Looking for a family-friendly neigborhood in Marin County

We'll be moving from the South Bay to Marin county soon because my husband got a job in Novato (Hamilton). We have an 8-year-old son in 3rd grade.

I am looking for recommendations for a family-friendly neighborhood with the following characteristics:

1) reasonable commute to both Novato and SF (I would likely be working in the city)

2) a community feel 

3) with lots of kids in the neighborhood so our son can easily find friends 

4) where kids can ride their bikes around the neighborhood or walk to playgrounds

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This describes most neighborhoods in Marin County. Your commute to the city is going to be much more challenging than your husband's commute to Novato (because that's the general commute direction) so I would consider focusing on Southern Marin county, which is closer to the city. That said, your budget will dictate a lot. Marin is expensive, and as a very general rule, gets more expensive the closer you get to SF. I grew up in San Anselmo and I think it's a really lovely family-friendly place to be. That said, it's a little bit off the freeway so a slightly harder commute. But honestly, you may need to get more specific in your desires -- or else know you can't go wrong! -- because most places in Marin meet the requirements you laid out above. 

My brother and family live in and raised their kids in the Sycamore Park neighborhood of Mill Valley. It checks all your boxes as it's flat, lots of kids, very neighborhood-y (e.g., a couple of streets that go all out on Halloween), and would be a super easy reverse commute to Novato, and also very close to SF (my brother even biked to work in SF once a week). Also Mill Valley in general is just really sweet and charming. It's expensive, but pretty much everything is in Marin.

The two neighborhoods I know of that sound closest to your description are Santa Venetia and Terra Linda. They are very different from each other.

A lot of people like San Anselmo and Fairfax, but the street commute on Sir Francis Drake is pretty grim.

A friend of mine lives in the Homestead Valley neighborhood in Mill Valley. It's the area south of Miller Ave near the Whole Foods and the 2AM club. Even though it's adjacent to Miller Ave, most of the neighborhood is very quiet. We went on a walk from her house and went on trails through a redwood forest and picked blackberries along side the road. There is a community association that runs a park and pool. They sponsor an annual music festival and have many regular events. It's such a sweet place.

https://homesteadvalley.org/

Check out terra linda and Marinwood area. Bus 38 into SF or drive to ferry if that works for your commute. Going north of Lucas Valley Rd. can significantly add to the commute to/from SF (traffic crawls southbound up that hill daily, but tends to break loose after that.) 

As for the neighborhood, it’s relatively flat so you see lots of kids biking and scooting around. There are nice parks, schools, and a friendly community. 

good luck in your search! 
 

Terra linda, Lucas valley and marinwood are all family oriented and pretty good schools. Commute to sf might be tough although golden gate transit is really reliable. You could also try Corte Madera which is more in the middle of your two jobs- very family friendly and safe. Greenbrae is also nice with excellent schools. Marin is not cheap but the weather and safety and excellent schools are all pluses. Not much ethnic diversity though. 

Honestly, Hamilton is a great place for families! I grew up there and it's super safe, surrounded by nature (you can walk on the levy and it backs up to wetlands), has a public library, a pool,  and great parks. The only issue with Hamilton is that it's very suburban – you can't walk to any grocery stores or restaurants. My parents had to drive me a lot!