10 (and Then Some) Family-Fun Things To Do in Sacramento

art-815-sacramento

Whatever your family’s preference for fun, Sacramento offers an abundance of options sure to please even the most discriminating of visitors. Whether outdoor or indoor fun, historic or cultural treasure, wet and wild thrills, or tame and contained happenings, the area is brimming with events, activities and locations in which to immerse, explore, engage and enrich.

art-815-sacramento11 California State Railroad Museum

Located in Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum features 21 restored locomotives and cars along with exhibits on California’s rich railroading history. Check out the Pullman-style sleeping car, visit a dining car filled with railroad china, and tour a Railway Post Office that visitors can actually step aboard. Or buy your tickets for various train rides available throughout the year, including summer excursions along the Sacramento River (April through September), “Spookomotive” rides on weekends in October, and trips to the North Pole on the Polar Express in November and December (these tend to sell out fast). 125 I St., (916) 323-9280, http://www.csrmf.org.

2 Gold Rush Days

The Gold Rush Days celebration comes ‘round these parts at the same time every year – Labor Day Weekend – where folks of all ages can learn about life in an 1850s gold rush town and the cultures that came together to shape the West. Family-friendly activities include mining camp theatrics, parades and skits; kids’ arts and crafts; horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides; watermelon and pie-eating contests; showings of Paint Your Wagon; gold panning, a peddlers auction, and the infamous Tent City. All this old-time fun and more for free! September 4-7. Old Sacramento, (916) 808-7777, http://www.visitsacramento.com.

art-815-sacramento2Fairytale Town/Sacramento Zoo

Fairytale Town in Land Park draws a young crowd eager to literally run with their imaginations. Equipped with fairytale play sets, this children’s theme park requires that adults be accompanied by children – rather than the other way around. Special events include the Annual Puppet Festival, Storytelling Series, and Humpty Dumpty’s Birthday Celebration! 3901 Land Park Dr., (916) 808-7462, http://www.fairytaletown.org.  While in the area, hop across the lawn to see more than 400 native, rare, endangered and exotic animals at the Sacramento Zoo. Your visit helps contribute to the welfare of its inhabitants! Land Park Dr. and 16th Ave., (916) 808-5888, http://www.saczoo.org.

art-815-sacramento3Sporting Events

Sacramento is home to several professional sports teams just waiting for enthusiasts like you. The Sacramento River Cats Triple-A Affiliate baseball team plays all summer long at Raley Field in West Sacramento. 400 Ballpark Dr., (916) 371-4487, http://www.rivercats.com. The Sacramento Kings NBA players will soon be ‘hooping’ it up at the new downtown arena, the Golden 1 Center, opening fall 2016.
http://www.nba.com/kings.  And soccer fans will love Sacramento Republic FC soccer games at Bonney Field. 1600 Exposition Blvd., (916) 307-6100, http://www.sacrepublicfc.com.

For something a little more hands-on, SurfXtreme in Elk Grove is an exhilarating experience with indoor surfing, a 2,400 sq. ft. trampoline area, and paintball adventures for all levels. 3443 Laguna Blvd., (916) 676-4747, http://www.sxsac.com. While in the area, bike enthusiasts might also cruise on over to the Elk Grove Bike Park, which includes a flow track, jump lines and pump tracks. 9950 Elk Grove Florin Rd., http://www.elkgrovebikepark.com. (916) 405-5300.

art-815-sacramento4Old Sacramento

The Old Sacramento Historic District has more to offer than one can do in a day or weekend, but why not try?! Old Sacramento Underground Tours allow you to explore excavated areas of the original city that existed before the streets were raised over a century ago. (916) 808-7059, http://www.sachistorymuseum.org/tours. For boat, river or nature lovers, Hornblower Cruises offer daily excursions and special holiday events. http://www.hornblower.com/home/sac, (916) 446-1185. For train lovers, Sacramento Southern Railroad Excursions provide scenic rides along the river in a variety of vintage cars and coaches. (916) 445-5995, http://www.csrmf.org. Old Sacramento is also home to a cornucopia of museums, specialty stores, restaurants and sweet shops. K & Front streets, (916) 442-8575, http://www.oldsacramento.com.

art-815-sacramento5California State Capitol

The past, present and future of California interact with equal force at the California State Capitol. Here, children and adults can experience California’s rich history as well as witness the making of history through the modern lawmaking process. Reflecting the many influences of our democracy, the Capitol is a museum of great proportions both inside and out. Filled with fun facts and fascinating information, antiques and artifacts, art collections and architecture, every inch of our Capitol is simultaneously symbolic and entertaining. If you’re making a day of it, attend a free tour, then grab a bite at the basement café or picnic on the park grounds. And don’t miss the outdoor memorials, exhibits and gardens. 10th & L streets, (916) 324-0333, http://www.capitolmuseum.ca.gov.

art-815-sacramento6Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Sutter’s Fort was Sacramento’s earliest settlement founded by John Sutter in 1839, drawing immigrants to the area from all over the world. Artifacts from the era remain intact and adorn exhibit rooms, which can be explored via self-guided audio tours.  Reflections of the Old West include copper and blacksmith shops, a bakery, jail, dining room and living quarters. Docents in period costumes recreate the past with you in their midst while a gift shop supplies little ones with unique treasures. Children ages 5 and under are free, and holiday events are awe-inspiring. (Please note the park will be closed July 13-August 12 for restoration.) 2701 L St., (916) 445-4422, http://www.parks.ca.gov.

Family Theater

Theatre in Sacramento is not just for the enjoyment of adults, so expose the younger ones to some live art and culture too. B Street Theatre Family Series features original plays and is Sacramento’s only professional theatre for young audiences, making it a great outing for the whole family. 2711 B St., (916) 443-5300, http://www.bstreettheatre.org. For a really BIG theatrical experience try the Esquire IMAX. It’s a 407-seat theater that houses a 6-story-high, 80-foot-wide screen with 12,000 watts of digital wraparound sound. 1211 K St., 916-443-4629, http://www.imax.com/sacramento. And for a uniquely Sacramento experience, The Music Circus offers family shows sure to get everyone jazzed. Upcoming favorites include Peter Pan, Hair, and Elf the Musical. 1419 H St., (916) 557-1999, http://www.californiamusicaltheatre.com.

Parks & Recreation

Green space within and around Sacramento is abundant – from corner neighborhood playgrounds to central parks that draw festivals, concerts and crowds. But for something really expansive, Gibson Ranch Park Equestrian Services is a beautiful 365-acre park with various activities that include guided horseback tours and lessons, pony rides, kids’ camps, and agriculture-related education programs. It’s also a great wide-open space for birthdays, picnics and play. 8556 Gibson Ranch Rd., Elverta, (916) 806-3868, http://www.gibsonranchpark.com. The Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman Park is another outdoor opportunity with 77 acres of lush open space to explore. Interactive exhibits, live animals, scenic trails, and weekend programs give visitors an up-close look at the American River Parkway’s wildlife. Be sure to bring your walking shoes! 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, (916) 489-4918, http://www.sacnaturecenter.net.

10 Museums

Lastly, but not the least of all the wonders, Greater Sacramento area museums pack a significant punch highlighting fine art, history, science, wildlife and cultural treasures. Museums include: Aerospace Museum, California Agriculture Museum, California  Automobile Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Discovery Museum Science & Space Center, Don & June Salvatori Pharmacy Museum, Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park, Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park, Maidu Museum & Historic Site, Museum of Medical History, Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, Roseville Utility Exploration Center, Sacramento Children’s Museum, Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, Sacramento History Museum, Sojournor Truth Multicultural Museum, State Indian Museum, The California Museum, Wells Fargo History Museum, and plenty more. http://www.sacmuseums.org.

Melanie Noel Light
About Melanie Noel Light

Melanie Noel Light is a Sacramento-based author and artist who writes about wellness, lifestyle and local happenings. She enjoys exploring her hometown, which she feels has a great combination of history, culture and amusement.

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