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.
The Sacramento Zoo’s ZooMobile brings a menagerie of birds, snakes, and amphibians to schools, along with trained instructors who teach the importance of protecting these animals’ habitats. The live animal visits enhance lessons about animals’ characteristics and adaptation to natural environments, with presentations specifically tailored to each grade level and to meet the California Department of Education's life-sciences standards. With additional funding, the Sacramento Zoo could send the ZooMobile program to Title 1 schools that qualify for the federal-school-lunch program.
Artistic Edge celebrates art in all its forms with a selection of more than 1,000 custom frame options as well as creative classes. During two-hour art classes for preteen Picassos, held Saturdays at 10 a.m., veteran elementary-school art teacher Linda Howell leads students ages 6–11 through a different project each week. The sessions, which include materials, may cover a range of traditional techniques such as drawing, painting, sculpture, or swaddling skyscrapers in orange fabric.
The California Automobile Museum weaves the story of the automobile's birth and development through a gleaming collection of cars that dates back to the 1880s. Guests meander through 72,000 square feet of luxury and muscle vehicles, from pre–Model T Fords and green vehicles to Lamborghinis and modern NASCAR vehicles. In addition to its permanent collection and current exhibits, the museum's displays are always changing due to donations from private collectors and the hot rod fairy, allowing visitors to see a varying display of vehicles on different visits. The museum also offers a wide variety of classes that are fun and educational, and open to both adults and children. Guests can also visit the gift shop stocked with auto-centric goodies, including car-related fine-art photography, T-shirts, kids' arts and crafts, and die-cast models of classic cars.
Comparisons to New York City's top galleries quickly arose around Verge Center for the Arts when Jesse Powell opened the nonprofit in 2009. It's easy to see why: the 6,000 square feet of exhibition space and 20-foot high ceilings houses a global array of contemporary art in various mediums, from paint and video to performance. But opening a critically acclaimed gallery was only the tip of the iceberg for Jesse.
These days, the 22,000-square-foot center houses 37 studios for emergent artists, more than half of which were built by the tenants/artists themselves. Reading materials on contemporary art abound in the center's library lounge, while an in-house lab lets community members create their own prints. Throughout the year, Verge even hosts events and classes that run the gamut from artists lectures to workshops on learning to draw via mind control.