30 fun things to do in Sacramento with kids

Last updated on August 16, 2023

Hardware store in Old Sacramento

A guide to the best things to do in Sacramento with kids.

Sacramento often gets overshadowed by its more famous sisters, LA and San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. The capital of California offers a much more laidback, non-touristy experience of California city life. And it’s the perfect place to include on a California road trip, being close to many of the state’s other top attractions.

To be honest, the city surprised us. We didn’t know what to expect, but were impressed by its striking architecture, charming old town, and thriving craft beer and street art scene. It’s a great place to visit as a family. So here’s our guide to the best things to do in Sacramento with kids.

We recommend it as a stop on a California road trip or as a combined visit with somewhere like San Francisco, Yosemite, Yolo, Tuolumne or Lake Tahoe.

We also have a guide to the best things to do in California with kids.

Map of things to do in Sacramento with kids

30 fun things to do in Sacramento with kids

Old Sacramento

General store in Old Sacramento

Old Sacramento – or Old Sac as the locals call it – is a definite must-see on a visit to the city. The refurbished old town has preserved the city’s gold rush architecture and feels like stepping back in time to the wild west with restored and refurbished buildings, charming wooden walkways and living history characters.

Sure, it also has its fair share of somewhat tacky souvenir shops, but the overall atmosphere supersedes that, and it’s well worth exploring.

The old town is on the waterfront, which adds to its charm. Kids will enjoy the old-style candy stores, and don’t miss Danny’s Mini Donuts. A few more of the Sacramento family attractions on this list, including the State Railroad Museum, are in Old Sac.

California State Railroad Museum

California State Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum is dedicated to all things trains and has a collection of over 20 restored carriages and engines, as well as exhibits celebrating the railway and life around it.

It’s in Old Sac on the waterfront, and there are also lots of old trains outside the museum that you can explore for free.

Highlights inside include exploring a sleeper train where you can see the dining cart and experience first class travel.

The museum also runs historic train rides (see my next point). Tickets for the train ride are separate to museum entry and you can buy one without the other.  

Ride an historic train

People riding an historic train in Sacramento

A must for train lovers is a ride alongside the Sacramento River on a train pulled by a historic steam or diesel engine. The 50-minute round trip is a fun way to experience what train rides were like in the early 1900s. They do a little signal demonstration when turning the train round at the end point.

Note that you don’t get off the train at any point. It’s a there-and-back journey, and no food is allowed on the train because it’s an antique (so fill your kids with snacks beforehand!)

Be sure to sit on the side facing the river as this is the most scenic view. A highlight is passing the golden bridge and also seeing the Old Sac waterfront from the train.

Tickets are available via the museum, but you buy the train tickets separately to your museum entrance (and you don’t have to buy museum entrance to ride the train).

Fairytale Town

Fairytale Town, Sacramento

Our kids (ages 2 and 4) adored Fairytale Town where lots of favourite kids’ stories are brought to life though giant playground models. Ride a slide from Owl’s treehouse in Winnie the Pooh, climb Jack and Jill’s hill, and climb aboard Captain Hook’s ship.

There are also lots of farm animals and two stages where they host shows and concerts throughout the year. It’s right next to Funderland and the zoo so you could incorporate a visit to all three.

Funderland

Funderland, Sacramento

Funderland is a special kids’ amusement park that’s been running since 1946. You buy an entrance ticket that allows you to ride any and all of the classic fairground rides. There’s a carousel, crazy teacups, miniature train and more.

Children under 34” get free admission, but that’s largely because they can’t go on the majority of the rides. It’s right next to Fairytale Town and the zoo in William Land Park.

See the State Capitol

State Capitol Building, Sacramento

Did you know that Sacramento is the capital of California? I’m afraid I didn’t, so I was surprised to discover the State Capitol building, which (to my non-expert eye) looks like a smaller version of the White House.

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The impressive building is a Sacramento must-see and there are some fabulous gardens at the back too.

You can simply go and see the building from the outside, or tours are also available from the State Capitol Museum. You may even be able to see the legislators in session.

Tower Bridge (the golden one!)

Tower Bridge, Sacramento

Sacramento’s Tower Bridge is another thing that surprised me, mainly because it’s painted bright gold. It’s California’s real golden bridge, unlike the red golden gate in SF!

Another extraordinary thing about the bridge is that it’s a vertical lift bridge, meaning the whole central part lifts up to allow boats through. I’ve never seen another like it. Definitely make sure to see it on your Sacramento trip – the views of Old Sac are particularly good from the bridge.

Go to a family-friendly brewpub

Drakes The Barn, Sacramento

Sacramento has a lively craft beer scene that you can still explore, even with kids in tow. There are lots of family-friendly brew pubs in Sacramento, so it’s a surprisingly kid friendly thing to do in Sacramento.

We were particularly impressed by Drake’s: The Barn, which is a sprawling place with lots of space for kids to run around, a kids’ menu and lots of games like corn hole. It was gorgeous on a sunny Friday night.

Explore the city’s street art

Paper mural and face mural in Sacramento

One of our favourite things in Sacramento was exploring the street art, and specifically the murals that are created each year as part of the Wide Open Walls festival.

Artists from all over the world come to the city to create murals that celebrate diversity and brighten the city streets. The quality is world class and we loved discovering the art as we wandered the city. See a map of where to find the murals here.

It’s one of the best free kids activities in Sacramento.

Catch a baseball game at Sutter Park

Sutter Health Park

I always include a baseball game on my USA family travel guides because it’s a quintessential American family experience (especially exciting for us non-Americans who have only seen such things in the movies).

In Sacramento, you can go see the Sacramento River Cats at Sutter Health Park just near Tower Bridge. There’s even a kids’ playground for when the game gets a bit long (believe me, as baseball game lasts forever!). It’s a cool thing to do in Sacramento at night with family.

See the Delta King

Sacramento Riverfront

An iconic part of the Sacramento riverfront is the Delta King. The boat holds a hotel, restaurant and entertainment venue, and is a fun thing for kids to simply see. Or you could treat them to a meal on the deck. There’s also this fun boat tour you can do along the riverfront.

Sacramento Zoo

Train at Sacramento Zoo

Also in the William Land Park is the Sacramento Zoo, which houses over 500 animals, including lions, lemurs and orangutans. You can even do an encounter with the giraffes. As well as all the animals, there’s a train ride and a carousel too.

Sacramento History Museum

People in historical dress outside Sacramento History Museum

If you want to learn more about the California gold rush and the history of Sacramento, head to the Sacramento History Museum. Our kids were a bit too young to be able to sustain any interest in it, but it could be a good educational experience for older kids.

SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC)

MOSAC museum in Sacramento

Previously known as the Powerhouse Science Center, SMUD: Museum of Science and Curiosity is filled with hands-on exhibits that explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. It was opened in 2020 and is one of the best family activities in Sacramento.

Just north of Old Sacramento, it’s housed in an old electrical power station. Do fun experiments, try building the world’s next architectural masterpiece or pilot a Mars rover. There’s fun for all ages, including special areas for under 5’s. And there’s also a planetarium.

Another nearby science museum is the Explorit Science Center in Davis.

McKinley Park

Aerial view of McKinley Park

Probably the best park for kids in Sacramento is McKinley Park, which has an amazing playground, designed around the history of Sacramento.

There’s a street trolley, riverboat, tower bridge, treehouse and more. And there’s plenty more to entertain including tennis courts, softball field, climbing wall and swimming pool.

Aerospace Museum of California

Plane in the Aerospace Museum of California

For kids interested in planes, the Aerospace Museum of California is a must. You can explore more than 35 historic aircraft including a ‘Top Gun’ F-14 Tomcat and an 1832 Curtis Wright speed wing plane.

And there are other interactive exhibits covering space and engine design. A highlight is the Flight Zone flight where kids can play at being a pilot in various flight simulators.

Sacramento Children’s Museum

Tiny town made of building blocks at Sacramento Children's Museum

We’re big fans of America’s children’s museums (we’ve also covered ones in Charleston, Savannah, SF and Seattle) where children get to immerse themselves in a play-filled environment.

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Sacramento’s Children’s Museum is just outside of the city in Rancho Corvoda. It has lots of the classic children’s museums exhibits, including a miniature grocery store, arts and crafts room, and science experiments. It’s suitable for ages up to 8 and is one of the best things to do in Sacramento with toddlers.

California Automobile Museum

The California Automobile Museum is the place to go for all car enthusiasts. There’s over 72,000 square feet of exhibits where you can explore the history of cars, including over 150 vehicles on display.

Capitol Bowl

Outside of Capitol Bowl at nighttime

Bowling is always a kid pleaser in our family, and a fun option in Sacramento is Capitol Bowl, a classic all-American bowling alley with a games arcade and food on offer too. They sometimes do glow bowling nights with disco style illuminations!

Urban Air Sacramento

Climbing ropes and aerial walkway at Urban Air Sacramento

Urban Air Sacramento is a proper wonderland of kids’ entertainment, including climbing walls, trampolines, VR games, bumper cars, and an aerial assault course.

If you exhaust all the tourist options, this would be a sure-fire way to please the kids. Other similar indoor adventure parks include: Rebounderz Sacramento and Rockin’ Jump Roseville.

Boulder Field

Climbing wall at Boulder Field in Sacramento

Another non-touristy option is Sacramento’s Boulder Field, a family-friendly indoor climbing arena with a special kids’ area. Call ahead to make sure the kids’ area isn’t being used for a birthday party.

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 250 species of birds and there can be up to  500,000 ducks and 250,000 geese in peak season. There’s a six-mile driving tour you can follow to discover the different bird life. And there are two walking trails too.

To be honest, in my experience, bird spotting is a hard sell for young kids, but if you’re a keen birder, you could do the hiking route so the kids can run around while you spot the wildlife. Older kids might be more into it.

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

Owl at Effie Yeaw Nature Center

The Effie Yeaw Nature Center, just outside Sacramento in Carmichael, is an 100-acre nature preserve and cultural education center. You can explore the grounds or visit the resident animals, including birds of prey and reptiles.

Plus there’s a butterfly garden and a fun natural playground made up of tree trunks and river rocks. Also visit the model Nisenan Maidu village that teaches about the native peoples of Sacramento.

Raging Waters

Waterslides at Raging Waters in Sacramento

On hot sunny days, families flock to Raging Waters (formerly known as Six Flags Waterworld), Sacramento’s biggest family waterpark. There are over 25 rides including 20 waterslides, an 800ft lazy river ride and a big wave pool.

There are some huge thrill-seekers’ slides for older kids, as well as the Treehouse Reef, which has water slides for little kids too. And the 2ft shark pool is perfect for little ones. It’s a perfect Sacramento family day out.

West Wind Drive-In

West Wood Drive In Theatre in Sacramento

Ahhh, this is one that probably excites me at least as much as the kids. The West Wind Drive-In is a retro movie theatre where you can feel like you’re in one of your favouirte American movies while watching one too.

The family-friendly theatre was opened in 1952 and is now the biggest drive-in movie theatre chain in the world.

Do some mini golf

For mini gold, head to Underground Mini Golf in Old Sacramento, which has a gold rush theme. And Tipsy Putt at Flatstick Pub in the Doco, which allows children on the last Sunday of every month (otherwise it’s for ages 21 and over).

Lake Natoma

For a day out in nature, families in Sacramento often head to Lake Natoma, which is a great place for water and adventure sports, including boating, kayaking, swimming, hiking and biking. The Sacramento Aquatic Center offers equipment rental as well as lessons.

SeaQuest

Otters at SeaQuest in Scaramento

Just outside Sacramento in Fulsom, is SeaQuest is a hands-on petting zoo, where you can interact with all sorts of creatures, including sloths, porcupines and otters. It’s a huge hit with kids.

Davis Farmers Market

Davis Farmers Market

It’s not in Sacramento, but it’s only 20 minutes away, so we highly recommend a trip to the Davis Farmers Market. It’s one of the oldest running farmers markets in the USA and has a beautiful community vibe and a huge bounty of locally grown produce.

Grab a picnic and enjoy it in the neighbouring park where there are also two kids’ playgrounds. This is one of our favourite California experiences.

Visit the Yolo region

Farm at Park Winters, Yolo CA

As well as Davis, the Yolo region has lots more family-friendly places to explore. We recommend visiting the charming town of Winters and specifically Park Winters where you can do a fun pick-your-own bouquet experience.

And our son loved doing a honey tasting at The Hive in Woodland. There’s also the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area where you can see lots of birdlife. And there’s a fun railbike tour you can do with older kids.

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Where to stay in Sacramento with kids

Rooftop pool at the Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento

The Sawyer Hotel

At first look, you wouldn’t know The Sawyer Hotel is family friendly. It immediately ticks the hip, sophisticated and stylish boxes – and it’s known for its popular rooftop pool bar, Revival – which aren’t characteristics that always go hand in hand with family hotels. But that’s why I love it. It attracts all sorts of people and stays stylish while also welcoming kids, so you still get the grown-up hotel experience.

We loved our sleek double king room, which had views across the rooftops. We could even see the top of tower bridge and the State Capitol. And when there were fireworks at Sutter Park, we had a perfect view.

The balcony was also handy as it meant we had somewhere to hang out (with a room-service cocktail from Revival!) once the kids were asleep. Another highlight is the rooftop pool where you’ll find groups of 20-30s party people alongside family groups.

As well as the Revival pool bar, the hotel has two onsite restaurants: the refined Echo & Rig steakhouse, and Punch Bowl Social, a fun pub serving food, and with lots of games, including bowling. The hotel is also right next to the Doco centre, which has a good selection of restaurants, cafes and shops. We particularly liked Puesto.

Rooms start at $160. Book your stay now

Where to eat in Sacramento with kids

Estelle Bakery, Sacramento

Sacramento is a very diverse city so has some great international dining. Places we loved include:

Useful travel resources for a California road trip

Farm at Park Winters, Yolo CA

Find out more bout Sacramento at Visit Sacramento.

For car rentals, we recommend booking with Rentalcars.com. We find they always have the cheapest deals for mainstream retailers.

If you decide to book any Airbnb apartments, use this link, as it’ll give you £25 off your first trip.

We found great last-minute deals on Booking.com, getting a discount of up to 60%.

Our favourite place to book flights is Skyscanner – again, they always have great deals!

Don’t forget your travel insurance! We recommend World Nomads or True Traveller who both offer reliable, comprehensive cover, including medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. You can buy both True Traveller and World Nomads insurance even when you’ve left home, which is unusual for travel insurance companies.

If you’re planning a trip to California or anywhere in the world, be sure to check out our travel planning pages  for all our best travel tips, including how to save money with the best cards, what to bring, and all our favourite tools and tricks.

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Our California travel guides

We also have detailed guides to loads of California destinations that can help you plan even more. They’ll especially suit you if you’re a bit like us, keen on discovering the creative side of a destination and in pursuit of all the best cafes, ice creams, doughnuts, bookshops, murals and beauty spots. And we have lots of family guides if you’re travelling with kids.

Road trips: California Road Trip | Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip

Handpicked travel guides: Laguna Beach | Mendocino |San ClementeSan Diego  | Santa Barbara  | Santa Cruz|Shasta Cascade and Redding Sonoma |Tuolumne County Yolo County

California family travel guides: California with kidsLos Angeles with kids | Sacramento with kidsSan Diego with kids | San Francisco with kids

California accommodation guides: Joshua Tree Airbnb | Laguna Beach Airbnb | Hip Palm Springs Hotels | Palm Springs Airbnb | Palm Springs VRBO | San Diego Airbnb | Santa Cruz Airbnb | Santa Barbara Airbnb |Santa Monica Airbnb | Sonoma Airbnb | Venice Beach AirbnbHip San Francisco Hotels

California attraction guides: How to get the most out of Disneyland with toddlers | The ultimate guide to Universal Studios with babies and toddlers

If you’re heading elsewhere in the USA or even worldwide, see more of our family travel tips here.

1 thought on “30 fun things to do in Sacramento with kids”

  1. Very good suggestions and ideas. I would add a visit to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on Hazel Ave near Hwy 50 for something fun to do that fits any budget. Another idea is to take in a show at the fairly new Sac State Planetarium which is very reasonably priced, but tickets can be hard to come by. I recommend visitors try to get to a local farm for another great outdoor experience. There are a huge number of farms in the area, with Soil Born Farm a local urban farm as one example.

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