To be honest, we never planned on staying in Sacramento for very long – it’s wickedly hot in the summer and cold and rainy in the winter, but, most importantly, it is far away from our families. Yet 13 years later, we are still here! We have made some wonderful friends here, and Sacramento is a great place to raise kids. It is very family-oriented, and there are lots of activities going on for the little ones all year round.
10 Things to Do with Kids in Sacramento, CA
1. Sacramento State Railroad Museum – Visiting the train museum in Old Sacramento is one of my son’s favorite things to do! It is full of locomotives you can climb inside and explore, plus model train sets and (most importantly for kids) a large room with tables of toy trains to play with. And don’t miss the train rides on the weekends! If you live in the area, consider buying a membership. It is one of the best deals in the city.
2. Art Beast – Art Beast is one of the most popular spots for children in Sacramento. This converted house is an “arts exploration space” with numerous rooms to play in, each with its own theme. For example, there is a dress-up room; an open studio with tables and easels for painting, sculpture, and other arts activities; an outdoor area with water play; and rooms set aside for art and music classes. Best of all? Fees support a non-profit for homeless families.
3. McKinley Park – Everyone has their favorite park (William Land Park is a close second for me), but McKinley Park is well-loved across the board. With a duck pond, pools, and community center, it is great fun for little ones. But the heart of the park is the grand playground, which was just re-built after an arson fire in 2012. The community response was overwhelming, with donations of both time and money pouring in, resulting in the re-opening of this area treasure in July.
4. Fairytale Town – Located in beautiful William Land Park, Fairytale Town has been a Sacramento favorite for over 50 years. It has 25 playsets based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales. My son’s favorites, though, are the live farm animals! Fairytale Town is also a popular spot for birthday parties. What kid wouldn’t want their party among the trees of Sherwood Forest? Just watch out for the slides, some of which are quite steep and so not suitable for small children.
5. Sacramento Zoo – Across the road from Fairytale Town is the Sacramento Zoo. In addition to all of the amazing animals, there is a carousel, and my son loves the train that you can ride around the zoo. I really appreciate all of the shaded areas, making it a pleasant place to spend the day, even in the summer. Be sure to have some cash on you, so that you and your little one can feed the giraffes!
6. Funderland – Funderland is an amusement park designed just for young children. The rides are all just their size and just their speed. My son loves the train (Wait! Is there a theme here??) plus the cars that he can drive all by himself. As parents, you can enjoy the fact that any unused tickets can be saved for your next visit!
7. Storytime at the Library – We love our libraries! The library system in Sacramento is wonderful. Each library has its own character, and we have attended story time in almost all of them. Most branches have story times for different age ranges, as well as other special events. Some of my sweetest memories are of attending Baby Lapsit times in the wonderful children’s space in the downtown branch.
8. Apple Hill – Okay, so Apple Hill isn’t in Sacramento, but it’s an easy day trip to get there and one that area families make at least once a year. While it is most popular in the fall, many of the orchards that make up Apple Hill are open year-round. There are also many Christmas tree farms. We love to go pick apples, watch apple cider being made, and (of course) sample some fabulous apple pie! There are also petting zoos, hay bale mazes, nature trails, and other family-friendly activities.
9. Maidu Museum – This museum is less well known but should be a stop on everyone’s list. It is full of beautiful exhibits about the culture of the Maidu people native to the area. We love the hands-on displays great for kids, including puzzles and recreated petroglyphs. You can also make the easy walk to the historic village site. I am especially looking forward to attending the campfire one evening, with tales told by a village elder!
10. Effie Yeaw Nature Center – This award-winning educational center sits within the beautiful American River Parkway. It is an 100-acre nature preserve, with interpretive trails and family-friendly activities. The center is named after a local teacher and environmentalist who began raising awareness about the need to preserve the natural environment along the American River. It is a beautiful spot to take an easy nature walk with your kids.
Whether you prefer the indoors or outdoors, something high energy or low key, you can find an activity to suit your family’s tastes in Sacramento.