Last updated: August 16, 2022
TL;DR: The best of the best things to do in Sacramento, California, are learning about its history through museums and tours, exploring the art and architecture around the city, enjoying locally grown foods, and visting its major park attractions. Here’s what to do:
- Start at the California State Capitol Museum, then stroll around Old Sacramento State Historic Park for a glimpse into the city’s Wild West past, take an underground tour of old Sacramento, and finish at the California State Railroad Museum.
- Spot street art murals all over the city, shop for fresh produce at bustling farmers’ markets, and admire the iconic Tower Bridge spanning the river.
- Satisfy your craving for poke bowls at The Fish Face Poke Bar, enjoy farm-to-fork fine dining at Ella Dining Room & Bar, and sample locally-sourced California cuisine at Localis.
- Let kids experience the delight in seeing wildlife up close at the Sacramento Zoo or immerse yourself in a magical world at Fairytale Town.
You would be amiss to think there isn’t enough 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 to visit Sacramento–do it!
There are many ways to experience and explore Sacramento, and it’s well worth the journey inland from the San Francisco coast to check out everything this sleepy big city has to offer.
As you would expect in Sacramento, politicians and suits walk the streets near the capitol building, but the city is more layered than many people realize.
Most notably, there’s endless street art, a delicious local craft beer scene, and history around every corner.
These are my picks for the top and best things to do in Sacramento, whether it’s your first time in 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.
See also: 101 Things to do in California
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California State Capitol Museum
I’ve been to two other state capitols in the US–one in Nevada and one in Texas–but I particularly love the California State Capitol.
In the heart of the city center, the California State Capitol Museum has exhibits for each California county (so many!) and historical rooms of famous governors and senators from long ago.
The California State Capitol is a beautiful and fun building to explore, and it’s one of the few free museums in Sacramento.
It’s worth a visit if you want to learn more about California’s political history and walk the halls where important legislatures have passed.
The best way to tour the State Capitol is through their free tours. They offer free California State Capitol Museum tours every day on the hour from 9 am to 4 pm.
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
If you’re looking for Wild West vibes, the Old Sacramento State Historic Park is the place to go. Most of the Old Sacramento stores still have that western-movie-shoot-out feel.
Restoration began on Old Sacramento State Historic Park in the 1960s, which has since become a popular Sacramento tourist attraction and a national historic landmark.
At the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, you’ll find everything from huge joke shops filled with random items to old-fashioned ice cream, milkshakes, and saltwater taffy. Just watch out for the horse poop!
There are over 125 boutique shops to peruse and, as mentioned above, Gold Rush-era historic buildings around every corner.
The district also lies along the beautiful river and is home to many museums and delicious restaurants.
If you only have a day or weekend in Sacramento, you should spend at least one afternoon in Old Sacramento State Historic Park.
Below, are a few sights I’d recommend adding to your itinerary in the area.
California State Railroad Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about US railroad history, the California Railroad Museum is the premier North American railroad museum to visit.
As one of the world’s largest railway museums, the California State Railroad Museum is a popular Sacramento Old Town sight.
The California State Railroad Museum features exhibits detailing how the railroad connected California to the rest of the continental US and how that affected the state’s growth.
One of the coolest aspects of the California State Railroad Museum is that they offer scenic train rides from April through September.
There’s no better way to bring the history of the railroad in California to life than by hopping on a train and experiencing it firsthand. You can pick up your tickets from the Central Pacific Passenger Station in Old Sacramento.
The California State Railroad Museum also offers a Polar Express train during the holidays. Just note that it usually sells out months in advance because it’s so popular, so book early!
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Sacramento for couples, the Delta King is a historic riverboat in Old Town Sacramento that houses a hotel, theater, and two restaurants.
This historic boat is an excellent option for quirky accommodation in Sacramento or an elegant dinner for a special night out. Make a reservation at one of the restaurants or book a room for the night.
The Delta King’s Pilothouse Restaurant is a popular fine dining option in Sacramento. It serves upscale takes on classic American dishes, like a Kobe beef burger and a cider-brined porkchop.
And a night on the Delta King is one of the best things to do in Old Sacramento if you have the budget to splurge.
Sacramento History Museum
If you’re interested in Sacramento museums that give a good overview of the history of Sacramento and California’s Gold Rush, head to the Sacramento History Museum.
The museum itself is a piece of California history, as it sits on the original Sacramento City Hall 1854 building site. Today, the building is a reconstruction of how it looked in the 19th century.
Exhibits on offer include everything from Gold Rush history to historic print shops, Nisenan Indian culture, agriculture, and more.
This museum also leads to the Old Sacramento Underground tours if you want to see the original foundations of the city.
Sacramento Underground Tour
Going on a Sacramento Underground Tour is one of the more underrated things to do in Sacramento.
But, along with the other Sacramento museums, it gives you a better overview of the city and how far it has come from its original foundations.
Unlike the underground tours in Portland and Seattle, which focus on ghosts and the dark Shanghai Tunnel system, the Official Sacramento Underground Tour showcases the original historical foundations of Sacramento as a city.
There might not be any stories of kidnappings, but it’s pretty cool to be able to see how Sacramento literally lifted itself up after the big floods in the 1860s and 70s.
Tours depart from the Sacramento History Museum and last for about one hour with a guide.
The Eagle Theater
If you’re a fan of historic buildings, be sure to stop by the Old Eagle Theater.
Built during the 1849 Gold Rush era, the Eagle Theater was California’s first permanent theater—at least, that was the plan.
Although it was supposed to be permanent, the January 4th flood in 1850 wiped the theater out after only three months of operation.
The theater was rebuilt in 1974 and reconstructed to look like the original building in Old Sacramento.
Today, the California Department of Parks and Recreation owns the theater and includes it on the California Historical Landmark Register.
You can view the historic theater from the outside or enter with a ticket to the Railroad Museum.
Pony Express (aka the B.F. Hastings Building)
The B.F. Hastings Building, also called The Pony Express Terminal, is a historic 1852 building that once served as the endpoint for the old Pony Express.
The Pony Express operated between 1860 and 1861 as an express mail service that connected the nation’s east and west coasts for the first time.
Today, the building is a National Historic Landmark and houses a museum that features the history of Wells Fargo.
California Automobile Museum
With over 150 classic cars, muscle cars and race cars on display, the California Automobile Museum is the place to go for any car enthusiast.
The entry price to the California Automobile Museum is reasonable at $10, and they offer free docent-led tours once you’re inside if you want to learn more about the cars on display.
The collection at the California Automobile Museum features vehicles dating all the way back to the 1880s. Their newest car is a 2011 Honda.
Always eager to expand its exhibition collection, the California Automobile Museum takes donations and loans.
And for the most dedicated car fanatics, the museum is available for event rentals such as weddings.
William Land Park
William Land Park is one of the main major parks in Sacramento. Land Park is in a neighborhood named after it just south of the downtown area.
The park contains several essential attractions, including the zoo, an amphitheater, Fairytale Land, and a Golf Course.
This sprawling greenspace also has several duck ponds and lawns where you can sit and enjoy fresh air or a picnic. Below, are the main sights to check out in the park.
Operating since 1927, the Sacramento Zoo covers 14.3 acres and houses over 140 animals.
The Giraffe Encounters are probably the best thing about the Sacramento Zoo. For $5, you can get up-close-and-personal with the giraffes to feed them.
Make sure to check on the Sacramento Zoo website ahead of time for when the encounters are happening on the day you visit, as they only happen a couple of times a day.
If you have young ones with you and you’re looking for things to do in Sacramento for kids, the
Sacramento Zoo also offers a few kiddie rides.
These include the zoo train, conservation carousel, a small rock climbing wall, and a cyclone simulator.
Note: Another zoo in the Sacramento area is the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary. If calmer animal sanctuaries are more your speed, this one might be better to check out.
If you don’t want to make the trip all the way down to Disneyland, Fairytale Town is an excellent way for the young ones to still indulge in some magic-and-fairy-tale-themed tourist attractions.
The non-profit park has been in operation for 60 years and offers 26 play areas based on fairytales and nursery rhymes.
Fairytale Town also features a petting zoo, gardens, two performing arts stages, and a cafe. Programming at Fairytale Town includes puppet shows, concerts, campouts, and more.
For locals, Fairytale Town also offers birthday party packages and children’s theater camps in the summertime.
Admission to Fairytale Town is very affordable–$7 for adults and kids on weekdays and $8 on weekends. They’re open daily from 9 am-4 pm.
The William Land Golf Course is a popular nine-hole green in the southern quadrant of the park.
Aside from the course, there’s also a fully equipped pro shop and a restaurant serving laid-back favorites like burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
The price to book a tee time ranges from $20-$40 depending on demand.
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Sutter’s Fort is a National historic landmark that operated from 1839 to 1850. It’s also a popular place for school groups to go–as I found out on my first visit!
The day I went to Sutter’s fort, there were a few different classes dressed in pioneer clothes, learning how to live life like the 19th-century westerners. There was even a cannon demonstration at one point!
Aside from the kids (who were way too hopped up on sugar and field trip excitement), Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park provides a unique look at pioneering history through a well-done interactive museum.
Restored to look like it did at its height in 1847, the fort features exhibits exploring the hard life welcoming pioneers during the California Gold Rush.
John Sutter, the man behind the fort, was originally from Switzerland. After receiving a land grant from the Mexican government, he set out to build a flourishing agricultural setup in the Sacramento Valley.
In 1847, after sending help to the Donner Party trapped in the Sierras, he became known for his hospitality.
Immigrants from all over began seeking refuge at the fort, then called “New Helvetia.” It became a popular pioneering community before gold diggers overran it a decade later.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park represents the layered history that has drawn visitors to Sacramento for years.
Needless to say, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is also one of the best things to do in Sacramento with kids. However, I visited as an adult with no kids and loved it too.
As long as you’re into history and want to learn more about the pioneers in California, it’s an excellent attraction to add to your Sacramento travels.
Scandia Family Fun Center
Scandia Family Fun Center has everything you need for an afternoon of fun. Here, you’ll find mini golf, several rides, an arcade, batting cages, and a go-cart racetrack.
It’s a bit of a drive from Sacramento to Scandia Family Fun Center (just south of Santa Rosa), but it’s worth it if you’re a fan of good, old-fashioned amusements–especially if you have kids.
There’s no admission price here–you pay for each attraction individually–and they also offer package deals.
Sacramento River Fox Train & Railbikes
One of the coolest things to do in Sacramento, the Sacramento Fox Train is a family-owned business that showcases the beauty and history of Northern California via train.
There are quite a few different themed train rides you can experience with the River Train.
These include a beer train, wine train, Great Train Robbery (where actors actually come onboard and try to rob the train), Murder Mystery Train, River Dinner Show Train, and more.
They also offer themed train tours for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day.
The train tours are usually around 2.5 hours and span 14 miles from West Sacramento to Woodland.
Or, for a completely unique activity, the River Fox Train also rents Rail Bikes. These two-seater bikes pedal along the train tracks for a leisurely adventure.
The rail bike route is about ten miles round trip and costs $100 on weekdays and $120 on weekends. The seats are side-by-side so you can enjoy your conversation as you go.
Sacramento Historic River Cruise
An activity that you should add to your Sacramento to-do list is the Sacramento Historic River Cruise. It’s one of those quintessential Sacramento activities worth experiencing at least once.
Operated by Hornblower, this one-hour cruise gives you a history lesson about Sacramento while floating down the beautiful Sacramento River.
The cruise also takes you past Old Sacramento’s most famous historical sights.
If you’re looking for a relaxing way to learn more about Sacramento in a short amount of time, this cruise is an excellent place to start.
Raging Waters and Roseville Golfland SunSplash
Being situated a couple of hours from the coast, you can bet that Sacramento gets really hot in the summer.
So, it’s no surprise they have a huge water park right in the city for those sweltering days.
If you’re looking for some wet and wild thrills, head to Raging Waters.
Raging waters offers more than 25 water attractions, slides, and wave pools. There are also concerts and community events at Raging Waters during the summer.
Or, if you’re a fan of miniature golf, Roseville Golfland SunSplash is another local waterpark option that features mini golf, an arcade, and bumper cars alongside numerous waterslides and a wave pool.
Leland Stanford Mansion
Only a couple of blocks from the State Capitol, the Leland Stanford Mansion is an ornate sight and historic Victorian mansion in downtown Sacramento.
The Leland Stanford Mansion was once the home of Leland Stanford, the Governor of California from 1862-1863, and the office of two other California governors during the 1860s.
Today, the Leland Stanford Mansion is a museum where visitors can take a tour to learn more about the history of California in the mid-19th century.
If you’re into National Historic Landmarks, architecture, or Victorian decor, this is one of the best things to do in downtown Sacramento.
At the mansion, you’ll see 17-foot ceilings, original period furniture that the Stanfords owned, restored woodwork, historical paintings, and 19th-century style gardens.
Historic Tower Bridge
Among the many popular Sacramento attractions, the Tower Bridge stands out as the most iconic structure in Sacramento.
A historic art deco lift bridge, it’s a striking shade of yellow-gold (I’ve always thought of this as an homage to Sacramento’s Gold Rush history).
Walk across The Tower Bridge to get unobstructed views of the Sacramento River or take it in from a historic river cruise.
The Tower Bridge is a cool sight to see up close because it has become such a symbol of Sacramento as a city. It’s gorgeous to visit around sunset.
If you’re looking to get a nice view of the bridge from the quiet side of the Sacramento River, head over to the River Walk Trail.
From here, you can take in the river and city views of Old Town and the Sacramento bridge from a less trafficked spot, and walk through River Walk Park.
The trail offers some of my favorite views of Sacramento and it’s another stunning spot around sunset.
American River Bike Trail (Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail)
One of the best free things to do around Sacramento is the American River Bike Trail (also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail), which wraps around the American River for 32 miles from Folsom to Old Sacramento.
The American River Bike Trail begins at Discovery Park on the border of Yolo County and terminates at Beal’s Point by Folsom Lake.
You can access the American River Trail from numerous parks along the American River Parkway.
The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is exclusively for non-motorized forms of transportation, and it’s also one of the best places to go hiking near Sacramento. You can bike it, walk it, inline skate it, horseback ride it, or jog it.
Make sure to bring a picnic along to make a day of it!
The American River Bike Trail is one of the best outdoor areas for active people who want to see the natural beauty of Sacramento without having to leave the city.
Parking is $5 per vehicle and the trail is open every day from sunrise to sunset.
One aspect that surprises people who only know Sacramento for its pioneer and political history is how much street art there is in the city.
You can find colorful murals all over Midtown and downtown Sacramento these days, and there is even a mural festival each year called Wide Open Walls.
I personally love a good street art hunt, and Sacramento is the perfect city to spend an afternoon checking out cool outdoor artwork.
Here are a few murals I’d recommend starting with:
- Koi Fish Mural – 20th Street between J and K Streets
- The Wishing Wall – 819 19th St
- Iker Muro/Murone – 555 Capitol Mall parking garage
- Innocent Universe – 1301 R Street
- It Was Only a Dream – 730 R St
Another important landmark in the city, the Governor’s Mansion, is a historic three-story building with 33 rooms and Victorian architecture and decor.
The mansion was a public museum for over 50 years but reverted back to the governor’s official residence when Governor Jerry Brown moved in with his family in 2015.
In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom briefly lived there with his family, but it’s now empty and undergoing renovation.
Unfortunately, because of this, you can no longer go inside the Governor’s Mansion, but it’s still an interesting historic building to view from the outside.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Even if you’re not religious, it’s easy to pop into the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and admire its architecture and grandiose nature.
Construction on the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament began in 1887. The exterior architecture draws inspiration from Italian Renaissance churches, while the interior is decidedly Victorian.
At its completion, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was the largest cathedral on this side of the Mississippi.
From its stunning stained glass windows to its colorful interior, detailed architecture, and historical paintings, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is a peaceful and historic church to experience right in the heart of downtown Sacramento.
Make sure to go to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in the afternoon when services aren’t taking place if you want to visit as a tourist.
Sacramento Heritage Self-Guided Walking Tours
If you’re an independent traveler who isn’t fond of group tours but still wants to learn more about the layered history of Sacramento, let me introduce the FREE Sacramento Heritage Walking Tours.
You can download these self-guided tours from their app (or here for Android users ). These tours showcase different parts, themes, and stories of the city, just like any other guided Sacramento tours.
They now have tours for the city hall area, J+K Street, and around the capitol building.
It’s an excellent way to get your bearings in the city without feeling like an obvious Sacramento tourist.
They also help you learn more about the historical buildings and stories that Sacramento has to offer in an affordable way.
Wine Tasting at the Old Sugar Mill
What was once an old beet-sugar refinery in the 1930s has been transformed into a trendy spot for wine tasting in Sacramento, featuring 15 unique wineries and over 100 wines.
Only about a 15-minute drive from downtown Sacramento, wine tasting at the Sugar Mill has quickly become a popular thing to do as a local in Sacramento on the weekends.
Tasting fees range from $5-$10. And if you’re also on the lookout for fun places to eat in Sacramento, there are food trucks that line up on the weekends offering tipsy nibbles.
Go to a Farmers’ Market
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Sacramento, consider going to a farmer’s market.
The Sacramento area is a vibrant agricultural region in California, so it’s no surprise that the farmers’ markets in the city are the bomb dot com.
Peruse heaping fresh produce and local handicrafts and mingle with locals at one of the many farmers’ markets that pop up around Sacramento.
Some favorites to start with are the Midtown Market (in Midtown Sacramento on Saturdays) and the Cesar Chavez Plaza Market (downtown Sacramento on Wednesdays). There’s also one at Capitol Mall on Wednesdays in downtown Sacramento.
The Capitol Mall Farmers Market is where you’ll find many delicious mobile local restaurants that are great for lunch.
The Cesar Chavez Market has a little bit of everything, from fresh produce to local eateries.
And the Midtown Market is huge with over 90 stands, regular events, cooking demos, and live bands (every fourth Saturday of the month).
The Midtown market is also the only year-round farmers’ market in Sacramento. The other two run from around May to the end of September or October.
B Street Theatre
One of the best places to go in Sacramento for theater, the B Street Theatre originally opened as a theater company for children. It has since evolved to putting on comedy shows and original productions for adults.
These days, the B Street Theatre resides in a state-of-the-art performing arts center between Midtown and East Sacramento. They have mainstage productions as well as family-friendly shows.
If you’re looking to check out some of the best Sacramento entertainment in town or looking for good Sacramento date ideas, a show at the B Street Theatre is a solid option for either one.
Cheer on The Kings at The Golden 1 Center
The Kings may not be as popular as the Golden State Warriors or LA’s Lakers, but I always love watching professional sports teams on their home turf.
And the good news is that tickets to Sacramento Kings games are much cheaper than the astronomical prices you’ll find for Warriors or Lakers tickets.
If you’ve never been to a live NBA game and want to experience the energy of actually being at the stadium, the Kings are an excellent team to see for more affordable tickets.
It’s also a good thing to do during winter in Sacramento since that’s when basketball season is and it’s an indoor activity.
If basketball isn’t your thing or you’re looking for even more affordable sports tickets in town, the Sacramento River Cats are one of Minor League Baseball’s top teams. Yet, tickets to their games are still a fraction of what you’d pay to see the major leagues.
Watch a Movie at the Historic Crest Theatre
In a world of primarily big corporate movie theaters, I adore historic independent cinema houses.
That art deco feel takes you back to when the movie business started taking off with Hollywood in the 1930s.
Sacramento has a long history of loving theaters–just look at the Eagle Theater (above), which was built during the California Gold Rush in the 1800s and was the first permanent theater in California.
The city has only continued its love for entertainment with the preserved historic independent theaters you’ll find around town.
One of these historic theaters is the Crest Theatre. It originally opened in 1912 as a Vaudeville venue called the Empress Theatre. Today, the Crest Theatre screens a combination of contemporary films and classic hits.
But the Crest Theatre isn’t the only historic moviehouse in town. Others include Tower Theater (1938) and Guild Theater (1915). If you have time to go see a movie at one of these, do it!
Sac Brew Bike
Looking for unusual things to do in Sacramento or things to do in Sacramento for adults?
You may have seen these around various cities in the US (I’ve been on the one in Portland), but the Sac Brew Bike is one of the best ways to experience the local craft beer scene in a hilarious and social way.
These 15-passenger party bikes go less than five miles per hour. A large table is at the center, surrounded by seats with peddles at the bottom. Each person peddles leisurely from their seat while sipping a drink.
You’ll probably get some strange looks from pedestrians, but it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon drinking beer with new friends while getting your Sacramento sightseeing in.
The Sac Brew Bike is also a great tour if you’re traveling solo in Sacramento and want to meet people.
Or, if you have a large group, you can rent the whole bike for the afternoon for your own private beer party. It’s especially big with birthdays and bachelor/bachelorette parties.
Float the American River
Sacramento locals like to take advantage of their proximity to the many bodies of water surrounding their city.
There are plentiful water-based activities to enjoy in the Sacramento region, whether it’s the two main rivers in the area, reservoirs, or lakes.
Lake Natoma is one of the most popular spots to visit near Sacramento for a relaxing kayaking trip.
However, if you want to go on a river float in inner tubes with a few friends, the American River is a popular spot as long as you avoid the whitewater parts.
For a relatively chill float, I recommend floating between Sunrise and Ancil Hoffman on the American River Parkway, which takes around two hours.
Read our complete guide on how to float the American River.
If you’re looking for thrills, whitewater rafting at multiple forks along the American River is a popular activity to do in the summer in Sacramento.
I’d recommend going on a tour with this company as it’s the highest-rated whitewater rafting company in Sacramento. They offer beginner, intermediate and advanced excursions.
If you want to try whitewater kayaking, the American River is still the place to go.
Just make sure you know what you’re doing, go with a guide, or take a class before attempting whitewater on your own.
Second Saturday Art Walk
For many years, the Second Saturday Art Walk has been one of the best Sacramento events to experience if you happen to be in the city at the right time.
Every second Saturday of the month, many art galleries around midtown have openings in the evening.
Unfortunately, the city of Sacramento suspended the event in 2020. It returned with safety modifications in 2021, but since the 2020 disruption, there are fewer participating galleries, and it seems to be operating more unofficially.
However, it’s still worth checking out, as it’s one of the best free things to do in Sacramento for those who are into art.
You’ll find everything from modern art to photography and spray paint at the art galleries. There are sometimes vendors selling handmade artisan goods outside the galleries as well.
You might even see a fire dancing show and some live music as you hop to the next art gallery.
Plus, you get to explore one of the best neighborhoods in Sacramento with a bunch of locals.
There’s also a Second Saturday event in a neighborhood called Natomas in North Sacramento, which is worth checking out if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path.
Wear some nice and comfy shoes and hit the streets to explore the cultural side of Sacramento.
West Wind Sacramento Drive-In
As I’ve mentioned in my other bucket list guides about California, I love a good drive-in movie theater because they bring me back to yesteryear.
Side note: it still makes me sad that they’ve become so obsolete and a thing of the past in California.
The good news is there’s still a Sacramento drive-in in operation!
The West Wind Capitol 6 Drive-In is a retro drive-in experience that still allows you to watch movies from the comfort of your car with sound coming through the FM radio.
They play mostly new movies and general admission is only $8 for adults ($5.50 on Tuesdays) and $1.75 for children 5-11 years old, making it one of the cheapest things to do in Sacramento.
Bar Hopping in Midtown
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Sacramento at night, Midtown is the trendy going-out neighborhood in Sacramento.
As one of the best bar districts in the city, there are tons of things to do in Midtown, whether you’re looking to dance the night away or check out a new dive bar.
Or, the Coin-Op Game Room lets you test out your video game skills while knocking back a pint or two.
There’s really a little something for everyone in the Midtown bar scene.
McKinley Park and Rose Garden
One of my favorite things to do in Sacramento is to smell the roses and read a good book.
McKinley Park and Rose Garden is a well-looked-after public park with tons of benches and beautifully landscaped grounds.
Since McKinley Park is a little way outside of downtown Sacramento, it’s more peaceful than the down parks like Capitol Park.
One thing to watch out for is the squirrels in Mckinley Park that come up to you expecting food because so many people have fed them in the past. Don’t be one of those people who feed the squirrels!
Capitol Park & World Peace Rose Garden
The most popular and impressive park in Sacramento, Capitol Park, and the World Peace Rose Garden is right next to the Capitol Building.
The World Peace Rose Garden is a Victorian garden with 650 roses in 150 varieties and colors. It’s a great spot to relax after touring the seat of the state government.
The garden began as an inclusive sanctuary of peace, love, and inspiration for people from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions.
As Sacramento is the City of Trees, Capitol Park has trees from around the world and all 50 states.
There are also memorials throughout the park that honor important state events over the decades.
Crocker Art Museum
Founded in 1885, the Crocker Art Museum is the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi and the best museum in Sacramento for seeing fine art up close.
The main focus of the Crocker Art Museum is California art, with some dating back to the Gold Rush.
With that said, you can still view art from around the world at the Crocker Museum, including works from Europe, Oceania, Asia, and Africa.
The Crocker Art Museum also has one of the largest international ceramics collections in the US.
Since the museum is located right downtown, around the corner from the Golden 1 Center Arena, Crocker Art Museum parking might be more difficult during game days.
In general, you should be able to find paid street parking or parking garages within walking distance of the Crocker Museum.
Pro tip: Check ahead to see when the Sacramento Kings are playing if it’s basketball season and avoid going on those days.
One of the top tourist attractions in Sacramento is the official state history museum of California.
The California Museum is the place to go for anyone interested in learning more about California as a whole.
Signature exhibits focus on California history, including topics such as the California Indians, California Missions, California’s Remarkable Women, Japanese Americans during WWII, and much more.
The California Museum is also home to the California Hall of Fame, which honors distinguished historical figures who have “embodied California’s spirit.”
Inductees in the California Hall of Fame include famous people from the past like Ansel Adams and Walt Disney, as well as contemporary figures like Tony Hawk and RuPaul.
California State Indian Museum
Although it’s on the smaller side, the California State Indian Museum is an excellent place to start learning more about the indigenous peoples of California.
US schools often pass over or don’t talk about Native American history, which is why the California State Indian Museum is such an essential fixture in the Sacramento museum scene.
At the California State Indian Museum, you can glimpse the culture, art, and daily life of California’s first people.
Admission to the California State Indian Museum is just $5 for adults and $3 for children, so this educational activity is also super affordable.
Day Trip to Apple Hill
Apple Hill is one of the most popular Sacramento day trips for a number of reasons–apple pie, apple cider, and apple picking. Really, all the best reasons!
Apple Hill is near Placerville in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s the perfect (and busy) spot to visit during the fall, but it‘s also a great place to visit near Sacramento year-round.
If you’re a fan of taking day trips to Napa Valley to sample their local wines, Apple Hill is like Napa Valley but for apples.
Make sure to stop by Bodhaine Ranch for the best apple pie in the region, Rainbow Orchards for the best apple cider donuts, and Bolster’s Hill Top Ranch for apple picking (Labor Day weekend to mid-November).
During the summer, head over to Patrick’s Mountain Grown Berry Farm for an afternoon of berry picking.
Sacramento Music Festivals
If you’re looking for entertainment in Sacramento and you’re a fan of music festivals, Sacramento has several choices.
The Sacramento Jazz Jubilee started in 2013 and generally runs for four days at the end of the summer.
Unfortunately, the 2022 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee is canceled due to venue issues, but they promise to be back in 2023, so mark your calendars!
For the metalheads among us, the Aftershock Music Festival takes place in Discovery Park each October.
This year, the lineup at the Aftershock music festival includes major acts such as Slipknot, KISS, Danzig, and Gwar. There will even be some nostalgic throwbacks like Papa Roach and My Chemical Romance.
Sadly, the Sacramento Music Festival, which ran yearly from the mid-70s until 2017, is no longer happening. But there are still many fantastic music festival options in the area.
Additional Fun Things to do in Sacramento
- Take a guided (or self-guided) walking tour of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery–there are also great views from here.
- Participate in Run to Feed the Hungry and help raise money for the Sacramento Food Bank.
- Go ice skating at the Westfield Downtown Plaza Sacramento Ice Rink near the St. Rose of Lima Park light rail stop–it’s open from the first Friday in November through Martin Luther King Jr Day.
- Experience the Causeway Classic.
- Enjoy a day at the California State Fair and Sacramento County Fair.
- Hop on a historical food tour–I’d recommend this one.
- Experience Yoga in the Park–you can learn more about it here.
- See the holiday lights at Dovewood Court during Christmastime.
- Go on a docent-led tour of the California State Library–a cool California historic landmark founded in 1850 by the California State Legislature.
- Dress up and go to the Sacramento Ballet for a fun date night out.
- Go on a free tour of the California State Archives–this is where you can view the first law ever signed by California’s first governor.
- Get a deeper understanding of the City of Trees with a self-guided Tree Tour.
- Enjoy the Pops in the Park Summer Concert Series from June to early September.
- Explore the trendy restaurants and boutiques in the Handle District.
- Visit the Smud Museum of Science and Curiosity and make some fascinating discoveries.
- Spend an afternoon shopping at vintage stores–an excellent place to start for clothes includes TRUE, Article Consignment Boutique, Moth Hole, and The Quinn. Or, for vintage furniture, Scout Living, Midway Antique Mall, and 57th Street Antique Mall.
- Celebrate this year’s bounty at the Courtland Pear Fair, which happens annually.
- Search for free events in Sacramento on Eventbrite and see what’s happening free of charge that day!
- Visit the Aerospace Museum.
- Walk around the Folsom Historic District–one of the best things to do near Sacramento if you’re looking for more historic Gold Rush era vibes.
- Act like a local and spend a summer day by the river with your crew and a few beers.
- Visit an old-fashioned candy store in Old Town to get your sweet tooth on!
- Have an exciting day of rock climbing at Quarry Park Rocklin, CA.
- Go bird-watching at Woodbridge Ecological Preserve.
- Experience Japanese culture and eat delicious food at the Japanese Food & Cultural Bazaar at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento.
- Visit the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.See some classic theater at Sacramento Shakespeare in the Park during June and July.
Looking for more California travel inspiration? Check out my related posts below!
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