Sometimes you want to get away.
... without spending four hours (each way) on an interstate packed with drivers scrolling through their Instagrams instead of watching the traffic.
But you also don't want to stay home, because there's no such thing as a staycation — or, as we like to call it, "using vacation time to organize tax receipts and clean closets."
Which is why we suggest setting your compass for Mill Valley: bucolic, relaxing, charming. You won't even need a full tank of gas.
The Mill Valley Inn gets the vibe right from the get-go: it's nestled in a grove of redwoods — getting up close and personal with redwoods is half the reason for our choice of destination — and within walking distance of the shops downtown. Everything great about Mill Valley is within spitting distance, but if you want to stay put, hikes to surrounding parks don't require a car. Do yourself a solid and opt for one of the rooms with a fireplace.
Pick a sport — kayaking, biking, sailing — and you can find a world-class place to do it nearby. Our favorite, though, begins just outside the inn: the Dipsea Stairs, up, up, up, and then right back down to Muir Woods National Monument, which is a treasure. With kids in town, consider skipping the workout — and just take them on the boardwalk tour through the trees. They're legit magic.
We have a soft spot for this roadhouse on the side of the 101 — the location is no contraindication of the quality of the food. Sure, if you want fast and cheap, stay in town — there's a Super Duper Burgers that will do tidily if you're looking to eat as quickly as possible, or very tasty Mexican at Joe's if you want to stay in town. For something special, though, get yourself to Buckeye. Oysters Bingo and dungeness crab. Done.
The 2 AM Club is our bar of choice. You may recognize it from the cover of Huey Lewis and the News's album Sports — though probably not, because 1983 is a really long time ago now. It's relaxed and unpretentious — no small accomplishment in this part of the world.
Photo: Dipsea Stairs via Janet Tokerud/Flickr