A ball python, bearded dragons, and three types of cockroaches have made their homes at Explorit Science Center, educating guests in an exhibit dubbed the Animal Alcove. Since 1982, the center has fostered curiosity about science and nature with hands-on exhibits like this, rather than by feeding children dry textbooks or encouraging them merely to imagine how loud the sound is when trees walk. About 55,000 people visit the center each year, enhancing their intellectual development at the miniature zoo and rotating exhibits that explore the role of science in both commonplace and whimsical natural phenomena. One popular exhibit, for example, took visitors through the local agricultural process, the interconnections between agriculture and weather, and each meal’s journey from the farm to the plate. Visitors can discover further factoids at Explorit's science lecture series, and youngsters can enroll in the center’s science-themed summer camps.
The nonprofit Heidrick Ag History Center harvests the rich history of agricultural machinery and transportation through an extensive collection of vintage tractors and trucks. The 130,000-square-foot space houses both the Hays Antique Truck Museum—home to such artifacts as a one-of-a-kind Breeding steam-powered truck and broccoli steamer from 1916—and the Fred C. Heidrick Antique Ag Collection, an assemblage of olden-day iron horses and golden cows collected over a period of 60 years.
Using skills acquired from his childhood days building his own planes and combines from scraps of wire and wood, Mr. Heidrick himself restored most of the equipment—some of which was formerly little more than heaps of rust—to its original condition. Palettes of green, red, and yellow pop from John Deere tractors from the 1930s to the 1950s, a Deering reaper machine from 1891, and a 120-horsepower Holt built in 1917 to tow artillery during World War I.
Each April, a tear in the space-time continuum opens up along the Sacramento River. Through it rolls a first-class locomotive right out of the 1940s and 50s. For 45 minutes, passengers in the train's coach and luxury first class car soak in the sights of California's fruit-growing deltas as the vintage diesel engine carries them into another time.
The California State Railroad Museum conducts these scenic, historic train rides. The excursions play a crucial role in the museum's mission to chronicle California's railroad history from the early days of the Gold Rush to modern agricultural transports and the proposed railroad to Mars. Spanning centuries, 21 restored locomotives and train cars blanket the museum's 225,000 square feet of exhibit space. A Pullman-style sleeping car and a dining car filled with fine china both sit on display, while the museum's Sierra Scene places a vintage steam locomotive next to a breathtaking mural of snow-dusted mountains. The popular Small Wonders: The Magic of Toy Trains exhibit currently commands the second floor, and with hundreds of examples of early electric toy trains and accessories such as stations, signals, tunnels, and bridges, it should delight even the most discerning miniature conductor.
Behind the Victorian columns of Crocker Art Museum?s 126-year-old gallery building, ornate chambers house works that span six continents and several centuries. Established in 1885, it remains the first art museum in the Western United States, boasting collections that pay homage to the region?s cultural lineage with a robust Californian collection.
The museum updated its look and tripled both its exhibit space and running time for games of hide-and-seek in 2010 with the addition of the Teel Family Pavilion, a 125,000-square-foot building that boasts geometric designs and sunlit rooms. The expanded gallery furthers the museum?s mission to function as a community hub by hosting Art Mix, social events that feature live music, djs and a cash bar on the 2nd Thursday of every month. Studio-art classes keep adults informed, and children?s programs inspire young artists to commit their creativity to canvas, rather than living-room walls or ephemeral Mr. Potato Heads.
Gina Rossi's art comes to life in a flurry of sparks and cauldrons of heat. A self-taught artist and certified metal-inert-gas (MIG) welder, her work incorporates fused glass, paintings, and organic metal figures, and has been featured in the Sacramento Press, as well as KCRA Channel 3 news. When she was young, Rossi's forays into art and imagination provided stable solace from her tumultuous and oft-troubled childhood, and her passion eventually flowered into a full-time endeavor. Through her growth as an artist, she adopted a trash-into-treasure approach, working with recycled metal and glass, and earning notoriety for getting Oscar the Grouch evicted to craft a piece from his former home. Her regular welding and fused-glass-art classes share her talents with eager students, as do her efforts with community art projects, which empower young, disabled, and elderly people to make their creative mark in the world.