Best of Marin 2016: Family

Claes Oldenburg once said that his intention was to make an everyday object that eludes definition. “I’m happy if people smile at my work,” he said. “I mean, I’m very happy if they enjoy it, because it can be enjoyed that way as a frustration of the expectations.”

Many of us enjoy Oldenburg’s ‘Cupid Span,’ a monumental outdoor sculpture—created in collaboration with Coosje van Bruggen—of a giant bow and arrow shooting into the ground along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

One wonders if Marin County’s mind-blowing natural landscape would make this sculptor’s eyes light up with public art possibilities—an upside down ice cream cone at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a massive bowl of water at Dogbone Meadow or a colossal safety pin jutting out of the Marin Headlands.—Molly Oleson

By Flora Tsapovsky

Imagine that

A solid winner in the Best Baby Gift Store category for a few years in a row, A Child’s Delight is indeed delightful, and the slogan, ‘Imaginative Toys for an Enchanted Childhood’ couldn’t be more accurate. The selection is dazzling and comprehensive, and the baby section goes way beyond the pastel-colored minimum that many stores offer. The nicest thing about A Child’s Delight, besides its helpful staff members who masterfully balance children’s excitement and parents’ budgets, is the mix of modernity and nostalgia; you can find good, educational mobiles and puzzles along with the newest baby accessories on the market.

190 Northgate One, San Rafael; 415/499-0736; 412 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera; 415/945-9221.

Miles of magic

Five Little Monkeys, a magical store, will make the most serious of adults want to go back in time. With three Bay Area locations in addition to the Novato store (Albany, Burlingame and Walnut Creek), Marin’s Best Toy Store manages to feel intimate and uber-local, with the best selection of toys, books and games for miles and miles. They carry every type of Lego imaginable, ‘green’ environmentally friendly dolls, board games that adults can secretly enjoy and plenty of stuffed “friends.” The regulars rave about the gift-wrapping service—professional, fast and almost too pretty to unwrap (but trust your kids to ignore it completely).

852 Grant Ave., Novato; 415/898-4411.

Furry friends

Adopting a pet is a big deal, and the wonderful Marin Humane Society, the county’s Best Animal Adoption Center, makes it oh so easy. Along with the annual (and impossibly adorable) ‘Catapalooza,’ and the clever Animal Film Festival, the center offers much-needed classes, training and lectures for owners and pets themselves, consulting services and tons of free and approachable information. The adoption center is comprehensive and friendly as well; animals are listed online and come with extensive and touching bios, and the staff is ready for the most unexpected and neurotic of questions. The Kitty Corner, the new satellite kitten adoption center in San Anselmo, is also excellent.

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato; 415/883-4621.

Good as new

A consignment children’s clothing store? A truly genius, if not new, idea. In Marin County, however, this niche doesn’t seem to bloom, and Outgrown—what an appropriate name—does the job remarkably, catering to parents who’d rather spend their money on educational DVDs. The modest prices and good selection of gently used children’s clothes, toys, cribs and other items that kids go through way too quickly, make the Best Children’s Clothing winner a pilgrimage destination for young families mindful of budgets and the environment. As with adult consignment, finds can be wild—from a Burberry sweater to an antique bib that everyone will love on Instagram; the quality is always high.

1417 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/457-2219.

Got it all

Marin residents can hardly complain about a lack of kid-friendly activities. A lot of them, however, tend to be nature-oriented and physical. What’s a parent to do if he or she desires an educational, indoor experience for their multi-talented, super-smart offspring? The Bay Area Discovery Museum—Marin’s Best Children’s Museum, Best Children’s Educational Center and Best Place for a Children’s Party—is the perfect answer. Adults love the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the kids go crazy for all of the hands-on, interactive experiences that this smartly planned destination offers. A mock ‘restaurant’ where kids can play waiters, a ‘cove,’ a Fab Lab that includes a variety of tools … you name it—the museum has it. And did we mention that the snacks are more than edible and the lemonade is organic?

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito; 415/339-3900.

Nice haircut

Your furry friends, or “kids,” deserve the very best, and the best is what Doggie Styles is going for. Established in 1997 by certified groomer Janine Schengel, the Best Pet Groomer category winner of years 2008-2011 is back on top; customers love the no-nonsense approach and the precision, as well as the gentle, pleasant fragrances the salon uses. Most importantly, the staff always gives professional assessments and never tries to get unnecessary treatments and add-ons on the books. Sure, the happy customers can’t exactly talk or Yelp, but they come home soft, clean and presentable.

401 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415/381-1777.

The full list of Best of Marin 2016 Family winners:

Best Baby Gift Store

A Child’s Delight

190 Northgate One, San Rafael; 415.499.0736; 412 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera; 415.945.9221.

Best Toy Store

Five Little Monkeys

852 Grant Ave., Novato.

415.898.4411.

Best Hobby Shop

Dollhouses, Trains & More

300 Entrada Drive, Novato.

415.883.0388.

Best Children’s Clothing

Outgrown

1417 Fourth St., San Rafael.

415.457.2219.

Best Child-Friendly Restaurant

Finnegan’s Marin

877 Grant Ave., Novato.

415.899.1516.

Best Child Care

Miss Sandie’s School

2001 Center Road, Novato.

415.892.2712.

Best School (K-12)

Saint Isabella School

1 Trinity Way, San Rafael.

415.479.1561.

Best Children’s Educational Center

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito.

415.339.3900.

Best Children’s Museum

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito.

415.339.3900.

Best Place for a Children’s Party

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito.

415.339.3900.

Best Children’s Camp

Osher Marin JCC

200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael.

415.444.8000.

Best Dog Park

Dogbone Meadow

Novato Boulevard and Sutro Avenue, Novato.

Best Pet/Feed Store

Pet Food Express

Petfoodexpress.com.

Best Kennel

Bridewell Hilltop

325 Sunset Trail, Novato.

415.897.5471.

Best Pet Groomer

Doggie Styles

401 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.

415.381.1777.

Best Animal Adoption Center

Marin Humane Society

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato.

415.883.4621.

Best Animal Hospital/Veterinarian

East San Rafael Veterinary

820 D St., San Rafael.

415.456.4463.