As you approach downtown Mill Valley, you can't help but notice the dramatic sight of Mount Tamalpais rising in the distance. Easy access to some of Tam's most scenic trails make Mill Valley a mecca for weekend warriors. But even if you're not the outdoorsy type, this laid-back, Southern Marin enclave is an enticing spot for a weekend getaway or day trip, with renowned restaurants, cafes and upscale boutiques and galleries—many of them housed in Victorian and other historic buildings that rim downtown's Square.


EAT

Playa Patio(courtesy of Playa)

Playa

Playa, the latest addition to Mill Valley's dining scene, has been generating plenty of buzz. Housed in a historic building, Playa's eye-catching modern décor—think giant teardrop pendant lights, azure walls and a geometric tile floor—blends with the building's original architectural details such as exposed bricks and beams. An inviting outdoor deck is also festive, with orange umbrellas and a colorful mural. Executive chef Omar Huerta's light, contemporary Mexican food is fresh and diverse. The Baja-style fish tacos are filled with flaky cod dressed in golden-fried beer batter and spicy slaw. The carne asada taco is made from tender skirt steak marinated in Negro Modelo. A chopped salad of crisp romaine, crumbled bacon, black-eyed peas, grilled corn, snap peas and avocado served with poblano-cotija dressing is healthy(-ish) and satisfying. The full bar, which stocks rare tequilas and mezcals, is already earning a reputation for its killer margaritas. // 41 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), playamv.com



Bungalow 44

Bungalow 44's inventive California cuisine includes starters such as warm Brussels sprouts salad with grilled onions and bacon. House specialties include the Kickin' Fried Chicken: moist pieces of chicken with a hint of heat from cayenne pepper. Other favorites include braised short ribs, and from the wood-burning grill, a succulent pork chop served with spicy baked black-eyed peas. Be sure to save room for the decadent butterscotch pudding—it's worth every calorie. // 44 E. Blithedale Drive (Mill Valley), bungalow44.com


Arctic char with farro, nettles, wild lettuces and mushrooms at Molina. (Courtesy of Molina)

Molina

Dining at this snug neighborhood gem feels like having dinner in the home of a friend. Proving that less is more, the limited but delicious menu changes daily. Chef Kyle Swain, who took over the restaurant after founder Todd Shoberg left earlier this year, scours Marin farmers markets for the freshest seasonal ingredients. On any given night, the varying selection of proteins—cooked to perfection in Molina's brick oven—may include rabbit, pork, quail, beef or fish. Just-plucked lettuces, herbs and edible flowers make for tasty, pretty, colorful salads. Oysters, smoked castelvetrano olives and thick Kennebec fries served with aiola dipping sauce are among the delectable starters. An avid music lover, Swain enhances the dinner party mood by serenading his guests with an eclectic play list he picks each night and prints on the back of menus. // 17 Madrona Street (Mill Valley), molinarestaurant.com


Piazza D'Angelo

With its terracotta floors and white-washed walls reminiscent of a Tuscan villa, Piazza D'Angelo is hard to beat for a festive Italian meal. The housemade pasta—we're partial to the tagliatelle bolognese—is always toothsome and silky. Other popular options on the large menu include butternut squash ravioli, sea bass, roasted free-range chicken and assorted antipasti. // 22 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), piazzadangelo.com


Punjabi Burritos

Can't decide if you want Mexican or Indian food for lunch? Tiny Punjabi Burritos has you covered. Even the simplest burritos are hardly basic: they feature curried garbanzo beans, basmati rice and chutney wrapped in whole wheat naan bread. You can also design a custom burrito with fillings such as smoked eggplant and curried pumpkin. // 15 Madrona Street (Mill Valley), enjoyavatars.com


(Courtesy of Buckeye Roadhouse)

Buckeye Roadhouse

Located beside the southbound Highway 101 on ramp, the Buckeye Roadhouse, which opened in 1937 (the same year as the Golden Gate Bridge) is known for outstanding American food. Backyard brick-smoker favorites include baby back ribs, chicken wings and Muscovy duck breast. Oysters Bingo—plump oysters served on dollops of spinach laced with brandy and garlic, then finished with a layer of melted asiago—is also a crowd pleaser. If you've got a sweet tooth, the s'more pie is a can't-fail arrangement of graham cracker crust and gooey chocolate topped with a mountain of fluffy, lightly toasted marshmallow meringue. // 15 Shoreline Highway (Mill Valley), buckeyeroadhouse.com


Balboa Café

Sister to the boisterous Balboa Café in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood, this modern bistro is a bit more subdued, but the food is just as good, whether you go for local wild salmon, creamy risotto, or the famous Balboa Burger. // 36 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), balboacafemv.com


Tony Tutto Pizza

Since trading his music-industry career to open Tony Tutto, owner Greg DiGiovine has been rocking the worlds of pizza lovers. The one-time manager of Carlos Santana now bakes tantalizing organic pies in a brick oven. The pizzas bear names inspired by his 60s musical roots. Try the Peter, Paul & Pesto (Tutto's secret three-cheese blend, pesto, pine nuts and basil) or one of the daily specials, such as the Field of Dreams (organic pumpkin, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, sage, chili flakes and sea salt). Take heed: Tony Tutto only accepts cash and local checks, so take your AmEx elsewhere. // 246 E. Blithedale Ave. (Mill Valley), tonytuttopizza.com


(Courtesy of El Paseo)

El Paseo

A cherished local dining destination since the 1940s, El Paseo's string of handsome, intimate rooms line a quaint brick alleyway. While the restaurant's name has remained the same, it's been reinvented by several different owners. In 2011, current owner Sammy Hagar—former Van Halen frontman and a Mill Valley resident—restored the Mission-style landmark and turned it into a high-end steakhouse. Recently, executive chef Henry Cortez helped Hagar take El Paseo in an exciting new direction by creating a menu of classic California cuisine with Spanish flair. // 17 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), elpaseomillvalley.com


Kitchen Sunnyside Café

The extensive breakfast menu at this cute retro diner includes rib-sticking dishes such as the Sunnyside Hash, an indulgent mound of hash browns topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, red onion, mushrooms and jalapenos. Lunch options include paninis, burgers and salads. We like the Baja cheesesteak, bacon panini and wasabi chicken salad. // 31 Sunnyside Ave. (Mill Valley), kitchensunnyside.com


Phyllis' Giant Burgers

When you've got a hankering for a good old-fashioned burger, head to Phyllis' Giant Burgers, where you'll find more than 20 varieties. We suggest you sink your teeth into the signature Mt. Tam, a juicy half-pound beef patty gussied up with bacon, sauteed onions and blue cheese. // 8 East Blithedale Ave. (Mill Valley), phyllisgiantburgers.com


Tamalpie

This sleek, contemporary pizzeria specializes in artisan pies cleverly named after Mill Valley hiking trails. You can't go wrong with the Tenderfoot, melted mozzarella and fontina topped with wild mushrooms. Lighter fare includes super-fresh salads—we love the Mill Valley Goddess (butter lettuce, avocado, pistachios and Meyer lemon crème fraiche dressing). // 477 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), tamalpiepizza.com


(Courtesy of Sol Food)

Sol Food

Since it opened in 2013, the Mill Valley off-shoot of the San Rafael original has been a hit. Tender braised chicken, garlicky plantains, and slow-cooked black beans are among the simple but delicious Puerto Rican offerings that keep loyal customers coming back for more. // 401 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), solfoodrestaurant.com


Noci Gelato

Made on-site daily with seasonal organic ingredients, sweet and creamy Noci Gelato comes in a rotating list of flavors, including traditional favorites such as chocolate chip and strawberry. More exotic temptations include fig crème fraiche and rootbeer float. // 17 E. Blithedale Ave. (Mill Valley), nocigelato.com


DRINK

Equator Coffee

Equator Coffee has two Mill Valley locations. The original site in the Proof Lab Surf Shop in Tam Junction and the newer café is downtown on the corner of Miller and Throckmorton. Order a Scratch caramel latte made with—you guessed it—from-scratch caramel, grab a seat outdoors at a bright red café table, and watch the world go by. Not a bad way to spend a work break. // 2 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley) equatorcoffees.com


Beer Works(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Mill Valley Beerworks

Owned by brothers Tyler and Justin Catalan, Mill Valley Beerworks' interior melds the charm of an old-world European tavern with modern touches. Splashes of white subway tiles brighten the dark walls while rough-hewn hardwood floors, shelves of mason jars filled with pickles and peppers, and vintage pendant lights add rustic warmth. Serving an array of craft beers and ales, many from their Fort Point Beer Company in the Presidio, this gastropub is a popular pit stop for mountain bikers and hikers. Even if you're not a beer fan, you'll want to sample chef Rob Hurd's innovative farm-to-table brunch and dinner fare. The menus change daily but always feature a selection of small plates such as lightly fried dumpling squash seasoned with dried chili and served with a honey agrodolce. Larger dinner plates include a porcini-rubbed flatiron steak and a rainbow trout served on a bed of French green lentils. // 173 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), millvalleybeerworks.com


Depot Bookstore and Café(Dorothy O'Donnell)

The Depot Bookstore and Café

Once upon a time, trains and buses dropped off and picked up passengers at the Depot, a downtown landmark since 1928. Today, the pink adobe building anchors the square and houses a beloved bookstore and cafe. The small but impressive collection of books has a local focus. Sandwiches, quiche, salads and breakfast items are also available, along with a myriad of baked treats. If the weather's nice, snag a table on the patio—it's a perfect place to linger over a drink or meal, dive into that new book, or just take in the action on the square. // 87 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), depotbookstore.com


Juice Girl

If you're feeling the urge to cleanse after a night of overindulging, or merely craving an energizing liquid meal, Juice Girl's cold-pressed juices and smoothies are just the ticket. Flush out toxins with a Blueberry Detox smoothie (frozen blueberries, green tea, kale and spinach). Or boost your immune system with a bottle of Mighty C (cold-pressed carrot, citrus and apple juice spiked with ginger). //45 Camino Alto (Mill Valley), juicegirlmv.com


SHOP

Mill Valley Mercantile(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Mill Valley Mercantile

Stepping into this inviting boutique is like entering a fashion designer's walk-in closet. Patty and Heather Holiday, the mother-daughter team that has owned Mill Valley Mercantile for 18 years, curate an inventory of stylish, easy-to-wear clothing in sumptuous fabrics. Luxe basics such as AG Jeans and soft tees from American Vintage. If you're in the market for something fancier, try a simple but stunning slip dress in satin or velvet by Sula. You'll also find cozy cashmere sweaters and chic ponchos from White + Warren. // 167 A Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), millvalleymercantile.com


Mint(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Mint

Next door to Mill Valley Mercantile, Mint offers a thoughtfully curated assortment of unique clothing made from natural fibers, accessories, and home products with a modern, whimsical aesthetic. One-of-a-kind fashions include alpaca sweater coats knit on an antique loom in Peru from designer Lauren Manoogian. If you're a minimalist, you may want to scoop up a boxy, Japanese-inspired tunic dress from Black Crane. Throughout the store, shelves and tables are lined with Il Bisonte purses and wallets, Japanese glassware and pottery, and Le Feu de l'Eau candles. // 167 B Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), mintdesignplay.com


Pollen + Wool shirts(Courtesy of Pollen + Wool)

Pollen + Wool

In Mill Valley's newest lifestyle boutique, Matta dresses and NO+YO tees share space with a build-your-own terrarium station, Kinfolk mags, unique furniture, succulent plants and jars of organic honey. Owner Kristina De Pizzol, a Marin native, also owns San Francisco boutiques Gigi + Rose and Jackson + Polk. She credits the powerful impact bees and pollen have on our planet, and her Norwegian roots, as inspiration for the beautiful and eclectic array of goods that fill her spacious, sunny store. // 27 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley)


Famous4

Larry "The Hat" Lautzker's Famous4 has been outfitting stylish men and women in on-trend gear since 1986. The dapper Lautzker—a Mill Valley fixture in his own right—counts Carlos Santana and Bob Weir among his noteworthy clientele. Swing by Famous 4, and Lautzker will help you score a rock-star worthy statement piece such as the groovy multi-colored patchwork bell bottoms we recently spotted in the window. // 96 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), bestsanfranciscoattractions.net


Branded. (Dorothy O'Donnell)

Branded

Housed in a Victorian, Branded's bright interior is filled with contemporary fashions ranging from fitted, sexy blazers from Smythe, Rag & Bone jeans, to boho tops from Ulla Johnson. //118 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley)


Two Neat

You're bound to leave Two Neat with a smile on your face. The Mill Valley institution sells cheeky greeting cards—some of them X-rated—as well as cards made by local artists. It's also the place to stock up on humorous political bumper stickers and delightfully kitschy tchotchkes and gifts. You never know when a flask disguised as a giant tube of sunscreen or a roll of "We Shall Overcomb" toilet paper emblazoned with Donald Trump's face will come in handy. // 111 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), twoneat.com


Margaret O'Leary

California and her native Ireland inspire the fine sweaters and other effortless clothing designer Margaret O'Leary is known for. Her business is based in San Francisco, but O'Leary calls Mill Valley home, and you'll find one of her signature boutiques downtown. Sip a glass of complimentary champagne while you shop for a timeless cashmere sweater or edgier pieces, such as a fringed black suede jacket or fitted jersey midi dress with a subtle asymmetrical hemline. // 14 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), margaretoleary.com


Monarch(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Monarch

If exotic clothes and trinkets are your jam, you'll love Monarch, a jewel box of a shop packed with imported treasures from India. Add a touch of hippy style to your wardrobe with a bold tunic, a colorful scarf or a macramé necklace. You'll also find Buddha statuettes, lanterns, candles, and books on meditation and India. // 27 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley)


Summer House

Casual luxury reigns at this airy lifestyle store. Furniture, upholstery, bedding, alpaca throws and accessories in soothing shades of taupe, cream, misty gray, and muted blues evoke Marin's coastal and mountain landscapes. Turn your bed into the ultimate cocoon with splurge-worthy sheets from Vintage Linen and a soft, hand-stitched quilt from John Robshaw. Or bring home a dose of color and pattern, courtesy of handcrafted area rugs from Dash & Albert and handmade Indian table linens from Manglam Arts. // 57 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), summerhouse57millvalley.com


The Goods(Dorothy O'Donnell)

The Goods

We wish we could take everything in this charming little shop home with us, including the cage full of chirping finches that greet you as you walk in. They're not for sale, unlike the plush cashmere scarves, wraps and ponchos from Nepal. Vintage knick knacks, home decor and gift items, including fur accent pillows made by owner Kelly Scott, are also available. // 2 El Paseo Lane (Mill Valley)


The Store

A go-to spot for Mill Valley women, The Store prides itself on carrying a mix of clothing that offers something for everyone. Slip into a leather jacket from local label Cupcakes and Cashmere or a laid-back maxi dress from Calvin Rucker. Update your stash of jeans with a pair from Current Elliott or treat yourself to a dressy top from Bailey 44. // 68 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), thestoremillvalley.com


Mill Valley Market(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Mill Valley Market

You might think a town with two Whole Foods and a Good Earth Natural Foods wouldn't need a another grocery store. But since 1929, family-owned Mill Valley Market has been a downtown favorite. Along with the usual staples, the aisles are stocked with hard-to-find gourmet items. Chocolate lovers will swoon over the huge selection of artisan chocolates from brands such as Chuao, Guittard, Lake Champlain and Vintage Plantations. You'll also find dozens of shelves of high-end, infused olive oils and vinegars, plus a large assortment of jams and jellies in unusual flavors, including kiwi, gooseberry and Hungarian pepper. In addition, the market has an excellent wine shop and a deli featuring specialty sandwiches, such as barbecue beef with melted cheese and a classic Reuben. // 12 Corte Madera Ave. (Mill Valley), millvalleymarket.com


Mill Valley Lumber Yard(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Mill Valley Lumber Yard

The new Mill Valley Lumber Yard shopping area is still in its early phases of development. But several stores have already opened in the historic red buildings, including Guideboat Company, a custom boat-builder that also sells high-end clothing and accessories (think of them as a more artisanal, considered LL Bean). The lumber yard's outdoor area is a pleasant place to sit in the shade of the redwoods. Renovations on the remaining buildings for additional shops and a café will begin soon. // 129 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), millvalleylumberyard.com


PLAY

Dipsea Stairs(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Dipsea Stairs

Feel the burn as you climb the 676 Dipsea stairs, passing towering redwoods and homes that cling to the hillside as you make your way to the top. Located just behind Old Mill Park, the three sets of steps are part of the 7.5-mile Dipsea race course. Since 1905, this grueling cross-country race has drawn hundreds of hard-core runners each June. But trust us—just walking the stairs will get your quads screaming. If you want a longer workout, continue to the Dipsea Trail and hike to Muir Woods or all the way to Stinson Beach.


Cascade Falls(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Cascade Falls

If hoofing it up the Dipsea stairs sounds like too much work, take a leisurely stroll to Cascade Falls instead. This serene park is less than two miles from the square, but feels far removed from suburbia. To get there, head west on Throckmorton to Old Mill Park, then cross the footbridge over the creek to Cascade Drive. Turn right, and wander past Cascade Canyon's grand homes, A-frame cabins and cottages. When you reach the intersection of Cascade Drive and Throckmorton, turn left and cross the street. Look for the Cascade Falls sign, then follow the trail into the woods. Although the waterfall is in full glory during the rainy season, this idyllic spot is worth visiting year-round.


O'Hanlon Center for the Arts(Dorothy O'Donnell)

O'Hanlon Center for the Arts

While you're in the Cascade Canyon area, be sure to check out O'Hanlon Center for the Arts. Just down the road from Cascade Falls, the center features galleries and studios set on a hillside sprinkled with trees and sculptures. The center offers ongoing classes in art, writing and meditation, along with exhibitions showcasing the work of area artists. Special events are also held throughout the year. // 616 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), ohanloncenter.org


Sweetwater Music Hall(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Sweetwater Music Hall

When the Sweetwater lost its original Throckmorton location in 2007, the Mill Valley community rallied to find a new home for the iconic music hall. They succeeded with the help of investors including Bob Weir—the Grateful Dead were among many legendary bands that played at the old Sweetwater. Since 2012, the current site in a former Masonic Hall has continued Sweetwater's long tradition of bringing nationally acclaimed musicians and emerging Bay Area talent to an intimate neighborhood nightclub. Local rock royalty such as Weir, Sammy Hagar and Bonnie Raitt have also been known to drop by for surprise performances. Grab a pre-show bite in the Sweetwater Café, which also serves lunch daily and weekend brunch. // 19 Corte Madera Ave. (Mill Valley), sweetwatermusichall.com


Throckmorton Theatre(Dorothy O'Donnell)

Throckmorton Theatre

The 102-year-old Throckmorton Theatre was languishing when Mill Valley arts enthusiast Lucy Mercer purchased it from the Odd Fellows and brought it back to life in 2002. Ever since, "The Throck," as it's often referred to, has been a mainstay of Marin's live entertainment scene. Jazz and classical concerts, performances by well-known local and national musicians, plays, and comedy shows are just a few of the events you can enjoy in this fine old theater. // 142 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), throckmortontheatre.org


Marin Theatre Company

There's not a bad seat in the house at this small theater known for putting on some of the Bay Area's best productions of work from established and emerging modern playwrights. // 397 Miller Ave. (Mill Valley), marintheatre.org


STAY

The Mill Valley Inn

There's only one hotel in downtown Mill Valley—the Mill Valley Inn. Luckily, this upscale boutique hotel with understated European charm couldn't be sweeter. Set in a grove of redwoods overlooking Old Mill Creek, the inn is steps away from the beauty of Old Mill Park and an easy walk to the rest of downtown's attractions. The 25 tastefully decorated rooms feature handcrafted furnishings. Many have fireplaces and French doors that open to views of the redwoods. A hearty continental breakfast and evening wine and cheese are included with your stay. // 165 Throckmorton Ave. (Mill Valley), marinhotels.com