Marin Blog · Marin Arts and Culture Collection

Exploring Marin's Cultural Resources

Posted in Blogging Marin on Friday, June 2, 2023 by MCVB Staff

Most people don’t know this—unless you’re a local—but Marin is a hidden gem when it comes to culture. Because of Marin’s close proximity to the cultural and counter-cultural mecca of San Francisco, it has long been home to its own unique artistic endeavors, such as stunning outdoor performances set against the backdrop of the majestic Marin hills and an eclectic mix of indie films and thought-provoking documentaries.

If you’re looking for a more cultural experience to try in 2023, come explore the cultural landscape of Marin—we’ve got something for everyone.

The Mountain Play

The Mountain Play is a must-visit for those seeking a unique cultural experience in Marin. The open-air amphitheater hosts a new production each summer, featuring local actors and musicians. Attendees can enjoy classics like The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz or lesser-known gems like Hairspray and South Pacific while surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Don't miss the 2023 production of Into The Woods currently live through June 18th.

Located just a short distance from San Francisco, the Mountain Play is easily accessible and provides a breathtaking setting for a memorable event. Besides the performance, visitors can pack a picnic and spend the day lounging on the grassy hillside, enjoying the many food vendors and other attractions on-site.


Marin Cinema

Marin has a fantastic cinema scene with multiple theaters showcasing a variety of films, including independent and foreign films, documentaries, and blockbusters. A few things we suggest you check out are:

Italian Film Fest at Dominican University

The Italian Film Festival, once an informal college presentation, is now a beloved annual event in the San Francisco Bay Area thanks to its devoted director, Lido Cantarutti. Enjoy an authentic Italian atmosphere, special appearances, and Italian films with English subtitles at the Dominican University festival. It's the perfect dinner-and-a-movie date destination for Italian film enthusiasts.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Founded by Mark Fishkin in 1977, the non-competitive Mill Valley Film Festival draws new and established filmmakers to its 11-day event every October. With over 200 filmmakers from 50+ countries, the festival features submissions in six categories, from narrative to experimental, animation, children's films, and youth-produced films.

The festival's relaxed atmosphere encourages collaboration and conversation, making it a hotspot for the community. In fact, it’s so popular that it's the only prominent film festival in the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall, drawing large crowds and celebrity appearances, including Helen Mirren, Tim Robbins, and Billy Bob Thornton—it's no wonder the MVFF is called the "filmmakers' festival."


Presented by the California Film Institute, the DocLands Documentary Film Festival brings compelling stories and the insights behind them to Marin County for four days each spring.

As a non-competitive, non-juried, inclusive festival that presents an overall Audience Choice award, it’s dedicated to building connections and partnerships that will invigorate the business and art of nonfiction filmmaking. Through public screenings and engaged conversations, DocLands aims to build an active, involved and fully supportive community around documentary film. 








Marin Symphony

For decades, the Marin Symphony Association has been a prominent cultural organization in the Bay Area, bringing local classical music to Marin County. The symphony's goal is to create a shared experience of live music that connects with existing and new audiences by showcasing high-caliber symphonic concerts that express the beauty and excitement of classical music. The orchestra aims to engage and expand its community by exploring new possibilities and ways of listening, all while delivering innovative programs and performances.


Mission San Rafael

Established in 1817, Mission San Rafael serves as an important reminder of California's rich history. Originally built as an assistencia or “helper” to care for the sick at Mission Dolores in San Francisco, it is now a replica of the original Spanish mission and is part of the Saint Raphael parish in downtown San Rafael.

In recognition of its cultural significance, San Rafael was honored as a California Cultural District in 2017. The Mission Chapel is open to visitors daily, offering self-guided tours and an opportunity to connect with the state's past. Donations are welcome to support the preservation of this important historical landmark.


Marin’s Museums

Marin County's rich art and culture scene offers a plethora of choices for those eager to explore its history and art. The following are a few suggestions for museums that should not be missed!

For history buffs, the Marin History Museum in San Rafael documents the county's past, while the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame offers an impressive collection of bike tech that will appeal to riders of all types. Visiting this museum is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of cycling and discover all its amazing stories.

Contemporary art takes center stage at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, showcasing modern artwork by both established and emerging artists.








Marin’s Art Scene

The art scene in Marin is bustling with activity. From the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts to the Marin Society of Artists, there's no shortage of inspiration for creatives of all mediums.

The O’Hanlon Center features rotating exhibitions, classes, and workshops for artists to hone their skills. Meanwhile, Art Works Downtown serves as a hub for the visual and performing arts in San Rafael, offering everything from painting and drawing classes to concerts and theater productions.

For those with a green thumb, the Marin Art Garden Center combines horticulture and art with stunning gardens and galleries. Lastly, the Marin Society of Artists showcases works from both emerging and established artists in a variety of styles and mediums. The art scene in Marin truly has something for everyone.


Civic Center Tours

Experience the beauty and grandeur of Marin's Civic Center with guided tours. These tours provide a unique opportunity to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic architecture. Learn about the history, design, and construction of the buildings that serve as the hub of Marin's civic life. With highlights including the majestic 172-foot high Civic Center's Hall of Justice, library, and expansive grounds, this tour is a must for architecture enthusiasts, history buffs, and nature lovers.

Docent-Led Public Tours are available every Friday by reservation.  Book now to enjoy the stunning Marin Civic Center firsthand.


Visit Marin Today

Discover the vibrant cultural scene in Marin and join the thriving community of creatives, artists, and enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the diverse world of art, music, and literature while experiencing the stunning landscapes of this beautiful county. Come and explore Marin's unique cultural heritage—your next adventure awaits!

For the best places to stay when in Marin, visit the Marin CVB at