Things to do for students in San Rafael, CA?
January 25, 2007 3:32 PM   Subscribe

My school is flying me and 30 of my friends to Dominican University in San Rafael, CA for an undergraduate conference April 11-15th. Help us find exciting things to do while we aren't presenting papers.

I've looked at some previous answers to some similar questions, but none of them fit our group particularly well. We're college students of mixed ages (21 and not 21) in town for an undergraduate research conference, so time and transport will be limited. What shouldn't we miss?
posted by tragedy_and_comedy to Travel & Transportation around San Rafael, CA (16 answers total)
Go to Muir Woods. I am from that area and good lord I miss those majestic trees. They make you feel as though you are in a cathedral of nature, its moving. I sound like a fool but seriously you need to see it to feel it.

Also, you are super close to SF and so you should head on down there, even just for the day. Its hard with the buses but you can do it.

In all what you should do is just try your best to talk to locals and ask for recc's for things like lunch and dinner. People are happy to chat (mostly) and everyone has an opinion that is based on loyalty and heart. People love this area.

Have fun.
posted by Meemer at 3:40 PM on January 25, 2007

If you'll have a car, you're close enough to SF that you should just jet down there and see the sights. For specifics, search Ask for the 3498573984 questions that have been asked previously about "stuff to do in San Francisco."
posted by autojack at 3:52 PM on January 25, 2007

The Marin Headlands are terrific - clamber around the gun emplacements, visit the sea lions and seals at the Marine Mammal center, and if you have the time drive through some of the smaller towns of Marin. Also not too far from you is the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach (a great walking/hiking area and some of the prettiest coastline in the area. The pub is fun, they have a few rooms to let and decent food.
posted by luriete at 4:13 PM on January 25, 2007

I used to work in San Rafael, but was never there in the evenings, so I can't speak for nighttime fun. If you're car-free, there's a central bus station in downtown San Rafael that's served by Golden Gate Transit; those buses can get you into San Francisco, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and possibly to Muir Woods (though that might be just on weekends).
posted by rtha at 4:32 PM on January 25, 2007

I second the Marin Headlands and taking the bus or ferry to SF. Mt. Tam is supposed to be a beautiful hike. Too bad you're not uniformly of drinking age, 'cuase you'll be right next to of some of CA's finest wineries.
posted by lekvar at 5:15 PM on January 25, 2007

Go eat at Sol Food. You will love it.
posted by apostrophe at 5:16 PM on January 25, 2007

You're also close to Santa Rosa, which has some decent history in addition to all of the Hitchcock movies made there.
posted by rhizome at 5:56 PM on January 25, 2007

I'll second visiting San Francisco -- if you can get to Tiburon, you can take the Ferry to SF. Or you can also take the ferry to Angel Island and visit that for a little bit.

Sausalito is also a very nice little town just south of San Rafael. Its main street is on the waterfront and has a lot interesting shops.
posted by lou at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2007

Also, I'll second apostrophe's recommendation to eat at Sol Food. You really don't have an excuse on this one. It's probably no more than a ten minute walk from the university.
posted by lou at 6:15 PM on January 25, 2007

Oh, here's another so-close-it's-walkable tourist spot: Mission San Rafael. I've actually never been there myself (whoops!) but the California Missions are a large part of the state's history.

If anyone likes pool, there's a pretty decent pool hall on 4th street. (Classic Billiards, is what it's called).

One more note on Sol Food: It just moved, so the address on that website I gave is incorrect. It's on 3rd Street now, but not too far away from the original location. A couple of blocks or so.
posted by lou at 6:22 PM on January 25, 2007

Don't know if there is anything in particular to see, but the Grateful Dead headquarters are in San Rafael.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2007

There is a cool independent cinema in downtown SR. Next door is a cute coffee shop that's open till 11 I think, called Aroma. If you're bored during the day, just walk around 4th Street, there are lots of little shops and such.

But seriously, get into San Fran. Take a bus or something. It's a great city. Also, t's a little early for concert dates to be set yet, but there will probably be some neat bands playing in SF and most shows are all ages or 18+.
posted by radioamy at 7:08 PM on January 25, 2007

Remember that San Rafael itself is kind of a dump... it's a bit nasty-looking, or at least it was the last time I was there, four or five years ago. Don't be put off by this.... while SR itself is terrible, there's a TON of really gorgeous stuff to see nearby.

In San Francisco, check out the Exploratorium if you're at all techie; that's a fun spot. The Japanese Tea Gardens were lovely at one time, although I haven't seen them in ages. There are many good museums and a decent aquarium in SF as well.

If you have access to a car, going north into Sonoma County can be interesting. I always liked Sonoma County's coastline. We used to enjoy the area around Salmon Creek a lot. If you keep going north instead, you get into Mendocino County; if you get on the road that goes from Booneville to Fort Bragg, you will see trees like you can't even imagine. It's one of the loveliest drives anywhere. (You'd absolutely need to rent a car to do this.)

Down south quite a drive is Monterey, which is just stunningly beautiful, and has a superb aquarium. You'd also need a car to get there as well.

Overall, were I you, I'd focus on San Francisco. There's SO much to do there. San Rafael itself isn't very interesting, but it's only about 15 or 20 minutes from The City. Grab a bus and go play. Loads of neat stuff.
posted by Malor at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2007

Remember that San Rafael itself is kind of a dump...

I was just there last weekend and it was quite nice. Sure the stufff around 101 is your usual trashy retail but downtown San Rafael is quite nice and pleasant. Downtown SR is totally walkable, too.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2007

Remember that San Rafael itself is kind of a dump...
OUCH. I've lived here for almost 10 years now and I consider 99% of the area to be the most beautiful I have ever lived in (and I have lived lots of places coast to coast). The mother hen in me suggests avoiding "the Canal" (especially at night), and the neighboring industrial area adjacent to 101 and everything will be very oh so very pretty. I second the Mission San Rafael, and I am a big fan of the Marin Art & Garden Center - it is right on the GGT bus line. The bus stop is, I think, right across the street or perhaps less than a block away. Most of everything in Marin is reachable by bus, however, it is perhaps the slowest way to get around, but it is cheap and reliable.
posted by goml at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2007

I live in San Rafael, and would love to answer other questions for you. (My email is in my profile.) I don't find much culture in San Rafael itself- but the buses are decent, and you can have a nice walk around San Anselmo or Fairfax, and great hikes from any town in Marin.
If some of you want to go mountain biking, there are a few shops in the area that rent bikes. That always strikes me as a classic Marin activity, along with a hot tub at Shibui Gardens or the clothing-optional Frog's. Lotus Indian restaurant is quite good (and only a block from the bus depot), and there are lots of other great places to get a bite along 4th St. Send me an email, and I'll try to come up with more ideas based on what kind of things you'd like to do.
posted by wzcx at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2007

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