Marin’s Cities & Towns: San Rafael

The Stats

Population: 58,000+

Mayor: Kate Colin

Notable resident: George Lucas

Fun facts: Portions of the movie American Graffiti were shot in Downtown San Rafael. A group of students from the San Rafael High School’s class of 1975 coined the term “420” as a code for smoking marijuana after school at 4:20 p.m.

Marin Civic Center
The Marin Civic Center.

There are plenty of reasons to love Marin’s county seat. With a bustling main street, vibrant nighttime music scene and an exciting array of eateries, San Rafael is the most “citified” of Marin County’s towns. Once the site of several Coast Miwok villages, San Rafael is home to architectural jewels like the beautifully restored Art Deco Smith Rafael Film Center, owned and operated by the California Film Institute, and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin Civic Center, as well as historical structures like Mission San Rafael Arcángel, founded in 1817 and rebuilt in 1949.

Rafael Film Center
Smith Rafael Film Center

San Rafael also offers plenty of outdoor diversions, like China Camp State Park, which is situated along of the shore of the San Pablo Bay and encompasses a historic Chinese American shrimp-fishing village and a salt marsh, along with 15 miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails.

China Camp State Park
China Camp State Park.

With resources like Dominican University of California and Kaiser Permanente rounding out the city’s offerings, it’s no wonder it has made Livability’s annual Top 100 Best Places to Live multiple times.

Mission San Rafael
Mission San Rafael

For more to explore in San Rafael:

A Spanish Colonial Icon Turns 200: The History of San Rafael Mission

Renowned Architect Bernard Maybeck’s Masterpieces in Marin

Where to Eat: San Rafael

What are your favorite places in San Rafael? Tag @marinmagazine on Instagram and let us know.

To read about other places to explore in Marin, check out our Cities & Towns section.

Lotus AbramsLotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.