We wake up every day extolling the bounty of natural beauty, amazing restaurants, world class arts & culture organizations, innovation and creativity that serves as the backbone of the 94941. It’s in our DNA to promote the heck out of the town we love. But it sure is amazing when others share that love of Mill Valley, as journalist and longtime local resident Christina Mueller has done below. HERE’S THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE.
Christina Mueller, Special to SFGATE | Jan. 5, 2023 | Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 6:43 p.m.
Mill Valley has been called “one of America’s best small towns” for its well-preserved downtown, hopping music scene and stunning natural surroundings. It is also well known for the Dipsea Race, the oldest trail race in America that winds from downtown Mill Valley, through Muir Woods’ towering redwoods and on to the Pacific Ocean.
While outdoorsy activities like hiking through the scenic redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument is an iconic activity in Mill Valley, there are plenty of other things to do here. From graceful boutiques to fun restaurants to live music, this little city in Marin County — north of San Francisco — has something for everyone.
The geography of Mill Valley
When most people think of Mill Valley, they think of the compact downtown area, made up of shops and restaurants that surround Depot Plaza. But Mill Valley stretches south to Manzanita and Tam Junction, west to Muir Woods, east to Corte Madera, and north to Mount Tamalpais. Hikers and bikers flock to town after exploring the abundant open space that surrounds Mill Valley. To get a quick sense of the town’s connection to the outdoors, walk a few blocks past downtown towards Old Mill Park. Across the canyon is the Mill Valley Public Library. Its adjacent amphitheater is a popular summer spot for everything from Shakespeare plays to puppet theater and other performances.
Once you get there, look across the amphitheater stage, back towards Old Mill Park and towards its beautiful redwood grove. If you’re feeling motivated and energetic, an adventure awaits: Just to the right is the start of the Dipsea Trail, a challenging 14-mile trail is accessible via three steps. If you’re looking for something a bit shorter, turn right onto Monte Vista at the top of the third step and meander a two-mile trail that loops you through stands of towering redwoods, past Cascade Falls and O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, and then back to where you started. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE.
Grab a coffee and explore downtown Mill Valley
Once you’ve returned to Old Mill Park, walk two blocks east to downtown. A coffee will certainly be in order and there are plentiful choices, from Equator Coffees and Bay Area staple Peet’s Coffee to the renovated Depot Café and Bookstore. No matter where you get your caffeine fix, enjoy it from a sunny bench in Depot Plaza, the center of downtown. Take a moment to check out the Gravity Car at the east end of the plaza. In the early 20th century, this was used to pull sightseers up to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais by locomotive. The cars got their name because they made the 8.2 miles trip back relying solely on gravity.
Shop Mill Valley boutiques and art galleries
Many boutiques and art galleries line the streets of Mill Valley that branch off from Depot Plaza. Seager Gray Gallery, Robert Green Fine Arts, Aerena Galleries & Gardens and Desta Gallery are just a few of the places exhibiting contemporary art in a wide array of mediums and styles. The clothing shops in Mill Valley are sought-out by in-the-know style fiends. From bigger houses like OSKA and Eileen Fisher, to only-in-Mill-Valley The Store and Surf & Sand, California style seekers come to Mill Valley to find unique pieces, aided by friendly staff. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE.
Visit the Mill Valley Lumber Yard
An 1892 lumber mill and yard turned retail village has become a town hub in recent years. Locals love the Mill Valley Lumber Yard for its old Mill Valley bones, rustic charm and indoor-outdoor shops and restaurants scattered among 10 renovated buildings. Watershed restaurant acts as the yard’s hub, the wide bar’s doors flung open, the fire pits surrounded by cozy campfire chairs. Browse Makers Market, Once Around, The Edit, or one of the many other shops and eateries that make the Lumber Yard a community favorite. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE.
Where to grab a bite to eat in Mill Valley
Mill Valley dining options are plentiful and, in general, family friendly. If pastry or morning fare for you is a must, you are in luck! The town where Chad Robertson launched the Tartine Bakery empire continues to embrace its love of laminated dough and naturally leavened breads. The Mill Valley bakery scene mushroomed during the pandemic, welcoming three new bakeries downtown: French fare and pastries, including an inimitable quiche and well-regarded ham and Comté crepes from Le Marais Bakery; blueberry lavender lemon scones, sausage rolls, and kouign ammans from Karen Fong’s Mill Valley Baking Company; and small batch rosemary olive oil bread, ginger molasses cookie and apple galettes at Waldscraft Artisan Bakery.
If you’re keen for an adventure a bit further afield for breakfast, you can head above town, on the road to Mount Tamalpais, where a favorite of hikers traversing the mountain’s many trails is the Mountain Home Inn — a spot on the deck is highly coveted on weekends. From May to October, many people hike up the mountain just for pancakes at the West Point Inn.
Buckeye Roadhouse in Manzanita is a must for excellent cocktails in the bar; it has a classic steakhouse vibe at dinner. Larger restaurants on the south side of Mill Valley — Floodwater, The Junction, Hook Fish Co. — beckon with excellent pizza, beer and fish tacos with a traceable supply chain right to the boat the fish was caught from, plus expansive outdoor dining areas. Along Miller Avenue, you’ll find Joes Taco Lounge and Samurai Sushi, two local favorites. And the Flour Craft Bakery & Cafe at the Lumber Yard is a must for hearty, creative salads and sweet treats.
Near Depot Plaza, the bar at Piazza D’Angelo hops day and night — the restaurant’s fresh pasta and Southern Italian cuisine is very popular, too. Around the corner, chef Brandon Jew’s casual but renowned Chinese-American eatery, Mamahuhu, serves up gluten-free sweet and sour chicken and ma po tofu, while across the plaza, Boo Koo takes on Asian fusion cuisine. Playa’s big back deck under the redwoods is a nighttime hot spot for Mexican cocktails and tacos, Prabh Indian Kitchen’s lunchtime thali service is a must-try and the covered outdoor dining at Bungalow 44 is both cozy and festive. READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE
Experience Mill Valley nightlife
The beating heart of Mill Valley’s nightlife is Sweetwater Music Hall, which has been bringing legendary roots and rock musicians to its small stage for over 50 years. Nearby, Throckmorton Theatre (originally called The Hub Theater when it first opened in 1915) hosts everything from comedy showcases to jazz improv concerts. CineArts Sequoia is committed to showcasing documentary and alternative films in addition to blockbusters. Like the rest of Mill Valley, many performers and artists can be found hanging out at Depot Plaza or hiking one of the towns many trails. Mill Valley has its way with everyone, it seems.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON SFGATE
This story was edited by Hearst National Editor Kristina Moy; you can contact her at email@example.com.
Christina Mueller is a freelance food & travel writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been published in Fodor’s, Eater, Domino, and Chowhound. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @EatDrinkThink and her blog, ChristinaMueller.com.