The California Museum, Sacramento: The Official State History Museum

When a huge storm rolled in and forced us to postpone our Mother’s Day weekend plans, we had our own adventure right here at home visiting the the Crocker Art Museum and The California Museum.

The California Museum

Carter visited The California Museum on a field trip with his fourth grade class just a few weeks before we decided to go as a family — and he was pretty excited to have the jump on us. He was the resident expert on this family excursion, so we were all to follow him while he showed us around. Our little tour guide didn’t miss a thing. In fact, we saw every detail, we read almost every sign, heard piece of related trivia he learned in school, and heard storied from his school tour too.

The California Museum is located in the State Archives Building in Sacramento, one block from the State Capitol, and with boldly painted walls and two big Mickey Statues just inside the entrance, it’s just begging you to come inside and look around.

The museum’s exhibits are a family-friendly learning experience, allowing you to get up close and personal with California’s diverse history. We were able to visit a theater to see how Hollywood has portrayed California, step aboard a bus to hear immigrants tell their stories of coming to California, sit in an authentic diner booth, check out a giant cookie, see the Ironman suit Tony Stark made in the cave when he was captured, and walk under an amazing California mural.

Our favorite exhibits in the museum were the:

  • California Hall of Fame
    The California Hall of Fame was established in 2006 by the Museum and former First Lady Maria Shriver to honor legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.
  • California Missions
    This all-new exhibit explores the 21 religious and military outposts founded by Spanish Catholic missionaries of the Franciscan Order on “The Royal Road.”
  • California’s Remarkable Women
    Extraordinary women from every walk of life strengthen, shape and serve our great state. This exhibit honors their significant roles and achievements, drawing its inspiration from past and present achievements of California women.
  • Constitution Wall
    Towering six stories over the courtyard, Constitution Wall features sculpted words taken from the California Constitution chosen for their meanings to inspire reflection on the freedoms guaranteed to all Californians by viewers.
  • Uprooted! Japanese Americans During WWII
    Following the history of the Japanese Americans in California, visitors experience life behind internment camp barbed wire in recreated barracks. Continuing through the 1980s, the exhibit also chronicles how internees overcame the hardships of the internment and worked to establish their lives, their communities, and redress for their losses after the war.
  • Bear In Mind
    Based on Susan Snyder’s 2004 book of the same name published by Heyday Books, “Bear In Mind: The Story of the California Grizzly” is a traveling exhibit chronicling the complex history of the state’s most iconic symbol, the grizzly.
  • California Chrome
    This all new exhibit explores the career of California Chrome, the California-bred horse who capped a six-race winning streak by sweeping the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

California Museum History

Originally called the Golden State Museum, The California Museum opened in June 1998 through a partnership with the State of California as a private non-profit institution focused on California history and culture. Under the development of the Secretary of State’s office, the Museum was created to be the public showplace for contents of the the California State Archives.

In 2003, former First Lady Maria Shriver began working with the Museum to expand its vision and mission. In 2004, “California’s Remarkable Women” opened as the first of her many collaborative efforts with the Museum. Since then, the Museum’s exhibitions have continued to emphasize stories not presented to reflect all aspects of California’s diverse population and culture, with an emphasis on the contributions of women and under-represented groups.

In 2006, former First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became Honorary Co-Chairs of the Museum and co-designed the California Hall of Fame as the Museum’s annual gala and an official award from the Governor of California.

In 2011 after the change of administration, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown became Honorary Co-Chairs of The California Museum and the California Hall of Fame. As active leaders, the Governor and First Lady continue to work with the Museum in the selection of California Hall of Fame inductees and bring their appreciation of California history and the educational mission of the Museum to their honorary position.

Visiting The California Museum

My son had such a blast visiting the California Museum on his field trip, and we had a lot of fun touring the Museum too!

With all the movie watching going on, I am so happy we decided to get in some family exercise and work in some extra Fitbit steps. We walked over for a late afternoon visit from our lunch at Hot Italian. Touring the Museum with kids only takes about 60-90 minutes (maybe two hours at the most), so it was the perfect way to finish our Sacramento museum day that began with the Crocker Art Museum.

Visiting the California Museum is a perfect half day adventure for before or after lunch. If you do decide to go, download their free activity guides first to make exploring the Museum even more fun.

Oh, and if you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch customer — as part of the Museums On Us program — simply present your credit or debit card on Saturday or Sunday of the first full weekend of every month to receive one free general admission per card.

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