Marin's Nightlife: Now and Then
Posted in Blogging Marin on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 by MCVB Staff
The nightlife in Marin County offers a mix of relaxed and vibrant experiences. From cozy pubs and live music venues to stylish wine bars and trendy restaurants, there's something for everyone. Whether seeking a low-key evening with friends or a lively night out, Marin County provides a diverse range of options to enjoy after the sun sets.
Here are four of our favorite partner destinations for night owls, along with some music history/trivia about other historic venues.
Nightlife in Marin County
Visiting Marin County is meant to be relaxing, so exploring its nightlife is one of the most pleasant experiences you may have during your adventures. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best of Marin’s vibrant nightlife:
The Sweetwater Music Hall
The Bay Area holds a unique place in music history, and in Mill Valley, the Sweetwater Music Hall is an iconic venue with a rich history spanning over five decades. It has hosted unforgettable performances by renowned artists like Aaron Neville, Etta James, Carlos Santana, Huey Lewis, and Sammy Hagar. Despite changes in ownership and a relocation, Sweetwater remains a beloved establishment with a dedicated and famous following.
Today’s Sweetwater Music Hall serves as a 300-person concert space, complemented by the adjacent restaurant, Rock & Rye. The restaurant offers an exceptional menu featuring locally sourced and organic dishes inspired by the farmers' market, along with signature cocktails, wine pairings, and other delightful beverages. Visitors can enjoy live music and even have the chance to see co-owner Bobby Weir from the Grateful Dead jamming with fellow musicians.
If you are staying near Novato, then visiting HopMonk Tavern is a must. This quaint tavern has a large beergarden under vintage oak trees where you can enjoy a craft beer or one of their eclectic fine spirits. If you love live music, then relaxing in the Session Room can be a great way to spend the night, enjoying a variety of sounds. Since HopMonk Tavern takes the safety of their quests seriously, they have invested in a 2-tiered air purification system in the Session Room. During the summer months, the Outdoor Cookout Concert Series is very popular. Bring a low-back chair for grass seating on the hill or reserve a picnic table – either way, you will get your groove on to some great tunes!
Are you looking for a winery with a warm and inviting ambiance? Trek Winery is the all-in-one destination in Novato with wine tasting, rotating art exhibits, and live music or comedy performances. It is located in the very heart of Marin County and is worth visiting. What could be better than savoring handcrafted wine made from locally sourced grapes while enjoying a live performance by one of the talented local musicians? Whether you prefer acoustic sets or energetic bands, Trek Winery hosts performances for any taste in a cozy venue with both indoor and outdoor lounge areas.
How about a historic destination in a town that has retained its rural atmosphere and tranquil beauty? Rancho Nicasio Restaurant & Bar is a roadhouse tucked away among the rolling hills of West Marin in Nicasio. Nicasio, which means "the hidden one," got its start somewhere around the mid-1800s and still resembles a frontier town—a place where change is gradual.
Bob Brown, who was the opening manager of Slim's in San Francisco and still manages Huey Lewis, owns Rancho Nicasio, but it is his son, Max who does all the music now. He gets the best bands for their weekend Dinner & A Show on the lawn. The outdoor patio area is the perfect place to spend a Friday or Saturday night out with friends dancing to live music.
For a great night out give Nick’s Cove a try and mingle with the locals. The restaurant is casual in that it serves coastal-inspired cuisine with a vintage twist of nautical design that you can order at the counter. This destination is known for its BBQ oysters, local wines, and craft cocktails. Nick’s Cove features live music performances from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday Locals Night. Be sure to check out their schedule to make plans for which performances you don’t want to miss.
Think about spending the night too if you can! You will want to plan for some daytime activities to pursue before or after your night out, and Nick’s Cove can arrange the kayaking, paddle boarding, cheese and farm tours, fishing, and in-room massages for you.
Discover more of Marin County's vibrant nightlife at a few other iconic venues in Fairfax such as Mac's at 19 Broadway and Peri's Tavern at 29 Broadway. These establishments also offer an unforgettable experience for music enthusiasts, bar-goers, and dance aficionados.
Historic Music Venues in Marin County
Marin County is rich in music history, and there are a number of historic destinations you could explore. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Marin County was famous for its rock & roll and jazz performances—in fact, Marin County had a reputation as a party town in the past. Some of the most prominent locations included the Trident, a renowned club in Sausalito, Pepperland, and Sweetwater. Let’s time-travel back to look at each of these places:
Pepperland first emerged as part of the Bermuda Palms, a motel/restaurant complex built in the 1930s by Whitey Litchfield. In 1970, the club was first renamed Euphoria and then, after a significant renovation, re-emerged as a music hall called Pepperland. Even though it was fully operational for only a year, the following famous groups performed there: Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Chuck Berry, Taj Mahal, and many others. Today, the location is known as Motel 6.
Original Sweetwater Music Hall:
The original Sweetwater had a great start when it opened in 1972 in a rustic downtown Mill Valley building. An acoustic folk‐rock group played on its opening night for a big crowd. This opening foreshadowed Sweetwater’s glorious future when the following famous musicians performed on its stage: Bob Weir, Aaron Neville, Big Mama Thornton, Carlos Santana, Clarence Clemons, Elvis Costello, Etta James, Gregg Allman, Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia, John Hiatt, John Lee Hooker, Maria Muldaur, Mimi Fariña, Odetta, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Richie Havens, Robert Cray, Sammy Hagar, Townes Van Zandt, Van Morrison. In the ’80s, Sweetwater earned the title of the best nightclub in America from the Times of London.
While the original Sweetwater closed its doors in September 2007, it reopened five years later as the Sweetwater Music Hall.
Trident in Sausalito:
Once known as the Yacht Club, the Trident in Sausalito was a jazz venue. After it was rebranded as the Trident, some of the most famous jazz musicians in the United States performed there, including Bill Evans, Jon Hendricks, Denny Zeitlin, and the Kingston Trio. The new brand positioned the place as a hippie-inspired musical entertainment venue with a natural food restaurant.
Later, the Trident became a popular performance venue for rock and roll musicians, such as Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, Clint Eastwood, Bill Cosby, and even the Smothers Brothers.
The Trident was portrayed in the movie “Play It Again, Sam,” starring Woody Allen. The restaurant still operates to satisfy its guests with meals made from local, organic, and sustainably-produced ingredients.
Stay for the Music!
There are a wide variety of activities to pursue while in Marin County. If you are a night owl, you will appreciate its vibrant nightlife, including live music performances, hand-crafted beers and wines, eclectic cocktails, and fancy restaurants. If you are more interested in tourism, you might pay homage to some of Marin County's locations that are reminiscent of its illustrious history in jazz and rock and roll music.
For the best places to stay in Marin, visit the Marin CVB at visitmarin.org/hotels.