Welcome to San Rafael
History, diversity, and culture you can see, taste, and feel
Twenty miles across the Bay from central San Francisco lies San Rafael, the largest and oldest city in scenic Marin County. Home to a high number of vibrant local businesses, especially concentrated within historic downtown, locals are spoiled for choice when it comes to the sheer number of comforting eats available in town, of both familiar and more exotic styles. Seaside charm inspired by the bayfront location and European missionary culture is prevalent today through downtown’s architecture and other residential enclaves. Bordered by several parks and nature preserves, San Rafael locals are in no shortage of outdoor recreational activities.
California’s Latin heritage is strong, and San Rafael is fortunate enough to host one of the region’s best Puerto Rican restaurant groups. Sol Food, located on Lincoln Avenue, specializes in flavorful Puerto Rican dishes. This colorful stop can’t be missed and has built a loyal following for their pollo, bistec, flavorful poultry, and sandwiches, all served with their famous Pique hot pepper sauce. Comfortable Italian favorites are served on a spacious patio with an extensive wine list at Cafe Arrivederci. Another Italian hotspot nearby is Il Davide. For over two decades, locals have enjoyed refined Tuscan cuisine at this perfect date night spot. Polenta, burrata, tiramisu, and homemade pasta are accompanied by one of the best wine lists in town. For more extended leisure time, locals enjoy booking quick staycations at the Panama Hotel, and dining at their award-winning on-site restaurant. This authentic treat within the walls of the historic hotel treats guests to exotic flavor blends influenced by the Mediterranean, Latin America, and sunny California. For over 40 years San Rafael has held an annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland Festival featuring “snow sledding,” a marketplace, and other family activities like the walkway of lights. In the warmer months of the year, locals can look forward to the Italian Street Painting, an annual art performance where the very streets of downtown become the larger-than-life canvas for the region's most talented artists. For several days throughout the summer, the Marin County Fair and Exposition is an extended exhibition of art, agriculture, live entertainment, and fun rides for the whole family. In addition to the vibrant and friendly environment provided for residents of all ages, locals appreciate the region's natural beauty and significant architecture. The Marin County Civic Center was designed by world-famous architect Frank Loyd Wright. The natural beauty of the region can be enjoyed at China Camp State Beach, featuring a museum commemorating the early settlement of the area. Today, visitors enjoy beach access, swimming, and picnicking. A bit more inland, the Lucas Valley Preserve is a 1,271-acre preserve featuring extensive hiking and biking trails, with sweeping valley views waiting for those who make it to the top.
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