Best of Marin 2017: Family

Marin County is not a bad place to raise a kid or have a pet. Multiple destinations to bring children to keep them happy—museums that will teach them about science, parks that will thrill them and restaurants where they won’t get the evil eye for laughing—make for low-stress, happy outings. And with Marin animal-loving professionals who will spoil your pets like they’re getting them camera-ready for a Hollywood film, or playing with them until they’re dizzy with excitement while you’re sipping a tropical cocktail in Costa Rica, your furry friends are in good hands.—M.O.

Forever Young

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy Five Little Monkeys toy and gift store. In fact, playing with toys, especially puppets, keeps the laughs coming and can be great “therapy” for adult couples. Voted this year’s Best Baby Gift Store, Five Little Monkeys offers an array of treasures for kids of all ages. Who could resist a toy named the Elephant Sshlumpie Deluxe Blankie Friend, or Sophie la girafe So’Pure Teether Ring (made of 100 percent natural rubber)? Best of all, owner Stephanie Sala (the daughter of a renowned toy designer), is committed to offering unique, quality toys that are not only fun to play with, but safe, planet-friendly, educational and spark imagination and creativity. Three Bay Area locations, including one in Novato, offer special events like Rainy Day Crafternoons, Create It! Make it! Take it! Summer Activity Classes and Neighborhood Toy Store Days. Family-friendly and community-minded, the stores donate their wares to local schools and nonprofits, and sponsor youth sports teams and events.

852 Grant Ave., Novato; 415.898.4411.

This Place Rules

Is your dog talking back to you? Staying out too late? Hanging with the wrong crowd? No worries! Just head over to the Marin Humane Society (MHS), voted this year’s Best Dog Obedience School, and enroll in a dog training class or workshop—designed to help you and your pooch have strong bonding experiences. Classes address common behavior problems like looking to pee in all the wrong places, and jumping up on people. Dogs with deeper “issues” can get help in private sessions. Staffed by devoted animal-lovers, the small classes—beginning to advanced—include Puppy Social Scene, Family Dog, Trail Manners, Share a Book with your Dog, Agility Instruction and Senior Handling. On top of that, MHS offers dog workshops with names like Crate Training, Odor Recognition and Tricks.

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato; 415.883.4621.

Smarty Pants

Whether you’re interested in brushing up on your Shakespeare, learning how to fix your hot rod or getting up to speed on the computer, College of Marin, voted this year’s Best College, is where you should be headed. With two campuses—in Kentfield and Novato’s Indian Valley—the college offers a fully accredited associate’s degree, certificate programs and community education. So you can go for the whole banana, or just take a class or two. Tuition is reasonable, and the wide variety of classes—from astronomy, to music, to physics, to political science—gives everyone the opportunity to stretch their brain muscles—or find a new career.

835 College Ave., Kentfield; 1800 Ignacio Blvd., Novato; 415.457.8811.

Plush Puppy

It’s your dog’s birthday. You need a present, fast. What to do? Head to San Anselmo’s Dogville, voted Best Pet Boutique. Fido will certainly love a designer collar or leash. Fifi will be overjoyed with a Cotton Crochet Cupcake Toy. And for those discerning foodie pets (cats included, too), how about Daisy’s Delights Bacon Beef Daisy Burgers or BowWowScotti Peanut Butter? And don’t forget about grooming. Organic Oscar Lavender Puppy Shampoo will surely put your beloved pet in a state of relaxed bliss. Leashes are available in styles ranging from Turks & Caicos Glam, to North Beach Blue Collar to Marin Pink Owl Collar—très chic! And one must keep up appearances with Poopsies Biodegradable designer doggie poop pick-up bags.

554 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo; 415.454.2090.

Game On

They say that “idle hands are the devil’s playground,” so if you have time on your hands, games on your mind and don’t want to play life-or-death chess with the devil, pay a visit to Gamescape North in San Rafael, and find out why it was voted Marin’s Best Hobby Shop. Whether you’re in the mood for the quest-based Lord of the Rings Living Card Game or Scrabble, this place has it all. On top of a huge inventory of both interactive and solo games, onsite seminars, events, parties and tournaments are offered. You can even bring your own snacks and drinks! The knowledgeable and friendly staff will help you find just the right game to delight your inner child.

1225 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415.457.8698.

School’s Out

Summer is almost upon us, and the kids will be more than ready for a break from school. But you don’t want them just moping around the house or spending all of their time playing video games. So it’s time to find a fun and interesting camp—and that’s where the Osher Marin JCC comes in. Offering multiple camps throughout the entire year for kids of all ages, Marin’s Best Children’s Camp has something for everyone. For toddlers, there’s Jymbabies, plus a summer preschool program. For children in grades three and four, there are two-week traditional programs that include an overnight experience and art, music and dance programs. For ninth and 10th graders, there’s a four-week counselors-in-training program. There are also one-week specialty camps for all ages, like Into the Wild, Baking Buddies, Junior Chefs, Ninja Warrior and How to be a Mad Scientist. And the best part is the beautiful 11-acre campus that includes swimming pools, a gym, playgrounds, an art studio and much more.

200 N. San Pedro Rd., San Rafael; 415.444.8000.

Vaycay for Pets

You’re going on vacation. Yay! But—oh no—what do you do with Rover? Pampered constantly at home, he has his standards. Well fret no more, because there’s a place to take him that will treat him just like he’s on vacation, too: Canine & Company. Owner Chris says that he takes great pride in offering “a state-of-the-art facility while preserving a warm, welcoming feeling.” Your pooch can commune with others in a large indoor play area with natural sunlight, music and toys, and there’s even a room dedicated to small dogs. Marin’s Best Pet Day Care also offers supervised playgroups and a modern bathing station with all-natural bathing products. They’ll even customize your dog’s feeding schedule to match the one you have at home. Complimentary self-serve espresso, coffee and tea are available—a real pleasure for Marin canines who like to kick back with a good book. But then again, maybe that’s for the owners.

2060 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415.858.4567.

—Lily O’Brien

The full list of Best of Marin 2017 Family winners:

Best Animal Adoption Center
Marin Humane Society
171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato.
415.883.4621.

Best Animal Hospital
San Rafael Animal Hospital
419 Irwin St., San Rafael.
415.453.2004.

Best Baby Gift Store
Five Little Monkeys
852 Grant Ave., Novato.
415.898.4411.

Best Child Care Center
Miss Sandie’s School
2001 Center Road, Novato.
415.892.2712.

Best Child-Friendly Restaurant
Finnegan’s Marin
877 Grant Ave., Novato.
415.899.1516.

Best Children’s Camp
Osher Marin JCC
200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael.
415.444.8000.

Best Children’s Clothing Store
Cha Cha Cha
589 Bridgeway, #B, Sausalito.
415.331.7563.

Best Children’s Consignment Store
Outgrown
1417 Fourth St., San Rafael.
415.457.2219.

Best Children’s Educational Center
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito.
415.339.3900.

Best Children’s Indoor Sports Center
Novato Gymnastics
950 Seventh St., Novato.
415.899.8279.

Best Children’s Museum
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito.
415.339.3900.

Best College
College of Marin
835 College Ave., Kentfield.
415.457.8811.

Best Dog Obedience School
Marin Humane Society
171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato.
415.883.4621.

Best Dog Park
Red Hill Dog Park
100 Shaw Drive, San Anselmo.
415.258.4600.

Best Hobby Shop
Gamescape North
1225 Fourth St., San Rafael.
415.457.8698.

Best Kennel
Canine & Company
2060 Fourth St., San Rafael.
415.858.4567.

Best Pet Boutique
Dogville
554 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo.
415.454.2090.

Best Pet Day Care
Canine & Company
2060 Fourth St., San Rafael.
415.858.4567.

Best Pet Groomer
Doggie Styles
401 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.
415.381.1777.

Best Pet/Feed Store
Pet Club
508 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera.
415.927.2862.

Best Place for a Children’s Party
Love2Dance
830 Sweetser Ave., Ste. A, Novato.
415.898.3933.

Best Preschool
Miss Sandie’s School
2001 Center Road, Novato.
415.892.2712.

Best Private School K-12
Marin Montessori
5200 Paradise Drive, Corte Madera.
415.924.5388.

Best Public School K-12
Redwood High School
395 Doherty Dr., Larkspur.
415.924.6200.

Best Toy Store
Five Little Monkeys
852 Grant Ave., Novato.
415.898.4411.

Best Veterinary Services
The Country Vet
511 Atherton Ave., Novato.
415.897.8380.