Introduction to San Rafael, California
The California city of San Rafael, county seat of Marin County, is located 17 miles north of San Francisco in the North Bay region of the Bay Area. The city is bordered by San Pablo and San Francisco bays and lies near the junction of Interstate I-580 and U.S. Route 101. Neighboring communities include Santa Venetia (to the north), San Anselmo (to the west) and Greenbrae (to the south).
San Rafael History
San Rafael is one of several California towns which developed around a Spanish mission in the California mission chain. Mission San Rafael Arcangel, built in 1817 and rebuilt in 1949, was the 20th in the mission chain and was named for the Archangel Raphael, the Angel of Healing. One of California's original 27 county seats, San Rafael became Marin County's first city when it was incorporated in 1874. The oldest, largest and most culturally diverse city in the county, San Rafael is today a lively industrial and cultural center located in an area replete with natural beauty. The city is home to Dominican University.
San Rafael Attractions
Approximately 30 percent of San Rafael's land is comprised of parklands and open space, making many recreational activities available. China Camp State Park is a quiet and beautiful venue whose 1,600 acres provide ample opportunities for hiking, biking and overnight camping. The park acquired its name from a Chinese fishing village that once flourished there. The city is also home to a number of historical and cultural attractions, including the following:
- Rafael Film Center: A restored Art Deco Film Center which originally opened its doors in 1918 as The Orpheus is now a year-round venue showcasing independent and international films as well as film retrospectives.
- Marin County Civic Center: The last major commission of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and also one of his most distinctive designs, the facility houses Marin Center, the county's largest performing arts and convention facility.
- Marin Historical Society Museum: Located in Boyd House, a beautiful example of high Victorian Gothic set in a park-like garden, the museum contains a detailed collection of local historical photos and artifacts.
- Falkirk Cultural Center: Housed in a 17-room mansion built in 1888, the former home of Scottish shipping magnate Robert Dollar, the facility now exhibits contemporary art and sponsors year-round events with other cultural organizations.
- Dominican University: Founded in 1890, the university is situated on 80 wooded acres in the center of San Rafael.