Best Day Camp
A camp that practices what it preaches: the Novato and other Bay Area locations focus exclusively on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), giving kids the tools and space they need to really dig into programs like Gizmos and Gadgeteers and Minecraft, maybe without even realizing they’re “learning” something new. More than 1,000 camp scholarships are offered every summer, helping to close the achievement gap.
Best Kids’ Haircut
Purple Monkey Hair
Owned by a Marin mom and set up exclusively for kids, this Tiburon hidden gem gets plenty of respect from parents for the $30 price tag, the staff’s deft and gentle way with young nervous nellies, and iPads to distract little hands from scissors and other tools. Kids love the green “pump” chairs and lollipops at the end of the session.
Best Kids’/Family Photographer
Gina Risso Photography
Risso’s clients have voted, and on further investigation, we’ve learned the secret to her success just might be that to gain the confidence of her tiniest subjects and the right photo angle, she has no problem crawling on the floor. Whether in her Sausalito office or on location, this photographer has a natural rapport with kids; it’s the work she was meant to do — and it shows in every shot.
Best Overnight Camp
Walker Creek Ranch
A week of outdoor education at this 1,700-acre open space straddling West Marin is a defining experience for Marin’s schoolchildren. The naturalist staff strives to promote connections with the outdoors (the bobcat sightings! the pond!) and among kids themselves (the bunk beds! the dining hall!), a promising step toward a green future for our community at large.
Corte Madera Town Park
The wide mix of activities is the draw for locals: there’s a huge gated playground with toddler and big-kid swings, a sandbox, and monkey bars, while right next door are tennis courts and ball fields for youth and adults. The meandering creek and bike paths make this Corte Madera spot ideal for riding a bike or walking the pooch.
Best Swim School
Osher Marin JCC
The huge 90-degree indoor pool prevents even the skinniest swimmer from turning blue while listening to the instructor, and the cooler outdoor pool is a sweet spot for doing laps. Parents also like the flexible lesson schedule, and everyone agrees that a post-swim soak in the not-too-hot hot tub is the icing on the cake.
Best Toy Store
A Child’s Delight
A recent move across the highway to the Village at Corte Madera has not diminished Marinites’ support for this boutique. Stocked with Melissa & Doug, Snap Circuits, Ravensberger and old-fashioned games like Candyland, it’s also got magic trick boxes and other attractions for plastic-averse parents. The knowledgeable staff can help anyone pick the right gift and wrap it beautifully, too.