David Fenton

Back after last winter's flood, this northern California town bustles with energy, gifts, and pride

Lisa Taggart,  – October 13, 2006

San Anselmo cherishes its history. The central Marin town anchored by the russet slopes of Red Hill and the meandering path of Corte Madera Creek is known for its antiques stores and vintage clothing shops.

But last winter many mementos were lost over New Year’s weekend, when the creek overflowed and 4 feet of water smashed through downtown.

Businesses were shuttered for months. But owners mucked out, locals donated materials, and now it’s community pride that overflows on the strip. With festive white lights lining the avenue, several new on-the-pulse boutiques, and parties through the end of the year, San Anselmo today is looking ahead. Visitors will delight in browsing for unusual gifts, sampling super meals, drinking local wine ― and knowing newly installed floodgates are securing this town’s future.


San Anselmo is 15 miles north of San Francisco. Shops run along San Anselmo Ave. and Sir Francis Drake Blvd. 


San Anselmo throws a good small-town holiday party every Thursday night in November and December, with shops open late (until 8 p.m.; www.dsama.org), plus carolers and hot cider. On November 16 and December 21, the party cranks up all the way to 11 with free pourings and a reception at Ross Valley Winery honoring local artists, whose works will be on display (Third Thursday Art Walk).


Fleet Feet Sports. Stop in to learn about local trails. 649 San Anselmo Ave.; 415/258-8190.

Sax. For good deals, pop into this funky, selective consignment shop. 629 San Anselmo Ave.; 415/456-7655.

The Vintage Flamingo. Fun mix of new and vintage dresses and shoes. 528 San Anselmo Ave.; 415/721-7275. 


Bistro 330. Locals flock here for mussels and frites, steaks, and banter from the French chefs. $$$; closed Mon; 330 San Anselmo Ave.; 415/460-6330.

LoCoco’s Pizzeria. Thin-crust pizzas are a staple for area families. $$; closed Mon; 638 San Anselmo Ave.; 415/453-1238.Taco Jane’s. Casual spot offering generous portions of tropical Latino dishes; try the addictive Black Gold salsa. $$; 21 Tamalpais Ave.; 415/454-6562.


Ross Valley Winery. A free pour (or five for $5) from your choice of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and port. Closed Mon; 343 San Anselmo Ave.; www.rossvalleywinery.com or 415/457-5157.

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