Posted in Blogging Marin on Friday, July 27, 2018 by MCVB Staff
By Joe Kukura
The sleek, new Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system is a chic and very easy way to get around in Marin County. Its shiny, ultramodern green trains just hit the tracks last summer, and their plush reclining seats, full tables, and snack bars with wine and craft beer have redefined public transit with a Marin County sense of cool. But the best thing about the SMART train line isn’t the trains themselves, but the things you can do and the places you can go while avoiding traffic and leaving the driving to someone else.
The popular Clipper cards used all over the San Francisco Bay Area are valid for affordable SMART travel, and you can get to the SMART train from San Francisco using the Golden Gate Transit system. Bikes are allowed on SMART trains too, as there is a systemwide pedestrian and bike path parallel to the tracks to help you explore even more.
Here’s a rundown of the best attractions you’ll want to see at Marin County’s SMART train destinations.
Downtown San Rafael
SMART starts in San Rafael, the southernmost station on the line. And its magnificently walkable downtown features an array of charming California boutiques like Art Works Downtown and the nearby Northgate Mall.
The best new innovative films are always playing at the art deco Smith Rafael Film Center, and live music often featuring the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh jams out nightly at the Terrapin Crossroads nightclub and gourmet restaurant that he owns.
You’ll also find farm-to-table Marin County cuisine at standout restaurants like legendary Tuscan eatery Il Davide, wine bar favorite Vin Antico, and Green Chile Kitchen inside the Art Works Downtown bazaar. The Panama Hotel Restaurant is the overnighter’s spot to stay, serving gourmet lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The Roadside BBQ hits the sweet spot for comfort food.
Marin County Civic Center
SMART’s Marin Civic Center station is named for the Marin County Civic Center, the last work commissioned by Frank Lloyd Wright and an absolute architectural wonder to behold. You can also take in that beautiful sight from a distance at nearby Lagoon Park, whose majestic water fountains and wildlife are unforgettable.
Every foodie needs to visit the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market at least once, as it’s the third-largest farmer’s market in California and held every Thursday and Sunday.
Novato’s Hamilton neighborhood is the kind of stunning, open-space California landscape that makes SMART rides so very scenic. You’ll see even more unforgettable sights at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MarinMOCA) and the adjacent Novato Arts Center, both of which are less than a 10-minute walk or a rideshare hail away from the SMART train station.
Take in that Novato scenery—perhaps with a glass of famous Northern California wine—at Beso Bistro and Wine Bar, which is also right next to the MarinMOCA. If craft beers and wood-fired pizza are more your thing, check out Hopmonk Tavern. And spit-roasted meats and smoked prime ribs are always cooking at Rickey's Restaurant at Inn Marin.
SMART train fare and schedule information is available online to help you handle your SMART trip as intelligently as possible. And there are a few more SMART stations getting ready to open in Larkspur and downtown Novato in the years to come. That makes Marin County an up-and-coming choice for your staycation or weekend getaway because the new SMART line is really going places.
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