Sacramento is a city rich in history. The capital of California flourished as a commercial hub during the Gold Rush, and city magnates left a legacy of art and architecture. These significant moments in history come alive in the many museums scattered throughout downtown and surrounding areas. We have selected the most interesting ones for you

1. California State Railroad Museum

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Photo: Courtesy California State Railroad Museum; Photo by Kelly Huston

Located in the Old Sacramento district, this is one of the best railroad museums in the country, where visitors can learn about the history of the state’s iron horses. The exhibition is impressive right from the entrance, featuring a detailed scene of railroad workers crossing a mountain. The main gallery showcases over 20 locomotives and freight cars, with detailed exhibits highlighting the vital role railroads played in the state’s history.

Vintage enthusiasts will enjoy a stroll through the swaying, dimly lit dining car from the Art Deco era, complete with antique menus and table settings. The upper floor houses an intricate display of toy trains.

Official site:

Address: 125 I Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $12, youth (6–17) $6, child under 5 free

2. Crocker Art Museum


One of the largest museums in the western United States, the Crocker Art Museum has amassed a vast collection of works from the Gold Rush era to the present day. What began as a private art collection and mansion of Judge Edwin B. Crocker has transformed into a respected collection of over 15,000 works of art.

The collection is housed in two buildings, including the elegant Teel Family Pavilion, built in 2010, which tripled the museum’s space. In addition to its collections of California art, European drawings, and international ceramics (the largest in the US), the Crocker features rotating exhibitions. For instance, until September 8, you can see Portland Vase: Mania and Muse, which explores the legendary Portland Vase and its influence on contemporary artists.

Official site:

Address: 216 O Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: Wednesday–Sunday, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $15, student $10, youth (6–17) $8, child under 5 and military – free

3. The California Museum


This museum immerses visitors in the world of innovations and people who have significantly impacted the state’s life. Signature exhibits include the California Hall of Fame and Women Inspire. You can find collections dedicated to indigenous peoples, the Gold Rush, and the internment of Californians during World War II.

Many exhibits feature interactive elements, offering a deeper dive into the topics. Until September 1, the museum is hosting a fascinating exhibition on the evolution and cultural impact of the guitar: America at the Crossroads: The Guitar and a Changing Nation, showcasing guitars played by Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, and other musicians.

Official site:

Address: 1020 O Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM; Sunday, 12:00 PM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $10, youth (6–17), student, and senior 65+ $8, child under 5 free

4. California State Capitol Museum


The stunning Capitol, built between 1860 and 1874 in the heart of the city, remains largely unchanged for over a century. In 1976, a seismic study revealed the Capitol wouldn’t survive a major earthquake, leading to a significant restoration instead of demolition.

Start your tour at the central rotunda, located under a 128-foot gilded dome adorned with iron grizzlies and the Roman goddess Minerva. Restored rooms include the Governor’s office, the 1906 Treasurer’s office, the Assembly chamber, and more. The Capitol’s notable artworks include murals, paintings, and statues.

You can also stroll through the park and gardens, spanning 40 acres. Visit the Civil War Memorial Grove, planted in 1897 with saplings from famous battlefields.

Official site:

Address: 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814, California

Hours of operation: 9:00 AM–5:00 PM, except weekends and major holidays. The park is open daily.

5. SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity


The SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC) is Sacramento’s newest museum. This multifunctional science center opened to the public in November 2021 and quickly gained a reputation for its modern facilities and interactive exhibits.

MOSAC offers over 100 interactive stations covering all aspects of STEM learning and more, including healthcare, space exploration, and water conservation. The museum also features a DesignLab where visitors can work with 3D printers, robots, and circuits.

Don’t miss the Multiverse Theater, equipped with six 4K projectors and Dolby Digital surround sound for an immersive experience. Visitors can attend one free show with the purchase of an admission ticket. However, seating is limited, so it’s best to reserve in advance.

Official site:

Address: 400 Jibboom Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $17.95, senior 65+ $15.95, youth (2–17) $14.95, child under 2 free

6. Aerospace Museum of California


Located northeast of downtown in McClellan Park, this massive museum includes several interactive exhibits that immerse visitors in the world of aviation and space exploration. The museum also features over 40 historic aircraft on its four-acre airpark.

There is something for all ages, with exhibits explaining complex topics such as rocket engineering and space exploration using easy-to-understand displays. For those who want to experience being a pilot, flight simulators are available.

Allow several hours to explore the museum and its grounds. Aviation enthusiasts will want to spend more time outdoors in the airpark, viewing the numerous aircraft on display, primarily military planes, including various fighter jets.

Official site:

Address: 3200 Freedom Park Drive, McClellan Park, California

Hours of operation: Tuesday–Sunday, 9:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $17, youth (3–17) $15, senior 65+ $10, student $15, veteran and teacher $10, child under 2 and military free

7. The Sacramento History Museum


The Sacramento History Museum is located on the waterfront in the same historic district as the Railroad Museum. It occupies a replica of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building, originally on this site. The museum’s two floors of exhibits tell the rich history of California’s capital.

One exhibit focuses on the Nisenan people, who first inhabited this region. Other topics include the California Gold Rush, the 1850 Sacramento flood, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Inside the Sacramento History Museum is just a part of the area’s history. Outside is the Old Sacramento Historic Park, where the museum regularly conducts tours, such as underground and paranormal walking tours.

Official site:

Address: 101 I Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $12, youth (6–17) $6, child under 5 free

8. California State Indian Museum


Located within Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, this museum has showcased the generations of native peoples who inhabited this land for thousands of years since 1940. These populations include over 60 native groups with several smaller tribes. Detailed maps in the museum help identify where each native group lived.

You can see baskets (including the smallest in the world), beadwork, and an 18-foot redwood canoe from the Yurok tribe, as well as hunting and fishing tools, some over 2,400 years old. The museum also features hundreds of photographs showing the unique picture of native life and culture. Many exhibits and photos are from private collections, so the museum requests visitors refrain from photography.

Official site:

Address: 2618 K Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

Tickets: adult $5, youth (6–17) $3, child under 5 free

9. California Automobile Museum


This museum has gathered an impressive collection of cars from different eras, and unlike other automobile exhibitions, here you can sit behind the wheel and take a picture.

The museum’s exhibits take visitors through the chronology of automotive engineering. Early displays include a replica of the late 1800s Benz Patent Motorwagen and a Ford Model T from the early 1900s. Among the newest exhibits are hybrid and electric vehicles.

The museum is open Wednesday through Monday, drawing the most visitors on weekends. Visit the museum on the third Sunday of each month for a free ride in one of the museum’s cars, included in the admission ticket price.

Official site:

Address: 2200 Front Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM, except Tuesdays

Tickets: adult $12, youth (6–17) $6, senior 65+, veteran, military, and student $10

10. Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park


The Leland Stanford Mansion, a 19,000-square-foot estate near the State Capitol, is an elegant building constructed in 1856. It was later remodeled by the influential railroad magnate, governor, and university founder Leland Stanford.

The mansion has been part of the state park system since 1978. Today, it also serves as a venue for official receptions. When foreign dignitaries are not visiting, the historic park offers free tours of the four-story Victorian building. The 30-minute tours provide a wealth of information about the mansion’s history and allow visitors to enjoy the early 20th-century atmosphere.

Official site:

Address: 800 N Street, Sacramento, California

Hours of operation: 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

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