California State Capitol [Amazingly Interesting and Affordable]

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My son and I took a day trip to visit the California State Capitol building in Sacramento.  Well, actually, my son and all the rest of his classmates, a host of other parents and teachers, and I took a day trip to visit the State Capitol.  Considering I was a chaperone with a bunch of 5th graders, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the trip!

California’s State Capitol is a pretty amazing building with so much to learn about and see.  Not only is it an amazing history lesson, but there is so much actually happening within its walls right now to learn about.

A visit to the State Capitol building/museum is a really interesting trip for school-aged kids.  Younger ones probably wouldn’t get as much out of the visit.  Plus, since it is a working government building, it might be more stress than it is worth trying to keep younger ones quiet and calm for a visit. But I leave that choice up to you!

When you visit, be prepared to go through a security checkpoint.  It only took us a couple minutes to get through.  And once that was done, we were able to enjoy our visit.

We started by visiting the Rotunda and admiring all the Christmas decorations and grandeur of the space.  Since we had some time before our tour was starting, we were at our leisure while wandering around.  We were even lucky enough to be there when a choir was performing and got to listen to a few songs before our tour.  (They even had a huge Christmas tree out front of the Capitol building.  It was all decorated with ornaments and even had a star at the top.)

 

Then we headed downstairs where they have a little “movie theater” where you can watch short films about the history of the State Capitol building.  I loved what I learned from them.  My favorite was the one about the ghosts.  They were definitely not big budget films and special effects were not what we are used to from Hollywood.  But for a quick history lesson made in a fun and engaging manner, it totally worked!  They run every 10 minutes or so, so you can enjoy 1 or more as time allows and really come to better understand the building and area you are visiting.

The gift shop, which is also downstairs, had some fun California souvenirs available.  Be sure to check it out before you head back upstairs.  They even have one of those machines that flatten a penny and imprint it with a picture or words.  We chose to do that for a very cost (and space) effective souvenir. You can find it in the hall right next to the “movie theater.”

There was also a big statue of Ronald Regan.  I had to explain to my son that he was a former President of the United States, a former Governor of California and a famous movie star. He thought that was pretty funny that we had a movie star for a Governor and President.  And I had to remind him that California had another movie star as a recent Governor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We even saw his portrait in the hall outside the State Assembly Room.  The most recent governors’ portraits were there, each representing a bit of their personality in how they chose to be painted.  The kids saw the portraits and yelled, “It’s the Terminator!”  That got a laugh out of the parents and teachers!

The governors’ portraits were right outside the State Assembly Room (or also called “The Green Room”).  This was one of my favorite places to visit.  Besides the beauty of the architecture, the main reason I really enjoyed this part of our tour was that this was the place where all the State Assembly representatives voted.  Their names are listed on the wall displays to show how each had voted. Green for “Yes” and red for “No.”  You can even watch things in action in the balcony gallery.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the State Senate room (or the “Red Room”) because the State Senate was in session and it wasn’t open to the public.

The county exhibits are another really cool thing to see while visiting.  All the counties in California are represented. The exhibits show off what each county is known for and what they have to offer visitors.  It was pretty neat to see. I noticed a trend of lots of grapes and vineyards showcased.

Just down the hall from the county exhibits is the Governor’s office.  Right outside his office is a huge golden bear.  The kids loved taking their picture in front of the bear.  They all worked hard to keep quiet so as to be respectful of the work going on in the Governor’s office.  While we couldn’t go in to see his office, the tour guide did get the kids business cards for the Governor.  Such a fun keepsake from their visit!

By this point, the morning had passed and the kids couldn’t wait to eat their lunches.  We ended up sitting on the back steps and enjoying the view of the park right outside the Capitol building.  While we didn’t get to visit the Rose Garden, I did enjoy the quiet beauty right in the middle of the city.

The State Capitol is free to visit, which definitely makes it easier on the budget to bring our family of 5 back for another visit.  Street parking is free on Sundays, but the rest of the week it is metered or you can pay to park in the nearby parking garage.  There is also a cafeteria available in the Capitol building if you don’t want to pack a lunch or eat at a nearby restaurant.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and so did my son!  We really enjoyed the holiday decorations and entertainment.  And even though those aren’t there year round, we definitely want to go back to spend more time checking things out in the Capitol and visit the Rose Garden outside.

California State Capitol Educational Visit

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Visit
  • Plan to take a guided tour. You can find the timing and contact information on the Calfornia State Capitol website.
  • Give yourself enough time to check out the movie theater downstairs. A great, quick history lesson.
  • Bring some money for the gift shop (or 2 quarters and a penny to get a penny souvenir).
  • Pack a snack so you aren’t running out too quick to grab lunch/dinner.
  • Visit on a Sunday to get free parking.
  • Be sure to visit the restroom before you leave the building, otherwise, you will have to go through security again if the bathroom in the park is closed.
  • You can also try stopping by your Representative’s office. Talk with your kids in advance and have them think about questions they might be able to ask if you plan to stop by. They can brainstorm about things that would affect their lives, like what the Representative’s stance is on helmet laws or length of lunchtime at school.
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36 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    December 28, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I love how the capitol is decorated for Christmas! I’d like that tree in my house ;). Sounds like a fun trip, one of my favorite things to do as kid were those penny stamping machines. So fun they’re still around.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Stephanie – For an outdoor tree I think they did a great job decorating it! The penny stamps are so fun! My kids always ask for them, so I just need to start carrying around lots of change to be prepared. Lol!

  2. Charlie

    December 28, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Pictures tell all!! What a great piece, with all of the pictures telling the story! I’ve only seen it from the outside so this was very interesting, beautiful picture taking! Well done!

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Charlie – The inside is so beautiful! It is so worth a visit if you have the chance. But I’m very glad you liked the pictures! 🙂

  3. Terri

    December 28, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    We love visiting capital buildings! Thanks for this “virtual tour”.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Terri – You are very welcome! 🙂

  4. Deanna

    December 28, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    What a lovely building! Great pictures.

  5. Verla

    December 28, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I had no idea. Time to take an adult field trip to California State Capital. Beautiful buildings.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      Verla – Most definitely!

  6. Jocelyn

    December 28, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    I really enjoy visiting state Capitol buildings! Beautiful architecture and history!

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      Jocelyn – This was my first visit to a state capitol building. I think I need to visit more. It was so interesting!

  7. Anitra

    December 29, 2017 at 12:09 am

    We visited the state capitol last year while we were in Davis for a soccer tournament. It is a great place to visit, we loved it as well!

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      Anitra – So fun that you were able to fit in a visit. Hope you guys won the soccer tournament!

  8. Heidi

    December 29, 2017 at 2:05 am

    Looks like such a lovely place to visit! Love the architecture!

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Heidi – It was really beautiful! And the history behind the design and improvements was really interesting!

  9. Alina

    December 29, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Nice tips and great photos. The Christmas trees add a lovely, festive touch. I definitely want to go visit the CA State Capitol sometime! Seems like a great learning experience for younger ones too.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Alina – It was definitely a great trip! Very worthy of a visit!

  10. Rigel Celeste

    December 29, 2017 at 4:26 am

    Wow, looks like a great time! I have a thing for ceilings, so loved that one shot in particular.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Rigel – The ceiling was so beautiful!!! I was sad not to visit the Red Room so I could see the ceiling there as well.

  11. Dawnmarie

    December 29, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    What an interesting and fascinating building. I like the creativity of the interior and appreciate the pictures that you shared. The question is, how did your son like the visit?

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      Dawnmarie – Lol! He definitely enjoyed the visit. I think that this is a trip he would happily make again to see more!

  12. Laura Belle

    December 29, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    That sounds like a great visit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Laura Belle – It was really fun. I highly recommend it! 🙂

  13. Dee

    December 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Such a beautiful building. I’ve never thought to visit the state capitol but it’s a great idea.

    1. Lisa

      December 29, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      Dee – I know!!! I hadn’t either, so I’m really thankful to the teachers that organized the visit. I would definitely go again and make plans to visit other capitol buildings if I have the chance!

  14. Melina

    December 29, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Beautiful pictures! How wonderful that you were able to go with him and his classmates! I look forward to going on field trips with the kids!

  15. Angie

    December 30, 2017 at 4:00 am

    I love the architecture of these old buildings. They amaze me. Very nice post, love all the pictures.

  16. Nicolette

    December 30, 2017 at 4:18 am

    The interior of the rotunda is beautiful! I’m guessing we might make this trek some day…being California homeschoolers! Thanks for the breakdown of your visit!

  17. Christy

    December 30, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    The State Capitol is beautiful. We’ve visited a few times and you captured some great pics of the interior. Sounds like you had a fantastic visit!

  18. Monica

    December 30, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I love when schools have fun and educational class trips that are great for kids and adults. My daughter is still a little young but I look forward to going on trips with her class. Hopefully they are fun like this trip you guys went on.

  19. Bola

    December 31, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Wow! This is magnificent. Looks like so much fun.

  20. Kristen

    January 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    What a neat idea and I love their christmas decorations!

  21. shanna

    January 3, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I am from the bay area so it is just a short road trip to Sacramento. I love it there, and the capitol holds so much history. I do have to laugh about the giant Reagan statue though. Haha

    1. Lisa

      January 3, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      Shanna – I know, I wasn’t expecting to see a statue of Regan either. Lol! 🙂

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