No Kidding

Two local moms write the book on things to do in Sac

By Stephanie M. Buck
May 2018

After her first son was born, Sabrina Nishijima hated how much time she spent on her phone. She wasn’t idly scrolling through Facebook or laughing at memes; she was looking for fun things to do with her child in Sacramento. Even after she’d stumble across an activity or two, she’d feel indecisive and frustrated.

“What are you looking at, Mom?” her son, Milo, finally got old enough to ask. Then he started looking over her shoulder at the phone, too. So Nishijima gathered some promising outings into a spreadsheet for quicker reference. To cut down on screen time, she printed off the pages. That worked better, but it still wasn’t easy to flip through on the run.

“I didn’t want to write a book,” says Nishijima. But she’d already started. She self-published “1,001 Things To Do in Sacramento With Kids (And the Young at Heart)” on Valentine’s Day. Now, a day rarely passes when she doesn’t flip through her own book for ideas.

Nishijima lives a few blocks east of McKinley Park with her husband and two boys. Milo is now 7, and Andrew is 3. In the eight years they’ve owned their home, the family has installed a tire swing and a free little library topped with potted succulents. The boys play badminton on a portable net in the driveway. Their three-legged long-haired Chihuahua sniffs on a long pink leash. The front yard alone is full of life.

But boredom can come on fast with young children. That’s one of the reasons Nishijima left the book’s adventures in random order. “We do a lot of things on the spur of the moment,” she says. Flipping through one or two pages is all she has time for. “I don’t think it’s only me. I think all parents are spontaneous all the time.”

Among the hundreds of entries, parents will find options for all weathers, seasons and energy levels. Explore 200 plant species in the vernal pools at Mather Field, roast marshmallows and listen to native Maidu stories, tour a local radio station, borrow instruments from the library or careen down cement slides on flattened cardboard. For the latter, bring bike helmets, suggests the book’s illustrator, Sarah Golden, who lives in Oak Park.

A mother of twin girls, Golden captured the unpretentious, whimsical spirit of the book and its author with a tribute to Sacramento recreation. On the cover she sketched both women’s dogs, a flock of swans and lots of trees. (Nature experiences are prominently featured in the book.) “It’s just about family and fun,” says Golden.

But “1,001 Things To Do” doesn’t only highlight destinations around town. It was important to Nishijima that families know “it’s OK to hang out at home alone.” In her household, picking and juicing oranges from their backyard tree amounts to a simple, almost mystical experience that her boys adore.

In the end, one of Nishijima’s few criteria was that an activity or location had to appeal to adults as well as children of all ages. (She tucked in listings for kid-friendly wineries.) Should a family miraculously make it through every entry, a bonus section lists 101 destinations for daylong or weekend excursions around Northern California.

Given another year, Sabrina Nishijima believes she could amass an additional 1,000 or so ideas. She plans to include these on the book’s website, in newsletters or in future print editions. After all, the less scroll time, the better.


“1,001 Things To Do in Sacramento With Kids (And the Young at Heart),” written by Sabrina Nishijima and illustrated by Sarah Golden, costs $16.95. Buy it online or see a list of vendors at

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