San Rafael is the county seat, Marin’s most populous city, and the most culturally diverse. It’s where much of the county’s business gets done and is home to a variety of unique neighborhoods. San Rafael straddles 101, so it has quick freeway access from most areas, although the freeway at central San Rafael is often the bottleneck for morning commute traffic. However, public transit is a great alternative as San Rafael is well-served by Marin’s bus lines converging at the San Rafael Transit Center. The downtown area features a nice variety of shops and restaurants, including nightlife, and also serves as the site for many outdoor events.
Each Thursday evening from April through September a stretch of 4th street is transformed into one of Marin’s best farmer’s markets. There’s live music, lots of organic produce, and tons of tasty food—in fact the now iconic Puerto Rican restaurant Sol Food got its start here as a vendor. Downtown streets are also closed each June for the Italian Street Painting Festival, where artists showcase their talents with intricate chalk drawings on the asphalt. But all the action isn’t confined to downtown; there’s a huge farmer’s market a few exits north at the Civic Center, open twice a week year-round.
With its diverse neighborhoods and homes to fit every budget and taste, from modest condos to multi-million dollar estate properties, it can take some time to really get to know San Rafael. But it’s time well spent and there really is something for everyone.