Sausalito CaliforniaThe Sun Shines in Sausalito
You’ve heard that the coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. It’s hard to wrap your head around heavy fog and cool winds whipping up picturesque streets, especially when you’re expecting a sunny Cali summer. Luckily, the weather you’re looking for is just twenty minutes away – by ferry, which really sets the mood – in Sausalito.
Good for: Families craving an accessible getaway; or families looking to tack on a few vacation days to the end of a San Francisco work trip.
- Touring the bay – by paddleboard or kayak.
- A quick ferry jaunt to San Francisco if you didn’t come from there. It debarks at the Ferry building, fittingly, which is an SF must-see, and little imaginations go nuts upon spotting Alcatraz along the way.
- Hiking the Marin Headlands for a 360-degree view of the ocean, the bay, San Francisco proper and Mount Tam.
- Enjoying a crab roll at the outdoor Fish restaurant after you’ve worked up quite an appetite.
- Cocktails and a view at Farley Bar at Cavallo Point.
Suggested stay: 2–3 days. Sausalito is small enough to be a quick weekend jaunt that feels like you’ve really gotten away.
What to know: Renowned as one of the country’s happiest (and prettiest) towns, Sausalito is a popular spot during the summer. So don’t expect a sleepy beach town. It’s filled with tourists, but a lot of them are European, which makes the situation far more palatable.
Room With a View
Why stay at a hotel when you can stay at a mansion? The newly renovated Mansion at Casa Madrona is homey luxury at its finest. A Victorian home tucked into the hill above the main Bridgeway drag, it’s housed everyone from Pink Floyd (in the ‘60s) to Sting (allegedly a couple months ago). The nine guestrooms have a chic décor that highlights the building’s original details, and windows that highlight the bay. If you’re going big, go for the Alexandria suite with its indoor/outdoor kitchen and dining room (along with a private chef), which opens onto a deck that runs the width of the house. Or, you know, just rent the whole house. Its relaxed feel coupled with impeccable service makes a stay here a win for parents. If your kids need more convincing, go with this: You can get champagne delivered by drone. See? Fun for the whole family.
The Great Outdoors
At first glance, Sausalito’s quaint streets trigger a desire to laze the day away at an outdoor restaurant, sipping rosé. If you can get past that (ahem, kids), you’ll discover that it’s a highly active place – as evidenced by sporty moms jogging prams all over town. It’s inspiring. You’ll want to get in on the action.
So first up: the beach. Schoonmaker is a great place to take a dip – if you’re willing to brave Pacific temps, as children strangely tend to be. Lacking in tides or currents, it’s safe to swim or just lounge about on the sand. You can also rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak by the hour from Sea Trek Kayak and SUP. Unless the wind is unusually strong, it’s a fun and safe way to explore with the family.
If you’re more of a land lover, rent bikes and ride into Mill Valley for an afternoon of shopping and nibbling. Or for something more rustic, take the Spencer Avenue exit off of 101 and hit the Marin Headlands trailhead that begins there. There are a few “stairs” at the beginning but the hike is definitely kid-friendly, and at the top you’ll get a 360-degree vantage point including the ocean, the bay, San Francisco and Mount Tam.
Animal-lovers should not miss the Marine Mammal Center at Cronkhite Beach, a marine mammal rehabilitation center. Admission is free and at any given time they have several sea lions and seals that they’re helping get back on their, er, flippers. Kids can even get a peek inside the operating rooms. The grounds have tons of hiking trails, and it’s a great place to fly a kite. Also, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, at the base of Golden Gate Bridge, is an incredible exploratory museum for kids of all ages. With multiple buildings, themes and play areas, kids can run and play freely and safely.
When the little ones begin to wane and you’re ready to explore more grown-up territory, head to Cavallo Point for cocktails and small plates on the deck. (This is where that rosé comes into play.) Farley Bar overlooks the bridge and offers a great view of tankers coming and going. Bonus: You can send the kids to the huge grassy area across the street when they’re re-energized after lunch and you wouldn’t mind another glass of wine.
Brunch to Lunch
You can’t be this close to San Francisco without feeling hella pressure to keep your food game competitive. And you can’t be this close to the water without offering great seafood. Fred’s Café is a great place to start the day if you’re in the mood for classic brunch options and big portions. But if you’d rather get up and go, grab a coffee and pastry at Cibo.
Come lunchtime, the aptly named Fish, a fresh, sustainable seafood joint, is great for kids and adults. Order at the counter and eat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. But note that Fish also has kid-style hours – it closes at 8:30pm. Bar Bocce is a perfect afternoon-to-evening joint with a fire pit, beachside seating and – you guessed it – bocce ball. They don’t let children play, but they do allow them to get into the water and throw rocks and do other weird kid stuff that’ll keep them entertained for hours.
If you want to make your calories count, head to Rossetti’s Pizza for dinner (in fact, it’s only open for dinner). The owner is from Naples and imports his ingredients. It’s kid-friendly to the max; if you ask, they’ll let them make something out of dough, then bake it. Copita Mexican has the carnitas/tequila thing down, and their outdoor seating is great for kids – and dogs. And if you’ve found a babysitter, go straight to Sushi Ran. Fresh fish, fresh air and bright sun. Sausalito’s about as summer as you can get.
(Photos courtesy of Mansion at Casa Madrona)