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Travel & Outdoors

Getaway Guru: One-Tank Trip to Downtown Mill Valley

August 18, 2012 11:00 AM

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www.depotbookstore.com
Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a charming little town at the base of Mount Tamalpais, Mill Valley promises a day’s worth of noshing, boutique and antiques shopping, and lounging under the redwoods, with beaches, parks and hiking/biking trails nearby. It’s 10 miles from here to Stinson Beach, a tiny coastal hamlet in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; a half-hour drive to Point Reyes National Recreation Area, and a five-minute drive to the stupendous redwoods groves at Muir Woods National Monument and hiking trails on Mount Tam.Related: Your Guide To The Bay Area’s Best Beaches

Getting There

From San Francisco, head over the Golden Gate Bridge and four miles north on Highway 101; take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach exit onto Shoreline Highway. At the stoplight, go right onto Almonte Boulevard, which becomes Miller Avenue into town; park on or around Throckmorton Avenue at the plaza.

What To DoDepot Bookstore and Café
87 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 383-2665
www.depotbookstore.com

In the great old train depot building, have breakfast and espresso drinks with the locals at an umbrella table at the Depot Bookstore and Café. For lunch, enjoy deli salads and sandwiches. Pick up picnic items to go, too. The depot is one of the last remaining, sizeable independent bookstores in Northern California, and it displays work by local artists all year long.

Old Mill Park
17 Cascade Way
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 388-4033

Just down the street, relax under towering redwoods in Old Mill Park where a bubbling creek and playground keep the whole family happy. You’ll find picnic tables and barbecue facilities here as well. For the best restrooms, slip into the adjacent library. Upscale boutiques and cafes run wild along Throckmorton and Miller avenues.

Maison Rêve
108 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 383-9700
www.maisonreve.com

A French-inspired home and garden shop, Maison Rêve is filled with repurposed antiques and treasures chosen from flea markets, estate sales and local artisans. Tucked into the shop are vintage watering cans, books on interior design and cunning baby gifts. Look for those hard-to-find antique French folding chairs for the patio, bistro crockery, linens and throws here. Ask about interior design services if you’re madly in love with all things French.

Vintage Wine & Spirits
67 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 388-1626
www.vintagewines.biz

An old-style wine merchant that has been in this spot for 50 years, Vintage’s inventory runs deep with sought-after cult and boutique wines, and rare whiskeys. This is also the place for wine-related accessories. If you’re just thirsty, pick up a bottle of ice-cold water here as well.

Tyler Florence Shop
59 Throckmorton St.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 380-9200
www.tylerflorence.comIn a new shop from a Food Network star find copper cookware, Italian olive oils, antique chopping blocks, locally made foodstuffs. On hand are myriad kitchen tools and cookbooks, and Florence’s signature lines of culinary items. Leather chairs and sofas offer an appealing, cozy hideaway at the library in the back. Tastings and foodie events here make this the perfect stop on a day trip.

Bicentennial Bike Path
(415) 332-0505
www.bahiker.com

Borrow the hotel’s bikes or rent them to cruise the flat, paved 3.8-mile Bicentennial Bike Path between Mill Valley and Sausalito. The easy trail runs alongside Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve, Richardson Bay and a clutch of colorful houseboats. Bike or ride all the way into downtown Sausalito.

Related: Take A 10-Mile Drive From Sausalito To Tiburon

Tennessee Valley Trail    
Off Shoreline Highway
Take the Tennessee Valley turnoff
(415) 331-1540
www.nps.gov/goga

Another easy, scenic bike ride or hike runs two miles through the Tennessee Valley to the beach. The trail is mostly flat and mostly paved, with a lovely, protected, sandy cove as the final reward. From here, intrepid hikers head over the hills to the Marin Headlands.

Dining

El Paseo House of Chops 
17 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 388-0741
www.elpaseomillvalley.com

Chef Tyler Florence does it again by updating the rustic, yet elegant, dining rooms and garden patios of a long-time Mill Valley favorite, El Paseo. Now it’s the “House of Chops,” with a menu of locally sourced steaks and chops, risotto, luscious veggies and local seafood for dinner daily. The ambiance is romantic, the food hearty and non-fussy. You may even see Florence, himself, as he’s a Bay Area resident.

Related: Go Where North Bay Locals Eat, Shop And Play

Dipsea Café  
200 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 381-0298
www.dipseacafe.com

For breakfast, brunch or lunch, sit outside the Dipsea for the view of Richardson Bay. Inside are fun vintage photos and Dipsea Race memorabilia. The café is named for the seven-mile Dipsea footpath that goes from downtown Mill Valley, up 672 wooden steps, winds up and over Mount Tam, and ends at Stinson Beach.

Sweetwater Music Hall
19 Corte Madera Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 388-1100
www.sweetwatermusichall.com

An intimate nightclub, Sweetwater Music Hall features Bay-Area and international performers. On the calendar are gypsy-jazz, the Dylanesque sounds of Tim Hockenberry, roots and funk bands, and surprise visits by headliners. A popular local hangout, the café here serves affordable organic fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stick around for the live music Sunday brunch as well.

142 Throckmorton Theatre
142 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 383-9600
www.142throckmortontheatre.orgFrom stand-up comedy to music festivals, chamber music and blues to dance and plays, this beloved theater boasts live, professional performances. You might see such notables as Dana Carvey or Mark Pitta, a murder mystery or a Hawaiian musical evening. The theater also functions as an art gallery throughout the year.

Lodging

Larkspur Hotel Mill Valley
160 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 332-5700
www.larkspurhotels.com

Price: from $200 per night

Make a weekend of it by staying over at the urban chic-style Larkspur Hotel Mill Valley. An outdoor pool, high-tech amenities, value-pricing and comfy feather-topped beds keep guests coming back. The casual Frantoio Ristorante is on-site for a delectable meal you’ll crave seconds after the last bite.

 

Karen Misuraca hails from the California Wine Country, where she hikes, bikes, golfs, drinks wine and writes about it all. A long-established journalist and award-winning author, she specializes in travel, golf and culture. She is also founder of DeepCultureTravel.com, BestGolfResortsofTheWorld.com and KarenMisuraca.com, Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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