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Planes and Trains!

Last Saturday, February 5, 2011 was the 13th Annual Museum Day in Sacramento. Twenty-six museums offered free entrance between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, including the Crocker Art Museum, California Automobile Museum, and the California State Indian Museum. The event was presented by the Sacramento Association of Museums in order to raise awareness of fine art, history, science, and wildlife. Last year about 85,000 people attended; this year was an even greater success.

Being both a broke college student and a child at heart, I was thrilled to find the Sacramento Zoo on the list of participating locations and quickly recruited my boyfriend for a day of fun. Unfortunately, the Sacramento Museum Guide wasn’t kidding when it warned that the zoo was one of the most popular destinations. We arrived around noon and while the traffic was wild, the line was a monstrosity! We took one look at the winding crowd (at least a mile long) and the hectic parking lot and decided there was no chance we (or the animals) were going to enjoy ourselves at the zoo that day.

Determined to find an alternative museum, we headed to the Aerospace Museum of California. The guide stated it is a hidden gem – emphasis on hidden. We got lost trying to find it! Eventually we did the smart thing and followed the car in front of us out of blind faith…

And the Aerospace Museum was a pleasant surprise. Tucked away off of Watt Avenue, it was crowded but not unbearably so. There was a playground outside where families were playing and picnicking in the sunshine. And the museum itself consisted of movie exhibits, simulators, and airplane parts. Best yet,  there was a large collection of restored aircraft outside that visitors could explore. I got to sit in the cockpit of a jet and fiddle around with switches. I also walked through a rescue aircraft and learned why they don’t typically have lining. (The less there is on the plane, the more people it can carry. I thought all of the exposed wires were dangerous. The volunteer countered, “Yes, a fire could spark, but you would notice right away.” He’s got a point.)

By the time we were done climbing through planes and reading the exhibits, as well as donating money to the museum and signing cards for soldiers in Afghanistan, it was just after 2 PM.

Deciding we had just enough time to see one more museum, we left for the California State Railroad Museum.

(My Old Sacramento parking tip: Instead of battling the crowds, park at the Downtown Plaza on the bottom floor and just walk under the tunnel to Old Sacramento. On the way back, validate for free parking!)

The Railroad Museum was absolutely packed. The crush of bodies made it very warm inside, so we made our visit relatively quick but it was well worth the trip. Do not be fooled by the museum’s plain exterior! It is large and the exhibits are well-executed. A more thorough visit in the the future is definitely in order.

At the end of the day, I tugged my boyfriend to La Terraza for margaritas and solitude. The event was exciting and a huge success, but it was too jam-packed for my taste. Next year, I think I’d like to go to the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery for a little more peace and quiet – how morbid!

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