What do you know about Sacramento other than it’s the capital of California? Possibly nothing? That’s not enough. SacTown is home to the Sacramento Kings, the Tower Bridge, the California State Fair and much more. One visit to the city, known as the city of trees, and for its farm-to-fork culinary movement, and you’ll be hooked. Sacramento has world class museums, historic sites, great food and wine, and the can’t miss California scenery you traveled for. So what are you waiting for? Learn more about Sacramento right here.
5 Things You Must Do in Sacramento
Hit the Museums
Start your trip to the state capital with a visit to the capitol building itself, where you can tour the Capitol Museum. Then step into the past at the Sacramento History Museum, which is housed in a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building and home to historical images and artifacts from the region. Learn even more about the state and its influence at the California Museum and California Hall of Fame. The State Indian Museum has been in operation since 1940 and focuses on the major themes of California Indian life like nature, spirit and family. When you’re ready for some art, head to the Crocker Art Museum to see the world’s foremost display of California art along with European master drawings and international ceramics. The Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum aims to explore and celebrate African American history and culture through art education and uses a wide range of mediums to do so. Sacramento is also known for its amazing outdoor murals, including the Wide Open Walls festival, whose murals are on display year round.
For some more specialized viewing, try the Museum of Medical History or the Don & June Salvatori California Pharmacy Museum for a glimpse of past medical practices. A little too gory for you? Maybe you’ll like The California Agricultural Museum, home to a unique collection of tractors and artifacts dating back to the Gold Rush era, or the Aerospace Museum of California with over 40 aircraft, interactive exhibits and even a flight simulator. For a smoother ride, check out the California Automobile Museum and its hundred-plus vintage vehicles. Youngsters and the young at heart will have a blast with the experiential exhibits at both the Explorit Science Center and the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity. You’ll find even more fun, hands-on activities at the Sacramento Children’s Museum and the story book come to life venue, Fairytale Town.
Tend to the Trees
Sacramento doesn’t sport the nickname “City of Trees” for nothing! The Sacramento Tree Foundation offers free guided and self-guided tours that teach attendees about tree identification and Sacramento’s tree history. Another 24-hour a day tree destination is the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, whose 5,300 acres include a 100-acre arboretum, demonstration gardens and scientific collections. If you prefer flowers, you’ll love the International World Peace Rose Gardens, which has sister sites around the world.
Walk the Waterfront
The Old Sacramento Waterfront was really born during the 1848 Gold Rush. It has been home to horrific floods and fires as well as exciting events like the founding of the Transcontinental Railroad, the terminus of the Pony Express and California’s first booming business district. These days, the 28 acres make up a National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park along the Sacramento River. The area is home to shopping, dining, entertainment and attractions and features restored buildings, wooden sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages to give visitors a taste of 19th century life. A standout sight is the Delta King, a historic paddlewheel riverboat that used to commute between Sacramento and San Francisco and is now a stationary hotel, wedding venue and dining destination.
Sacramento truly came to be during the Gold Rush era. But almost a decade earlier, a Swiss immigrant named John Sutter came to the region on a land grant from the Mexcian Government. His agricultural establishment was completely overrun when miners later came to the area, and all that remains is Sutter’s Fort. The Old Sacramento State Historic Park encompasses noteworthy Gold Rush buildings, including the short lived Eagle Theater, now a reconstruction of the first ever theater in California that stood to entertain Gold Rush Sacramentans for only three months before being destroyed in a flood. The Old City Cemetery serves as an outdoor museum chronicling California’s history since the Gold Rush era and is the final resting place of many notable Californians including John Sutter, the Crocker Family of art museum fame and one of Alexander Hamilton’s sons. More Gold Rush counties lie along Highway 49 and offer history mixed with agriculture, attractions and California scenery.
Visit Some Animals
The Sacramento Zoo has been around in some form for almost a century. What started as “the little zoo in the park” in 1927 became one of the first zoos in the country to offer educational programming and now hosts exciting exhibits and its own veterinary hospital. Nearby is also the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a natural wildlife oasis in an urban area dedicated to conserving and protecting natural resources. The 100-acre nature preserve has trails, resident animals and a butterfly garden, plus whatever California wildlife happens to wander through.
5 Things You Might Not Have Considered in Sacramento
Take a Break from Car Culture
Sacramento has a long history as a railway hub, and you can still take a nostalgia filled ride in the area on the River Fox Train. Board the Happy Hour Express, a family friendly excursion or try a rail bike and pedal along the track yourself. Hooked on trains? Visit the California State Railroad Museum to learn more, then hop on a historic train for a quick trip along the Sacramento River. Speaking of the river, the River City Queen riverboat offers cruises and gourmet meals that last one to two hours. Looking for more of a party? Try the Sac Brew Boat where you’ll help propel the cycleboat and can bring your own brews to sip as you make your way up the American River. If you prefer to stay on land, you can book a tour through their sister company, Sac Brew Bike, that will bring you to some of the best bars in the city. And if you’d like a more challenging (and sober!) bike experience, spend the day along the 32-mile American River Bike Trail, also known as the Jedidiah Smith Memorial Trail.
Have a Taste
Did you know that the Jelly Belly Factory is just a short drive outside Sacramento? If that life changing information doesn’t make you want to visit SacTown, nothing will. Take a self-guided tour, mix up your own flavor blend and, of course, sample some candy while you’re there. When you’re ready for something more savory, wander through the Handle District, a revitalized business zone with 18 places to eat and drink in a three block area. If you need more guidance, take a tour of the farm-to-fork city with Local Roots or Sac Town Bites. For a unique experience, end your night at Dive Bar, which features a 40-foot saltwater aquarium where underwater performers dazzle as magical mermaids.
Head to Locke
Thirty miles south of Sacramento lies Locke, the largest and most intact surviving rural Chinese-American community. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was a particularly important area for these types of settlements. It’s heyday was from the 1920s to 1940s, and the town looks quite similar today. Visit the National Historic Landmark to stroll the three streets, visit the museum buildings maintained by the Locke Foundation, check out some of the community’s eccentric shops and tour the historic, living community.
Make a Splash
Sacramento is surrounded by rivers, making it a great destination for whitewater rafting. Try some mild rapids and a ropes course at Mother Lode River Center, hit the American River with American Whitewater Expeditions, drop through the 90 foot long Tunnel Chute rapid with OARS or paddle the level 5 rapids of the World Class North Yuba River with H2O Adventures. A little too wild for you? Raging Waters waterpark has an 800-foot lazy river plus 20 water slides and more fun for the whole family.
Drink All the Wine
Where else can you visit over 200 wineries? The Sacramento area of course. The Old Sugar Mill is only 15 minutes from Downtown and hosts tastings for 14 vineyards from around the state. Apple Hill Growers started as one, ten-acre farm and now represents more than 50 local farmers selling everything from flowers to produce and, most importantly, wine and hard cider. Spend the day picking your own apples and tasting what they have to offer. Three nearby wine counties worth visiting are the high altitude El Dorado area, the forty plus family owned vineyards of Amador and the international varieties in Lodi.