Sacramento, dubbed the “River City" and the “City of Trees," is located 90 miles northeast of San Francisco in Northern California. It's one of the most family-friendly cities in the state. Whether you are a tourist or a local, you'll find plenty to do in this capital city full of modern culture. From one of the best zoos in the nation to a children's museum with great weekly programming to a wildlife refuge full of birds to view, there are many ways for the family to spend some time together. You can also check out historic forts and adrenaline-inducing amusement parks and water parks while with your kids in Sacramento.
Fairytale Town, open since 1959 in William Land Regional Park, is a child’s dream come true: They can actually live out their favorite bedtime stories and nursery rhymes in kid-friendly areas. This is a great place for toddlers and preschoolers to come and explore the pint-sized play areas, like the Jack and Jill Hill or the Toadstools. The attraction has more than 25 playsets, an animal farm, two performing arts stages which older kids can enjoy, and a few gardens.
Fairytale Town’s schedule changes by season and the site is closed if it rains, so confirm the hours before you go.
With Sacramento being hours away from the nearest ocean, one nice way to get some aquatic fun is at Raging Waters Sacramento. The city's biggest water park has more than 25 attractions. Only open during the summer months, this water park has activities for the young and old, including more than 20 water slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. While some of the attractions have a height requirement, Treehouse Reef is a fun area for any children under 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall, who can also enjoy the Calypso Cooler Lazy River and the Breaker Beach Wave Pool. There are many shaded areas to cool off on hot Sacramento summer days.
Funderland Amusement Park is a great spot for the kiddies—who can go on nine rides, including a roller coaster, trains, tea cups, a carousel, and a stagecoach—as long as they meet the minimum height requirement. The park, which has been in operation since 1946, is also easily located in William Land Regional Park next to Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.
There are places nearby for you and the family to grab a bite to eat. Funderland’s hours depend on the time of year; confirm them before heading out.
Although the Sacramento Zoo is a smaller zoo, its intimacy allows the little ones to get up close and personal with almost 500 animals from around the globe. You'll find native, exotic, and endangered animals, and interesting exhibits on dinosaurs, amphibians and fish, as well as birds ranging from the Caribbean flamingo to the thick-billed parrot. There are hands-on activities, a playground, and several gardens at this zoo just south of downtown Sacramento that first opened in 1927.
The zoo is open daily all year.
Kids young and old can learn about the past at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park in Midtown Sacramento’s Sutter District. The park has old structures and a living history museum to view: It is an actual fort, not a figurative one. There are fun hands-on activities for all ages, like the Sutter’s Fort scavenger hunt, in which visitors search for artifacts and historical information.
The park is open daily and has scheduled events throughout the year, plus an audio tour in English, Spanish, German, and Japanese.
SeaQuest is located in Folsom, just 30 minutes east of downtown Sacramento. At SeaQuest families and kids of all ages can enjoy exhibits like those on rainforests, deserts, and the ocean. Plus children love viewing a rotating crew of about 1,200 animals from around the world, such as green iguanas, pygmy goats, and Madagascar day geckos. Some of the best activities include touching stingrays, feeding birds and reptiles, and watching the sharks swim around.
The capital is home to the picturesque Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, which houses over 250 species of birds and is great for viewing wildlife with kids. What you'll see depends on the season. The best time of year to see ducks and geese is November and December; summer brings herons, egrets, and some migratory songbirds. It is recommended to use binoculars and stay quiet rather than approach wildlife.
Some other fun things to do are exploring the two walking trails, cycling on the bike paths, and taking some family photos. The Visitor Center is open daily from November through February, and only on weekdays the rest of the year. It's a good stop for checking out a wildlife exhibit, the bookstore, and the Discovery Room.
The Sacramento Children's Museum in Rancho Cordova, about a 30-minute drive from Sacramento, is an ideal activity for youngsters from birth age up to 8 years old. Ongoing programs provide a variety of education and entertainment. Story Time, held on Tuesdays, honors community, stories, and songs. On Thursdays, Cultural Connections teaches little ones about cultures from around the world. A Creative Art Class takes place on Fridays, and programs like Discovery Play are geared toward children with special needs.
The museum is usually closed on Mondays.