10Best Ways to Have fun in the California Sun

Sacramento is largely underrated as a California travel destination, as it's so often overlooked in favor of San Francisco or Los Angeles. Besides being the state capital, Sacramento has a beautiful old town area and plenty of attractions to keep families, couples or single travelers entertained. Here are our 10 favorite things to do in Sacramento.


Old Sacramento

Take a walking tour or a horse-drawn buggy ride to best experience this 28-acre State Historic Park, an important commercial center during the 1840s and early 1850s. Shops, restaurants, museums, and shows keep visitors thoroughly busy and entertained as they browse and learn about Sacramento's Gold Rush era. Be sure to stop by the visitor center at 1101 Second Street to be apprised of current special events.

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This parkway lies on the banks of the American River, and its 23-mile chain of parks provides activities for all manner of interests. Miles of trails provide opportunity for cycling, horseback riding, and hiking. Adventurers can also take part in water sports like rafting, fishing, and boating. Picnic shelters and restrooms are available.

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Old Sacramento
Sacramento Zoo

Set on 14-plus acres, Sacramento Zoo is the largest accredited zoological park in the Central Valley. Guests can view over 4,000 exotic animals, including snow leopards, red pandas, and Sumatran tigers. A quarter of the 130 resident species is endangered, and special programs are implemented by the zoo to combat such circumstances, including national breeding programs for two specific species. Adults and children learn while having fun by attending stage presentations, evening events, and weekend animal talks.

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Old Sacramento

This is a great introductory amusement park for younger children. The rides are all geared for the under-8 set: teacups, bumper cars, miniature train, carousel and a mini roller coaster for example. There's a snack bar where you can get kid-preferred eats like chicken nuggets, nachos and hot dogs. All rides require one ticket.

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Old Sacramento

Fairytale Town is an old-fashioned themed park designed to encourage imaginative play. There are no rides, only "sets" of loved nursery rhymes and fairy tales where kids can pretend to be their favorite characters or make up their own stories. Resident animals (rabbits, pigs, duck, goats, a cow, and a donkey named Eeyore) up the appeal for pint-size visitors; lovely landscaping, low prices and the laughter of happy children are the clinchers for grownups.

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Powerhouse Science Center
Photo courtesy of Powerhouse Science Center

This edifying museum features a range of thought-provoking scientific exhibits, most of which are interactive. A nature trail that winds through 14 acres is also a child-friendly draw, and kids can expect to encounter living creatures on their excursions. Plus, a discovery room brings insects, turtles, and the like close-up. A planetarium figures in as part of the complex as well, and simulated space missions are much-loved experiences.

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Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

In 1839, Swiss immigrant John Sutter established a fort that became Sacramento's first settlement. It was also a favorite stop-over for travelers in the community's early days. That fort has now been restored to its 1850s appearance and presents a variety of exhibits whose significance is related via self-guided tours and hand-held radio narratives. Experience living quarters, a jail, bakery, and blacksmith shop as residents many years ago would have known them.

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California State Capitol and Museum

This museum highlights regional and state political history in the very building that has served as the seat of California government since 1869. The facility offers an intriguing look at the people and issues that have made the state a center of interest and educates visitors on how they can, and do, impact political and legislative systems. Guided tours are available.

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This museum, housed in a historic 1870s-era mansion, presents the state's most extensive collection of art, both old and new. Works from European, Asian, and North American masters are rotated in from the extensive permanent collection, and holdings in Californian art and European drawings are particularly strong. Other offerings include photography and international ceramics. Special exhibits and a broad array of programs also foster a love of art and creativity. The museum is free to the public every Third Sunday of the month, "Pay as you Wish" Sunday, sponsored by Bank of America.

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Permanent exhibits at this informative museum feature historic locomotives and train cars, and on-site theaters showcase films on the history of trains and their impact on the growth and development of the West. During summer months, a restored Sacramento Southern Railroad steam train runs a regular excursion six miles along the Sacramento River. Special theme trains run on occasion as well, including Thomas the Tank Engine and the Santa Claus Train. Affiliated with the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

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