From robotics and daguerreotypes to the streets, rails and sky, Sacramento museums offer glimpses into the past and future of our world. Many special exhibits are temporary visitors to the capitol city, but a wide array of exciting and creative collections are available as permanent installations.
Crocker Art Museum
216 O St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
The Crocker has exceptional permanent exhibits from many eras and mediums. The extensive photography collection includes visions of the American West taken in the 1800s, digital imagery and a look at the evolution of photography. Ceramics are also museum stars, with more than 800 clay pieces from all over the world dating back to the late Stone Age. California history is a cornerstone of the Crocker’s offerings, whether the artist in question chose to use a paintbrush, chisel, lathe, graphite, barkcloth or blowpipe. Contemporary works from artists including Wayne Thiebaud, Manuel Neri and Olivia Parker are part of the collection, as are pieces chronicling the Gold Rush and advertising for things like minstrel shows.
California State Railroad Museum
125 I St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Today’s youth may want to be game designers or media moguls when they grow up, but there was a time when we all dreamed of being the engineer on a gleaming locomotive. The railroad museum is a delightful and awe-inspiring place, with a permanent collection of virtually every kind of train. The North Pacific Coast Railroad “Sonoma” locomotive, built in 1862, has been fully restored and is one of only 30 full-size steam locomotives left in the country. Gas, electric and diesel engines share the stage with dining cars, a 1914 Pullman coach, private luxury cars, freight haulers, cabooses and more. The museum even operates an excursion train from April through September, offering 45-minute rides along the Sacramento River.
California Automobile Museum
2200 Front St.
Sacramento, CA 95818
Come along for a ride through time with the California Automobile Museum’s permanent collection. Guests enjoy checking out everything from a Model A to a Zephyr, including an 1885 high-wheeled bicycle, roadsters, midget racers, Studebakers, Indy race cars and classic motor homes. The museum also features celebrity vehicles such as Ricky Nelson’s Mustang convertible, AJ Foyt’s 1932 Ford and the Kawasaki motorcycle Eric Estrada rode on the television show “CHiPS.” For a look at the favorite wheels of today’s news makers, visit Malcolm Forbes’ Lamborghini Countach 5000SQV or the 1974 Plymouth Satellite driven by Jerry Brown during his first terms as California’s governor.
Aerospace Museum of California
3200 Freedom Park Drive
McClellan, CA 95652
If “aviation” only makes you think of Snoopy’s WW1 Sopwith Camel or long lines at the TSA, think again. The Aerospace Museum is home to an amazing collection chronicling everything from the Wright brothers’ first manned air flight in 1903 to our future in outer space. The vast exhibit hall and four-acre Air Park feature numerous spacecraft and military and civilian planes, including a Sikorsky CH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter used in Vietnam and Korea, biplanes, Russian MIGs and a supersonic Grumman F-14D Tomcat fight plane. Guests can do physics experiments, climb around in cockpits and carriers, experience thrills and chills in a real flight simulator and learn about manned explorations on Mars.
Discovery Museum Science & Space Center
3615 Auburn Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95821
The Discovery Museum’s permanent exhibits offer so much that you will want to bring the family again and again. Students in the Challenger Learning Center can be aboard a spacecraft or in Mission Control as they run simulated missions in outer space or fly to the stars in the region’s only planetarium. Kids will love to dig a little deeper into the history of the earth, applying archaeological techniques to uncover artifacts from mysterious, fictitious civilizations. Other favorites include the museum’s nature room and robotics lab.
Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at Examiner.com.