The Many Charms of Mill Valley

The Many Charms of Mill Valley

  • Cheryl Spence
  • 04/19/18
With former residents like Jerry Garcia, Jack Kerouac, and George Lucas, Marin County is a desirable location with bay views, towering redwoods, and wooded canyons. In between wine country to the north and San Francisco to the south, Mill Valley presents the best of both worlds offering a small, close-knit community close to the city. The main street downtown is the center of activity with wide sidewalks, cafés, and local artisan shops. Often city dwellers and visitors will flock to Mill Valley on the weekend for its waterfront, excellent restaurants, and good-natured atmosphere. Being on Richardson Bay and only minutes from Mount Tamalpais State Park and the surrounding nature preserves, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, or spending time gazing at the Pacific at Muir Beach. Legendary conservationist John Muir, for whom the beach and woods behind are named, said of the lush northern California wilderness, “Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”


The eclectic architecture dotting downtown and the nearby canyons adds to the diversity and history of Mill Valley. Modern contemporary homes mingle with wooded retreats, historic clapboards, and stunning estates. Catering to any number of tastes, neighborhoods, and communities vary widely across the city. The Cascade Canyon neighborhood is perched on a hillside overlooking Muir Woods and Richardson Bay, while more modest residences surround the Alto and Strawberry business districts. Community activities for all walks of life in Mill Valley are provided for public use. The enormous Community Center provides a fitness center/ dance studio, conference and social space for large and small gatherings, classes and camps for kids, game rooms, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Taking in all the city has to offer, whether you are a resident or frequent visitor, Mill Valley is a quaint, safe, and welcoming community.

Local Arts and Attractions

An over-the-bridge retreat for hippies fleeing Haight Ashbury just a few decades ago, Mill Valley has had its share of artists and musicians coming and going over the years. Original handcrafted works are exhibited at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, a local tradition that has been around for over 60 years. The Mill Valley Film Festival happens every fall featuring international actors and directors previewing and discussing their films. Sweetwater Music Hall hosts national acts and local events whether it’s school-sponsored concerts or social activities. If you’re more inclined to spend your time outdoors, the Mt. Tamalpais State Park offers hiking and biking trails and picnicking. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a glimpse of some local wildlife. Don’t forget to take a ride on the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway and its famous “Gravity Car” for a thrilling ride back down the mountain. Whatever your interests, Mill Valley has something for everyone.

Nightlife and World-Class Cuisine

Whether you’re out for an evening of entertainment or a world-class dining experience, Mill Valley is an excellent place to sample a variety of traditional farm-to-table offerings and some fare that borders on the exotic. Fine dining at Frantoio Ristorante is an excellent choice for authentic Italian dishes while the Mountain Home Inn located on Mt Tamalpais overlooking Muir Woods offers American cuisine in a more rustic setting. For some after-dinner entertainment, the landmark Sweetwater is a cool hangout with a rich history boasting musical talents such as Jerry Garcia, Bonnie Raitt, and Elvis Costello. While the original bar closed its doors in 2007, Sweetwater experienced a resurgence five years later and brings the same soul and community experience along with great food. The 2 AM Club, a local dive bar made famous by Huey Lewis (of the News), is another great spot revered by locals. 

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