Magazine article Sunset

Northern California Weekend

Magazine article Sunset

Northern California Weekend

Article excerpt

Marin day trip

San Rafael

Why go now: May days are best for walking San Rafael's culture-rich main drag. Average high: 71 Get centered: Most of the action goes down on Fourth Street around the Smith Rafael Film Center. Landmark: The re-creation of 1817 Mission San Rafael Arcangel, 20th on the Mission Trail, was built in 1949. A small museum (open Fri; saint raphael.com) houses three bells from the original structure. Local Jedi: Resident director George Lucas filmed parts of THX 1138 and American Graffiti in town. Oven fresh: Co-op bakery Arizmendi ($; closed Sun; 1002 Fourth St.; 415/456-4093) ramps up the gluten-free options with pumpkin muffins and ricciarelli cookies. Felt fortress: The two-story Classic Billiards (1300 Fourth; 4154455-8511) racks up 15 pool tables, including smaller ones for the kids. Score a pint: Swing by English-style Mayflower Pub and Restaurant ($;1533 Fourth; 415/456-loll) for creamy Boddingtons, shepherd's pie, and daily broadcasts of European soccer.

1. Get on the water

The 55-acre McNears Beach Park gives kayakers easy access to San Pablo Bay. It also sports a long fishing pier for those angling to reel in striped bass or perch. A swimming pool, tennis courts, and picnic tables with barbecues round out the scene. $10/vehicle, $5 pool fee; 201 Cantera Way; 415/473-6387

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2. Lunch with the locals

Sol Food turns dining on savory Puerto Rican fare into a communal activity. Order your roast pork and ham sandwich, or tender chicken with rice and garlic fried plantains, at the counter, then grab a seat at one of the shared tables and mingle. $; 901 Lincoln Ave.; 415/457-4765; other locations at 9o3 Lincoln Ave. (takeout only) and 877 Fourth St.

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3. Popcorn palace

The three screens of the restored art deco Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (known locally as the Smith Rafael) flash the latest Indies, foreign films, and documentaries. The 74-year-old movie house hosts film fests and special screenings throughout the year with filmmakers such as Winter's Bone director Debra Granik. …

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