As California’s capital, Sacramento serves as both a political center and tourist destination. While the city features diverse nightlife, shopping, and entertainment, there are plenty of family-friendly attractions here and in the surrounding cities.
Planning a family trip to Sacramento? Make sure to check out one or all of these attractions. From nature to history to just plain fun, Sacramento features tons of options for kids of all ages.
Below are ten options for family fun in Sacramento.
California State Railroad Museum
Learn more about North America’s railroad history at the California State Railroad Museum. The exhibits feature a restored luxury train car, and explorations of the diverse peoples who built and manned our country’s railroads. If you’re up for it, you can also go on a train expedition on a real steam or diesel locomotive!
Outside the museum are renovated train cars and an entire mid-19th century western railroad town. This is an interactive, living history experience, featuring costumed docents. Of course, this museum also features an entire exhibit on toy trains if you’re looking for smaller-scale fun.
SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity
Formerly the Powerhouse Science Center, the SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity wants to encourage kids and adults alike to ask questions and explore their world. They feature interactive exhibits in health, design, engineering, and technology.
At their Design Challenge Zone and Design Lab, kids can use provided materials to create whatever they can imagine. They can also interact with tools they may not have encountered before, like 3D printers, robotics, and laser cutting machines.
If your kids are more interested in the world around them, take them to the Nature Detectives exhibit, where they can learn more about wildlife behavior. SMUD also features Sacramento’s only public planetarium, the UC Davis Multiverse Theater.
Sacramento Children’s Museum
If you have kids under eight years old, you should visit the Sacramento Children’s Museum. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Sacramento in the city of Rancho Cordova.
The museum features a rotating selection of play-based exhibits. The aim is to encourage learning through play and exploration. Among the exhibits are beehives, an interactive grocery store and flower stand, an interactive vet clinic, an augmented reality sandbox, a giant light brite, and a waterways exhibit.
Sacramento Children’s Museum proudly welcomes all families to this safe space.
For 60 years, Fairytale Town has been part of generations of children’s stories and memories. Part of William Land Park, this nonprofit play park features a farm animal petting zoo, three themed gardens, and 26 colorful play sets in nursery rhyme and other storybook themes.
Fairytale Town also features concerts and other programming at their two performing arts stages. Make sure to check out what’s playing so you don’t miss it! If you’re hungry after a long day of play, you can also stop at the Dish ; Spoon Cafe for a snack.
Three minutes’ walk from Fairytale Town is the Sacramento Zoo. It’s home to over 400 animals, including native, rare, and endangered species. The zoo features 14.3 acres of animal exploration and fun.
This nonprofit zoo regularly engages in animal enrichment, and strives to make their animals as engaged and comfortable as possible. They also have trained animal ambassadors to educate the public about wildlife conservation and care.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
Take a half-hour drive to nearby Carmichael to visit the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. Along with a river nature preserve and wildlife oasis, Effie Yeaw features an environmental and cultural education center. They focus on preserving history, heritage, and the beauty of the natural world.
As part of their education center, Effie Yeaw features 30 resident river animals. These are non releasable wildlife ambassadors. Their residents include raptors, turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, and a skink. They also have a butterfly garden, which attracts beautiful migrating pollinators.
You can also learn about the culture of the Nisenan Maidu people at a replica of their summer village. This is an important representation of American culture before European colonization.
Raging Waters Sacramento
Formerly a Six Flags attraction, Raging Waters Sacramento is on the Cal Expo grounds in the heart of the city. It’s a great place for a fun-filled day.
No matter your kids’ ages or comfort level, Raging Waters Sacramento’s 25 attractions promise hours of swimming and adventure. Older kids will love the Cliffhanger slides, Splashdown short slides for strong swimmers, and the Shark Attack Slide Complex. If relaxing with younger kids is more your speed, check out the Calypso Cooler lazy river, wave pool, or children’s play area at the Treehouse Reef.
Make sure to bring your sunscreen!
The Aerospace Museum of California
This museum is a 20 minute drive from Sacramento, and it’s located on the grounds of the former McClellan Air Force Base. It features a 4-acre aircraft park with over 40 historic aircraft on display. These include both military and civilian planes. Indoors are replicas of space vehicles.
Do your kids want something more interactive? They can participate at builder stations, ride in flight zone simulators and movie motion rides. If you’re a Sacramento resident, The Aerospace Museum also offers regular summer camp and outdoor education programs.
Looking for outdoor recreation? The beautiful Lake Natoma is just half an hour away from Sacramento. This artificial lake is great for fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and power boating. It’s also host to several rowing championships every year.
If you’re more into activities on land, Lake Natoma has that too. The surrounding area features both bike and multi-use trails. If you want to camp out, there are many nearby options to set up your tent or RV.
Gunther’s Ice Cream
After you’re done with any of the previous activities, visit Gunther’s Ice Cream for a sweet cold treat! This is a Sacramento landmark from the 1940s. Not only does it preserve its fun retro decor, it also still follows its original ice cream recipe. Gunther’s ice cream includes more butterfat cream than commercial brands, which makes it a rich, smooth delight.
Along with their wide variety of ice cream flavors, Gunther’s offers ice milk, sherbets, fruit freezes, ice cream sandwiches and specialty cones, ice cream pies to order, and the option to order an ice cream cake 5 days ahead. They also have two no sugar added flavors in case you’re watching your sugar intake.
Check their website for the flavor of the month during your visit!