Sacramento isn’t exactly a popular travel destination, and I had no expectations when we visited. Their neighbor, San Francisco, seems to get all the tourists. I wanted to take Milana on a Polar Express train ride, and after researching, I came to the conclusion that Sacramento had one of the best ones in the country based on reviews/blog post I’ve seen. Unlike all the others where you could buy tickets up to the day of, Sacramento released their tickets on October 1st at 9am and you had to be online to purchase. Sure enough, their site crashed from all the traffic but luckily I was able to secure 2 tickets before they very quickly sold out. The event definitely didn’t disappoint!
Unlike on all our other trips, Milana now carriers an Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack, which makes it so much easier to navigate through airports. Because she has to carry it, she’s very careful about what to pack, packing only the essentials. I highly recommend this backpack for ages 5 and up. As you see, it’s still a little big, but she will grow into it soon.
The flight to Sacramento was just over an hour, making this a quick 2 day trip. We arrived on a Thursday at 11 am and flew home on Saturday at 5pm. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento in downtown, which was a great hotel in a great location. I got the hotel on Priceline for $100/night, which was a steal compared to the rates on their site for our travel dates. The lobby of the hotel was all decked out for Christmas:
We checked into the hotel and headed to the railroad station, since our train ride was that day at 3:30. I decided to pay more for first class tickets, which was an excellent decision. After picking up your tickets, there is lots to do before you board the train. There is a store with all Polar Express items, you can meet Mrs. Claus or write a letter to Santa.
Our car was spacious without too many people and we weren’t stuck with people in front or behind us since the seating configuration was different than the economy class. I highly recommend getting the French Quarter car, you won’t be disappointed! Before boarding the train, you’re lined up according to which car you are in and since we were first in line for ours, Milana was selected to carry the candles and lead the way.
Once on the train, it plays out just like the book. There were performers and we were served hot cocoa in mugs we took home and cookies. They also passed out copies of the book and read it to the children.
After the book, the kids received the first gift of Christmas-a bell from Santa’s sleigh.
Santa walked through the cars and after the train ride, you had the option to go take pictures with him. We skipped that part since she’s seen Santa plenty of times this seasons. I highly recommend doing the train ride, it was so much fun!
The next day, we headed up to the Jelly Belly factory which was a 40 minute car ride away. Milana loves jelly beans and was very excited to see where they were made. We got there around 10 am and had the entire place to ourselves! I highly recommend getting there early on weekdays, because as we were leaving, there were two school groups of about 60 kids each waiting to enter. That would not have been fun to navigate with all of them in there with us!
When you enter, you are given a hat and head upstairs for your self-guided tour. You can watch the whole process of making, mixing, putting in flavors, packaging, etc. Milana was intrigued and loved watching all the different machines at work.
After the tour, we headed off to their store. We passed by these paintings, made entirely of jelly beans!
At the store, there was a sample bar where you can try all the flavors as well as some of the more unique ones. Milana tried moldy cheese and stinky socks and came to the conclusion that neither tastes good, even though they tasted like regular ones!
The store itself had all the products they produce at great prices, much cheaper than the stores!
They even had a whole section of organic gummies and jelly beans.
There was also a chocolate shop, which sold yummy chocolates at really good prices. Milana chose the white chocolate reindeer.
After the Jelly Belly factory, we headed back to Sacramento to McKinley Park. Milana loves visiting playgrounds when we travel and this one didn’t disappoint!
After the park, we went to Fairytale Town, which I highly recommend if you have younger kids! While waiting in line, I met a local mom who had a membership and was able to get Milana and me in for free which was very nice of her!
The playsets inside Fairytale Town are based on different nursery rhymes and fairytales, and Milana has a blast exploring them all.
Outside Fairytale Town was a park with a pond, ducks and some awesome fall leaves! If you do come to Fairytale town, it’s located right next to the Sacramento Zoo, which we didn’t visit, and Funderland Amusement Park which was closed during our visit, so be sure to check those out as well!
The next day was our last day in Sacramento. We started off by going to the Sacramento Children’s Museum for a couple of hours. We visit children’s museums in every city/country we go to. This one wasn’t as nice as some of the others we have been to and had Milana been a little bit older, she wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all. Thankfully, they did have an art studio where she ended up spending most of her time!
Before heading to the airport, we headed to Old Sacramento. That is where the train station was located, however the day of our train ride it was pouring so we didn’t get a chance to explore. You must come here to walk around, eat and shop. Such a cute area! We found this cute toy store that had some unique items, check it out if you come!
As you can see, there is lots in Sacramento to fill a weekend. I had zero expectations and only went for the train ride, and was pleasantly surprised when my research turned up so many awesome kid-friendly attractions. If you’re looking for a fun city to visit with kids for a weekend, I recommend Sacramento!