A day trip to Auburn is fun, educational and active!

8606_10151520740018430_194627890_nBy Heather Crivellone

Summertime can bring out the best and the worst in our kids (and us!).  The best thing to do is to keep those little hands and minds active so they don’t drive us crazy during these “dog days” of summer!

And luckily, we live in an area where we can take a day trip in any direction and have a new adventure everyday at little cost.  Recently, we packed up the car with snacks and headed up the hill to Auburn.  About 45 minutes from downtown Sacramento, we were in the heart of Placer County. 

Now, If you haven’t been to this area before, you may not know that Auburn is known for it’s California Gold Rush history and is situated perfectly for outdoor enthusiasts.  Hiking, biking, running, fishing…you name it- it can be done in the Auburn area.  And to my surprise, I found quite a few activities that my children could enjoy on our day outing!

First off, we headed to Hidden Falls Regional Park for a family hike.  This park is a 221 acre open space located at 7587 Mears Place, north of Mt. Vernon Road between Auburn and Lincoln.  The park is host to groves of woodlands, 7 miles of natural trails that are suitable for hiking, biking, running and horseback riding.  It’s also home to Coon Creek, Deadman creek and a 20-30 foot high waterfall that runs all year.  We chose a trail that was suitable for my 4 and 5 year olds. They especially enjoyed the waterfall at the end of the hike!

We then decided to picnic and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Placer Nature Center. Located at 3700 Christian Valley Road in Auburn, we discovered our new favorite, local family destination!

With hands on exhibits, nature trails, gardens and even a replica of a Native American Village- this is a fun and educational outing for the entire family!

My kids especially enjoyed playing in the Discovery room.  This is an area with hands-on science investigations, experiments and exploration.  They “oohed and ahhed” at the see-through working bee hive and was lucky enough to have an informative volunteer explain to use the life cycle of the bee.

We also visited the “Energy Choices” exhibit, the “Watershed Learning Center” (my husbands favorite exhibit) and the “Our Changing Land” exhibit. 

My daughter couldn’t get enough of exploring and playing with the “skulls and skins” of local wildlife they had on exhibit.

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And my 4 year old boy was laughing in hysterics at the “Poop” exhibit. Yes- we can all now identify the difference between deer and bear excrement!

The volunteers who work at the center are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.  We had the opportunity to not only learn about the life cycle of bees, but they brought out more hands- on learning exhibits and taught one on one to my children about tadpoles, frogs and so much more.  We literally felt as if we were on an elementary school educational field trip with our family!

I just can’t say enough about how wonderful this place is- especially if you enjoy nature and want your children to experience and learn about the world around us! And the best part is that its was completely FREE!  They do ask for donations…so give graciously!

I would urge any teachers out there looking for field trip ideas, home school parents or “mommy groups” looking for an educational and fun outing, or just a family day trip to the Placer Nature Center- it is well worth the drive!

They are open Thursday-Saturday 9am-5pm, but visit their website for additional programs or to schedule an event (group events, birthday parties, etc).  They also have special family nature programs through the year- so check the calendar for upcoming events.

Now Auburn does have quite a bit of outdoor recreation, but if that isn’t your “cup of tea”, then you can always hit up Old Town Auburn and enjoy some shopping in the boutiques and “mom & pop” shops that line the streets. They also have the Placer County Gold Museum and several wineries in the area (for the adults, of course). 

After our active day of hiking and exploring, we enjoyed pizza at the Old Town Pizza Company and then cooled off with a Tango Frozen Yogurt.  It was the perfect end to a perfect family summer outing!

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