San Rafael is a dynamic business and cultural center that serves as the hub of Marin living, as well as the county seat.
The oldest and largest city in Marin County, San Rafael covers about 20 square miles of golden hills, creeks and estuaries, and is the home of 57,000 residents. The Mission San Rafael Arcangel was established in 1817 on the site of a Coast Miwok Indian village. The city was incorporated 57 years later in 1874, the first city in Marin.
San Rafael offers a huge diversity of housing options, from the stately Victorians of the downtown neighborhoods, to stylish contemporary houses and condos, to the retro Eichler and Alliance homes built in the 1960s. The city features 30 distinct neighborhoods, enabling you to find the living style that is just right for you and your family. The downtown area and Gerstle Park provide a traditional community environment with Victorians and bungalows set among sidewalks and tall trees. The Terra Linda neighborhood, covering a vast area in North San Rafael is a quintessential 1960s suburban neighborhood and is surrounded by Open Space. World-famous Guide Dogs for the Blind is located there. Peacock Gap is a neighborhood of expansive, luxury homes surrounding the Peacock Gap Golf Course and Country Club. The area surrounding the elegant 106-year-old Dominican University of California is known for exquisite antique mansions and tranquil living. Marinwood and Lucas Valley on the far north edge of San Rafael provide a more rural experience. All the neighborhoods feature excellent schools.
Fourth Street is the lively main drag of downtown. Along with shopping, there are abundant restaurants, live music venues, and the Rafael Film Center shows independent and international films in a renovated Art Deco theater. San Rafaelites are enthusiastic about the Farmers' Market that is held there on Thursday evenings from April till October.
The beautiful St. Raphael Church and the Mission San Rafael Archangel are the centerpiece of the downtown area. The original mission was left in ruins after 1844, but a historical replica was built in 1949, which houses many historical artifacts. Nearby is the San Rafael City Plaza, a community gathering place and the center of seasonal events and summertime concerts.
The county offices are housed in the only government building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This national historical landmark, completed in 1962, was Wright's last work. The modern, low, horizontal buildings gracefully link the crowns of three separate hills on the 20-acre grounds. The Civic Center complex includes a 14-acre lagoon, playground, picnic area, auditorium, exhibit hall and the fairgrounds of Marin County Fair held each July.
Because the weather is the best in the country, San Rafael is a get out and go town. There's plenty to do. San Rafael boasts 19 well-kept parks and one third of the city is open space. McInnis County Park features a 9-hole golf course, batting cages, miniature golf, soccer and softball fields, a skateboard park and nature trails along the estuary. China Camp State Park covers 1,600-acres rolling from the hills down to the bay, and there you'll find a historical Chinese shrimp-fishing village, miles of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails, boating and kayaking, a large group picnic area for 200 people as well as 25 other developed picnic sites, and a tent campground. There are many sites in San Rafael listed with the National Register of Historic Places. San Rafael, on the San Pablo Bay, boasts a yacht harbor and Yacht Club.
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