as an orphanage during the Gold Rush. St. Vincent's now provides residential care to boys ages seven to 17 with serious emotional and educational problems. Tours by request or self-guided walking tour map. (415) 507-2000.