From monster-themed mini-golf to panning for nuggets in Northern California’s Gold Country, Rancho Cordova is teeming with family-friendly fun.
The area’s stunning mountainous geography, with paddling at local lakes and hiking galore, is a draw for active families, while attractions like the Sacramento Children’s Museum and Sky High Sports are an excellent option when the weather is hot or rainy. Meanwhile, annual events like Kids Day in the Park and the California Capital Airshow are timely reasons for a visit. Get ready to earn serious cool-parent points with these eight great things to do in Rancho Cordova with the kids.
Every April, this free event brings more than 100 exhibitors to Rancho Cordova’s Hagan Community Park. Kids Day in the Park aims to promote child health and awareness of local health resources while engaging families with a slew of festivities targeted for the 12 and under age-group, including a bike rodeo, crafts stations, petting zoos, train rides, and obstacle courses. It’s an excellent—and free!—way to celebrate spring with the whole family.
Interactive play and discovery areas, story-time gatherings, arts and crafts classes, and a delightful fusion of fun and learning are all on tap at Sacramento Children’s Museum. Despite its name, the museum is located in the heart of Rancho Cordova, making it a convenient spot to check out with the kids. The museum is open for general admission Tuesday through Sunday, along with special family events on select evenings each month. Its calendar of ongoing programs and special events is sure to have something that interests your family, including theater play, cultural exploration classes, tinker time, and yoga play.
You don’t have to be an aviation geek to get amped for the aerial theatrics on display at Mather Airport’s yearly California Capital Airshow (the 2019 show is scheduled for October 5-6). Don’t miss the chance to see the world-renowned U.S. Navy Blue Angels soaring overhead, along with the USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team, a vintage Boeing barnstorming prop plane, and the Patriot Parachute Team showing off their skills in the clouds. Thankfully, the only thing sky-high is the action: Each adult general admission ticket to the airshow comes with six free admissions for children ages 15 and under, and kids 5 and under are free. If you want to stay for the weekend, you can find special Capital Airshow discounts to Rancho Cordova hotels here.
A popular spot for Rancho Cordova locals and visitors, the Sacramento State Aquatic Center is the place to go for all things watersport-related. Situated near the Nimbus Dam on tranquil Lake Natoma, the aquatic center offers facilities for the whole family to enjoy a day out on the water—and maybe learn some new skills as well. Hourly rentals of sit-on-top-kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are available year-round.
Looking to hone your paddling technique, try your hand at sailing, or give windsurfing a whirl? Lessons are available for a wide variety of watersports (certain age restrictions vary by activity). If a full-blown summer camp is more your style, you can find that here as well. Youth camps serve children aged 7 to 17, and each camp typically lasts one week with a focus on a particular watersport. Don’t miss the Parent’s Nights and Camp-Out sessions hosted four times per summer.
It’s hard to choose what will delight kids the most at Monster Mini Golf. The head-spinning array of interactive fun includes 18-hole mini golf, a gaming arcade, laser maze, and virtual reality entertainment—all in one wildly cool, monster-themed, backlit facility. Birthday parties are also a big hit here. In addition to earning major cool-parent awards, you’re all but guaranteed a good night’s sleep for everyone in the family after a day here.
Turn the history lesson of the Gold Rush into lively IRL fun at the site where gold was first discovered in the state. You’ll find the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park about 33 miles from Rancho Cordova on the South Fork of the American River. Explore the exhibits and join ranger-led tours to learn about the biggest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and the impact the Gold Rush had on developing the West. Kids can also try their luck at gold panning in the river—bonus points for whoever yells, “There’s gold in them thar hills!” the most convincingly. You can also explore several nearby hiking trails to enjoy the peacefulness of the area.
Right along the Nimbus Dam on Lake Natoma, the Nimbus Hatchery offers an excellent, hands-on way for little nature lovers to learn more about local river ecology and the environment. The hatchery is responsible for breeding steelhead and Chinook salmon for release to the American River; visit in November and early December, and you’ll be treated to seeing the salmon run on the fish ladder. Start at the free visitor center, which is open every day until 3 p.m., and explore the kid-friendly museum to learn all about the fish life cycle. No matter when you pop in, be sure to take a walk along the river or the hatchery’s tanks to take part in the must-do activity: feeding the fish.
For the ultimate way to let your kiddos burn off that seemingly endless energy, Sky High Sports is just the spot. The facility boasts a variety of high-octane fun, including ninja courses, a foam pit, trampoline basketball, dodgeball, and a climbing zone. Purchase tickets by the hour any day of the week, or join events like special needs days, family night (complete with pizza!), or after-dark parties, with laser light shows and music.
Written by Jenna Herzog for Matcha in partnership with Rancho Cordova.