This once-sleepy California capital has been given a new lease on life. There’s no shortage of things to do in Sacramento with kids, so if you’re considering a trip with children in tow, you’re definitely doing it at the right time! Sacramento is often overlooked in favor of Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area, but it now has enough to be a vacation destination all on its own.
This guide will help you make the best of your Sacramento vacation, so you don’t have to worry about coming up with an itinerary all on your own.
- The 5 best museums for kids in Sacramento
- The 5 best outdoor spaces and activities for kids in Sacramento
- The 5 best amusement attractions and water parks in Sacramento
- Time to pack – Sacramento awaits!
The 5 best museums for kids in Sacramento
1. SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC)
The recently-opened MOSAC was created to further kids’ natural curiosity and spark their imagination with hands-on interactive exhibits. They encourage kids of any age to explore their favorite topic – whether it’s the wonders of science, technology, engineering, arts, or math, they’re guaranteed to find something they love.
They can become a paleontologist for a day, digging up dinosaurs and examining fossils. Once they’re better at identifying a velociraptor claw than Sam Neill, they might want to travel to far-away galaxies or look deep into the center of the Earth. MOSAC shows just how fun science can be at their Sacramento attraction!
2. Sacramento Children’s Museum
Designed for kids under 8, the Sacramento Children’s Museum is a destination that inspires children to explore and create through hands-on exhibits and play. It has no shortage of exciting interactive areas for the whole family to get stuck into.
Why not head to Airways, where kids can marvel at the tremendous power of air as it blasts colorful objects through a maze of curvy tubes? Afterward, they can tap into their creative side at The Art Studio or The Vet Office to treat their animal friends.
3. California State Railroad Museum
If you have any train lovers in the family, take some time to explore California’s railroading past at this Sacramento railway museum. Not only do they have two centuries’ worth of historic locomotives, but you can also climb inside four of the railroad cars, one of which is set up to feel like you’re taking a nighttime train ride in the 1930s.
Once you step off the train and back into the present day, there are two floors of model equipment, toy trains, and (maybe most impressively) the full-sized 1862 “Governor Stanford” locomotive, parked pride-of-place in the museum – it’s hard not to say “wow” when you see it.
4. Crocker Art Museum
Do you have a young Jackson Pollock in the family or any older kids that appreciate art? The Crocker Art Museum has a beautiful collection and a diverse range of exhibits and events to accompany it. They show films, perform concerts, and have a dedicated children’s area called Tot Land where creativity is actively encouraged. Kids can make art, explore with their senses, and play!
5. Aerospace Museum of California
Located just a few miles outside of North Sacramento is the Aerospace Museum of California. The 4-acre air park celebrates the history of aviation and also works to inspire future generations of explorers.
They have hundreds of artifacts and interactive STEM exhibits, so aerospace fans of all ages can pilot their own adventure! The whole family can learn about the future of manned and unmanned space travel, climb inside a flight simulator, and see fighter planes up close.
The 5 best outdoor spaces and activities for kids in Sacramento
1. Sacramento Zoo
The Sacramento Zoo is a great place for families of all sizes and age ranges to explore any time of year! This 14-acre animal park houses and protects native and endangered species. The kids can watch primates behave cheekily as they swing around, hear a lion’s impressive roar, or even get the chance to feed a giraffe for themselves!
Whichever enclosure they head to first, they’re sure to be entertained while learning all about some incredible animals and their habitats.
2. McKinley Park
First built in 1871 by the Sacramento Street Railway Company to draw visitors to its line, McKinley Park still draws in the crowd with its large and vibrant 32 acres. It has excellent family-friendly walking trails, picnic areas, public art garden, and a creative playground.
The playground was designed with a historic East Sacramento theme, and has an extensive selection of play equipment and jungle gyms, along with a huge treehouse, rock wall, Tower Bridge, riverboat, and more!
3. California State Capitol Park
Capitol Park is said to be one of the most beautiful areas surrounding a Capitol in the US. Within its 40 acres are species of plant life from nearly every part of the globe, which you and your family can see as you stroll through the grounds.
The World Peace Rose Garden is one of the most breathtaking areas of the park, with over 140 varieties of colors and fragrances. You’re invited to sit and enjoy the sights and scents by the central fountain, and the kids can read important messages of peace on the garden’s plaques.
4. UC Davis Arboretum
This easy scenic walk is sure to appeal to everyone in the family! Although you can walk 3+ miles around the arboretum to take in the views, you can also get off the path at pretty much any time back up to the street, or over bridges to loop back for a shorter walk if anyone gets tired.
No matter how long you stay, you and the kids will love the brightly colored flowers, tall trees, and small creatures like ducks and squirrels. If you’re there on a Saturday morning, why not check out the Davis Farmers Market for some farm-fresh produce?
5. Nimbus Fish Hatchery
The Nimbus Fish Hatchery raises over 4 million salmon fingerlings each year! But the Hatchery is much more than just a place for our finned friends to grow. It’s one of the best outdoor spaces in Sacramento County, thanks to its beautiful scenery.
What’s more, you can watch awe-inspiring displays of nature from behind the Visitor Center’s giant glass wall, feed baby salmon and interact with the multiple fish fact displays. Down by the river, kids can try and spot otters as they eat their dinner – sometimes they even perform for visitors!
The 5 best amusement attractions and water parks in Sacramento
Head to Funderland Amusement Park if you’re after a day of kid-sized thrills during your vacation. It’s full of amusement rides and attractions for children to enjoy, the majority of which parents can take part in, too!
They can ride on the back of a dragon, play pilot on Red Baron Planes, and go back in time with Backroad Buggies. Funderland is located in the lovely William Land Park, just half a block from Sacramento Zoo and right across the street from Fairytale Town.
2. Swanston Splash Park
Cool off at Swanston Splash Park, which opens annually on Memorial Day weekend through to Labor Day. You and the kids can experience hours of fun in the park’s best attraction, and it’s free to the public!
There are water shooters, sprayers, misters, and buckets of water that spin and soak guests throughout the day at this exciting splash pad. If they’ve exhausted the splash park, your kids can dry off on the nearby playground. If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful outing, be sure to bring a packed lunch.
3. Quarry Park Adventures
Located in a 60-foot-deep granite quarry is Quarry Park Adventures, a unique outdoor experience for the entire family to enjoy. They have everything from zip lines and free-fall jumps for the (older) thrill seekers in the family to tranquil paddle rides and a kid-friendly adventure area. You can even host a one-of-a-kind birthday party there!
4. Fairytale Town
Fairytale Town brings your kids’ favorite fairytales and nursery rhymes to life in their 3.5-acre park. Children of all ages can let their imaginations run wild and learn while they play, whether they want to conquer a castle, climb inside a treehouse, or sail the seas on a pirate ship.
There are also plenty of live animals to see, including pigs and goats, and several picturesque gardens where guests are encouraged to help tend to them.
5. Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park
If the weather’s not the best, or you just want to get out of the heat for an afternoon, you should head down to Sacramento’s Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. The indoor park features attractions for adventurers of any age, including trampolines, bumper cars, climbing walls, battle beams, and more.
If they need to refuel after bouncing off all their energy, you can take the kids to the Urban Air Cafe for a slice of pizza or a refreshing soda.
Time to pack – Sacramento awaits!
This guide has shown you there are loads of things to do in Sacramento with kids and you have a rough idea of your trip itinerary! You and the family are guaranteed to have a blast in California’s capital city, no matter the forecast.
Is Sacramento family-friendly?
In short: of course! Whether you’re headed to the unparalleled beauty of Capitol Park or want your kids to learn something new in a world-class museum, Sacramento is fast becoming a premier family vacation destination.
What part of Sacramento is best for families?
Many families live in various areas of Sacramento for its high quality of life, affordability, and proximity to the Bay Area. Land Park has been named one of the best Sacramento neighborhoods, thanks to its bountiful green space and how close it is to Downtown Sacramento.
Folsom is also said to be one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods. It’s built along Folsom Lake and is right next to El Dorado Hills, so it’s close to plenty of natural wonders.
What is Sacramento best known for?
Sacramento, California’s capital city, is known for its vibrant arts and history scene. It’s also an excellent destination for food lovers of any age, because of its delicious food made from local produce. You might’ve heard it called the “City of Trees”, earning the nickname because it has more trees per capita than any other city in the world.
Where are the best family-friendly hotels in Sacramento?
Some of the best family-friendly hotels in Sacramento include:
- Arden Star Hotel (breakfast included, pool)
- Delta King Hotel (breakfast included, unique docked riverboat hotel)
- Comfort Inn & Suites Sacramento – University Area (breakfast included, indoor pool)