One of Marin's signature events is getting off the night train.
The National Park Service announced last week that the Muir Woods Winter Solstice event, the Dec. 21 celebration that dates back nearly three decades and regularly draws upwards of 1,000 people, is now a daytime-only event. Citing safety concerns, park officials said the event, usually 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., is now 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., celebrating the shortest day of the year instead of the longest night of the year.
"It's a big change for many people who have been coming here for many years," said Muir Woods Park Ranger Mia Monroe. "But it was getting so crowded and noisy and when you add all that in with the darkness and rain, we wanted to make it a safer event. We wanted to stay focused on the redwoods and the beauty of the forest in the winter – as opposed to people screaming in the dark."
Monroe acknowledged that the move will make it hard for some to attend, particularly since the Winter Solstice this year is on a Friday. Dec. 21, 2013 is a Saturday.
While nocturnal fun won't be in the cards anymore, the program, billed as “Simpler, Safer and Serene," includes the following:
- Redwood sumi art with artist and storyteller Ane Carla Rovetta
- Nature sounds by expert Dan Dugan
- John Muir impersonator Garth Gilchrist
- Guided nature tours
- Co-ho-ho and salmon hats
- Ghost redwoods, fungi, ferns and more
- Hot beverages and a special solstice menu for sale at the Muir Woods
- Trading Company Café
- Special solstice display in the Visitor Center
Park officials promise a more intimate event where visitors can "enjoy the quiet, primeval nature of the redwood forest," and "as the sun sets behind the Dipsea Ridge, surrender the longest night to the Woods, and leave the park at dusk via a luminaria-lit plaza."
The Winter Solstice event is free and held in the plaza in front of the Visitor Center. The usual $7 fee applies to enter the woods. Children 15 years and younger may enter for free. Check the Muir Woods website for more info, follow the park on Twitter @muirwoodsnps or call the Muir Woods information hotline at 415.388.2595. Visit now without the crowds or the parking issues of summer.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.