February 18, 2013

10 great free activities around the region to share with kids

1. Miniature steam train

1. Miniature steam train

What: Take a scenic ride through the trees of Hagan Community Park on a Sacramento Valley Live Steamers miniature train. Their hand-made trains and extensive tracks make for a unique experience.

When: First weekend of each month, March through September; see website for hours

Where: Hagan Community Park, 2197 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova; rear of the park, behind the petting barn

Combine with: Walk to the playground, picnic and visit the animals at the Hagan Park Petting Barn on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

More info:

2. Nimbus Fish Hatchery

What: For a relaxing day filled with both fun and education, take advantage of all that the Nimbus Fish Hatchery has to offer. The views of the water and hills are spectacular as you walk the trail along Lake Natoma. Be sure to check out the visitor center, which is filled with interactive fish exhibits and interesting information about the spawning process. Young and old alike love to see the trout jump for fish food in the raceway ponds so bring quarters for the dispensers.

When: Weekdays 8 a.m.-3 p.m., weekends 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: 2001 Nimbus Road, Gold River

Combine with: Cross the street to the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, where you can picnic lakeside while watching various water sports.

More info:

3. Camellia Symphony Orchestra Family Concert Series

What: Get your calendar out for this don't-miss event. Introduce your kids to classical music and foster an appreciation for the symphony with a one-hour family concert that includes a variety of fun music selections from movie scores to highlights from its Season Concert Series.

When: Offered a few times throughout the year. Next concert is 2 p.m. March 24

Where: Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento

Combine with: Before every family concert is a musical instrument "petting zoo" and art stations at 1 p.m.

More info:

4. Davis Arboretum family programs

What: Enjoy the combination of culture and nature at a two-hour workshop for all ages. Among the flowers, plants and trees, you will learn something new together.

When: Upcoming events are an elderberry flute making workshop on Feb. 24 and "Storytime Throughout the Seasons" on March 10.

Where: UC Davis Arboretum, Davis

Combine with: Make a day of it by taking a nature walk, picnicking on one of the arboretum's lawns and feeding the ducks.

More info:

5. California State Capitol Museum

What: Although a tourist attraction, the Capitol also provides a fantastic family outing for locals. Picnic in the gorgeous gardens on the east side of the building and let your kids discover the many statues and monuments. Peruse the 58 county shadowbox displays and hunt for the ones that your family has ties to. Self-tour the majestic building's historical rooms, art and beautiful architecture. Even the smallest of children appreciate the rotunda, grand staircases and sculptures.

When: Weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m., weekends 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Where: 1315 10th St., Sacramento

Combine with: Plan your outing on the third Sunday of the month when nearby Crocker Art Museum has a "Pay What You Wish" day. Downtown parking is always free on Sundays.

More info:

6. Jelly Belly factory tour

What: There are few things more magical than a candy factory. Make some Wonka- esque memories while seeing Jelly Belly's famous candy created in front of your eyes. Learn why jelly beans take a week to make and gaze at the mosaics composed entirely of the candy. Kids are tickled with each opportunity to sample a jelly bean and thrilled when each person receives a free box of candy at the end of the tour.

When: Tours daily, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield

Combine with: For the little ones that need to get sugar rush wiggles out, go to nearby Allan Witt Community Park.

More info:

7. Sacramento Executive Airport

What: For an off-the-beaten-path outing that your family is sure to get a kick out of, pack a snack and head over to this little airport's back patio. You can watch the private planes take off and land right in front of you.

When: Open daily 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: 6151 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento

Combine with: Have breakfast inside the airport at the Aviator Restaurant. You can sit right next to the window to watch planes while you eat.

More info:

8. Building workshops for kids

What: Have the kids try something new and explore their building skills at Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics and Home Depot's Kids Workshops. They will get a free apron, construct a fun wooden project and receive an achievement patch or pin.

When: Lowe's, second and fourth Saturday of each month; Home Depot, first Saturday of each month

Where: All Lowe's and Home Depot locations

Combine with: If you really want to wear your kids out, after spending the morning at the workshop, trek over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center and fill the rest of your day.

More info: and

9. Sacramento Library family events

What: We are fortunate to have a variety of fabulous entertainment at our neighborhood libraries. You'll find that magicians, storytellers, musicians, animal educators, artists and more bring their talents to pull off fun events that typically include the children's participation.

When: Some upcoming events: Magician Forrest Barnes, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Elk Grove; Uncle Jer's Traveling Bee Show, 3:30 p.m. Thursday, North Natomas;WaZoBia Drum & Dance, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven

Where: Various branches of Sacramento public libraries

Combine with: Check out new books, have your own quiet storytime together, and enjoy the special features that each library has for families.

More info:

10. Effie Yeaw Nature Center

What: Upon entering this fantastic nature center, you will be greeted by resident birds, reptiles and amphibians. If the kids can break away from this area, they will be excited to find many hands-on exhibits that provide an excellent way to learn about the nature that is right outside. Step out onto one of the three trails for a walk and look for lizards, turkeys and even deer.

When: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday

Where: 2850 San Lorenzo Way (inside Ancil Hoffman County Park), Carmichael

Combine with: Every weekend the nature center offers themed family activities where you can learn from the naturalists, meet resident animals up close and take guided nature walks.

More info:

Keilah Woodard is a local mother of three who has a passion for tracking down inexpensive and fun local adventures with kids. You can find her reviews of the best places to go on her website, You can also watch Woodard every other Thursday on Fox40 Live as she highlights free and fun things to do with kids that weekend in our area.

Sacramento Sidetracks is a member of The Sacramento Bee's blog and community news network, Sacramento Connect. Find more great family bloggers at

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