Marin Blog · The Best in Marin Collection

Experience The Best of Novato in Just 36 Hours

Posted in Blogging Marin on Friday, March 15, 2024 by MCVB Staff

There are so many beautiful places to visit in the Bay Area, but none more beautiful than Novato, California. There’s so much to do and see with nature escapes, productive meetings, and tranquil retreats at your fingertips—but how do you take it all in if you’re visiting for a short stay or business trip?

A Little About Novato

Novato, located at the northern tip of Marin County, is surrounded by pristine natural landscapes, teeming wetlands, and rolling coastal hills just waiting to be explored. It is conveniently located, just a short drive from the well-known Sonoma-Napa Wine Country to the east and the picturesque Point Reyes National Seashore to the west. Travel north and you will come across the charming Russian River area, while the vibrant city of San Francisco awaits to the south.

With so much to offer, it is no surprise that Novato has been named one of the top thirty cities in the United States for healthy living. You can explore more than 2,600 acres of open space, including beautiful hiking and scenic cycling trails. You can also play golf on some premier 18-hole courses. Finish your day by exploring Grant Avenue's quaint boutiques and eateries in historic Old Town or sipping award-winning local vintages by a cozy firepit.

Here are a few of our favorite activities you can do if you have 36 hours or less when staying in Novato this year.

Hiking in Novato

If you’re spending 36 hours in Novato, then the best thing we can recommend is a hike through Novato’s surrounding hills, marshlands, and valleys. Explore well-maintained trails like the newly opened Bay Trail in Hamilton Field or Rush Creek Preserve, perfect for leisurely walks amidst stunning scenery.

For a more challenging trek, head to Mount Burdell, Novato's highest peak, offering panoramic vistas and encounters with native wildlife. Don't forget to pack plenty of water and keep an eye out for colorful wildflowers in the spring!

If you’re a fisher, trek the Terwilliger nature trail before stopping at Stafford Lake to try your hand at catching some catfish, bluegill or bass.


Dog-Friendly Places in Novato

Are you traveling to Novato with a furry friend? Novato welcomes your pet with open arms and ample opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Explore Indian Tree Open Space Preserve's shaded trails or the lush landscapes of Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve. Let your pup roam off-leash at Dogbone Meadow Dog Park or enjoy scenic views at Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve.

Looking for a place to stay? Hotels such as the Days Inn and Inn Marin accommodate up to two dogs for a small fee. Once you’ve checked in, make sure to refuel at one of the 32 dog-friendly restaurants in town—available on BringFido—then head to a nearby beach like Dillon Beach or Kehoe Beach for some fun water time.

See Also: Parks and Open Space for Your Pooch for a list of dog-friendly parks by community.


Bird Watching in Novato

Hiking and swimming aren’t the only outdoor activities you can do during your two-day stay in Novato. If you’re a bird enthusiast, then we recommend you check out the Rush Creek Preserve—a 500-acre wetland sanctuary teeming with over 196 bird species. Spot Peregrine falcons, mule deer, and other wildlife amidst lush riparian habitats. For a quieter experience, visit Pacheco Pond, where resident mallards, Canada geese, and non-native mute swans frolic year-round.


Shopping in Novato

If you’re not much of a hiker but want to experience as many things that Novato has to offer as you can, we recommend stopping by the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, which boasts over 50 premium stores, dining options, and service providers. From household names like Target and Costco to boutique finds and eateries like In-N-Out Burger and Panera Bread, Vintage Oaks offers a vibrant shopping and dining experience for every visitor.

Speaking of Vintage Oaks, if you need a moment to relax, why not stop in at the 9 Corners Healthstyle Galleria? They provide cutting-edge weight loss solutions and wellness services, from acupuncture to full-spectrum infrared saunas. Membership programs are offered but not mandatory, making the experience ideal for short stays in Novato. 

If you’re a fitness buff—even on vacation, we don’t judge—before you stop at the spa, drop in at Club Pilates for invigorating workouts at an affordable price or try Pure Barre for a total body workout that utilizes the ballet barre to burn fat, sculpt muscles, and create long, lean physiques.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll down Grant Avenue in historic Old Town, where you can peruse quaint stores and boutiques offering everything from upscale clothing and fine quality home decor to artisan food and antiques. One can find a wide selection of cafes, restaurants and bars / tasting rooms in Downtown Novato.  


Novato Cultural Experiences

Immerse yourself in Novato’s rich cultural tapestry with a visit to the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (MarinMOCA) and Olompali State Historic Park.

Explore MarinMOCA's vibrant galleries showcasing the artistic legacy of Northern California, followed by lunch at Beso Bistro and a stroll along Hamilton Bay Trail. Then, dive into Olompali's fascinating history, from ancient Coast Miwok settlements to 19th-century ranching. Discover interpretative displays at the Visitor Center, framed by scenic vistas of Mt Burdell and the Petaluma River marshlands.

See Also: A Weekend in Novato: Nature, Nightlife and Nosh


Meeting Venues in Novato

Conducting business in Novato and need a venue? The Bill and Adele Jonas Center, nestled in a tranquil setting at Indian Valley Campus, features a spacious banquet hall, versatile lounge, and expansive courtyard, ideal for various occasions. Alternatively, consider The Key Room in the historic Hamilton neighborhood, boasting modern facilities, delicious catering, and ample parking.


Places to Stay in Novato

For a comfortable stay during your two-day visit to Novato, consider staying at a few local options, such as America’s Best Value Inn, Best West PLUS Novato Oaks Inn, Courtyard by Marriot, or Inn Marin and Suites. For more choices, visit our lodging directory here.

Whether you're in Novato for business or pleasure, this vibrant city has something for everyone. With its convenient location and diverse offerings, Novato is the perfect destination for a memorable 36-hour getaway. Explore, unwind, and create lasting memories in this charming city. 
For the best places to stay when in Marin, visit the Marin CVB at