Often overlooked by travelers in favor of its flashier neighbor San Francisco, there are many fun things to do in Sacramento. This City of Trees is home to many green spaces, museums and dedicated historical sites that allow you to take advantage of the warm California sunshine. Residents have nicknamed their city the Big Tomato after its best-selling canned farm product, but you will find more than just rosy produce in this bustling metropolis.
If you are looking for things to do in Sacramento CA, look no further than some of these notable activities that are sure to show you a good time in this state capital.
1. Visit the California State Railroad Museum
You will find the California State Railroad Museum tucked away in Old Sacramento. This group of six buildings houses over 225,000 square feet of railroad history, particularly focused on the lines that ran through California and the rest of the Old West. Since its opening in 1976, the state museum has restored 21 different train cars and locomotives that you can see, explore and read about during your visit. There are also field trips that the museum team schedules and leads to help you better understand the impact of these impressive machines.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Children ages 5 years and under can explore the buildings for free while youth ages 6-17 years must pay $6. Adults cost $12, and you should park in the nearby garage to allow yourself enough time to fully take in all that there is to see at this museum. Check the online schedule to purchase tickets for a ride on an excursion train or a vintage diesel locomotive for the same prices.
2. Explore Old Sacramento
The city is divided into new and old sections, and exploring the history of the old side is one of the best things to do in Sacramento. The city has designated 28 acres to be the Old Sacramento State Historic Park. This area includes more than 100 different museums, shops and restaurants that harken back to the days of the California Gold Rush. Now a U.S. National Historic Landmark, you can visit the popular Sacramento History Museum, take a cruise on a historic riverboat, book a ride on a horse-drawn carriage or travel on an authentic train.
While wandering through Old Sacramento is free and open to the public all day, each of the businesses here runs its own hours and sets its own prices. Most shops and restaurants open around 10:00 a.m. and remain accessible until the early evenings. You will want to plan plenty of time to explore, and wear the appropriate clothing to take in all the different activities and attractions, most of which are outdoors.
3. Dream Big in Fairytale Town
When the Junior League was trying to plan some things to do in Sacramento for kids in 1955, it looked to Disneyland for inspiration. With 30 different attractions geared to educating and promoting creativity in children, Fairytale Town offers many different recognizable settings for children to explore, including Farmer Brown’s barn, the houses of the three little pigs, a replica of Cinderella’s Coach and even the Little Engine That Could. You will also find story boxes set up throughout the park, offering visitors the chance to buy reusable keys that unlock these boxes for special songs and stories.
Fairytale Town runs many school-based field trips and programs for children, but it is also open to the public. Explore the lush Alphabet Garden, and get up close and personal with farm animals at the petting zoo. Fairytale Town is open daily from March to October but only Thursday through Sunday from November to February. Weekday admission is $4.75 each, and weekend admission is $5.75 per person.
4. Tour the State Capitol
As the capital city of California, one of the best things to do in Sacramento include exploring the California State Capitol Museum. You will find the California State Legislature located on 10th Street in downtown Sacramento. The building dates back from 1869, and its gardens take 40 acres of the metro area. As you stroll through this landscape, you will see trees and shrubs pulled from locations around the world, as well as impressive memorials dedicated to important Californians.
The museum is open on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All admissions are free to the public, and you can schedule a tour led by a knowledgeable docent between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you can, visit the gardens in the spring and summer months when the flowers are blooming and providing beautiful colors around this historic and majestic building.
5. Experiment at the Powerhouse Science Center
Formerly known as the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center, the Powerhouse Science Center is situated near the McClellan Airfield. Although it is an interactive museum designed for children, teenagers and adults will also find plenty of things to do in Sacramento at this museum. Gaze at the stars in the planetarium, roam through the nature discovery room and dig in the archaeology pits that are all designed to give hands-on experiences to visitors.
Although the museum is closed on Mondays, you have plenty of opportunities to visit. From Tuesday to Friday, Powerhouse Science Central is open from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and from Saturday to Sunday, you can visit from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The planetarium runs shows for visitors over the age of 4 years on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. General admission on a weekday is $6 for adults, $5 for teens ages 13-17 years and $4 for children ages 4-12. Weekend admission is $2 more for each type of ticket.
6. Dine at Casa Garden
One of the best things to do in Sacramento is to get a good meal, and there are many great options in the city. However, one of the most unique opportunities is a visit to Casa Garden. This restaurant first opened in 1974 on the grounds of Sacramento Children’s Home, and it is run almost entirely by volunteers. You will get great service and a lively meal of American cuisine as you dine by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beautifully kept gardens. With a focus on local products, the menu at Casa Garden changes weekly, and the terrace is a popular site for weddings and other gatherings.
Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Check the weekly menus online. We recommend you to call and reserve your seat before you arrive. All the money spent at Casa Garden goes to support the daily operations and activities of Sacramento Children’s Home, so not only are you getting a fantastic meal and a great view, but you are also helping the less fortunate kids in the city.
7. Cheer on the Sacramento Kings
In addition to the Sacramento Express professional rugby team, the only other fully professional sports team in the city is the Sacramento Kings, part of the National Basketball Association. A member of the Western Conference, the Kings is the oldest franchise in the NBA, having originated in Rochester, New York. Going to a Kings game is one of the most exciting things to do in Sacramento, especially when the team faces is rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Great players like Mitch Richmond and Chris Webber have played for the Kings, and the team continues to be fiercely competitive.
Visit the Golden 1 Center to see the Kings in action throughout the basketball season. The prices vary by seating location in the arena and by the team squared off against the Kings, but you can often get a seat for less than $30.
There are many fun things to do in Sacramento, so give this sometimes forgotten gem a chance. Whether you want to be outside and enjoying the mild weather of the city or you want to explore an indoor museum or historic landmark, you can find plenty of opportunities for interesting experiences in Sactown, as the city is known to its locals. Take some time to explore this state capital, and you will not be disappointed. If you want to visit the neighbor San Francisco, you can also take a look at the great things to do in San Francisco.