Like most families around the country, here in the Sacramento area we’re all watching our budgets very closely. I didn’t want that to stop me from having fun with my family during the weekends and our off-time from school and work. My initial inclination was to share many of the spots I had visited with my friends while we were teenagers growing up in this great area. Now that I’m older and going back to these fun places, I’m reminded how entertaining and enjoyable they are.
It’s great to start with some of the more obvious attractions like the California State Capitol. My daughter loved walking the big stair cases, sitting in the senate chambers, exploring the museum rooms, and of course browsing through the gift shop. You can spend hours exploring the California State Railroad Museum and then ride the Sacramento Southern Railroad on the River Route down the historic Baths. Then have lunch visiting with the turtles overlooking the Sacramento River just yards south of old town. You’ll have fun at Sutter’s Fort while docents reenact early Sacramento history and even shoot off a canon. During a recent Sacramento Archives Crawl event, we were able to “Explore History” at four great locations packed with interesting and nostalgic finds. Don’t forget the Historic Governor’s Mansion. From the outside it didn’t seem that big to me, but once you’re inside it’s enormous. The staff there takes you on a great tour, and when we went, there were lots of children on the tour who really enjoyed it too. There is so much to do in downtown Sacramento that we’ve barely touched the surface.
Heading East from Downtown on 80, be sure to check out the Aerospace museum of California near the former McClellan Air base. It’s hard to say it better than they do when they say this museum “…captures all the marvels of flight for visitors to experience firsthand.” You’ll get to sit in the cockpit of large historic aircraft, explore space exhibits, and so much more.
Further east, I really wanted to take my family to the Griffith Quarry in Penryn, and we were not disappointed. We learned that much of the granite for the California State Capital building came from this quarry, as well as granite for other historic buildings. Then we spend hours walking the quarry nature trails with their numbered points of interest through-out. One of our favorite areas is in Auburn. We of course had to snap a picture of our daughter sitting in the mining pan of the Dr. Fox’s famous Miners statue the graces old town Auburn. I remember seeing other unique statues created by Dr. Fox, still located near his offices in Auburn. They’re huge and amazing, and they’ve stuck in my mind since I saw them as a child. I had to take my family to see them. A visit to the Placer County Courthouse is well worth your time. The historic carousel horse exhibit was really interesting and there are many historic rooms to explore as well as several other interesting exhibits. While in Auburn we love to go to the Auburn Drug Store old-time soda fountain, sit at the counter and enjoy a delicious milkshake. There is so much to do not too far up the 80 and 50 East corridors – including North and South on Highway 49. You can spend many afternoons in Grass Valley, Nevada City, or over in Coloma, where you can visit the Historic Sutter’s site. My family loves Coloma. We went Gold Panning, watched the Blacksmith docent work his iron, and spent the whole day there exploring this great area.
East of Sacramento on Highway 50 my family and I visit Lake Natoma and the Fish Hatchery several times a year. You can feed the salmon and steelhead fish in the raceway ponds and check out the learning center. This area has great trails, lakes, and so much nature to discover. You can continue east on 50 up to the wonderful historic town of Folsom. There you and your family can spend many afternoons in the antique shops, candy stores, fun boutiques, and great eateries. A bit North-West from Folsom, over near Ancil Hoffman park in Carmichael there’s a great area called the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. It’s an award-winning environmental and cultural education center located along the beautiful American River Parkway. There is a fascinating American Indian exhibit and wonderful artifacts. You’ll find hours of enjoyment exploring this attraction. My daughter keeps asking to go back for more fun.
It’s so appealing to have attractions that are in our community and don’t cost an arm and a leg to experience. Some of these great venues may seem obvious because we live and work around them each day. None the less, I would imagine you and your family might fill a day with smiles as you rediscover some of these local attractions in our wonderful greater Sacramento area.
Article by: Ron Maltase
Ron Maltase has lived in the Sacramento area his entire life and has worked for a major healthcare provider for over 16 years. He is also the Author of the Gordon the Scarecrow children’s books.