Marin Blog · Marin Arts and Culture Collection

Marin's Dynamic Arts and Culture Scene

Posted in Blogging Marin on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 by MCVB Staff

By Joe Kukura


Northern California’s Marin County has a special place in the American art scene. The home of movie stars like Sean Penn and George Lucas and rock ’n’ rollers Sammy Hagar and Huey Lewis, Marin County also gave us music legends Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, and Bill Graham. Many well-known movies were filmed in Marin County, and Marin County nightlife has hot spots like nightlife bars owned by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir (Sweetwater Music Hall). The creative spirit of these iconic entertainers lives on in Marin County, with an idyllic landscape just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that’s also a quick drive from the famed California wine country.


The arts and culture of Marin County feature notable popular attractions like the Marin Symphony and the outdoor theater Mountain Play, known for live performances on the panoramic peaks of Mount Tamalpais. These are just a few of the remarkable venues, arts festivals, and annual events waiting for you in Marin County, and we have a few more to recommend and help you plan your visit.


Mill Valley Film Festival

The Mill Valley Film Festival, one of the most acclaimed film festivals in the world, has an incredible track record of launching great films and stars. The 2018 festival kicked off with Green Book and the film’s Oscar nominee for best actor Mahershala Ali in attendance. The film went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. Roma, the Oscar winner for both best foreign-language film and best director, was also part of the lineup, making the Mill Valley Film Festival a pretty good predictor for who will be the favorites at the Oscars.


The 2023 Mill Valley Film Festival is Oct. 6 to Oct. 16. The schedule has not yet been announced, but keep your eyes on the festival’s website to see which feature films, documentaries and big Hollywood stars will be coming to Mill Valley.


Downtown San Rafael Arts District

Scenic San Rafael is the oldest, largest and most culturally eclectic city in Marin County. The walkable and charming downtown area is dotted with attractions (boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, and cultural centers) as part of the Downtown San Rafael Arts District. You’ll want to visit the jewel of the district, Art Works Downtown, a 40,000square-foot arts center with four galleries, 28 studios and an array of shops. Art Works Downtown is always a great destination, but it comes alive for the 2nd Friday Art Walk, a monthly celebration of the arts with DJs, food trucks, live performances, and pop-up shops and installations.


Marin County Civic Center

One of California’s premier architectural achievements is also one of its top live music and entertainment venues. The Marin County Civic Center was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his last commissioned work. But the place still rocks with live shows from big-name acts, plus musicals, stand-up comedy and of course, performances by the Marin Symphony. The complex also features an 11-acre lagoon and a 20-acre park, with docent tours of the building available on Wednesdays and Fridays.  


Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival

When the California redwoods turn to their autumn colors, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival shows its flair with live music, great food, and jewelry, paintings, photography and sculptures of more than 100 visiting artists. The festival itself is held outdoors and in the middle of a redwood grove, making it one of California’s most unique annual arts events. The 2023 Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival is September 23-24, and do bring the kids to enjoy the Children’s Grove area.



Stay on top of what’s happening during your visit to  Marin County with the MarinArts Arts and Culture Guide, an online events calendar and directory of arts organizations, artists and venues. It’s an easy-to-use platform that lets you search by dates, categories, venues or your interests, and the home page always lets you know the can’t-miss events coming up in Marin County. 


Marin County is a picturesque wonderland of natural beauty, and its arts scene is historically significant and vibrant. There are plenty of spectacular places to stay, so make Marin County your getaway that has culture and entertainment down to a fine art.


For all you need to plan your Marin County vacation, visit the Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website or Facebook page.