There is so much to see and do in California. However, the state capital, Sacramento, often gets pushed far down a long list of family friendly destinations. We’ve partnered with travel blogger Erin Bender of Travel With Bender to reveal the best family vacation secrets of Sacramento.
Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco. There is so much to see in California and the city of Sacramento often gets pushed far down a long list of family friendly favorite destinations. At least it was on ours. We had been on all the typical Californian vacation spots (including Yosemite) so this year decided to add Sacramento to the list. We were so glad we did. We discovered a vibrant family friendly city just waiting to be explored. Here’s just a few (of the many) favorite attractions chosen by our kids.
Really? An art museum? Yes, you’ll find a wide collection of brightly colored Andy Warhol originals here and plenty of other gorgeous pieces to draw your attention. But the real highlight is the special section on the top floor for kids where they can create various types of art displays, from Taylor Swift pop art to puppet shadows and more. Even the most craft-resistant child (aka my son) can be coaxed into joining in the fun.
This historic eight-block section of Downtown features over 100 independently operated businesses. It’s an easy walk and pleasant to wander with the kids. Here you will find numbers 3 & 4.
Located at the north end of Old Sacramento, this museum was first opened in 1976 and is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in Sacramento. The 250,000-square-foot warehouse holds a 100,000-square-foot Railroad History Museum filled with beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives bringing California’s railroad history to life. The kids will love exploring in and around the trains. But just as importantly, they will be spellbound by the hands-on Thomas The Tank Engine kids’ corner on the top floor, where they can play with toy trains to their hearts are content.
4. Candy Barrel
We were lured into this store because of its barrels overflowing with candy. Of course, what child could resist? But more importantly, the Candy Barrel offers each guest a free sample of any two candies marked with an orange label. There is plenty to choose from. But try not to get spooked by the crazy, laughing clown.
This city landmark opened in 1927. It features over 140 different species spread across 14.5 acres, and regular live educational shows. The hands-on activities found in Kid’s World is a highlight for youngsters aged 3-12. While you’re there, head across the road to Fairytale Town – a cute play area themed around nursery rhymes and fairytales.
Just over 30 minutes drive east of Sacramento is the town of Folsom — an easygoing day trip destination. Folsom is well-known for Johnny Cash’s legendary Folsom Prison performance. While you can view the prison from the outside, to tour inside you will need to sign a waiver acknowledging that there are no hostage negotiations. So I recommend just a quick viewing from the outside, and also check out a small museum near the front gate which was created by former prison guards.
7. Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
While in Folsom enjoy an invigorating bike ride along one of the many scenic trails – in fact there are over 95 miles of trails spread through Folsom. We took the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail along the coast of the sparkling Lake Natoma and the American River. Simply breathtaking scenery.
Also in Folsom, this chocolate factory is a must to stop by and indulge in their hand-crafted mouth-watering peanut brittle. Operating since 1963, this brittle is the best I’ve tasted anywhere in the world – so grab an extra bag to share with friends and family. They’ll love you for it!
9. City Lions Park
This Folsom attraction is home to the unique Folsom Valley Railway. This cute, miniature steam engine has been in continuous operation since 1970 and is the only 12-inch gauge railroad remaining in the US. Every kid will love it.
Lastly, while you’re at City Lions Park take the time to explore the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. A heart-touching wildlife park where each animal has their own emotional rescue story. It really brings home the message to adults and kids alike, why we need to care for all animals, great and small. It’s enough to make even a glass eye shed a tear.
Our family stayed at the very comfortable Embassy Suites Riverfront Promenade, which was conveniently located only 8-minutes walk to the historic Old Sacramento district and within a couple minutes drive of many attractions in downtown Sacramento.
To explore further afield, drive into El Dorado for gold panning with the kids or to Columbia Historic State Park to step back in time. There is so much more to this part of California than meets the eye. From creative kid-friendly art exhibits to sweet treats to outdoor activities, Sacramento and the surrounding region offers something for everyone. Now the only question is when to start?
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