Mill Valley

Nestled at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, Mill Valley has a charm that sets it apart from its neighboring communities. Bordered on three sides by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, and Mt. Tamalpais State Park, living in this trendy community is a privilege that does not come cheap.

In July of 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States.

The many celebrity residents, thriving businesses, and active service organizations help to ensure this community’s economic success while also providing for a nurturing family environment. This town hosts some of the best public and private schools in the nation giving more reason for this being a family-oriented town with high end real estate.

The city is named for a saw mill established by John Reed in the 19th century, the site of which is now Old Mill Park. When the wooded area had been completely logged over, it was divided into small and irregular building lots, which were sold at auction. Many of the vacation homes built at that time were converted to residences during the Great Depression of the 1930s, especially after the Golden Gate Bridge eased access to San Francisco. It is now an affluent residential suburb, much of which is reached by narrow, winding roads built in the early 20th century.

Mill Valley has every type of residence you could ask for, from beach-front to bay-side, secluded valley homes, or hill side homes with spectacular views. If that is not enough, the mild, year-round temperatures regulated by the ocean fog’s cooling action and the city’s easy ten mile commute to San Francisco would make this eclectic community a must see for anyone searching for their dream home. The Mill valley median price for 2006 was: $1,570,000.

The heart of the town is Lytton Square, lovingly known among residents as the city’s “living room” or communal “back yard.” Lytton square is where tourists gather, children frolic, dogs romp and adults sip coffee at tables from a former Greyhound Bus terminal.

The area is known for the convergence of coffee purveyors at the intersection of Throckmorton and Miller avenues. All are normally busy and are often used as the mid-morning coffee break sites for the many residents who work at home. There are high-end pet stores and baby stores, as well as wine stores and the city’s venerable grocery store, the Mill Valley Market, which is next to City Hall on Corte Madera Avenue.

Mill Valley is also noted for the annual, world-renowned Mill Valley Film Festival and the legendary foot race, the Dipsea, the second oldest of its kind in the United States, dating to 1905. Every June, runners compete in the grueling 7.1-mile cross country race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.

In the fall, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival comes to town. The artwork of about 120 selected artists and local students is displayed among the redwood – groves of downtown Mill Valley in Old Mill Park. The festival enjoys statewide, prestige and a high level of excellence, as well as live musical entertainment.

There is much to do and to see in the city, but perhaps the best thing is to be at Lytton Square at sunset, when the first ribbons of fog are drifting over Mt. Tam’s sloping shoulders. The water in the air sparkles in the retreating rays of the sun and, as the half-light of evening steals through stands of redwoods, one word comes to mind time and time again: Magical! -Marin IJ