The best things to do in Sacramento

Top 20 of the best things to do in Sacramento

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…

You may have heard of Sacramento because it’s the capital of California. Or maybe you’ve enjoyed a craft beer from one of the city’s award-winning breweries. There are so many things that are unique to Sacramento, but only if you know where to look. I spent a day in Sacramento recently and hand-picked 20 of the best things to do in Sacramento, California to inspire your next visit! 

1. Grab a bite at Midtown Farmers Market – a must-do for foodies

Midtown Farmers Market

Farmer's market Sacramento

Like museums, farmers’ markets are a must-do for me whenever I’m visiting someplace new. It’s one of the best places to get a taste of local flavors. After all, you can know for sure that the food you get there are 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 delish!

2. Do a Cafe Hop – easily one of the best things to do in Sacramento

Vegan food 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

Hip cafe in Sacramento

Craft Beer Breweries Sacramento

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.

4. Brunch at Revolution Winery and Kitchen

Cool cafe Sacramento

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.

 5. Travel through time in Old Sacramento

Old Sacramento Buildings

Old Sacramento Waterfront

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

Delta King Riverboat Sacramento

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

Leland Stanford Mansion Sacramento

I lived in San Francisco for seven years. Because of that, SF has become the “norm” I compare all California cities to. That’s why I was surprised when I saw how many Victorian and Colonial Revival-style homes were in Sacramento. Nothing like that really existed in San Francisco.

Also, some of these homes are massive!

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.

8. Stroll through the Rose Garden at Capitol Park

Bell at Capitol Park Sacramento

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.

9. Tour the beautiful East Sacramento Homes

Old House in Sacramento

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

Garden & Arts Center 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.

11. Check out one of Sacramento’s twenty-eight Museums! 

Crocker Art Museum Sacramento

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

Old Sugar Mill Sacramento

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. 

13. Grab a Bite in Midtown

Midtown Sacramento

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

Tower Bridge Sacramento

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.

15. Walk along the American River

American River Sacramento

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

Mural in Midtown Sacramento

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

California Museum Sacramento

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.

18. Ride Around Town on a Sac Brew Bike

Sacramento Beer 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.

19. Go hiking in Auburn – a great activity near Sacramento

Auburn 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

Folsom Lake Sacramento

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.

The Most Complete List of Things To Do in Sacramento California

My one day in Sacramento was filled with history, good food, nature, and architectural sights. I realized that many spots on my list of things to do were right next to each other, but I would’ve so easily missed them if I hadn’t mapped them out beforehand.

Lucky for you, I’ve listed all 20 of the best things to do in Sacramento so you can spend more time enjoying the city rather than looking up the next place to go.

Right now, a lot of these places are already open. As the pandemic winds down, a few of the remaining ones will also open up. It won’t be a bad option to add to your list of cities to visit this year! 

Since Vivian hopped on her first plane ride at the age of five, travel has become a core part of her life. She’s lived in both Taiwan and the U.S., and now calls San Francisco, Bethesda, and Taichung City home. Vivian enjoys learning about different cultures through travel, trying local foods, and finding the best coffee spot wherever she goes. Read more about her adventures on her blog Viv the Wanderer or find her on Instagram.
 

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