Best of Novato According to Marin Magazine 2009 Editors Choice

Novato Top 5

1 Mara A diva’s dream: Donald J. Pliner and Aquatalia shoes; Versace and Cavalli apparel; European belts, scarves and jewelry. Most of the inventory is in the back, and if you bring in pieces from your wardrobe, owner Roya Tabrizi will coordinate it. 415.892.3732

2 Rickey’s Restaurant Enjoy lunch poolside, and your children (and you) can swim for free. Or, order from the Economic Recovery Menu and choose one of three salads, an entrée (steak, chicken or salmon), any of five desserts and a glass of house wine or beer for $22.50.

3 Flour Chylde Bakery Cakes, tarts and cookies that even those with wheat and gluten allergies can enjoy. Try the Little Black Dress (chocolate, espresso and brandy), Rustic Lemon or Vanilla Bean torte.

4 Marin Humane Society The group finds homes for about 3,000 animals a year and offers an affordable spay/neuter clinic, classes for puppies and even “difficult” dogs, summer camps for kids and a pet-friendly housing list for families.

5 Aurora Locals love this new restaurant in Bel Marin Keys run by the owners of Cafe Arrivederci in San Rafael. Try the calamari dishes. 415.382.8488

Early morning is a good time to hike in this hot part of the county. There are two waterfall hikes in Indian Valley. Take your dog on the longer trail starting at Indian Valley College or young children on a shorter trail off Fairway. Before you go, grab a “scuffin,” a muffin/scone hybrid, and a chai tea latte at Dr. Insomnia’s.

Cowboy up! Novato is still a Western town at heart. Harness your inner equestrian with an introductory riding lesson at Morning Star Farm or a trail ride leaving from Willow Tree Stables.

Some of Novato’s prettiest neighborhoods are hidden. Put the top down and cruise the palm-lined boulevard of Bel Marin Keys. Here, residents sail when it’s windy, kayak when it’s calm and wakeboard when it’s hot. For culture that’s easy on the eyes, stop in at the nearby Marin Museum of Contemporary Art at the Hamilton Art Center. Exhibits change regularly.

Swirl, sip and stay for fun. Try cabernet sauvignon at Pacheco Ranch Winery, then reserve your space in mid-August to help bring in the harvest, followed by a traditional barbecue. Sample wine from the 100-year-old zinfandel vines at Heslip Winery and stay overnight in the Guest House B&B. Tastings for both wineries are by appointment.

Pick out cheeses and a baguette for a lakeside picnic at the Marin French Cheese Company.

Stroll Old Town to window-shop. You’ll find salons and a saloon, boutiques and antiques. Rest on one of the Novato-themed art benches on the sidewalk. Our favorite? The trio of “grazing” horses.

For dinner, stop in at Boca Steak & Seafood (appetizers are half-off from 4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays), El Encanto for Mexican or Sushiholic.

End the evening under the summer stars watching Shakespeare at the Hamilton Amphitheater or catch a play at Ignacio’s Novato Theater Company.

Quick Picks

Who says only Southern Marin rocks the hip boutiques? On Old Town’s Grant Avenue, Mili (sister to the Mill Valley store) recently opened. Alice Becker has fashionable women’s clothing, the Feathered Nest sells home accessories and Sage offers well-edited gifts. Moms love Sweet Potatoes for locally designed children’s cotton clothing—but their kids probably like Powell’s Sweet Shop more; there, candy is king, and Willy Wonka lives forever on the screen in the mini-theater.

Did You Know?

• In the 1880s Novato had one of the world’s largest apple orchards.

• The g is pronounced in Gnoss Air Field.

• The curious round house built by Sam Harkleroad is on Harkle Road.