Lovely Californian blogger Viv the Wanderer has helped us out during the travel restrictions and acted as our roving reporter exploring the cool city of Sacramento, America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital which is filled with great food markets, trendy eateries, and hip breweries. Here is her complete guide to the best things to do in Sacramento…
The Top 20 Attractions in Sacramento
1. Grab a bite at Midtown Farmers Market – a must-do for foodies
This is easily one of the best places to get a taste of local flavors and you know all the food sold here is definitely local!
So the first thing I did during my visit to Sacramento California was take a trip to the Midtown Farmers Market. As the name implies, the farmers market is located in Midtown and is open Saturdays from 8-1. It’s on 20th street between J and I.
You can find fresh produce, almond milk, flowers, and small bites there. I loved sampling the different flavors of kettle corn and the sourdough bread I got from Camina was delicious!
- Address: 1050 20th St, Sacramento, CA 95811, United States
- Opens Saturday from 8am to 1pm
2. Do a Cafe Hop – easily one of the best things to do in Sacramento
Not only does Midtown have a farmers market, it also has lots of awesome coffee shops.
I grabbed a hot brew from Pachamama after visiting the Midtown Farmers Market and got a nice boost for the rest of my day trip.
I’d also recommend visiting Temple Coffee Roasters, a local’s favorite, and Milka, a coffee shop converted from a Victorian-style home. Use this opportunity to sample coffee from different roasters, it’ll be hard not to have a favorite afterwards.
3. Have a Beer Flight at Tower Brewery
Previously known as Sactown Union Brewery, Tower Brewery is located in a less busy part of Sacramento. Because of that, the brewery played a big role in maintaining the neighborhood’s liveliness.
I loved that the brewery had both outdoor and indoor seating options. Plus, the owners were very hospitable, and I instantly fell in love with the brewery’s atmosphere after speaking with them.
One of the first things I look for when I visit a new brewery is if they have any flights. So I was happy to discover that Tower Brewery featured a flight of four beers: a Pale Ale, an Indian Pale Ale, an Imperial Pale Ale, and their Hazy.
I loved trying all the beers and attempted to suss out some of the notes. I think I successfully identified the pineapple note so that was a win. Definitely one of the best things to do in Sacramento.
- Address: 1210 66th St STE B, Sacramento, CA 95819, United States
- Opens every day except Monday
4. Brunch at Revolution Winery and Kitchen
At this point you might be wondering what I ate all day on my day trip. After visiting Old Sacramento I drove to Revolution Winery & Kitchen and tried their champagne and vegan charcuterie plate.
First of all I loved how cute the place was. They had an area set up for outdoor seating and lots of plants around to make it feel a bit like a garden.
It seemed like the perfect place to catch up with girlfriends or go on a romantic date. As for the food? It was delicious. So yes, I’m coming back here when I’m in the area again.
- Address – 2831 S St, Sacramento, CA 95816, United States
- Opens every day until 9pm or 8pm
5. Travel through time in Old Sacramento
The oldest city in California, Sacramento is rich with history. And much of that history is preserved at the Old Sacramento Waterfront.
In the city’s early days (I’m talking 1800s!), the waterfront was a place for business and trade. Now, it’s a place for visitors to travel through time and witness the historical architecture that was left behind.
Strolling through Old Sacramento was magical in and of itself, but there are also many activities you can do besides walking:
- Sample wine at the Underground Tasting Room.
- Take pictures with the first railroad.
- Ride the Ferris wheel.
- Shop at the candy shops.
6. Dine on the Delta King Riverboat
By the end of my visit to Old Sacramento, I was already wishing for more time. If I were to spend another hour there I’d probably wrap up my visit by dining on the Delta King Riverboat.
The boat was built in 1927 and is now a hotel, restaurant, bar, and wedding venue. Having lunch on a boat that’s almost 100 years old just sounds like such a cool experience. It would’ve been the perfect spot to people-watch and rest my legs after all the walking I did.
7. Visit the Leland Stanford Mansion
There are so many beautiful Victorian and Colonial Revival-style homes were in Sacramento and some of these homes are huge!
The Leland Stanford Mansion may be one of the most famous Victorian homes in Sacramento. Originally built in 1856, the home is now state-owned and a museum that shares stories of the mansion and the people that lived in it.
- Address: 800 N St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
- Opens every day from 10am – 5pm
8. Stroll through the Rose Garden at Capitol Park
If you end up liking McKinley Park’s rose garden, you’ll enjoy the one at Capitol Park even more.
Since I visited Sacramento during springtime, the flowers and trees were in full bloom. It was a beautiful sight to see and even more so because I hadn’t expected it at all!
Of all the parks I visited on my day trip, Capitol Park was definitely my favorite. I expected a lot of government buildings coming to Capitol Park but it surprised me with a beautiful garden, long walkways that were perfect for afternoon strolls, and the sight of the capitol building that would slowly disappear behind the California State Capitol Museum as I walked towards it.
- Address 1300 L St, Sacramento, CA 95814, USA
9. Tour the beautiful East Sacramento Homes
To continue the architectural journey, drive to East Sacramento and admire the beautiful homes there. East Sac is one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan also lived there for a brief period.
I first visited East Sac back in December when most of the homes between 38th and 47th Streets and J Street and Folsom Boulevard were lit up with Christmas lights. The homes there are known as the “Fab Forties,” and rightfully so because they are gorgeous.
If you get to visit Sacramento during the winter, you can’t miss the Fab Forties Christmas lights! This is one of my favorite things to do in Sacramento!
10. Take a picnic at McKinley Park
Sacramento locals seem to take a lot of pride in McKinley Park. I can see why as the park is filled with greenery, there’s a tennis court and basketball court, and there’s also a beautiful rose garden – my favorite part!
During my day trip, I walked around the park and saw greenery that extended four blocks one way and two blocks the other. There was also a lake that reflected the setting sun.
My recommendation on spending a perfect afternoon at McKinley Park is to have a picnic there during sunset. The grocery store Safeway is just 2 blocks away. You can stop by beforehand and pick up ingredients to form your picnic basket.
- Address: 601 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95816, USA
11. Check out one of Sacramento’s twenty-eight Museums!
Sacramento has 28 museums, displaying everything from historic railroads to modern art. Visiting a museum is one of the best things to do in Sacramento California.
I stumbled upon a few while wandering around Old Sacramento, including Crocker Art Museum that was just a few blocks past the Tower Bridge.
12. Hang Out at the Old Sugar Mill
I don’t know about you, but for me, a vacation doesn’t really feel like one until I’ve had a glass of wine or cocktail. While you’re looking for things to do in Sacramento California, consider paying a visit to the Old Sugar Mill for a glass of wine.
Another historical gem, the Old Sugar Mill was built in 1934 as a beet sugar refinery. Now it’s home to fourteen wineries. This is one of the best ways I’ve seen the city repurpose old buildings.
- Address: 35265 Willow Ave, Clarksburg, CA 95612, United States
- Opens every day from 11am to 5pm
13. Grab a Bite in Midtown
Compared to other parts of Sacramento that I visited, Midtown was the most vibrant. It had more restaurants concentrated in small areas and so so many coffee spots!
My personal recommendations for Midtown are this Instagram-friendly boba shop and chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line to grab a snack from either place. Go early to avoid those long waits.
14. Admire the Tower Bridge
After taking a stroll through Old Sacramento and taking LOTS of pictures, I was amazed to see the Tower Bridge slowly appear in front of me as I walked toward the end of the boardwalk.
The yellow bridge contrasted the blue waters and it was an astounding sight to see. The bridge was actually not as large as I expected, and its small size complemented the historic town perfectly.
Try to view the bridge from different angles by walking across it, sitting at one of the benches along the water, and viewing it from different parts of Old Sac. I had loads of fun seeing it from different perspectives.
- Address: Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
15. Walk along the American River
American River is a 30-mile long river that runs through Sacramento. And it runs through parts of town you’d least expect. One of the most surprising things about the river is how one part of it just sits behind a row of residential homes.
I walked along the American River and enjoyed how nature was just a 10-minute drive from downtown Sac. I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like if this was my backyard and I got to take walks here every day. I’m so jealous!
16. See how many murals you can spot
When my friend who’s local to Sacramento told me to check out the town’s murals, I quickly de-prioritized murals on my list of things to do in Sacramento California. I’d seen murals on other trips before and this didn’t seem like something worth my time.
But as I went on my day trip about town and checked the other places off my list, I started noticing murals left and right. There are SO MANY murals in Sacramento, and they were all different. It made touring the city that much more interesting.
You can find many of the murals in Sacramento through Wide Open Walls. But you probably won’t need this as they are hard to miss. And what’s the fun in knowing where all the murals are anyway?
17. Test Your California Knowledge at the California Museum
If I had to recommend one museum to visit in Sacramento, it would have to be the California Museum.
From the Gold Rush to Hollywood, learn about many of the pivotal moments in California and how they shaped the golden state.
- Address: 1020 O St, Sacramento, CA 95814, United States
- Opens Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm
18. Ride Around Town on a Sac Brew Bike
For an even more local brewery experience, reserve a Sac Brew Bike and go on an action-filled pub crawl around the city.
These brew bikes are like massive bicycles that get peddled around by up to 15 people. It’s truly a party on one of these, and it’s real easy to have too much fun.
It’s one of the best things to do in Sacramento California if you love beer and want to have a good time.
- Address: 1519 19th St, Sacramento, CA 95811, United States
19. Go hiking in Auburn – a great activity near Sacramento
Just 40 minutes outside of Sacramento is a town called Auburn, and ooooh is there a lot of nature out there. With so many hiking trails surrounding Sacramento, I thought it would be remiss not to mention one.
My friend (the local) has mentioned Cardiac Hill as a great option. I’d also recommend checking out Middle Fork American River Quarry Trail to spend even more time along the American River.
20. Go boating on Folsom Lake
Besides going to Auburn there is also Folsom Lake – a place for swimming, boating, and relaxing. For those that don’t enjoy water activities, there’s also trails for hiking and biking.
Located in the Sierra-Nevada foothills about 25 miles east of Sacramento, Folsom Lake is the perfect spot to visit in the summer or when the weather is warmer. There are four beaches at Folsom Lake you can visit while you’re there.
- Address 7755 Folsom Auburn Rd Folsom
The best places to go for Breakfast/Brunch in Sacramento
- Old Soul at 40 acres – This is a popular place located in the Oak Park Area of Sacramento with a rustic/chic style decor. It serves up a variety of freshly brewed coffees, teas (including chai tea), and freshly baked treats.
- Tower Cafe – Voted Sacramento’s best brunch spot for several years, this is a quirky and electrically designed cafe that sits next to the historic Tower Theater on Broadway. They serve up many different varieties of food from French Toast to Asian and Spanish mains.
- Orphan – This is a great place to eat brunch in Sacramento for the health-conscious and there they offer healthy, low-fat, low-sodium options and gluten-free options. They offer Latin flavors as well as updated old favorites.
- Pushkin’s Bakery – This is a unique family-owned cafe where everything they serve up is 100% gluten-free including cookies, cakes, sandwiches as well as dairy-free options.
- The Waffle Experience – A great choice if you fancy a bit of indulgence, as well as serving great fair trade coffee they also serve incredible waffles both savory and sweet as well as breakfast plates, sandwiches, salads and desserts.
The Best Cafes/Coffee Shops in Sacramento
- Anna’s vegan cafe – This is a highly rated cozy and family-run eatery with a varied all-vegan menu of Pan-Asian fare, from light bites to mains.
- The Mill – A laid-back but well-presented cafe that aims to provide the “best coffee experience possible” as well as hand-crafted teas and a food menu.
- Morgan’s Mill Sacramento – this is a cool and friendly place that offers locally roasted coffee, craft beers, wines, and live events.
- The Naked Lounge Coffee House – a small but funky coffeehouse with an outdoor patio that serves up espresso drinks as well baked goods.
- Temple Coffee Roasters – This place offers hip and stylish decor and ethically sourced, lovingly crafted farm-to-cup coffees.
Best restaurants in Sacramento
- Localis – This is a relaxed but stylish and modern restaurant that offers locally sourced New American dishes and plenty of vegan options too.
- The Kitchen Restaurant – This is a gorgeous upscale restaurant with an open kitchen which offers New American meals.
- Andy Nguyen’s Vegetarian Restaurant – A haven for vegetarians and vegans, this well-regarded restaurant offers Vietnamese dishes such as curries and rice bowls.
- The Firehouse – this is an upscale award-winning romantic restaurant that offers outdoor seating in the garden and seasonal American fare.
- The Waterboy – a cozy and intimate restaurant that offers Italian, French & Californian cuisine made from seasonal, local ingredients.
The Best Bars in Sacramento
- The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar – a trendy place with rustic-chic decor, great cocktails, and farm-to-table food.
- Revival – a chic rooftop bar with a swimming pool poolside lounge on the roof of The Sawyer hotel offering craft cocktails and gourmet bar bites.
- Jungle Bird – a cool and cozy retro Tiki bar which serves tropical cocktails, pu pu platters and main meals too.
- The Cabin – decked out like a country cabin but with plenty of modern twists it severs up spectacular cocktails and hearty food too.
- B-Side – If you like your bars to be divey and authentic head here! Has a retro vibe, theme nights, and a DJ too.
Best places to shop in Sacramento
- Arden Fair – Perfect for mainstream shopping this is a large and popular mall which is home to restaurants and over 150 shops.
- Lyon Village Shopping Center – Another popular place to shop in Sacramento with parking and a few boutique shops and restaurants.
- Natomas Marketplace – A large shopping mall with big-name stores big-box stores and casual eateries
- Midtown – Head to the midtown in Sacramento for trendy boutiques and some cool independent stores.
- Old Sacramento – If you want to shop for all sorts of souvenirs from T-shirts to quirky gifts then head to ‘Old Sac.’
The Best Hipster-friendly things to do in Sacramento
- Visit The Dragon House – This is a very cool place to visit in Sacramento, this is a private home located in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento. It stands out from all the other houses as the quirky house is decorated with mosaics, mini topiaries, and kinetic sculptures.
- Check out the Thrift Stores – Sacramento has many interesting vintage/thrift/retro stores perfect for visiting or local hipsters. Some of the best include Upscale Thrift, Totally Recycled Urban Exchange, and Deseret Industries Thrift Store.
- Go Record Shopping – Hunt for vinyl along with the other hipsters in Sacramento’s great collection of record shops. Kicksville Vinyl and Vintage, Delta Breeze Records, Phono Select Records are some of the best.
- Catch an independent film at the Crest Theatre – This is an elegant art deco-style theater which offers a great range of independent films as well as documentaries, art films, and live concerts.
- Go for craft beer – Sacramento has a number of great places to sample a craft beer or two including beer festivals, breweries and the city has also set up the Sacramento Brewery Passport.
The Best Breweries in Sacramento
- SacYard Community Tap House – An independent and family-friendly Taproom housed in a former garage with a beer garden. It serves craft beer and offers games too.
- Old Sugar Mill – This is a hip and trendy place housed in an old beet-sugar refinery which was in 1934. It’s a large place which features thirteen wineries and picnic grounds.
- Porchlight Brewing – Another family-friendly brewery (and dog friendly too) where you can dine in and sample great craft beers inside or on their patio.
- New Glory Craft Brewery – an intimate brewery and taproom which sells and serves a variety of craft beers as well as offering guided tours.
- Fieldwork Brewing Company – Located in the Handle District of Sacramento, this is a popular place to sample craft beers by the glass or to take out. They also offer delicious pizzas, salads, and appetizers
Best historic attractions in Sacramento
- Governor’s Mansion – Built in 1877, this is the official residence of the Governor of California, you can tour throughout the year on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
- Old Sacramento Schoolhouse – Located in Old Sacramento this is a great place to visit if you want to see what life was like in the 19th century. The building is a living replica of a traditional one-room schoolhouse.
- Sutters Fort State Historic Park – the original fort dates back from 1839 and today this park is a great place to visit for history buffs. Visitors are welcome to explore the historic structures and living history museum located here.
- Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park – this is a historic mansion and California State Park in Sacramento, California, which also doubles as the official reception center for the Californian government.
- Eagle Theater – Dating back from 1849 this small Gold-Rush era theater was actually the first permanent theatre to be built in the state of California.
Best Parks in Sacramento
- Parks William Land Park – this is a lovely and popular city park name after a local pioneer. As well as lovely green landscapes and lakes there are also plenty of attractions and activities on offer.
- McKinley Park – Built in 1871 this is a historic park that is great for outdoor sports and offers a basketball court, a soccer and softball court, and a swimming pool.
- Discovery Park – One of many parks located along the American River Parkway, there is 302 acres with a 32-mile bike trail, places to go for a picnic, and places to go boat.
- Partner Park – This is a great spacious and shady 15-acre park to head to with your dog, there’s water for the dogs and plenty of poop stations too.
- Howe Community Park – This is a great public park for families and dogs with a good range of facilities including a water spray area and an amphitheater.
Best Museums in Sacramento
- Capitol State Capitol Museum – A must-see in Sacramento, this museum is housed in a beautiful 19th-century Neoclassical building located in an urban park. Here you can learn all about the California State Capitol and the California Government.
- Crocker Art Museum – This is a well-respected museum which is home to the state’s top collections of Californian art through the ages from the Gold Rush to the present day.
- California State Railroad Museum – Located in the Old Town, which is dedicated to the historic “iron horse” train which connected California to the rest of the nation.
- Sacramento History Museum – A great museum dedicated to the history of Sacramento as well as California and the California Gold Rush.
- California Automobile Museum – Anyone who loves cars needs to head here, it’s a large museum with has a collection of 150 classic cars including very early models as well as racing cars.
Best Outdoor Activities in Sacramento
- Cycle the American River Bicycle Trail – this popular trail stretches over 32 miles between Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake’s southwestern banks at Beal’s Point.
- Go boating along the Sacramento River – the best way to view Sacramento and take in its scenery, several companies offer all kinds of boats to hire.
- Hike Loch Leven Lakes Trail – this is nearly an 8-mile trail perfect for hiking and nature trips.
- Go for a picnic in William Land Park – a beautiful and major city park perfect for relaxing and people-watching.
- Go kayaking along on Lake Natoma – located around 15 miles north of the city, this is a beautiful lake tucked in the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The Best Gardens in Sacramento
- Jensen Botanical Gardens – This is a much loved botanical garden which is free to visit during the day. It’s home to a lovely collection of flowers including rhododendrons, dogwoods, and azaleas.
- Fremont Community Garden – For something a little different these are plots rented out and the gardens here are completely organic and have a lovely community spirit.
- WPA Rock Garden – This is a unique hidden gem to explore in Sacramento, it’s only a small place but it’s full of a wide variety of plants, including a lot of California natives.
- Goethe Arboretum – Spanning over three acres this is a tranquil space full of open spaces, trees, plants and plenty of places to relax.
- State Capitol Park World Peace Rose Garden – Mentioned above as one of the top attractions in Sacramento this is a stunning Victorian style rose garden (located within the State Capitol Park), which is also home to a fountain and pavilion.
Best Family-Friendly things to do in Sacramento
- Head to the SMUD MoSac – Museum of Science and Curiosity – This is a new place located in the historic power station.
- Quarry Park Adventures – A unique adventure sport lover’s paradise with aerial adventure attractions.
- Drive in Movie – For afternoon or evening family fun head to West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In which has great outdoor movies and a retro vibe.
- Visit an Escape Room – Sacramento has a few of these, Enchambered is my favorite.
- Monster Mini Golf – This is a fun 18-hole miniature golf course and a hi-tech video game arcade.
Where to Stay in Sacramento
Here are some of the best neighborhoods to stay in Sacramento…
- Midtown – This is a trendy district and a great place to hang out with excellent restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs and cool breweries, vintage stores, and independent shops and boutiques.
- Old Sacramento Historic District – This is a lovely part of the city with beautiful historic buildings and a waterfront.
- Downtown Sacramento – This is the business and political hub of the city and is also home to California State Capitol and a lively restaurant and nightlife scene.
- East Sacramento – This is a quaint, charming, and leafy area of Sacramento and the main park hosts food truck events, concerts, and movie night.
- Oak Park – This is a buzzing neighborhood in Sacramento which is home to a great collection of artisan and vegan cafes, craft breweries, retro book shops and an eclectic range of restaurants
How to get around Sacramento
Although some of the city’s attractions are within walking distance of each other it’s best to either travel around by car, bicycle, by bus or taxi rides.
The Best Times to Visit Sacramento
Sacramento makes a great city trip all year especially for foodies but the best times to visit are April to June or September through November as this is when the temperatures range from pleasant to very hot (July is the hottest month) and the city bursts into life. The city also hosts many festivals during the months of May and June. Temperatures are much cooler from November to February. The California State Fair is hosted in July.
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