Old Town Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum

Photo: Belyay/Shutterstock

SACRAMENTO – There is an eight-block section in downtown Sacramento that is often referred to as charming, quaint and history-rich. These are all accurate descriptors of Old Sacramento, but after a recent visit, I’d add an even more basic word to that list: fun.

My kids and I recently spent a weekday morning in “Old Sac.” We arrived before noon, but the temperatures were already climbing, so after strolling up and down the planked sidewalks, peering in window fronts, and admiring the old-fashioned barrels being used as trash cans (it’s life’s little things sometimes), we headed indoors.

Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr

There are over 100 different spots to visit in Old Town Sacramento, including historic buildings, restaurants and shops. Additionally, the area offers several museums, including the California Automobile Museum, Sacramento History Museum, Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, the Wells Fargo History Museum, and our attraction of choice: the popular California State Railroad Museum.

Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr

If you go to the Railroad Museum, plan to stay for several hours. It’s a multi-story building and there is something worth seeing and doing on every level. On the first floor, just behind the entrance, is a theater. A short video called “Evidence of a Dream” is shown every hour on the hour and is a great way to start your visit as it introduces you to the railway system and the museum.

Photo: Joe Ross/Flickr

The museum is definitely a place for train enthusiasts, but history buffs will enjoy it here, too. You learn a lot about the transcontinental railroad and the labor used to build it as well as why building the railroad was important in developing California as a state.

There are twenty restored railroad cars and locomotives for you to admire, many of which you can climb aboard. In the dining car, you’ll discover how luxurious travel used to be. The place settings of fine china and elaborate menus are a far cry from today’s typical travel fare of peanuts and pretzels. But if the dining car makes you long for days gone by, seeing how the fruit grower’s refrigeration car was cooled with large blocks of ice hauled in through the ceiling will make you appreciate our modern day conveniences. The Pullman sleeper car is a crowd favorite; just beware that it sways in a very realistic manner. This particular exhibit is not wheelchair accessible, but there are lifts that provide access to other raised viewing areas and railroad cars.

Photo courtesy California State Railroad Museum.

Make sure you leave enough time during your visit for exploring the third floor. There is a kids’ play area with wooden tracks and trains. Children at heart will enjoy the large interactive model railroad, complete with hot air balloons and miniature figures.

If you go: For information about the Sacramento district, visit OldSacramento.com or call 916-442-7644. The California State Railroad Museum is located at 125 I Street, Sacramento. Open 10am-5pm daily, except for select holidays. Admission: Adults $12, Youth $6 (ages 6-17) and children ages 5 & under free. Contact info: (916) 445-6645 or csrmf.org.

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the September 2017 issues.