Sacramento Museums Tour, Sacramento

Sacramento Museums Tour (Self Guided), Sacramento

Sacramento boasts a wealth of museums commemorating lots of subjects, from art and railroad to the Gold Rush to California and the city of Sacramento itself. Those keen on all things railway will surely appreciate The California State Railroad Museum – the best of its kind in North America, while the art enthusiasts will take interest in the Crocker Art Museum. Equally fascinating is The California State Capitol – a living museum – strolling whose hallways will see you travel back in time 150 years. To explore some of the most well-known and impressive museums in the U.S.A. and to discover things about the culture and history of Sacramento, follow this self-guided walk.
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Sacramento Museums Tour Map

Guide Name: Sacramento Museums Tour
Guide Location: USA » Sacramento (See other walking tours in Sacramento)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: Dee
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • California State Railroad Museum
  • Wells Fargo Museum
  • California State Capitol Museum
  • The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts
  • Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
  • Crocker Art Museum
California State Railroad Museum

1) California State Railroad Museum (must see)

Located at the western terminus of the first transcontinental railroad, the Railroad Museum is part of the larger Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Besides the museum, you'll find many restored and reconstructed buildings here from the mid-1800's–California's boom years. There are a train station and depot, hardware store, theater, and various business buildings.

The state park system operates the Railroad Museum. The museum has exhibits that focus not only on the locomotives and rail cars but also on how trains helped develop California and the West. Since Sacramento played such an essential part in the first transcontinental railroad, it's no surprise that time is dedicated to discussing how the east and west coasts were first connected. The Golden Spike exhibit answers all of your questions and more about the completion of that railroad and the famous opening ceremony in 1869.

Other exhibits focus on the importance of railroads to California's agriculture sector and the diverse populations that helped create and used the railroads. There's a section dedicated to kids and young-at-heart so model railroad enthusiasts won't be let down.

Most notably, the museum is home to 19 different locomotives covering the period between 1862 and 1944. The massive machines visually tell the story of the incredible technological developments that occurred during the golden age of rail travel. There are also rail cars from the same time, including passenger, freight, and maintenance cars.

Why You Should Visit

The California State Railroad Museum is about a whole lot more than just trains. Railroads were instrumental in California's connection to the rest of the world and an important component of the state's history. By learning about this romantic form of travel and the technological challenges that came with it, visitors will learn the context of the state's history.

Situated in old town Sacramento, with history all around, the Railroad Museum is a top-pick for many visitors to the area.


Be sure to look into the museum's excursion train ride. The Sacramento Southern Railroad departs on weekends for a trip along the levees of the Sacramento River. The all-volunteer crews take visitors on a trip back in time to the heyday of California train travel.

Opening hours: Monday - Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm
Wells Fargo Museum

2) Wells Fargo Museum

While many of us know the Wells Fargo brand as one of the Big Four Banks in the United States, the company has a long and storied past closely linked with the Wild West. For the first 60 years of the company's existence, starting in 1852, the two most important services the company offered were banking and express. Express service meant shipping customer's valuables from one point to another as quickly as possible, and in the West, this usually meant via stagecoach, train, or steamship. Valuables were put in safes or distinctive green wooden treasure boxes that rode under the stagecoach driver's feet. Wells Fargo actually delivered more mail in the West than the US Postal Service did for many years.

Wells Fargo operates 12 history museums at various locations around the country, including two in the Sacramento area. Their collection of artifacts from the gold rush days includes a fully-restored Wells Fargo stagecoach from 1866, built by Concorde. The exhibit focuses on mining, as well as the early days of settling the rural west. Gold nuggets, riffles, and the tales of outlaws tell the story of those early years. Learn about the "brave and determined" individuals who guarded the legendary green treasure boxes.

Situated in the five-story atrium of the Wells Fargo Building at 400 Capitol Mall in downtown, the Wells Fargo History Museum has free admission. Despite the surprising location in the bank lobby, the museum is surprisingly extensive. You should allow yourself some time to take it all in.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10 am - 4 pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
California State Capitol Museum

3) California State Capitol Museum (must see)

The capitol building houses the working bicameral state legislature and governor's offices. It was built in 1874, designed to be reminiscent of the US Capitol in Washington DC. The Senate chamber's red decorations refer to the British House of Lords, while the green tones in the Assembly chamber come from their House of Commons.

The basement and first floor of the state capitol building are dedicated as a museum. The tour office is located on the basement level, along with a small theater and gift shop. The first floor consists of several historic offices that have been restored, including those of the Secretary of State, Governor, and Treasurer. There are also rotating exhibits that highlight the history of the state. Forty acres of gardens surround the building, with over 200 types of trees and 155 memorials. The park takes up the space of ten city blocks.

Why You Should Visit

Besides seeing state governance's operating seat, the capitol also houses an extensive art collection that features hundreds of paintings, statues, murals, and antiques. Items displayed in the West Wing are from 1870 to 1910, known as the interpretive period. The East Annex features art from 1920 to 1950. There are also two noteworthy murals depicting historical events, one in the lower rotunda and one in the East Annex. Throughout the West Wing, you will see portraits of California's 38 governors.

The grounds of the building are worth strolling around. You'll see numerous monuments throughout Capitol Park, dedicated to important events and people from the state's history. Notable are the Camellia Grove, dedicated to the pioneers who settled the state and a gathering place in honor of California Indians.


During weekends, you must enter the museum through the N Street entrance. Free public tours depart hourly from 9 am to 4 pm from the tour office located on the basement level seven days a week.

If you're in town during the early spring, check out Camellia Day. More than 800 varieties of the plant grow in Capitol Park, with showy and colorful white, red, pink, and striped flowers.

Opening hours: Weekdays 8 am - 5 pm; Weekends 9 am - 5 pm;
The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts

4) The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts

The California Museum, formerly The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts is housed in the State Archives Building in Sacramento, one block from the State Capitol. The building has more than 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, and facilities for lectures, performances, receptions and events.

Originally called the Golden State Museum, The California Museum opened in June 1998 as a unique public/private partnership. In May 2004, former First Lady Maria Shriver, working with the Secretary of State and California State Parks, presented an exhibit titled “California’s Remarkable Women.” This trailblazing exhibit honors the legacy and celebrates the accomplishments of California’s remarkable women of yesterday and today. The exhibit’s success set in motion the idea for The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts—a Museum that tells the story of California and for the first time the stories of California’s women.

Towering six stories over the Museum’s courtyard, the public art piece “RIGHTS” inspires thought and comment. Sculpted into the massive wall are words taken from California’s Constitution and chosen for their enduring meaning. Depending on the angle of the light, different words leap forward. In the early morning or late afternoon, the giant word “RIGHTS,” the underlying theme of the piece, stands out, while at midday other “rights,” indicated by words such as “redress” and “assemble,” are more apparent. The artists’ grouping of the words adds another layer of meaning, punctuated by colors drawn from California’s own palette of forest, ocean, and desert hues.

Operation hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm; First Sunday of the month: 12 pm – 5 pm.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

5) Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park (must see)

Completed in 1857 and purchased a few years later by Leland Standford, this four-story house covers over 19,000 square feet. Standford was the co-founder and president of the Central Pacific Railroad, California's eighth governor, and Stanford University founder. The house has been under the care and management of the state parks since 1998. It is still used for official functions by the governor's and legislative offices and is kept open for public tours.

The original owner of the house was local merchant Shelton C. Fogus. He had the home constructed in a distinctive Renaissance Revival architecture style. In 1861, just before he was elected governor, Stanford purchased the home for $8,000. He used the mansion as his executive office and home. The next two governors did the same. Stanford expanded and modified the home greatly to suit his needs and have it raised above flood level.

The home was donated to the Roman Catholic Diocese by Jane Stanford after her husband and son's deaths. It was used as an orphanage for decades before becoming restored to its present showpiece condition.

The mansion was designated a California historic landmark and a National Historic Landmark.


Keep in mind that the daily tours of the mansion can be affected by the official functions and events held there. Before heading over, be sure to double-check that tours are available on your planned day.

Enter through the visitor's center on the back of the property. Free guided tours depart hourly from there.
Crocker Art Museum

6) Crocker Art Museum (must see)

Wealthy lawyer and judge Edwin B. Crocker and his wife Margaret began collecting their extensive collection of drawings and paintings during extended European vacations. When they returned home to Sacramento, they created a gallery that quickly became a hub of social activity in the town. They hosted such notable guests as President Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, and Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii.

When Edwin died in 1875, Margaret donated the collection to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association. The art museum became the first one west of the Mississippi. To house their growing collection, the museum began a massive expansion in 2002 with a large, modern addition that opened in 2010.

Their collection spans California history, including many works by local artists. There are also many European originals, including around 1,500 old master drawings and many rare prints that the Crockers collected during their travels. Significant in the collection is one of California's most extensive collections of Renoir's works. There are also many Native American ceramics and all sorts of Asian, African, and Oceanic artwork on display.

Why You Should Visit

The main museum building is housed in the Crocker family mansion. In 1868, Crocker had a local architect redesign an existing home into the Italianate style. Architect Seth Babson also incorporated a gallery building into the structure, including a bowling alley and skating rink. The mansion is considered one of his masterpieces.

The new building expanded the museum's ability to show its collection three-fold. The new expansion has space for an education center and more space to show traveling exhibitions. Approximately 15 percent of the collection is currently shown.


Check the museum's website for current traveling and temporary exhibitions. The biennial Crocker-Kingsley Exhibition is held with the cooperation of the Kingsley Art Club.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm; Thursday: 10 am - 9 pm

Walking Tours in Sacramento, California

Create Your Own Walk in Sacramento

Create Your Own Walk in Sacramento

Creating your own self-guided walk in Sacramento is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Sacramento Introduction Walking Tour

Sacramento Introduction Walking Tour

Though little evidence is left now, the Sacramento Valley was home to the Modoc, Plains Miwok, and Nisenan Native American tribes for thousands of years before the arrival of the pioneers and the Spanish. John Sutter Sr. settled at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, land bequeathed to him by the Mexican government in 1839. He had his eyes on creating an agriculture empire. You...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Historical Buildings Walking Tour

The Gold Rush of the mid-1800s brought a large number of gold miners and prospects into the Sacramento area. The city expanded further when California State Legislature moved to Sacramento in 1854. Some of the city’s most historic structures seen today were built during that period to serve the flood of gold seekers and the growing government business. This self-guided tour takes you to see the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles