San Rafael CA

Things To Do In San Rafael: 21 Fun And Amazing Activities You Will Never Forget

San Rafael is a city located in Marin County, California, right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and is awash with interesting things to do and places to visit. There is a lot to look forward to if you are looking for things to do in San Rafael, CA.

The city is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and diverse cultural scene.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in on the top 21 things you can do in San Rafael:

#1 Step Back in Time at the Marin History Museum

Marin History Museum
Google | Marin County Museum

Location: 1125 B St, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Time: Wednesday – Friday | 10am – 2pm

Saturday | 11am – 3pm

This museum in the heart of San Rafael invites you to an immersive journey through centuries of Marin County history.

Prepare to be swept away by a tapestry of exhibits as you step through the doors. The museum features 20,000 artifacts and up to 200,000 photographs that exhibit the County’s history.

These photographs and artifacts depict the transformation of Marin from a quiet haven for indigenous tribes to a bustling hub of Spanish influence. You’d also learn about the 1906 earthquake, the construction of the Northwest Pacific Railroad, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more.

The Marin History Museum isn’t merely a passive observer of history; it’s an active participant in keeping it alive. Engaging interactive displays bring the past to life, inviting you to touch, listen, and experience the stories firsthand.

The museum also has a library filled with a collection of rare books, newspapers, manuscript, maps, and records of the personal experiences of the locals and that of the county’s development over the years.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the land you stand on, the Marin History Museum is open to all. Come, lose yourself in the echoes of bygone eras, discover the heart and soul of San Rafael, and leave with a deeper understanding of the place.

#2 Explore The Outdoors At China Camp State Park

China Camp State Park
Google | Mathew Plate

Location: 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 8am – 6:30pm

The China Camp State Park makes San Rafael a gateway to outdoor adventures unlike any other. The Park surrounds a historic Chinese-American shrimp-fishing village.

The 1514-acre park was established in 1976, and allows you to explore the remnant of a village where generations of Chinese immigrants carved a life from the bay’s bounty. 

Imagine the creak of boats, the salty tang of the air, and the vibrant community that thrived amidst the natural beauty. But the park offers much more than historic experiences.

The park’s 15 miles of multi-purpose trails are ideal for biking and hiking. The trails snake through fragrant eucalyptus groves, offer adrenaline-pumping thrill, and panoramic vistas. This place should definitely be in your list of things to do in San Rafael.

For families, the China Camp Park  is a wonderland of discovery. Pack a picnic and settle under the shade of a majestic oak. Take the kids on a nature scavenger hunt, teaching them about the diverse ecosystem that thrives around them.

China Camp State Park isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience. It’s a place to reconnect with your roots, embrace the outdoors, and create memories that will last.

#3 Tee Up Paradise at Peacock Gap Golf Club

Things to do in San Rafael, CA: Peacock Gap Golf Club
Google | Peacock Gap Golf Club

Location: 333 Biscayne Drive, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 6am – 5:30pm

This is a par-71 golf course measuring 6,253 yards from the tips. Designed in 1960 by William F. Bell, with excellent conditioning, superb practice facilities, a great variety of holes, and beautiful clubhouse.

Be you a seasoned golfer or you are just seeking a serene escape, Peacock Gap promises an unforgettable experience.

Cruise the course in style on the latest GPS-equipped golf carts; head over to the restaurant where you can order food and drinks. Visit the facility’s fully-stocked golf shop where you can rent or purchase apparel, equipment, and accessories.

You can join in on weekly tournaments, practice sessions, and social events. Forge friendships with fellow golf enthusiasts who share your passion for the game. 

Whether you’re a golf junkie yearning for a challenge or a casual player seeking a scenic escape, Peacock Gap Golf Club awaits in San Rafael. Come experience the magic of this enchanting green haven.

#4 Have A Vibrant Slice of the Caribbean in Whipper Snapper Restaurant

Whipper Snapper Restaurant
Google | Steve Ramsey

Location: 1613 4th St., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Time: 5pm – 8pm 

Whipper Snapper is a restaurant where Caribbean vibes pulsate with every clinking glass and sizzling plate. If you desire a Caribbean feel, then visiting this restaurant should be on your list of things to do in San Rafael Ca.

Whipper Snapper’s soul lies in its tapas, prepared made-to-order by Bill Higgins the restaurant owner. Forget tiny portions; these are generous explosions of taste, designed to be shared and savored.

But Whipper Snapper isn’t just about the food; it’s an experience.

The vibrant atmosphere crackles with energy, buoyed by infectious Latin rhythms and the warm buzz of conversation. Sip on expertly crafted sangrias, their fruity medley swirling with spices and sunshine.

This place is more than just a meal; it’s a celebration of life, a burst woven from bold flavors, infectious rhythms, and warm hospitality.

Escape the ordinary and get treated to a Caribbean fiesta right in the heart of San Rafael. Just remember to bring your dancing shoes and an empty stomach – you’ll need them both.

#5 Experience History At The Mission San Rafael Arcangel

The Mission San Rafael Arcangel
Google | Brendan Bleker

Location: 1104 5th Ave., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 9am – 4pm

Founded in 1817 as a “hospital mission” to care for sick Native Americans, Mission San Rafael Arcangel stands as a testament to a bygone era, whispering tales of faith, resilience, and cultural exchange.

Razed down in 1870 after the building was securalized, a replica of the original structure was erected in 1940 with a grant from the Hearst Foundation. 

The reconstructed chapel evokes a sense of devotion with its simple lines and bell tower reaching towards the sky. Inside, handcrafted wooden beams and religious artifacts whisper of prayers whispered and hymns sung centuries ago.

But Mission San Rafael Arcángel is much more than just a relic. It’s a vibrant hub of history and culture that keeps the flame of the past alive.

A tour through this destination will not just bring the mission’s story to life, but also paint vivid pictures of life during the Spanish colonial era.

Exhibits in the museum showcase archaeological finds and historical documents, offering a tangible glimpse into the lives of those who walked these grounds before us.

Things to do in San Rafael CA: VisitThe Mission San Rafael Arcangel
The museum in The Mission San Rafael Arcangel. Image Credit: Google | P

This place offers a peaceful sanctuary, which means it is still a place to visit even if you have no particular interest in the past.

Exhibits in the museum showcase archaeological finds and historical documents, offering a tangible glimpse into the lives of those who walked these grounds before us.

#6 Unmask The Persuasive Power Of History At The Museum of International Propaganda

The Museum of International Propaganda
Google | Bert Brautigam

Location: 1000 Fifth Ave., San Rafael, CA, 94901

Opening Hours: Thursday and Friday | 3:30 – 6:30pm

                          Saturday | 12 – 5pm

The Museum of International Propaganda houses the political art of over 25 countries, and took over 3 decades to compile.

Exhibits at the museum, including posters, paintings, and sculptures, tell tales of weapons aimed at hearts and minds, and showcasing the manipulative power of art in shaping political narratives.

Stepping inside is like walking into a kaleidoscope of ideologies. The museum’s collection spans the 20th century, showcasing propaganda from over 25 countries. 

But the museum doesn’t just display – it educates. Exhibit guides delve into the psychology of propaganda, revealing the techniques used to manipulate emotions and build conformity.

They dissect the hidden symbols and coded messages, showing how even seemingly simple images can carry heavy ideological weight. 

So, if you find yourself looking for things to do in San Rafael, don’t miss the chance to step into this intriguing museum.

You will leave with a critical eye, a healthy dose of skepticism, and a newfound appreciation for the power of independent thought in a world saturated with persuasive messages.

#7 Discover A Serene Escape At The Fifth Avenue Spa

Location: 1000 5th Ave., San Rafael, CA, 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 9am -m4pm

The Fifth Avenue Spa is a haven of tranquility dedicated to restoring balance and inner peace.

Forget generic spa experiences; here, personalized attention and bespoke treatments come together to create a unique journey of renewal for both body and soul.

The Spa offers professional body wraps, facials, waxing, massage, and permanent make-up treatment. Experience a whole new level of relaxation , and leave with peace and a renewed sense of possibility.

The Fifth Avenue Spa isn’t about one-size-fits-all massages. Skilled therapists take the time to understand your individual needs and preferences, crafting bespoke treatments that target your specific concerns.

Whether you seek muscle relief, deep tissue rejuvenation, or simply a moment of pure indulgence, a customized massage awaits.

This isn’t just a spa; it’s an experience. From the moment you step through the door, you’re enveloped in a world of sensory delights, tailored to your every need.

ServicesDescription
Facials– Aromatherapy-infused towels remove items after warm, ozone-rich steam opens your pores.
– After deep pore cleaning, buried impurities are removed, and new skin is revealed with an exfoliating scrub.
– After using a customized masque to calm and hydrate your skin, a moisturizer will nourish and shield it.
MassageOur daily lives are made less stressful with massage. Following a massage, the majority of clients report feeling extremely calm and pain-free from aches and pains that have accumulated over months of stress or from daily chores that require repetition.
Body TreatmentAn exfoliate. This is the abrasive material that reveals the softer, younger skin cells immediately below the surface by rubbing away the dead skin cells on the surface, such as salt, sugar, rice bran, jojoba beads, apricot kernels, coffee grounds, etc.
WaxingExpert aestheticians that use top-notch waxing supplies, and in addition creates a tranquil atmosphere with candles, music, and aromatherapy.
Make UpYou radiate confidence when you get your makeup done from beginning to end by skilled cosmetic specialists. This service is ideal for weddings, proms, pictures, or any other special occasion.

#8 Visit WildCare: A Refuge For Wildlife

Things to do in San Rafael: Visit WildCare
Google | Blue Rabbit

Location: 76 Albert Park Ln., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 9am – 5pm

WildCare is a wildlife hospital, a haven for injured and orphaned wild animals, a nature education center and a wildlife advocacy organization.

It is a beacon of hope for countless creatures, a place where dedicated professionals mend broken wings, heal shattered bodies, and nurture fragile lives back to health.

At the heart of WildCare lies its state-of-the-art wildlife hospital, where a team of veterinarians, wildlife biologists, and veterinary technicians work tirelessly to provide lifesaving care to over 5,000 animals each year.

The organization also actively engages the community through a variety of educational programs. WildCare champions the importance of conservation and fosters a deeper understanding of the crucial role wildlife plays in our ecosystem.

Whether you’re a lifelong animal lover or simply curious about the incredible work WildCare does, a visit to this inspiring organization is sure to leave a lasting impression.

#9 Feed Your Senses At The Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market

The Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market
The Marin Civic Center Farmers’ Market

Location: 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA, 94901

Opening Time: Thursday and Sunday | 8am – 1pm

Listed by the New York Times as one of the top places to visit in Marin, the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market is known as a hub for organic hubs and a center for organic farming techniques.

The market is held twice a week; farmers gather to display their offerings, the air thrumming with friendly chatter and the sizzle of freshly cooked treats.

Come Sunday, the market shifts to the Civic Center grounds, featuring over 200 local ranchers and farmers, and artisans who sell homemade textile, jewelry, ceramics, and more.

Local artisans share their stories and passions, inviting you to connect with the human hand behind each unique creation.

#10 Experience Creativity At Art Works Downtown

Art Works Downtown
Google | Art Works Downtown

Location: 1337 4th St., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Wednesday – Saturday | 12 – 6pm

San Rafael’s beating artistic heart resides in Art Works Downtown, a non-profit haven for expression nestled within the city’s charm. 

The center features 4 art galleries. 28 studies, with artists at work, craft guild, a jewelry guild, ceramic store, clothing boutique and more.

Step into the historic Gordon Block, now adorned with the organization’s vibrant sign, and prepare to be swept away by a whirlwind of artistic energy. 

This artistic hub pulsates beyond galleries and studios. The Jewelers Guild gleams with handcrafted treasures, while a frame shop adds the perfect finishing touch to any masterpiece.

Art isn’t just observed here; it’s experienced. Families join fun-filled activities, and aspiring artists find invaluable mentorship. 

Whether you’re a seasoned art lover or simply curious, Art Works Downtown awaits. Come, lose yourself in galleries, be inspired by studios, and connect with the creative pulse of San Rafael.

#11 Experience Brewpub Bliss At Pond Farm Brewing Co.

Location: 1848 4th St, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Time: Monday – Thursday | 3 – 9pm              

                         Friday – Sunday | 12 – 10pm

Pond Farm Brewing Co. is a haven for craft beer. It’s more than just a brewpub; it’s a home of quality brews, delicious eats, and community spirit, all woven together in a sun-drenched space.

Owned by a husband and his wife, this brewpub is an ideal place to go if you want to cap off a busy day of touring the city..

Pond Farm’s magic extends beyond the bar. Their kitchen hums with creativity, crafting up a menu that pairs perfectly with their brews.

Dig into succulent sandwiches piled high with local ingredients, savor the tasty goodness of their pizza, or share plates of delectable appetizers as you soak in the convivial atmosphere.

Whether you’re a seasoned beer connoisseur or you are simply seeking a welcoming spot to unwind, Pond Farm Brewing Co. awaits and should be in your list of things to do in San Rafael. 

Offerings:

  • Beer
  • Food
  • Music & Events
  • Reservations

#12 Relive History At Falkirk Cultural Center

Location: 1408 Mission Ave., San Rafael, CA, 94901

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday | 1 – 4:30pm

                           Saturday | 10am – 2pm

Falkirk Cultural Center offers a captivating journey through time.

Situated in an 11-acre real estate that includes lush rolling laws, hillsides, a private wedding lawn, a ceremonial rose garden, and a big veranda for outdoor dining.

The centerpiece of the cultural center is the elegant Queen Anne and Eastlake-style mansion, built in 1888.

You can explore the mansion’s meticulously preserved interiors, adorned with antique furniture and intricate woodwork, a glimpse into a bygone era of elegance.

Falkirk goes beyond an ordinary museum. Its walls come alive with a vibrant calendar of events.

Immerse yourself in captivating art exhibitions showcasing local and regional talent, their paintings, sculptures, and photographs adorning the galleries.

#13 Experience A Dance of Flavors At LaVier Latin Fusion Restaurant

Location: 1025 C St., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Sunday – Wednesday | 5 – 9pm

San Rafael’s culinary scene bursts with diversity, but LaVier Latin Fusion Restaurant shines amidst the options.

This place is an explosion of Latin American and Mexican flavors, known for its Coconut Curry Chicken, Flank Steak

Mole Empanadas, and more.

Visiting LaVier Latin Fusion should be in your list of things to do in San Rafael CA.

The atmosphere here is bliss.

Live music nights turn the restaurant into a vibrant dance floor, where patrons sway to salsa beats and merengue rhythms as they serve you.

Come to LaVier Latin Fusion and savor the dance of flavors, embrace the infectious energy, and discover the heart of Latin culture beating in the heart of San Rafael

#14 Go Explore The Marin County Civic Center

The Marin County Civic Center
Google | Yinghwa Ho

Location: 3501 Civic Center Dr., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday | 7am – 6pm

Your visit to San Rafael is not complete if you don’t experience the Marin County Civic Center.

The Civic Center is not just a government building; it’s also a landmark of modern architecture.

Designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1962, the Civic Center stands as a unique blend of organic forms, vibrant colors, and striking functionality.

The scale of the complex is impressive. Three main buildings – the Administration Building, the Hall of Justice, and the Veterans Memorial Auditorium – span the valley between hills.

Inside, Wright’s design philosophy comes alive. Natural light floods the buildings through ample windows, while flowing lines and open spaces foster a sense of connection and transparency.

But the Civic Center is more than just a pretty face. It’s a working hub for county government, housing various departments and agencies. 

Beyond its practical functions, the Civic Center offers a valuable historical experience. Guided tours delve into the design and construction process, showcasing Wright’s vision and the challenges overcome in bringing it to life. 

Interactive exhibits in the museum bring the county’s rich history to life, from its Native American roots to its modern-day developments.

#15 Catch a Baseball Game At San Rafael Pacifics’ Albert Park

San Rafael Pacifics’ Albert Park
Google | Peter Helmenstine

Location: 151 Andersen Dr., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 7am – 8pm

Albert Park is home to the San Rafael Pacifics, a Pecos League team.

Opened on March 18, 1951, and with a field measurement of 325′ (99 m) on left & right field lines and 370′ (113 m) in center field, the Albert Park is a place to indulge your love for the game.

Every play, big or small, carries the weight of community pride, a reminder that sometimes, the greatest victories are measured not in championships, but in shared moments of joy and heartbreak.

You get to partake in that shared moment of joy when you visit Albert Park.

Whether you are a die-hard baseball fan or simply seeking a dose of hometown charm, Albert Park awaits.

You can catch a game with the San Rafael Pacifics, cheer for your local heroes, and soak in the magic of community spirit under the California sky.

You might just discover that the real magic of baseball isn’t in the major leagues, but right here, amidst the cracks of the bat and the roar of a passionate hometown crowd.

#16 Enjoy Bocce Bliss At The Marin Bocce Federation

The Marin Bocce Federation
Google | Monica Cox

Location: 550 B St., San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Time: Monday – Sunday | 10am – 3pm

If you love Bocce, then you should visit the Marin Bocce Federation when in San Rafael.

Whether you are visiting for a school fundraiser or you just want to hang out with some frien, this place is the best.

The Marin Bocce Federation offer the best courts, the best balls, nice park like setting, and a community woven together by the joy of the game.

Whether you’re a seasoned bocce aficionado or simply curious about this  game, then the Marin Bocce Federation should be in your list of things to do in San Rafael CA.

You can roll with the locals, discover the joy of friendly competition, and become part of this vibrant community

#17 Learn About Water Treatment At The Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District

Location: 30 Smith Ranch Rd, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday | 6am – 3:30pm

San Rafael’s vibrant community thrives on more than just charming cafes and bustling streets. 

Behind the scenes, an unsung hero tirelessly ensures healthy living: the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District (LGVSD).

Wastewater is not treated as an inconvenience, it is seen as a resource thanks to LGVSD.

Here wastewater is recycled and turned into usable water that nourishes thirsty landscapes, replenishes vital groundwater reserves.

Visit LGVSD and see for yourself the cutting-edge technologies used for treating wastewater. These technologies minimize environmental impact, reducing energy consumption and minimizing carbon footprint. 

The next time you sip a glass of fresh water or enjoy a stroll through a verdant park, remember the silent guardians working behind the scenes. 

LGVSD isn’t just about drains and pipes; it’s about a cleaner future, a thriving community, and a sustainable vision for San Rafael.

#18 Visit AlterTheater: Where Stories Rise and Voices Amplify

Location: 111 4th St., San Rafael, CA 94901

AlterTheater is a sanctuary for diverse narratives, a platform for artistic liberation, and a hub where community pulses through every performance.

Come here and catch live performances from the best established and the promising emerging artists in the Bay Area.

The theater is known for showcasing plays that break stereotypes in American theater by showing acts centered on blacks and indigenous people.

The theater is for  seasoned theatergoers hungry for diverse narratives, aspiring artists seeking a platform, or everyday someone yearning for a space where empathy ignites and connections bloom.

#19 Check Out Red Rock Island from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

Red Rock Island
Red Rock Island, the only privately owned island in San Francisco Bay, is up for sale. (Aerial Canvas)

Red Rock Island is the only privately owned island in the area.

This is a special spot, as it is the converging point of three counties —San Francisco, Marin, and Contra Costa.

The Red Rock spans a total of six acres and remains uninhabited.

The reddish color of the island is caused by oxidized manganese 

As the sun dips towards the Golden Gate, casting long shadows across the bay, Red Rock Island takes on an air of melancholy. 

Viewed from the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, the image of the island is sure to linger in your mind —a reminder of the beauty and resilience that can thrive even in the face of isolations

#20 Experience The McNears Beach Park: An Oasis Within the Bay

Things to do in San Rafael CA: Visit The McNears Beach Park
Google | McNears Beach Park

Location: 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael, CA 94901

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday | 8am – 5pm

This 55 acre park should be in your list of things to do in San Rafael CA.

While swimming is not ideal in the park due to its rocky and sandy water features, you can go kayaking, paddle boating, and canoeing.

McNears offer a playground of possibilities. Kids can have fun in the open air, and families can picnic under the shade of gnarled oaks, 

McNears is more than just a playground, however. It’s a sanctuary for nature, a haven for those seeking respite from the city’s clamor. 

#21 Go Hiking At The Terra Linda Sleepy Hollow Ridge

Location: Manuel T Freitas Pkwy, San Rafael, CA 94903

Opening Hours: 

Terra Linda Sleepy Hollow Ridge is a hiking trail nestled amidst the bustling suburbs of San Rafael, California.

You can start your adventure at either Lucas Valley Road or Manuel Frietas Parkway, where the trail beckons with a gently uphill climb.

As you ascend, the landscape transforms, giving way to towering redwoods that cast dappled shadows on the moss-covered ground.

Reach the ridge, and the world unfolds before you like a living map; but Terra Linda Sleepy Hollow Ridge isn’t just about the main trail.

Venture off onto one of the many side paths, and discover hidden meadows carpeted with wildflowers, secluded canyons shrouded in mystery, and ancient rock formations whispering forgotten stories.

Lace up your boots, grab your sense of adventure, and head to Terra Linda Sleepy Hollow Ridge if you are looking for things to do in San Rafael CA.

Now that you have read Things To Do In San Rafael: 21 Fun And Amazing Activities You Will Never Forget, also check out: 20 Utterly Amazing Things To Do In Sturbridge MA

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