Old Town Sacramento And The Old Sacramento State Historic Park

Family Day Trip to Old Sacramento and the Sacramento State Historic Park

Don’t get me wrong, I believe school is very important, but I also believe that there is a lot of learning and critical life experiences that happen outside a public school classroom. Plus, with the tiny budgets public schools have, they’re just not going on all the awesome field trips we went on as kids.

That’s why we take a more active role in our kids’ hands-on learning and plan mid-week ditch days to take family field trips. It’s getting a bit harder with Natalie being in middle school, as there is more homework, more in class work, and more demands on her.

But Carter is still in elementary school, so just recently he and I had our own ditch day to visit the California State Railroad Museum. While in Old Town Sacramento, we also wandered up and down the old cobble streets and wooden boardwalks checking out the stores and visited historic buildings that are part of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

Old Sacramento

We arrived in Old Sacramento around 10:00 am and were ready for brunch! So we wandered around, exploring the historic buildings and shops, and scouting for the perfect place to eat.

On the corner of 2nd and J Streets across from the Pony Express Monument, is the B.F. Hastings Building, home to the Wells Fargo History Museum and Old Sacramento Visitor Center. We visited both museums and enjoyed checking out:

  • The Wells Fargo and gold rush artifacts
  • A telegraph station
  • An old inkwell and pen — that we got to try out
  • An old Stage Coach
  • Historic artifacts from the Pony Express

We stopped in several candy stores and toy stores and found several old penny machines — Carter collects flattened pennies from our family adventures, so this was a really big deal!

At this point we were starving, so we went to Steamers — the perfect place to take a break and get something yummy. We enjoyed our breakfast sandwich, pancakes, and apple juice (delicious) and then walked across the street to check out The Delta King. Carter loved exploring the Giant Steamboat!

Our last stop before heading to the Railroad Museum was the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum to see what school was like for kids living in California’s early days. The schoolhouse is a living replica of a traditional one-room schoolhouse with period furnishings and decor. A school field trip was going on when we stopped by, so we actually got to see class in session!

Old Sacramento State Historic Park

The California State Railroad Museum is located in the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, which is part of the Old Sacramento Historic District.

Sacramento’s history begins with the California Gold Rush.

News of the 1848 discovery of gold in nearby Coloma — site of Sutter’s Mill and home to Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park — traveled quickly, bringing thousands of people to the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Originally part of John Sutter’s land grant, Sacramento sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. As the commercial center of the California Gold Rush, it was a transportation hub with connections by steamboat to San Francisco, and to Folsom by the first railroad in the west. Sacramento became California’s capital in 1854.

As the center of the commercial district moved east, the Sacramento riverfront became a slum. In the mid-1960s redevelopment began, and today, with 53 historic commercial structures sited on 28 acres, Old Sacramento is a National Landmark.

As part of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the California State Park service operates a number of historic buildings, including:

  • B.F. Hastings Building: The home of Hastings & Company and Wells Fargo & Company, and the western terminus for the Pony Express. Today it is the Old Sacramento Visitor Center and the Wells Fargo History Museum
  • Tehama Block: A reconstructed Greek Revival business building
  • Eagle Theater: A reconstruction of the first theater building in California
  • C. M. & T. Co. Building: A reconstructed building that was home to the Connecticut, Mining & Trading Company, an auction and commission business, and general merchandise firms
  • Big Four Building: The first headquarters of the Central Pacific Railroad, the Stanford Brothers Warehouse, and the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware Store
  • Dingley Spice Mill Building: The site of Nathaniel Dingley’s coffee and spice business, constructed after Sacramento’s massive 1852 fire, and restored to it’s 1860s appearance
  • Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station: A reconstruction of the western end of America’s first transcontinental railroad from approximately 1876
  • Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot: Steam-powered excursion trains travel to and from this reconstructed late 1800s railroad freight station

If you’re visiting the Railroad Museum or you find yourself in Sacramento looking for something fun do, remember that Old Sacramento isn’t just a premiere date night destination with great restaurants, bars, and a comedy club. It is also a destination for family fun and some educational exploration.

Have fun!

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