Free Museums Offer Gold Rush-Era Relics and More

While free 'Museum Day' is only offered once a year, several Sacramento area museums open their doors to the public, gratis, all year long.


Use this guide to plan a visit to one of the Sacramento area's free museums. Though the city's annual free 'Museum Day' is a ways away—the event occurs every winter—there are plenty of local museums offering year-round free admission for the history buff, architecture lover or California dreamer. And many, located in Old Sacramento, are walking distance from each other: 

California Foundry History Museum

See Gold Rush-era mining equipment, agriculture equipment, defense items, medical and high-tech equipment and more metal items at the California Foundry History Museum. Learn more about California's oldest manufacturing sector – foundries.

Where: 5301 Price Avenue, McClellan Park
When: Hours vary, call for more information
Info: (916) 929-8001. Free admission.

California State Capitol Museum

The State Capitol building opened in 1869 and has since become a museum of sorts for exhibits and historical items, offering a glimpse into the state's political past, while the rest of the buildings are used for official business.

Where: Capitol Building, 10th and L Streets, Downtown Sacramento
When: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Info: (916) 324-0333. Free admission. 

Don & June Salvatori California Pharmacy Museum

This museum celebrates the role of the pharmacist in promoting the health and well-being of Californians since the state's inception in 1850. It's free, but make an appointment first or the doors may be closed.

Where: 4030 Lennane Drive, Natomas
When: Monday through Friday by appointment. 
Info: (916) 779-1410, ext. 326

Sacramento Historic City Cemetery

A cemetery may not be what comes to mind when you consider the word museum, but the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is a truly outdoor museum marked with statues, markers and gardens. Established in 1849, it's a California history recording from the Gold Rush era through today, and includes burial sites of Sacramento mayors, California governors, along with memorials for Civil War veterans, volunteer firemen and victims of the 1850 Cholera epidemic. Free guided walking tours are led by Old City Cemetery Committee docents, and self-guided tours are always encouraged.

Where: Enter on Broadway at 10th Street
When: Call for hours.
Info: (916) 448-0811. Free admission. 

Old Sacramento State Historic Park

In only a couple blocks, some of California's early Gold Rush commercial buildings can be found on the streets of Old Sacramento. From the Eagle Theatre, the BF Hastings Building—which was once home to the California Supreme Court—the western terminus of the Pony Express and the 1855 Big Four Building (now home to the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware Store and the California State Railroad Museum Library).

Where: Front and I Streets, Old Sacramento
When: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Info: (916) 445-6645. Free admission. 

Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum

In a living replica of an 1800s one-room schoolhouse, find your way back in time to California's early days of institutionalized education. There are photographs, books, a pot-bellied stove, desks and other antiques from the Gold Rush era. "But be on your best behavior, or the schoolmarm might make you stay late and clap the dust off the erasers," the website warns.

Where: 1200 Front Street, Old Sacramento
When: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Info: (916) 483-8818. Free admission.

Museum of Medical History

See the evolution of medicine from the Gold Rush era to today in this unique museum, presented by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society. With exhibits that include an iron lung, patent medicines and pharmacology, antibiotics and infectious diseases, Asian medicine, nursing, radiology, quackery and other tools, you may leave feeling grateful for modern medicine.

Where: 5830 Elvas Ave., East Sacramento
When: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  
Info: (916) 456-3152. Free admission.

Wells Fargo History Museum – Old Sacramento

View gold, scales, a Concord stagecoach model, security tools, a working telegraph and more at the Wells Fargo History Museum. It's always free and in the heart of Old Sacramento.

Where: 1000 2nd Street, Old Sacramento
When: Open daily, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Info: (916) 440-4263 or visit www.wellsfargohistory.com Free Admission

Wells Fargo History Museum – Downtown

Interpretive exhibits tell the story of Wells Fargo's banking history, staging and commercial role in Sacramento. View original documents and artifacts, including a restored Concord stagecoach, treasure boxes and more. It's always free but only open during weekdays. 

Where: 400 Capitol Mall, Downtown Sacramento
When: Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Info: (916) 440-4161 or visit www.wellsfargohistory.com Free Admission.

Which is your favorite local museum? Do you know of another free one not listed here? Tell us in the comments.


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