12 Things To Do With Family in Sacramento, California

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Sacramento is the capital city of California, located in the northern central part of the state. Known as the “City of Trees,” Sacramento offers many fun family-friendly activities. From exploring hands-on museums to riding historic trains, families visiting Sacramento will find plenty to see and do together.

This article highlights 12 of the best things to do with family while visiting Sacramento, from outdoor adventures along the scenic American River to indoor fun at sites focused on California’s vibrant history and culture. With tasty farm-to-fork dining options and unique neighborhoods to explore, Sacramento makes for an ideal family getaway.

Riverfront Activities along the American River Parkway

The American River Parkway is a scenic greenbelt that runs along the American River through the heart of Sacramento. This urban oasis offers prime opportunities to enjoy the outdoors as a family. Go for a bike ride together along the parkway’s scenic Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Pack a picnic and feast riverside at one of the picnic areas dotting the route.

Sign up your crew for a guided kayaking tour and paddle together while spotting local wildlife, or go tubing and lazily float down the lower American River together on a hot summer day. Other fun attractions right along the parkway include the Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town, and Funderland. With 29 miles of trails to explore in the parkway, you’ll find plenty of space to roam and bond with family.

Old Sacramento Historic District

This 28-acre National Historic Landmark District transports visitors back in time to the mid-1800s, when Sacramento was an important commercial hub and stopover point for miners seeking fortunes during the Gold Rush era.

Today the cobblestone streets are lined with over 100 Old West-style buildings housing shops, restaurants and museums that provide a glimpse into California’s pioneer days. Must-see attractions for families include rides aboard the Sacramento History Museum’s vintage railroad cars. Kids can climb aboard locomotive engines and passenger cars from the 1860s at the California State Railroad Museum – North America’s largest railroad museum.

The entire family will marvel over intricate model train displays as well as full-size trains. Afterward, stroll down K Street together and stop for old-fashioned ice cream floats. Don’t miss the antique and specialty stores tucked inside restored buildings as well as street performers demonstrating frontier skills like blacksmithing.

Sacramento Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears are just some of the animals your family will encounter while strolling through the 14-acre Sacramento Zoo. Get an up-close look at over 500 exotic and native birds, mammals, reptiles and insects residing here. Highlights include building up your calf muscles while trekking up the zoo’s treehouse trail featuring monkeys, lemurs and tropical birds in a free-flight aviary.

Gaze at the playful otters and seals as they dip and dive at Rocky Shores. Don’t miss checking out the Kangaroo Walkabout exhibit for super-close views of red kangaroos – and their joeys peeking out from mom’s pouch! Bring a camera for selfies alongside animal sculptures throughout the park. Before heading out, munch on snacks at the Lakeside Café with scenic river views or have a bite at the Zoo Zoofari Café while watching elephants and zebras graze across the way.

California State Capitol

California’s capital building is more than a landmark – it serves as a living museum as well. Free guided tours showcase the Capitol’s unique architecture, as well as artwork and exhibits on California history. Kids can hunt for secret signatures of past governors hidden in the granite floors. Marvel together at the beautiful Rotunda with its 8-foot paintings depicting California history. Climb the grand marble staircase and stand under the Capitol dome – note its height is taller than the U.S. Capitol’s dome in Washington D.C.

When the legislature is in session, sit in the public viewing gallery overlooking the ornate chambers where state senators and assembly members meet to shape California’s future. Time your visit to coincide with a weekdays between 9am to 5pm to take an insider peak at democracy in action. Outside, don’t miss the 40 acres of Capitol Park surrounding the grounds filled with flower gardens, memorials to figures influential in California’s past, and whimsical sculptures kids can climb on and explore.

Fairytale Town


This 2.5-acre park brings beloved storybooks and nursery rhymes to life with 25 play areas themed around classic children’s tales like Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty. Kids can explore settings, act out stories, and use their imagination while parents relive cherished childhood favorites. Must-see storylands include the Old Woman in the Shoe playground featuring a five-story slide and climbing webs inside a giant boot prop.

Make fun musical sounds on the sticks, stones and muffin props in the Baker’s Kitchen inspired by “Pat-A-Cake” rhyme. Adventure through Alice in Wonderland’s labyrinth hedge maze. Parents and children alike delight in the detail of each unique area like the Peter Pan-themed Never Never Land complete with Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship decked out with rope ladders to climb and steering wheels that move.

Stop for a picnic or visit the Tales and Treats concession stands for food and keepsakes during your visit. With new exhibits and events added annually, this Sacramento gem continues creating special memories for families.

Funderland Amusement Park

Rides, games, attractions and entertainment make this family-owned park a classic amusement destination. For over 40 years, Funderland has delighted families with over 36 rides from thrilling rollercoasters to gentle options perfect for tiny tots.

Get swept away together on The Riptide or soar high on the park’s iconic 90-foot tall Skycoaster bungee attraction for stunning aerial views of the city. When you need a break from rides, head to the midway to play classic games like Whac-A-Mole or skeeball. Treat the family to amusement park dining classics like corn dogs, cotton candy and fresh-squeezed lemonade in the on-site restaurant.

Cool off on hot days splashing together at the Buccaneer Cove Waterpark and zooming down the terrifying three-story Devil’s Peak Speed Slides. With affordable all-day passes, this 11-acre park filled provides affordable fun for the whole family just steps from Sacramento’s Old Town district along the river.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

Nestled within the American River Parkway greenbelt, this nature preserve offers 100-acres of oak woodlands and river views perfect for easy family hikes. Five miles of trails wind past wildlife exhibits, a butterfly garden, and demonstration gardens showcasing native plants that attract birds and insects kids will enjoy spotting.

Interactive exhibits at the Ancil Hoffman Center showcase taxidermies, feathers and shells along with microscopes for close-up learning. Naturalists offer special programming like story walks and critter close encounters. Pack a lunch to enjoy at riverside picnic tables with idyllic nature views.

Year-round special happenings include candy cane hikes and hunts for leprechaun traps each spring as well as guided full moon walks in the fall – all with an educational twist families appreciate. As one of 28 protected nature areas within Sacramento County, Effie Yeaw Nature Center makes exploring the great outdoors engaging for kids of all ages.

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Step back into Sacramento’s early pioneering era at this living history museum centered around the reconstructed fort built in 1839 by Swiss immigrant John Sutter. Costumed docents and interpreters bring stories of life in the 1840s to life, from fur trappers and merchants to soldiers and Native Americas who helped establish Sacramento as an agricultural hub and settlement along the Sacramento River.

Hands-on exhibits showcase blacksmith skills, candle making and more trades essential for survival in the era. Walk the fort’s perimeter along the same path blazed by early settlers and chat with historic figures continuing the fort’s legacy today through ongoing preservation and education efforts.

Special events held throughout the year include spooky lantern tours each Halloween and a festive holiday celebration each December where kids can participate in hands-on activities like crafting corn husk dolls and playing period games popular when the fort was in its heyday.

California Automobile Museum

This educational and entertaining museum details the dynamic history of automobiles in California through creative, multimedia and hands-on exhibits families love. See over 150 beautifully restored classic cars and trucks up-close, from a 1905 Locomobile Steam Car to iconic models like the Ford Model T that forever changed history.

Walk underneath a towering 395,000-gallon water tank from 1906 – when cars first started appearing on streets – that was moved here. Kids go crazy over the elaborate LEGO builds modelled after California’s bygone service stations, drive-ins and roadside architecture. Hop in a simulated earthquake testing shake machine to feel what it was like for early auto engineers.

Periodic car shows held on select weekends showcase rare beauties to delight auto aficionados in your family – young and old! The indoor Streetscape exhibit features a detailed 1920s Art Deco Garage kids can explore.

Sacramento History Museum


This museum housed in the historic Eagle Theatre immerses visitors in Sacramento’s story from its founding to the present day. Hands-on exhibits, rare artifacts, oral histories and multimedia displays make the history come alive for kids and adults.

See an original Pony Express mochilla saddle bag and try lifting a heavy gold ore rock to feel how challenging mining was during the Gold Rush era. Exhibits spotlighting the transcontinental railroad era feature full size train cars to explore. Walk through a recreated 1940s neighborhood, a commercial jet interior and spaces showcasing key industries driving Sacramento’s growth over time.

The experiential exhibits engage families through sight, sound and activities. Kids especially love playing interactive multimedia exhibits contrasting Then and Now streetscapes spanning over 150 years. Special events, from hands-on summer camps to festive holiday celebrations make this downtown museum a community gathering space for families.

Powerhouse Science Center

With dozens of hands-on science exhibits spread over two spacious floors, this science museum offers memorable STEM learning fun parents feel good about. Permanent exhibit halls feature themes like Kids Town depicting various community helpers roles for dramatic play occupations like veterinarians, builders, grocery clerks and more.

The Invention Convention area empowers kids to design solutions to everyday problems using simple machines. Tinkering Workshop spaces provide tools and loose parts for innovating contraptions. Planet Pulse focuses on environmental science with examples of solar energy, composting and air quality interactive models families can explore together.

Super cool demos include a Van de Graaff generator with huge lightning-like sparks and laying underneath a larger-than-life whisk to explore chemical reactions. Themed events held regularly give extra reasons for return explorations.

Sacramento Zoo Zoofari

For families craving up-close wild encounters outside standard zoo hours, the Sacramento Zoo’s Zoofari Night tours allow rare glimpses into the lives of animals like majestic lions, mischievous meerkats and endangered lemurs active at night.

These guided evening walking tours give animal lovers VIP looks at over 200 creatures residing at the zoo once the sun goes down and nocturnal critters come out to play. Listen to the roar of lions right next to their enclosures during in-depth talks by keeper guides. Get sprayed by playful otters frolicking behind low glass as guides share cool facts about these adorable critters.

Laugh along watching fuzzy bats flap wings overhead and feast on fruit kabobs dangling from branches right before your eyes. This after-hours zoo adventure allows candid views of animal behaviors seldom observed during daylight hours – making for special family memories that won’t soon be forgotten!

Conclusion

From the riverfront to historic sites to zoos and museums, Sacramento offers many memorable attractions for families to enjoy quality time together. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike and bike along the scenic American River Parkway. Old Sacramento transports visitors back in time to the Gold Rush days with pioneer-era architecture housing quaint shops and restaurants to explore.

Families delight seeing both exotic and farm animals roaming at sites like the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town storybook park. Hands-on museums cover topics spanning history, science, autos and transportation for all ages. With vibrant neighborhoods boasting farm-to-fork cuisine and a gentle pace, Sacramento makes an ideal laid-back getaway destination for families seeking adventure and quality bonding time.

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