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Activities For Kids In Sacramento, California

Updated on April 5, 2012

Sacramento Welcomes You

If you drop a pin at the point where the Sacramento River joins the American River, you have landed in Sacramento. For all of us, Sacramento is known as the capital of and the 6th largest city in the state of California. With generally damp to wet & mild winters, as well as hot & dry summers, Sacramento is a wonderful year-round destinations for families.

For some of us, Sacramento is also known as our home. When my parents relocated here upon retirement, we had renewed reasons to travel and discover an area previously unknown to us. Tried, true and kid-approved by my three boys (ages 8, 6 and 3), we have spent many fun days in our new home away from home by exploring the following attractions.

What To See And Do in Sacramento

California State Capitol Museum: Open seven days a week, the State Capitol includes the historical building as well as the surrounding area known as Capitol Park. When my son was in second grade and first learned about the US government, it made for an interesting and relevant outing. Hourly tours of the legislative chambers and historic offices are available daily. The gardens, memorials and monuments on the parks' grounds provide an interactive look at some of California's history. Best of all, visiting the State Capitol is always free.

California State Railroad Museum: The museum is open daily, except major holidays. The museum houses twenty-one restored railroad cars and locomotives which bring railroad history in California to life. Side-by-side with the many interactive exhibits, it is a wonderful place for people of all ages to learn how life, economy and culture in California was influenced by the railroad. Bonus? It suffices to say that I have never met a boy who is not fond of trains.

Sacramento Zoo: This mid-size zoo, located in the William Land Park, is a perfect outing for the entire family not only because of the 600 animals you can visit here, but also because of its manageability for smaller kids. It is open daily, except for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. The best time to go is around or just after opening at 9am as you increase your chances of seeing the animals out and being fed. The adjacent park provides an excellent spot for a picnic or sports depending on how much energy you (or your kids) have left to burn.

Folsom Lake: Known as one of Northern California's largest lakes, Folsom Lake and its surrounding park is a destination for many locals where they can enjoy hiking, running, biking, camping, horseback riding, boating, and water skiing. The lake was created by the Folsom Dam, a concrete wall approximately nine miles long. While there, you can also visit the Folsom Powerhouse which is now a historical landmark. At the adjacent recreation area, you can enjoy 32 miles of paved bicycle paths along the American River that connect Folsom Lake with many other parks before reaching Old Sacramento. Or, put on a pair of walking shoes, and let the kids run free.

Sacramento Southern Railroad: From April to September, you can enjoy a six mile, 40-minute ride along the Sacramento River in an observation lounge car. Our kids enjoyed the train experience and still talk about the cookies and lemonade served to everyone on board. Trains depart from the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot in Old Sacramento. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is a must to plan accordingly. Appealing to all ages, no doubt!

Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum: The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum is a unique place for kids of all ages to explore California's early days of education. This museum, located in Old Sacramento, is an exact replica of the traditional one-room schoolhouses prominent throughout America in the late 1800's. Schoolmarms and school masters are available to re-tell stories about school life in the 19th century, equally captivating the attention of kids as of adults. Open most weekdays and weekends to the general public. And, luckily, another memorable activity free of charge.


Fun Outings Beyond Sacramento

Well within a day's reach of Sacramento, the area surrounding our capital city offers many more interesting destinations. Some of our favorites are mentioned below.

Folsom Prison: A maximum security California State Prison located in the city of Folsom. Still in operation today, my boys were on their best behavior as we toured the museum gift shop and spied inmates in their orange jail suits from a distance.

Nimbus Fish Hatchery: Twelve ponds, known as Raceway Ponds, used to raise salmon and steelhead for release into the Sacramento River system. Bring lots of quarters to purchase fish food from their dispensers which the kids, even if little, can use to feed the fish.

Apple Hill: A popular fall destination known for its apples, but also including 50 other fruit orchards, wineries, breweries and vineyards. Let the kids try the apple donuts while you enjoy hot apple cider or a pint of apple beer.

The Placerville Hardware Store: In the town of Placerville, the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi, complete with its original hardwood floors and rolling ladders. My kids still treasure their square flooring nails which are available for sale but date back to the beginning of the 150+ year-old store.

Coloma: The site of the discovery of gold along famous Highway 49. A wonderful place to relive the California Gold Rush era via the many exhibits and historical buildings. My kids will not forget trying their hands with gold panning at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

"We'll be back!"

Can you guess who we are quoting every time we drive away from Sacramento after another day filled with fun and adventure?


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    • TeachableMoments profile image

      TeachableMoments 5 years ago from California

      My extended family lives in Sacramento. I've spent time at both the zoo and Folsom lake. My family rented a boat one summer and spent the entire day out on the lake. Great family destination and you can learn some interesting facts about our state's capital. Thanks for the great ideas.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      As a child, we use to waterski on the Sacramento Delta. It was a beautiful river and a lot of fun in the very warm summer weather. I personally love Old Town Sac. It's fun to see a bit of what Sacramento was like 100 years ago.