Whether it’s a pitstop on your way to the slopes or a weekend break, you can find lots to keep the family entertained in Sacramento. The city got its start as a supply center for prospectors during the 1849 Gold Rush and since 1854 it has served as the state’s political hub. The city’s past is packed with cunning and crime but today it is sprinkled with a train museum, a land of fairytales and enough candy stores to keep everyone sweet. Check out the ideal family itinerary right here!

OldSacramento.jpg

Photo credit: John D via Yelp

Getting There

Sacramento is about an hour and forty five minutes from San Francisco if you time it to avoid commuter traffic. Head north east on the 80 past Berkeley and Benicia. Beyond Vacaville you’ll find yourself amid acres of orchards growing almonds and walnuts. Stick with the 80 all the way and it’s as easy as ABC or more precisely JTP. J and T Streets take you into the city, P gets you back on the highway.

aerospace museum caPhoto: Aerospace Museum of California

Explore

California State Railroad Museum
This should be the first stop for train-hungry toddlers. Twenty-one locomotives are on display, from steam engines to the 220-mph-bullet train. Hop on a sleeper, walk through the dining carriage or peek into the first class compartment to get a feel for railroad history. After that you’ll want to seek out the half dozen train tables on the second floor. Kids can take their pick from Chuggington, Thomas or Brio sets. If you can tear them away, there’s more to explore: lots of fun artifacts, helpful docents and a movie that chronicles the railroad journey. While the film’s a little outdated, it still captures the cultural impact of these glorious giants.

California State Railroad Museum
2nd and I Streets
Old Sacramento, Ca
916-445-6645
Online: csrmf.org
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m–5 p.m and ’til 8 p.m. on Thurs. during the summer.

Aerospace Museum of California
Little ones more interested in planes than trains will get a kick out of the Aerospace Museum of California, just  a short drive northeast of downtown. It houses meticulously restored aircraft like a B-14 bi-plane and a MIG-17PF, as well as a ride simulator that creates the effect of piloting everything from a WWII bomber to a more modern jet.

3200 Freedom Park Dr.
McClellan, Ca
916-643-3192
Online: aerospaceca.org
OldSacramento

A City Walking Tour
Many of Old Sacramento’s buildings are either originals or reproductions of the real thing. The Sacramento History Museum walking tour takes you back in time to the mid 1800s when gold was plentiful and women were scarce. The audio tour can hold the attention of kids aged five and up and takes about an hour. With the real-life sound of trains whistling and the clip-clop of hooves from the horse-drawn carriages, it’s easy to imagine the past. Even the trappings of the modern world, like mail boxes and trash cans, are cleverly hidden within period wooden crates.

Sacramento History Museum
Old Sacramento, Ca
916-808-7057
Online: sachistorymuseum.org
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

OldSchoolHouseSacramento

Old Sacramento Schoolhouse
Before you leave Old Sacramento, walk along the river and take a quick look inside the Old Schoolhouse. It’s free and worth a visit if only to seek out the list of punishments dispensed in a classroom circa 1900. The steepest penalty was 10 lashes for playing cards or misbehaving with girls. Ow!

1200 Front St.
Old Sacramento, Ca
916-483-8818
scoe.net
Hours: Mon – Sat 10 a.m. -4 p.m. Sun 12 noon – 4 p.m.

Sutter's Fort

Photo credit: Paul F via Yelp

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Head away from the river, past the palm tree-lined Capitol buildings and over to Midtown to visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. The fort (which recently had its most extensive renovations since the 1890s) captures the pioneer spirit of families arriving in wagon trains at the dawn of the California Gold Rush. Check online for special living history days when actors and enthusiasts bring to life the days when John Sutter was in charge of the adobe ranch 150 years ago.

27th and L Streets
Sacramento, Ca
916-445-4422
Online: suttersfort.org
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

fairytale_town

Photo: Fairy Tale Town

Fairytale Town
Swap Old Sacramento’s horse and carriage rides for Cinderella’s pumpkin at nearby Fairytale Town. This is the perfect excursion for toddlers—it’s a theme park dedicated to fostering imagination and play with 25 playsets based on nursery rhymes and fairytales. Watch the kids run the crooked mile, slide down the Old Woman’s shoe, sit on King Arthur’s throne and pet the farm animals.

3901 Land Park Drive
Sacramento, Ca
916-808-7462
fairytaletown.org
Hours: March–Oct. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., every day; Nov.–Feb., Thur.–Sun. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (closed Monday through Wednesday)

Stay

The Citizen Hotel has a reputation as the best digs in the city but a more affordable option are the hotels five or ten minutes out of town.  The Hilton Garden Inn is one of them, offering adjoining rooms for families of more than four. It also has an outdoor pool that is kept warm well into the chilly winter months.

The Citizen Hotel
926 J Street,
Sacramento, Ca
877-829-2429
Online: thecitizenhotel.com

The Hilton Garden Inn
2540 Venture Oaks Way,
Sacramento,Ca
916-568-5400
Online: hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com

Ten22

Eat

Ten22
Ten22 is a great option if you want to dine in Old Sacramento. There’s lots of room to park up the stroller and the kids menu offers grilled chicken, sliders, mac & cheese, steak and pizza. Staff are super friendly, adult mains are sizable and kids get no-mess wikki sticks to keep their hands busy ’til the food arrives.

1022 Second St.
Sacramento, Ca
916-441-2211
Online: ten22oldsac.com
Hours: Sun.–Tues., 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; Wed.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

Hot Italian
In Midtown Sacramento, 16th Street is peppered with places to eat. Hot Italian is top of the kid-friendly list, right off Fremont Park. Let the kids hang in the playground for a while before heading over to this hip pizza joint that doubles as a bike gallery and store. Pick a family table or dine high on bar stools. While pizzas only come in one size, staff are happy to provide plates for sharing and recommend the Cannavaro for the little ones (mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil).

1627 16th St..
Sacramento, Ca
916-444-3000
Online: hotitalian.net
Hours: Open daily from 11:30 a.m.

Andy's Candy Apothecary

Photo credit: Andy’s Candy Apothecary

Sweet Treats
Old Sacramento boasts four candy stores within its three block radius.  If you make it past Candy Land without going in (good luck, it’s opposite the California State Railroad Museum) or miss the staff handing out flyers for free samples at Candy Barrel, you might want to head downtown to Andy’s Candy Apothecary. The owner promises his selection is the best of the best. Local, national or imported, everything is hand picked to produce a gourmet candy experience.

Candy Land
122 I St
Sacramento, Ca
916-492-9295

Candy Barrel
1006 2nd St,
Sacramento, Ca
916-446-5196
Online: thecandybarrel.com

Andy’s Candy Apothecary
1012 9th St,
Sacramento, Ca
916-905-4115
Online: andyscandystore.com

For even more travel tips and info on visiting our state’s capitol, check out visitsacramento.com.

What are your favorite family haunts in Sacramento? Let us know in the comments below.

–Emily Myers

All photos are the author’s unless otherwise credited.