Mill Valley is famous for being a beautiful small town with an international presence and being a favorite destination for tourists. Its robust and lively arts and culture institutions and programs have grown over the years making it a place to be in and to be seen. Mill Valley’s strong artistic heritage is immediately visible when you take a walk through downtown Mill Valley. There are art galleries, patrons sitting outdoors in coffee shops, and unique local shops. The town is well-known in the San Francisco Bay Area for its Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival which has been held in town for more than 50 years. The Mill Valley Film Festival, supported by the California Film Institute, has also been in Mill Valley for more than 30 years. For foodies and gourmands, the annual Gourmet Food and Wine Tasting sponsored by Mill Valley's Chamber of Commerce is not to be missed.
The Mill Valley Film Festival is a showcase for independent and world cinema. Over the years Mill Valley Film Festival has had such critical success that filmmakers and film lovers converge in Mill Valley to enjoy the international features, documentaries, shorts and children's films in this prestigious and noncompetitive event. As they say there’s something for everyone who loves film.
The Mill Valley Film Festival was founded in 1978 by California Film Institute Director Mark Fishkin. The films shown at the Festival are hand-picked for their impact and creativity. Up and coming filmmakers want to be seen here as it has launched new films and new filmmakers.
This year the Mill Valley Film Festival will be held October 4-14. It is presented by the California Film Institute at the CinéArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton Theatre (Mill Valley), Century Cinema (Corte Madera) and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael).
The Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival
The Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival first started as a group of artists exhibiting their works in downtown store windows. That was 1957. Over the years, the Festival grew until it was incorporated in 1962.
Today, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival showcases both expert artists and emerging young talent. The Festival is volunteer-run and lasts for two days. Entertainment by local Bay Area performers, activities for children and food and beverages are only some of the highlights of the Festival. The venue of the Festival is in a majestic redwood grove in the Old Mill Park.
The Annual Mill Valley Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting
Mill Valley’s annual treat for wine and food connoisseurs is truly an event to savor. Featuring local brewers and chefs, The Annual Mill Valley Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting offers visitors new and popular creations. Artisan and craft brewers showcase their specialty brews to a discerning audience. Delicious gourmet food prepared by local restaurants promises to surprise and delight visitors.
Tickets include a commemorative wine glass and unending samples of food and drinks. Proceeds of ticket sales and sponsorships benefit the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce economic development and green business programs.
The Annual Mill Valley Wine and Gourmet Food Tasting is held in the city’s downtown.
The Throckmorton Theatre, located at 142 Throckmorton Avenue, is a popular destination for theatre lovers. You can visit the art gallery displaying local art and work from all over the world. The theater features plays and music acts in all different genres. Other Mill Valley theaters include the Marin Theatre Company. Many Mill Valley art galleries will even let visitors to display their own original work.
Mountain Play Association
The Mountain Play Association produces an outdoor play each year that is a highlight for the community and visitors. Each annual play involves Mt. Tamalpais and the actors and the entire community come together in this unique venue to celebrate art and theatre. Tickets for this event are available on the Mountain Play Association's website.
Mill Valley galleries display an eclectic selection of modern and fine arts. The Barefoot Art Gallery, Robert Green Fine Arts, and Seager Gray Gallery showcase abstract and evocative art by local and world artists.
Musicians, Celebrities and Pop Culture
Many musicians, authors, actors, and TV personalities have lived in Mill Valley. Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead lived for a while in Mill Valley and John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a summer in the early 1970s. Other musicians such as Michael Bloomfield, Huey Lewis, Bob Weir, Lee Michaels, Sammy Hagar, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Sears, Clarence Clemons, John and Mario Cipollina, and Janis Joplin have also called this town home.
Mill Valley has frequently been featured in pop culture starting with the song "Mill Valley", recorded in 1970 and released on the album Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class. Richard Laymon set his horror novel The Lake primarily in Mill Valley. Other Laymon novels are also either set in or mention Mill Valley. Science fiction fans may remember the town as the setting Jack Finney's 1954 novel The Body Snatchers. Writer Jack Kerouac and beat poet Gary Snyder were featured in Kerouac's 1958 novel, The Dharma Bums.