1. Sacramento Children’s Museum
The Sacramento Children’s Museum takes interactivity to a new level. With numerous hands-on displays, the exhibits educate and entertain. Stacking, dropping, sorting, matching and balancing are all concepts that children explore while playing in “CityWays.” “Solar Car Racers” introduces the notion of solar power and the sun as an energy source in a fun, simple way. Learning about wind flow and air currents becomes a game in “AirWays.” The Augmented Reality Sandbox, developed by a U.C. Davis researcher, is super cool for kids and adults.
2. California State Railroad Museum
For big scale exhibits, steam on over to the California State Railroad Museum. Impressive trains greet the eye and invite exploration in every section of this 100,000 square foot museum. Check out the Virginia & Truckee Railroad No. 12 Genoa car, or the AT&SF Dining Car No. 1474 Cochiti car. Head upstairs for the narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway freight train high above the Museum's Roundhouse gallery. The upstairs play area is ideal for kids ages 2-8.
Afterward, only yards away you’ll have the option to take a train ride on the Southern Sacramento Railroad, which skirts the Sacramento River.
3. Sacramento Zoo
On day two, head to the Sacramento Zoo, where you’ll see over 600 animals. Listen to a screaming Black and White Ruffed Lemur, take a picture with a Masai Giraffe, or get awed by an aardvark. Sacramento Zoo is well suited for all ages, including families with little ones in strollers. Nearby the zoo, you’ll find Fairytale Town with 25 colorful sets from nursery rhymes and fairytales. See Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, King Arthur’s Castle, Jack and Jill Hill and the fun stroll through The Crooked Mile, among others.
4. Outdoor Adventure & Nature
If the outdoors is your thing, head to the Sacramento State Aquatic Center and rent a canoe or kayak for a family outing. Or, if you really want to dig in, head over to Soil Born Farms for lessons on urban agriculture. You may even be able to enroll your child in a specialty youth class. The Nimbus Hatchery on Lake Natoma also offers an excellent, hands-on way for little nature lovers to learn more about local river ecology and the environment. 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.
5. Family-Friendly Events
Visit our events calendar to find out about top family-friendly events like the California Capital Airshow or Kids Day in the Park. The annual California Capital Airshow (the 2023 show is scheduled for September 23-24) features world-renowned USAF Thunderbirds or U.S. Navy Blue Angels soaring overhead and 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. Each adult general admission ticket to the airshow comes with six free admissions for children ages 15 and under, and kids five and under are free. Every April, Kids Day in the Park brings more than 100 exhibitors to Rancho Cordova’s Hagan Community Park to promote child health. The free festivities include a bike rodeo, crafts stations, petting zoos, train rides, and obstacle courses.
6. Explore The Gold Country
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 nearby hiking trails to enjoy the area's peacefulness.