Visit a six generation candy factory with free daily tours courtesy of the Jelly Belly company. Plan a picnic for mom on the 14-acre grounds of the Amador Flower Farm with 1,000 varieties of day lilies as the backdrop. If nature and wildlife are of interest, a day trip to the South Yuba River State Park for a hike, swim or bike ride is also on the itinerary for the best free attractions near Sacramento. These activities and fun daytime events for all ages, are always free, and only require smiles, an open mind and sometimes a sweet tooth.

South Yuba River State Park
California 49
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 432-2546

www.southyubariverstatepark.orgWith swimming, hiking, bird watching, gold panning and also prime spots for shaded picnicking with the whole family, the South Yuba River State Park is the perfect getaway in just over an hour’s time. Known for its pristine swimming holes, the South Yuba River offers advanced swimmers and beginners alike a variety of cool temperature wading areas surrounded by smooth granite rocks to beat the summer heat. Hiking the great outdoors is also an option at this historic state park, from short level trails to longer, more rugged paths the park has activities for any level of outdoor explorer. Gold panning is encouraged, but the only tools allowed are two hands and a sifting pan. The South Yuba River is also home to a large number of bird species, so watching opportunities naturally occur among the tall trees and tiny shrubs. What’s more, bike along the five-mile stretch along the river trail to round out a day spent out and about with nature.


Apple Hill

(credit: applehill.com)

(credit: applehill.com)

2901 High Hill Road
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 644-1973
www.applehill.com

Just under an hour’s drive east on Highway 50, Apple Hill in Placerville, California is a fun outdoor destination for the whole family. With more than two dozen stops along the way, each with its rolling hills, apple orchards and unique vendors selling handmade wares like wooden toy trains, glass and metal work, or vintage home decor, this one day trip is full of possibilities. If a jaunt to one of Apple Hill’s fruit farms sounds appetizing, arrive on an empty stomach because each destination promises all of the warm apple fritters and donuts, handmade pies and fresh-picked fruit one can handle. More than 50 years ago, apple and fruit farmers banded together to create a tight-knit community of growers who sell fresh produce to the Sacramento region and beyond. Now, popular stops like High Hill Ranch with its small pond and outdoor bench seating, fudge factory, face painting activities and nearby pumpkin farm attracts hundreds of apple lovers for every season.


Jelly Belly Factory Tours

Ronald Reagan Honored With JellybeansOne Jelly Belly Lane
Fairfield, CA 94533
(800) 953-5592
www.jellybelly.com

Learn how the small, sweet and sometimes even savory candied bites created by the Jelly Belly company in Fairfield, California more than 100 years ago are made by indulging in a free factory tour. Open daily to the public, the Jelly Belly factory welcomes candy lovers to view the behind-the-scenes magic that goes into producing classic and popular flavors like root beer, green apple, licorice, cream soda, very cherry, grape, tangerine and more! With 50 official flavors, TV and film-inspired flavors from Harry Potter to Star Wars, and also its new line of organic varieties like coconut, peach and red apple, the amount of mini confections produced daily is immeasurable. About a 45-minute drive west from Sacramento, the historic factory includes a 40 minute walking tour where candy enthusiasts will learn industry secrets like why it takes an entire week to make a single bean.Related: Best Chinese Restaurants In Sacramento

Amador Flower Farm

File photo (credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo (credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

22001 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA 95669
(209) 245-6660
www.amadorflowerfarm.com

Started in 1994, the Amador Flower Farm has more than 1,000 different varieties of day lilies that bloom throughout 14 acres of land. Open daily for the public’s viewing pleasure, the flower farm also includes four acres of award-winning demonstration gardens, which are separated by themes such as the Western Garden, the Royal Court, the Stout Metal Garden and the English garden-inspired Cottage Hill. Pathways of gravel and freshly mowed grass carve the trails that lead to the multicolored bounty of flowers on display to the public. A perfect day trip for Mother’s Day, the farm offers a number of picnic areas under oak trees, a gift shop, and also opportunities to purchase perennials, grasses, houseplants and colorful annual flowers in the nursery. The annual Spring Fling celebration event is April 2 and 3 where visitors can purchase vegetable garden starters in the nursery, garden demonstrations by experts and free tram rides. Food will also be on hand, but packing a picnic is also welcome.

UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab

Credit: bml.ucdavis.edu)

Credit: bml.ucdavis.edu)

2099 Westshore Road
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
(707) 875-2211
www.bml.ucdavis.edu

A trip to the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory on a Friday afternoon combines education and hands-on activities for all ages. Since 1976, volunteer docents have led interpretive tours throughout the facility’s numerous marine aquarium displays. A 24-foot-long aquarium welcomes guests upon entering BML that contains colorful local fish and invertebrates, and also a small kelp forest. There’s also a harbor aquarium that houses local estuary residents of Bodega Harbor, a small round aquarium that showcases anemones and unique organisms in their familiar habitat. The hands-on aspect of visiting BML is the tidepool mesocosm display, which allows visitors to experience the diversity of ecosystems that make up the northern California coast.Related: Best Mexican Restaurants In Sacramento

I’m Steph and I enjoy writing about every topic imaginable: hard-hitting news, fun profiles on eccentric artists, music features about the loudest band in town, food-related content that tickles the appetite, in-depth audio interviews with award-winning authors, and more. I’m an award-winning freelance journalist living in Sacramento, Calif. with my partner, David, and our one-year-old son, Elliot. Follow me on Twitter: @wordstospill; Instagram: @writeitgirl.