With more than 25 neighborhoods and 55,000 residents, the city of San Rafael is the largest in Marin County. Its “one-stop-shop” reputation is backed by a wide range of residential and commercial offerings. San Rafael combines its revitalized downtown district, college atmosphere, film and technology sector, artistic culture and outdoor activities into one. Life in San Rafael is peaceful, stimulating and convenient.
Sci-fi film guru George Lucas has shed Hollywood’s light on San Rafael for over four decades. In 1970 he used the Marin County Civic Center to film a portion of his flick THX 1138. He founded LucasFilm Ltd. in ‘71 and Industrial Light & Magic in ’75 -- bringing both the entertainment and high-tech industries to San Rafael. While most of his companies have since moved to San Francisco’s Presidio, the prominent Skywalker Ranch remains. The town is also featured in various scenes of Lucas’ American Graffiti and Gattaca. Headquartered in San Rafael are Stormfront Studios, Telltale Games and Mind Control Software. The Visual Concepts/2K Sports headquarters is located in nearby Novato.
Neighborhood architecture varies by style, size, price range and age. Interested real estate shoppers can pick from private custom-built homes to contemporary condos and traditional waterfront estates. Collections of mid-century moderns are abundant in neighborhoods like Sun Valley, Lincoln San Rafael Hill, Terra Linda and Lucas Valley-Marinwood. The Dominican section features spacious lot sizes, while Eichler designs and ranch-style homes fill the north part of town. Loch Lomond and Peacock Gap house outstanding views of the San Pablo Bay. Other neighborhoods include Canal Area, Gerstle Park, Glenwood, Montecito, Santa Venetia, Bret Harte and more.
Parents and children have their pick between public and private educations. San Rafael City Schools is a district comprised by eight elementary schools, two middle and two high schools. Saint Mark's School, Marin Academy and Saint Raphael provide excellent services for those choosing the private route. The Dominican University of California and Ali Akbar College of Music are located in San Rafael as well.
Designed by renowned Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Marin Center is a main San Rafael landmark. Wright’s inspiration was a building and backdrop which seemingly “melted into the sun burnt hills.” It serves as a venue for world-class performing arts and events, the annual Marin County Fair and Fourth of July celebrations. The building’s modern sci-fi flair, rounded windows, electric blue dome and bulging gold spire is toured by crowds of people all year long. Once you’re done feeding your mind, the Civic Center Cafe and Ray’s Catering is there to feed your appetite.
Downtown San Rafael is a vibrant Mecca of local shops, eateries and seasonal events. Cruise over this way and grab a bite to eat at the ever popular Il Davide, San Rafael Joe’s and Vin Antico. Feeling spicy? If so, try a dish from Sabor of Spain, Sol Food, Citrus and Spice, MyThai and Lotus Cuisine of India. The raw selections offered at Umi Sushi, Sushi to Dai For and Tenkyu are always impressive. Buyer beware, all day shopping extravaganzas are easy to do in San Rafael. Retail therapy sessions at Bella, Shunzi, Viva Diva and Pleasures of the Heart are bound to soften your spirits.
The city’s history and character have been well-preserved over the years. Downtown tours and art walks are held every third Saturday and second Friday of the month. Stock up on your local-grown fruits and veggies from April through September at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. Thursday evenings come alive as five stages of entertainment, 200+ vendors, international imports and enthused residents flock to Fourth Street. As if Downtown San Rafael weren’t busy enough, it’s also the spot for annual events such as A Taste of Downtown, Trick or Treat, Parade of Lights & Winter Wonderland, Great American Blues & BBQ and the Mill Valley Film Festival. The historic Mission San Rafael Arcangel sits just a few blocks up on Fifth Street. Originally constructed in 1817, it was the second to last built in California’s mission series. In 1949 the setting was restored and replaced with the well-crafted replica that exists today.