Welcome to San Rafael
The “City with a Mission,” where convenience and culture converge
Developed around the reflective white, adobe-style exterior of the famous Mission San Rafael Arcángel built in 1817, the shimmering city of San Rafael perches at the northwestern portion of the San Francisco Bay. Known as the oldest and largest city in Marin County, San Rafael holds the county seat and is well-known for its distinguished culture, historic downtown, convenient location, and vast expanses of open space.
Before its status as a mission city, the area of San Rafael was home to several tribes of indigenous peoples, specifically the Coast Miwok. The mission was established as a hospital site sub-mission that was named for the Archangel Raphael, the angel of healing. Since then, San Rafael has blossomed into a population of around 60,000 residents who enjoy access to major metropolis cities through I-580 and US-101.
Yet, even with its convenience, San Rafael retains a small-town charisma that’s echoed in the abundance of historic architecture and residential housing options. Private and peaceful, San Rafael offers everything from modest bungalows, gorgeous mid-century homes with views of the bay, lavish gated estates, remodeled condos, historic homes, and so much more.
What to Love
People & Lifestyle
San Rafael is the kind of place where residents can spend a sunny afternoon browsing the eclectic shops in the historic downtown district, participate in one of the many culturally- enriching festivals, relish in the generous natural beauty, and build community. The area is a solid mix of family units, those with children, and individuals, all of whom get the benefit of an affordable yet elegant lifestyle just a few miles from San Francisco.
Dining, Entertainment & Shopping
In addition to its many local shops and venues, San Rafael also has several retail centers that are paradise to shopping enthusiasts. Whether it's browsing name-brands and catching a movie at Northgate or heading to the spacious Montecito Plaza for your day-to-day needs, spa services, and fitness centers, visitors and residents alike have everything they could want in San Rafael.
It’s easy to fall in love with the food in San Rafael, and with options like specialty pizzas, tacos, farm-to-table fare, and upscale Italian, the only difficulty lies in choosing where to eat first. Head to Sol Food for traditional Puerto Rican fare served with a contemporary vibe and dive into their flavorful menu—and rich, imported coffees—first-hand.
Another casual eatery with generational recipes and a passion for excellence, Mulberry Street Pizzeria serves freshly made, gourmet pizza by the slice along with its expanded pasta menu. Need the perfect setting for date night? Look no further than La Toscana for a refined atmosphere, exquisite authentic Italian fare, and a neighborhood-vibe that makes everyone feel like family.
Things to Do
As the largest city in Marin County, San Rafael has a bevy of festivals, activities, fairs, and entertainment events to keep its residents and visitors busy. With a motto of, “Music. Family. Fun,” Terrapin Crossroads—established by Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh—is a lively, three-set music venue that also features an impressive full bar and a farm-to-table menu like no other. Prefer to avoid the crowds? Check out McNears Beach with its 55-acres of expansive shores and views of the Bay. Beloved for picnics, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking, and more, this local oasis is the perfect place to get away from the bustle of life.
Art enthusiasts have plenty to celebrate in San Rafael, in part thanks to the Italian Street Painting Marin festival. The unique event showcases the beauty of street painting by turning the city into a canvas for local artists and additionally provides workshops for aspiring creatives. Families and friends can delight at another favorite event, the Marin County Fair. Over the Fourth of July Weekend, the Ferris wheel and assorted rides soar high above Duck Pond, food vendors serve up mouth-watering fair foods, art exhibits are displayed daily, concerts are held, and fireworks light up the sky every night.
San Rafael is home to several excellent schools. Top educational opportunities include:
- Miller Creek School District, serves grades K-8
- Lucas Valley Elementary, K-5, well-rated public elementary school
- Mark Day School, K-8, highly-rated private school
- St. Isabella School, K-8, highly-rated private Catholic school
- Marin Academy, 9-12, #2 private school in Marin County