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
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
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
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
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
Outdoor Activities & Hikes
38. Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
39. American River Parkway
40. McKinley Park
41. Capitol Park & World Peace Rose Garden
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)
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
62. De Vere’s Irish Pub
63. Bacon & Butter
64. The Waffle Experience
65. Cricket’s Country Kitchen
66. Magpie Cafe
67. Cafe Rolle
68. Iron Horse
69. Ramen House Ryujin
71. The Kitchen Restaurant
72. The Rind
73. The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs
74. Vic’s or Gunther’s Ice Cream
75. Ginger Elizabeth
Best Craft Beer Spots
76. Track 7
77. Tower Brewing
79. Oak Park Brewing
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
If you’re coming from further away and flying into Sacramento, book your one-way transport from the airport here.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Kimpton Sawyer Hotel – If 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.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR SACRAMENTO
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).
Buy your California Guide here.
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