Posted in Blogging Marin on Thursday, September 6, 2018 by MCVB Staff
By Joe Kukura
Northern Californians know that Novato is an ideal weekend getaway or staycation spot. It’s a sprawling natural setting with a wealth of museums and Marin County’s best shopping and live entertainment destinations. Novato is located right at the center of many of the Golden State’s greatest wonders, 30 miles north of San Francisco, and to the immediate west of wine country.
But it’s what is in Novato that makes it special: a landscape of open spaces and fascinating places that combine nature and culture for an inimitable mix. Novato boasts more than 2,600 acres of parks, forests and nature preserves. Here are a few of Novato’s standout attractions that make for a scenic, wonderful weekend full of hiking, biking, shopping, bird-watching, pampering relaxation and a few more of your favorite things.
Wondrous Walking Tours
Novato’s coastal hills, wetlands, and miles of outdoor trails are complemented by a beautifully walkable downtown that’s rich with both history and modern boutiques.
The city is perhaps best known for their Historic Old Town, a district along the shopping corridor of Grant Street that also happens to house preserved 19th century landmarks like the Novato History Museum, City Hall (a restored Presbyterian church from 1896) and the Novato Druids Hall, a fraternal organization building that dates back to 1899. These preserved historical gems, with their original architecture still intact, sit alongside contemporary florists, art galleries, and music stores.
The serious shopper will want to stroll Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, a 600,000-square-foot bazaar with more than 50 stores and restaurants. Vintage Oaks features a who’s who of the best brand-name stores today, plus dining options including sushi, Chinese food, pizza, deli, burgers, and bakeries.
The Top-Flight Museums of Novato
Novato is Marin County’s museum headquarters, with an impressive collection of art, artifacts and the stories of California’s yesteryear and modern day. Marin County’s role in reaching for the skies makes for some particularly dazzling displays.
The Hamilton Field History Museum is the new incarnation of what was once Hamilton Army Airfield and Air Force Base, the critical World War II air pilot facility. Uniforms, medals and even a cockpit simulator from that era are there to show the important part Hamilton played in winning the war and establishing world peace. Novato is also home to the Space Station Museum, an out-of-this-world exhibit showing how California is the birthplace of the Space Shuttle, the Hubble Telescope, Mars rover and much more.
Also on the grounds of Hamilton Field, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MarinMOCA) features a rotating collection of modern art masterpieces along with studios and classes. And of course, the Novato History Museum, located in a restored Gold Rush-era postmaster’s house, goes deep into the history of Novato from the mid-1800s to today. Admission to both of those museums is free.
Cuisine, Nightlife, and Entertainment
Novato has a richly deserved reputation as a foodie haven, part of Marin County’s organic and locally sourced commitment to the farm-to-table food movement. Take in a workshop or a tasting with leading celebrity chefs at the award-winning culinary event space The Key Room. Or indulge in California cuisine at the renowned Wildfox Restaurant, whose hillside patio and outdoor fireplace make for an unforgettable dining experience.
If you crave a side of nightlife with your meal, Hopmonk Tavern brews its own craft beer and has an impressive list of wine and spirits, and live music throughout the weekend. For a walk on the wine side, Trek Winery is Novato’s premier wine tasting room and plays home to an eclectic lineup of music and standup comedy on the weekends. You can also visit the Mantra Wines tasting room, located on downtown Novato's Grant Avenue, offering over 11 wines to sample, including sparkling, whites and reds - enjoy them by the flight, the glass or the bottle. Mantra also offers weekly LIVE music for your listening pleasure as you sample their unique available flights.
Novato is noteworthy for checking all the boxes for a perfect Northern California weekend getaway. With its diverse range of places to stay and outstanding attractions, you’ll see why people in the know rush toward Novato to get away.
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