101 Things to do in Sacramento | The Ultimate Bucket List

101 things to do in Sacramento, California | The Ultimate Bucket List

The best things to do in Sacramento! From popular attractions to historic sights, craft beer, and where to stay and eat, there’s a lot more to California’s capital than just politics and cows.

When deciding where to stop on a California road trip, it’s easy to pass over the state capital. Sacramento might not be as popular as San Francisco or Los Angeles with tourists, but that’s where its charm lies. You would be amiss to think there aren’t enough things to do in Sacramento, just because of its focus on politics and farming (weird combo, I know).

If you’re having a mental tug-of-war about whether it’s worth going so far inland for a visit, do it. There is so much to explore and experience in Sacramento, and it’s well worth the journey inland from the coast to check out everything that this sleepy big city has to offer.

At the very least, you’ll be able to see Arnold’s smiling portrait in the capitol building and look back on the time when California decided to elect the terminator to public office. ?

In Sacramento, there are politicians everywhere and suits walking the streets as you would expect, but the city is edgier than most people think. There is endless street art, a delicious local craft beer scene, and history around every corner.

These are my picks for the top things to do in Sacramento, whether it’s your first time to the city or you’re a regular visitor.

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips. 

Top Tourist Attractions in Sacramento

1. Sutter’s Fort

Sutter's Fort - top things to do in Sacramento

2. Old Sacramento Historical District

3. Delta King

4. Tower Bridge

5. Sacramento Zoo

6. Sacramento RiverTrain

7. Raging Waters or Scandia Family Fun Center

8. Eagle Theatre

9. Governor’s Mansion

Governor's Mansion - best things to do in Sacramento, California

10. Leland Stanford Mansion

11. Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

12. Pony Express Terminal & Wells Fargo History Museum

13. Old City Cemetery

14. Fairytale Town

15. Downtown Folsom (about 30 minutes outside of downtown but another historic place to walk around and have a nice dinner)

Local Things to do in Sacramento

16. Grab a book and read in the beautiful Mckinley Rose Garden

McKinley Garden - free things to do in Sacramento

17. Yoga in the Park (free yoga classes through the week, find out more here)

18. Bike the American River Bike Trail

19. Wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill

20. Shop at Midtown or Cesar Chavez Plaza Farmers’ Market (they also do concerts at CCP in the summer)

21. Ice skating at the downtown Sacramento Ice Rink

22. Enjoy the view from River Walk Park

23. See a show at the B Street Theatre

24. Cheer on The Kings at The Golden 1 Center

25. Watch a movie at one of the historic theaters in town – Tower Theatre, Crest Theatre, or Guild Theater

things to do in sacramento at night - crest theatre

26. Try the local craft beer on the Sac Brew Bike

27. Kayak on the Sacramento River or American River

28. Holiday Lights at Dovewood Court in December

29. Experience Second Saturday (art gallery open houses on the second Saturday of every month in Midtown or Fair Oaks)

30. Catch a flick at the West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In

31. Pick berries at Patrick’s Mountain Grown Berry Farm in the summer

32. Pops in the Park Summer Concert Series

33. Date night at the Sacramento Ballet

34. Discover the hipster paradise that is the Handle District

35. Spend an afternoon vintage shopping – Scout Living and Fringe are good places to start

36. Bar hopping in Midtown

37. Mural hunt around Midtown and Downtown Sacramento

fun things to do in Sacramento for couples - street art and murals

Outdoor Activities & Hikes

38. Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

39. American River Parkway

40. McKinley Park

41. Capitol Park & World Peace Rose Garden

best of sacramento- capitol rose garden sacramento

42. William Land Regional Park

43. Effie Yeaw Nature Center

44. Hagan Community Park

45. Discovery Park

A short drive outside of downtown Sacramento

46. Ancil Hoffman Park (30 minute drive)

47. UC Davis Arboretum (30 minute drive)

48. Elk Grove Regional Park (40 minute drive)

49. Folsom Lake (45 minute drive & sunsets here are stellar)

folsom lake - best things to do near sacramento
Sunset at Folsom Lake.

Museums

50. California State Railroad Museum

51. Crocker Art Museum

52. California Automobile Museum

53. Sacramento History Museum

54. California Museum

55. Aerospace Museum

56. State Indian Museum

57. Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum

58. California State Archives

Food & Coffee

Coffee & Tea

59. Old Soul Co.

60. Temple Coffee

61. The Mill

fun places to eat in sacramento-california

Breakfast/Brunch

62. De Vere’s Irish Pub

63. Bacon & Butter

64. The Waffle Experience

65. Cricket’s Country Kitchen

Lunch

66. Magpie Cafe

67. Cafe Rolle

68. Iron Horse

Dinner

69. Ramen House Ryujin

70. LowBrau

71. The Kitchen Restaurant

72. The Rind

Dessert

73. The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs

74. Vic’s or Gunther’s Ice Cream

75. Ginger Elizabeth

Best Craft Beer Spots

76. Track 7

Track 7 Brewery - places to visit in Sacramento

77. Tower Brewing

78. Rubicon

79. Oak Park Brewing

80. Fieldwork

81. Bike Dog Brewing

82. Device Brewing

Nightlife & Live Music Venues

83. The Cabin

84. The Shady Lady Saloon

85. Ace of Spades

86. Holy Diver

Best Sacramento Tours

best sacramento tours - top sacramento attractions

87. Sacramento Historic River Cruise

88. Downtown Historical Food Tour

89. Sacramento Beer Train

90. Midtown Sacramento Arts & Food Tour

91. Official Sacramento Underground Tour

Short Day Trips from Sacramento

92. Apple Hill (45 minutes)

93. El Dorado National Forest (1 hour)

94. Napa (1.5 hours)

95. Lake Tahoe – Read my full post on Lake Tahoe here (2 hours)

Lake Tahoe summer- Fanette Island
96. San Francisco (2 hours)

Seasonal Events

97. Picnic Day at UC Davis (April)

98. Sacramento Music Festival (May)

99. Chalk It Up Festival (May)

100. Gather Nights (June-October)

101. California State Fair (July)

Where is Sacramento?

Sacramento is California’s state capital, located in the northern part of the state and about two hours inland from the coast. Sacramento is a great base to explore some of California’s best attributes. It’s within a couple of hours drive from some of the state’s best wine regions, beaches, and mountains.

Sacramento is two hours from San Francisco, six hours from Los Angeles, and 4.5 hours from the California-Oregon border.

Where is Sacramento, California - State Capitol Building

Best Time to Visit Sacramento

Being located in California, the weather is pretty decent in Sacramento year round. With that said, summers in the city get realllly hot. I’m talking over 100 degrees F. And without that usual coastal California breeze, it can be a little much for most people.

Because of how hot the summers get, the spring and fall are usually considered the best times to visit Sacramento.

The spring is great not only for the weather, but because it’s wildflower season. If you plan to go hiking and enjoy the great outdoors during your visit, this would be the perfect time to visit. Wildflowers pop up everywhere near the city and on the many trails in the Sacramento region.

The fall is also a nice time to visit for the good (and slightly more temperate) weather and because it’s harvesting season. If you plan to check out the world-renowned wine regions right next door to Sacramento, this would be an ideal time to visit.

As for Winter in Sacramento, it isn’t necessarily bad, it just tends to be more cool and grey with occasional rainy days.

Again, its California so there’s really not a horrible time to visit, but if I had to choose two seasons to visit Sacramento it would be the spring and fall.

best time to visit sacramento, california

How to Get from San Francisco to Sacramento

The easiest way to get from San Francisco to Sacramento is to drive. Hop on I-80 E directly from San Francisco and take it all the way to Sacramento. It takes about two hours.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to drive, you can take the train or the bus (Flixbus or Megabus). The Amtrak train leaves from Emeryville in the East Bay and takes just under two hours for $30.

Flixbus takes around 1.5-2 hours and only costs $5-$8. Megabus takes around two hours and only costs $10-$23. Both leave directly from San Francisco.

If you’re coming from further away and flying into Sacramento, book your one-way transport from the airport here.

how to get from San Francisco to Sacramento, California - Old Town Historical District

Sacramento Travel Tips

The public transit system in Sacramento is a good way to get around the city – Called the Sacramento Regional Transit, or SacRT for short, it includes bus and light rail routes that cover central Sacramento quite well. Fares are $2.50 for single tickets, or you can purchase a Connect Card which is the transit card that can be used for the whole Sacramento region.

You can either buy the card online and have it sent to you in 3-5 business days or pick one up from one of these locations.

Another good way to get around downtown is by Velocab – If you’re tired of walking and you’re looking for a quick and sustainable way to get around the downtown area, hop on one of these zero-emission pedicabs or call one here. Of course, Uber and Lyft are also in Sacramento (as well as traditional cabs), but the Velocab is a good option for a short distance.

sacramento travel tips - top things to do in sacramento

Be prepared for friendly locals and a slower way of life – Sacramento is a different kind of big California city. The pace of life is slower inland and the open friendliness of locals is one of the best parts of visiting Sacramento.

Soak up those friendly vibes and be a kind and self-aware tourist in turn. Act like a local and appreciate the slower pace and get to know strangers.

Sacramento is considered America’s Farm to Fork Capital, don’t let all the good food go to waste – One of the best activities to do in Sacramento is to EAT. With so much good farmland neighboring the city, it’s no surprise that the food found in local restaurants is fresh and local.

Make sure to save some of your Sacramento budget for eating your way through the city’s trendiest and local foodie finds and visit one of the many farmers’ markets before you leave town. Your belly will thank you later.

Where to Stay in Sacramento

where to stay in Sacramento, California - Old Town Historical District

BUDGET 

Arden Star Hotel – A simple and clean budget accommodation that’s a short 15-minute drive outside of downtown Sacramento. The hotel features a hot tub, pool, fitness center, free continental breakfast, and affordable rooms with large work desks.

The Arden Star is a fully non-smoking accommodation and a great option for solo travelers or anyone who would prefer to save instead of paying for extra frills.

Check current availability here

MID-RANGE

Amber House Inn of Midtown – Full of character and charm, the Victorian-inspired Amber House Inn is a centrally-located accommodation in the Midtown district of Sacramento. The inn is located in not one but TWO historic buildings and offers a gourmet breakfast every morning for guests and complimentary drinks in the morning and evening.

There is also a back garden, dining room, and front porch for guests to enjoy, as well as L’Occitane bath products, plush Monarch bathrobes, and flat-screen TVs in the rooms.

Check current availability here

LUXURY 

Kimpton Sawyer HotelIf you’re looking for a luxury stay in Sacramento, look no further than the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel – easily considered the best hotel in Sacramento.

The Kimpton Sawyer Hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Sacramento, right next to the California State Railroad Museum. It features free parking, a year-round outdoor pool, and a variety of quality onsite dining options and a lounge that serves unique craft cocktails.

Check current availability here

 


PRACTICAL INFO FOR SACRAMENTO

Find accommodationbook your rental car, or sign up for a local tour.

Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).

Buy your California Guide here.

101 things to do in Sacramento, California | The Ultimate Bucket List

Pin this image for future reference by clicking on the top right-hand corner


 

Looking for more Northern California travel inspiration? Check out my related posts below!

The Perfect Weekend Getaway to Mendocino

The Ultimate Bucket List of Things to do in Santa Cruz (From a Local)

The Best Things to do in San Francisco at Night

Join the Adventure

Get first dibs on travel updates, tips, and deals. Life is an adventure, join me around the world!

We don't believe in spam, so you can rest assured that every email we send you will be hand-crafted full of awesome goodies. Powered by ConvertKit
Find Me

Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
Find Me