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The city of Novato is a contemporary town, yet retains the charm of its past. The nationally recognized Marin Museum of the American Indian is located here and pays homage to its Native American heritage. The first Spanish colonial house was built here and is located on Olompali State Park. In downtown Novato you can see historical buildings as well, including the Novato History Museum, City Hall, and Druid's Hall. Downtown hosts a weekly Farmers Market with local produce, products and live music. This downtown business district is quaint and has boutique shops and delicious restaurants. Vintage Oaks Shopping center is also here and includes more than 50 stores of all kinds.

Defined by its deep-rooted history and unique shopping opportunities, Novato also enjoys more than 3,600 acres of open space. There is Stafford Lake Park for fishing, hiking, biking, and camping, and Scottsdale Marsh, Deer Island Preserve, and Pacheco Pond Wildlife Area for wildlife observers. It is minutes away from Sonoma and Napa Wine country, and also very close to major cities across the Bay Area. Novato is a family friendly, affordable town located in idyllic northern Marin County.

Novato History

Novato was originally the site of several Coast Miwok villages: Chokeche, near downtown Novato, Puyuku, near Ignacio, and Olompali, at the present Olompali State Historic Park.

In 1839 the Mexican government granted the 8,876 acres of Rancho Novato to Fernando Feliz. The rancho was named after a local Miwok leader. Subsequently four additional land grants were made in the area; Rancho Corte Madera de Novato to John Martin in 1839, Rancho San Jose to Ignacio Pacheco in 1840, Rancho Olompali awarded in 1843 to Camilo Ynitia, son of a Coast Miwok chief and Rancho Nicasio, by far the largest at 56,621 acres, awarded to Pablo de la Guerra and John B.R. Cooper in 1844. Novato, along with the rest of California, became part of the United States on February 2, 1848. Early pioneers included Joseph Sweetser and Francis De Long who bought 15,000 acres in the mid-1850s and planted orchards and vineyards.

The first Novato post office opened in 1856 and the first school was built in 1859 at the corner of Grant Avenue and what today is Redwood Boulevard. The original town was located around Novato Creek at what is now South Novato Boulevard. A railroad was built in 1879, connecting Novato to Sonoma County and San Rafael. The area around the train depot became known as New Town and forms the edge of what today is called Old Town Novato. The current depot was built in 1917, but closed in 1959. The depot consisted of two buildings, a warehouse and a station. The warehouse burned twice in the intervening years and was torn down in late 2007 to make way for a Whole Foods development, while the station is still standing.

A Presbyterian church, still a landmark in Novato today, was built in 1896. The steepled red structure now houses Novato's city offices. The Great Depression of the 1930s had a marked effect on Novato as many farmers lost their land. After World War II, Novato grew quickly with the construction of family homes and Highway 101 connecting Marin and Sonoma County to the north. Novato was incorporated as a city in 1960. Novato has maintained its agricultural heritage and charm. The outlaying areas have many orchards and vineyards and one can still see stands of pear and apple trees tucked into the well established neighborhoods. Horse ranches in the Indian Valley neighborhood and around Stafford Lake's bucolic rolling hilling reminds you of Old Novato.

Location, Climate, and Weather in Novato

Located in the North Bay, 25 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, Novato is the largest town in Marin County with approximately 28 square miles. There are numerous recognized neighborhoods in the Novato. Some of the most notable are Indian Valley on the west side, San Marin in the north, Bahia in the east, nestled in the hills above Green Point with views of the Petaluma River and sloughs of the San Francisco Bay.

Additionally there's the waterfront neighborhood of Bel Marin Keys, offering boat docks at many of the homes for easy access to the Bay. Ignacio's many homes are located just south of Novato's town limits and is situated in a valley leading to the College of Marin's Indian Valley Campus.

The former Hamilton Army Air Base has been converted to a mix of single family homes, condos, and townhouses plus commercial businesses along side non-profits.

Novato enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with mild winter lows seldom reaching the freezing mark. Average temperatures range from the middle 40s to the low 80s, with around 36 inches of rain annually.

Novato Real Estate

At Novato's heart is a plethera of charming historic buildings that dot the downtown, including the Novato History Museum (1850), City Hall (a former Presbyterian church built in 1896), and Druid's Hall (1899). Novato's Old Town hosts traditional stores, boutiques, and restaurants, and speaks to an earlier time in Novato's history.

Novato's recently restored Grant Avenue has made downtown Novato a welcoming place for visitors and residents to shop and dine. Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, anchored by Costco and Target, includes more than 50 retail stores and restaurants is on the east side of town along the Highway 101 corridor. Well known companies have made their home in Novato, including Firemans FundBioMarin and the non-profit Buck Institute for Aging, a prominent complex located on Mount Burdell designed by famed architect I. M. Pei.Novato with its numerous neighborhoods and geographies hosts ranches, estates, single family homes, condos, and townhouses—truly housing for all lifestyles. Housing is located in verdant valleys, rolling hills, creeksides, along the Bay, and tucked into downtown Novato for those who desire the pedestrian experience.

In 2013 the minimum single family home price was $305,000, average was $736,420 and the maximum was $2,975,000. With Novato's outstanding schools, city services, shopping, and activities, an easy commute insures property owners a wonderful place to live and raise a family. Novato is a great place to make a real estate investment. Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty's agents are the most experienced in the Novato area.

Novato Schools

The Novato Unified School District serves a diverse and varied population with 10 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools, in addition to special programs and continuing education. To better serve a child's every need, Novato is home to private, religious, and non-profit schools. Please visit Novato's School's Quick Links for additional information.

Transportation and Commuting from Novato

Novato is Marin County's furthermost north community and is home to express bus service to speed the passenger into San Francisco. Bus stops are conveniently located in downtown Novato and immediately adjacent to the 101 Highway. The bus ride to San Francisco is about 50 minutes. Novato is located 27 miles from Lombard Street in San Francisco and estimated drive time is 40 minutes without commute traffic. Alternatively, the Larkspur Ferry Terminal is located 12 miles south in Larkspur Landing. The ferry ride takes 40 minutes to cross the Bay to San Francisco. For a schedule and fees, please visit the Golden Gate Transit site for more details.

Activities and Things To Do in Novato

Novato offers the greatest choices for entertainment in Marin. The Novato Arts Center at Hamilton Field hosts forty working artists in three buildings, the Marin Museum Of Contemporary Art, museum store, and art classrooms, plus a rotating art exhibit every six weeks. Novato Theater Company presents live plays and musicals. The Sonoma Raceway is just north of Novato and minutes away to enjoy some of the best auto racing in the country.

Novato is fortunate to have two history museums helping to keep the past alive and relevant. Visit the quaint Novato History Museum located in Old Town and also check out the Hamilton Field History Museum which explores the evolving North Bay community.

Outdoor Recreation and Parks in Novato

Novato is perfect for biking, jogging, and hiking in the beautiful hills and mountains surrounding the community. Novato has numerous town parks; to just name a few there's Pioneer Park, Dogbone Meadow fenced dog park for our four legged friends, Skate Park, Stafford Lake County Park, Olompali State Historic Park, Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve, and the Hamilton Bay Trail.

Novato has Mount Tamalpais at its doorstep and in its backyard there's the Point Reyes National Seashore located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. With the mountain's numerous trails, lakes, and incredible views, this venue is challenging enough for the seasoned hiker, and easy enough for everyone in the family. The GGNRA and numerous Marin County Open Spaces trails offer adventures galore.

Please visit Novato's Quick Links for more parks and information.

Best Restaurants in Novato

Novato has a thriving resaurant scene. The town's blend of nationalities and ethic mix creates a delightful selection of dining establishments. They range from casual, with a laid back atmosphere, to high-end, upscale dining with a classy ambiance. Dine at Hilltop 1892 which overlooks the town and enjoy American cuisine made with the freshest ingredients. With two great brew pubs to choose from—Hopmonk Tavern and Moylan's Brewery and Restaurant—it's easy to find friendly service, good food, and an excellent selection of beer including cask ales. Visit Maya Palenque Restaurant for the best Mexican fare in the North Bay. Toast across the way features a brick pizza oven, an extensive beer and wine menu, inventive fare with an emphasize on seasonal and local ingredients. Boca Tavern in the Ignacio neighborhood serves notable Cal-Mediterranean inspired food in a family friendly atmosphere. Batika India Bistro offers diners the finest Indian cuisine, with an array of dishes prepared fresh daily. Please visit Novato's Quick Links for more restaurants and information.

Nightlife and Entertainment in Novato

When the sun sets on Novato there is still fun to be had. Drop into Finnegan's Marin Restaurant and Bar for live music, open mic and trivia nights. Beso Bistro and Wine Bar in the Hamilton neighborhood serves Peruvian fare and has an excellent wine bar with friendly bartenders. And the Hopmonk Tavern Novato serves tasty gasto pub fare with live music on the patio. Located in Novato's Old Town, there's De Borba’s Saloon, one of the North Bay's longest standing drinking establishment: it was a dive bar before they became fashionable. Mingle with locals over a cold one and enjoy the vintage jukebox.

Enjoy Novato Theater Company featuring live plays and musicals located in the Hamilton neighborhood. Please visit Novato's Quick Links for more information.

Novato Events

Novato is fortunate to have the ideal weather to foster a variety of year round annual events. Begin with the Tuesday evening Marin Farmers Market located on Grant Avenue in Old Town Novato that takes place May through October. Enjoy live entertainment while sampling and selecting local produce, meats, cheeses, and bakery goods made with freshest ingredients of the season.

In June attend the annual Novato Festival of Art, Wine, and Music. Thousands of people from Novato and the San Francisco Bay Area gather for two days to enjoy this fantastic, free, multi-generational event. Always a perfect blend of unique handcrafted art, regional vintage wines, award-winning micro brews, Americana, gourmet foods, and first rate live music. Please visit Novato's Quick Links for more information.

Shopping in Novato

Vintage Oaks Shopping Center located along the Highway 101 corridor provides services, shopping, and restaurants anchored by Costco, Target, and Macy's. Also, visit Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center in the Ignacio neighborhood for Boca Tavern, Paradise Market, and services and additional shopping.

For that small town shopping experience, stroll the revitalized Old Town Novato's Grant Avenue which boast a Whole Foods plus established local favorites such as A Closet Affair, specializing in eco-friendly, fashion-conscious, sophisticated clothing. The sign outside should be enough of a clue – a juke box sign declaring Watts Music, marks the location of Novato's own awesome music store. Started in 1979, Watts is the oldest record store in Marin County. They specialize in being a catalog store, meaning they carry the full suite of a performer's music.

Visit Tagliaferri's Deli located at the corner of 7th and Grant Ave. This father and son run deli has been operating in The Square Shopping Center in west Novato since 1979.

Please visit Novato's Quick Links for more information.