I recently moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area, and I have to admit I was surprised how quickly I’ve fallen in love with the City of Trees. Sure it doesn’t get as much attention as SF or LA, but maybe that’s why I like it.
Sacramento has a lot going for it beyond politics. There’s a thriving farm-to-fork food movement with local restaurants, an art scene that holds its own, plenty of outdoor activities to indulge in and the rich history of this city that is on display everywhere you go.
Here are 30 things to do in Sacramento that will help you explore the city’s diversity and all it has to offer.
State Capitol and Capitol Park
I know, I know, I said Sacramento is more than its politics, but this historical building is not to be missed. A visit gives insight into both the history of the state capitol as well as present day politics that are currently taking place under its roof. If you’re lucky you can catch state legislators at work from the assembly hall located on the second floor. Take a self-guided tour or a free-guided tour that run on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Afterward, head out onto the grounds and admire trees from around the world.
Old Town Sacramento
There’s so history in this state park, and I love how it feels like time traveling back to the Gold Rush Era, with the weathered wooden building facades. Check out spots like the Eagle Theater, Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, and the Sacramento History Museum for a glimpse into daily life in the Wild West. If you have a sweet tooth, head over to Munchie’s, where you can sample all the saltwater taffy you can stomach.
Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park
Worth a stop to see this historic building where many past governors called it their home. The house itself is no longer open to the public for tours since Governor Jerry Brown lives there now, but you can still admire it from the grounds and take as many picture as you want. If you’re around the area during the holidays, the house is decked out in lights and is bound to bring holiday cheer.
Leland Stanford Mansion
There’s so much of the city’s history within the walls of this Victorian mansion, from being built during the Gold Rush to the deals that took place within this building that helped create the transcontinental railroad. It’s now a state historic park and you can take a free one hour tour, which run hourly from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Afterward, don’t miss the 19th century gardens that surround the property.
If you need further proof of the rich history in Sacramento, look no further than this abandoned fort in the middle of Midtown. Historically, it’s one of the Central Valley’s earliest non-Native American settlements, and you can explore how life was like way back when with detailed exhibits and period demonstrations.
If you ever wanted to stay on a riverboat, or just wanted to have dinner aboard one, this is worth a stop. The food is hit or miss and overpriced (as is usually the case on tourist attractions), but you can always order a drink at the bar and soak in the view without the hefty price tag at the end of the night.
One of Sacramento’s iconic landmarks, this bridge is worth passing by on the river pathway, but it’s even better to get up close and personal by walking on it. It was built in 1935 as a shortcut from West Sacramento to Sacramento. Make sure to come back at night when it’s illuminated in a golden glow.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
No matter your religious beliefs, this building is worth checking out for its Italian Renaissance architectural details and vibrant stained glass windows. It also makes an ideal cool respite from the hot summer sun. Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament offers tours every Wednesday and Sunday.
This private home located in the neighborhood of Curtis Park immediately stands out from its neighbors with its mosaic tile designs of dragons, tigers and other mythical creatures coming to life on the side of the walls. Feel free to take photos, just be respectful of the people living there.
American River Parkway
Sacramento is a biking city, and there’s no better way to explore its natural beauty than riding a bike along this 23-mile pathway that winds its way along the scenic riverbank. It’s a great spot for a morning ride, where beating the crowds is motivation enough for getting there early.
Sacramento is surrounded by farmland and we are definitely spoiled with some of the freshest produce around. There are numerous farmers markets throughout the city. A popular one is the Capitol Mall Farmers Market every Thursday from May to October, where there’s a good assortment of food trucks amid the fresh produce. The Midtown Farmers Market also is another favorite, with tons of local character and excellent donuts.
Concerts In The Park
From the beginning of May to the end of July, Cesar Chavez Park comes alive with free concerts in Downtown Sacramento. There’s nothing better than rocking out with hundreds of locals that says summertime in the city. The line up is nothing to scoff at-this year’s headliner was Scottish indie rock bank Franz Ferdinand. Concerts are on Fridays from 5-9 p.m.
Sacramento Historic City Cemetery
Founded in 1849, this tranquil spot in the city is perfect for learning about the final resting place of many of the city’s notable individuals from Captain John A Sutter to some of Sacramento’s earliest mayors and governors. Docent guided tours are available as well as self-guided tours, where you can pick up a map in the Visitors Center.
Take A Tree Tour From Sacramento Tree Foundation
Go on a free guided tree tour or take your own self-guided tree tour and learn more about tree identification, fun tree facts, and tree history in the City of Trees. Neighborhoods that are featured include Capitol Park, McKinley Park and Arden Park.
Take A Food Tour
There is no better way to learn about the city than from the local tour guides who know it best. Local Roots Food Tours give three-hour food tours around Downtown, Midtown, and Sutter District, where you can sample local treats as well as learn about the surrounding history of the area.
One of my favorite things to do is walking around the beautiful homes and wide streets of the Fab 40s, especially during the holidays when whole blocks are lit up with lights. If you’re a fan of Lady Bird, the Blue House in the film can be found on 44 and M Street, and is hard to miss.
A large community park in East Sacramento that is great for a picnic on the lawn or admiring the blooms in the rose garden (of Lady Bird fame). There’s a walking path around the perimeter that’s great for people-watching. There is also a nice playground and duck pond for kids.
There are a lot of good museums in Sacramento, but this one is my favorite because it gives detailed accounts on moments of California history that are not always given attention, including influential women throughout California’s history and the discrimination the Japanese Americans faced during WWII within the state. Make sure to stop by the Unity Center, which celebrates California’s diverse population, and the California Hall of Fame, which features notable individuals throughout California’s relatively short history.
Crocker Art Museum
This museum is an art lover’s dream. With part of it housed in the historical Crocker mansion, it’s worth dropping by for both the art and architecture of this impressive space. Created in 1885, the Crocker Art Museum is one of the longest running museums in the West and boasts an extensive collection of local California art, originating from the Gold Rush to current day. There’s also a good amount of European and American art as well to enjoy.
California State Railroad Museum
So many trains, so little time. Whether you are a train enthusiast or lukewarm toward locomotives, this museum located in Old Town Sacramento makes you appreciate the great invention of the railroad. The best part is on the first floor of the museum where you can explore the restored trains from classics locomotives to futuristic bullet trains.
California Auto Museum
With an impressive 150+ collection of cars on display, this is a great place to spend some time and browse everything from Ford Model T to rare European cars. Check out their Drive-In Movie Nights, where you can watch a classic film right outside the museum during the summertime.
Sacramento has a wealth of murals, and it seems like I’m always discovering a new one. A good place to start your mural tour is Downtown and Midtown, where murals including the newly created Lady Bird mural brighten up the sides of buildings. If you’re in town during early August, Wide Open Walls hosts a mural festival throughout downtown where you watch local artists in motion.
2nd Saturday Art Walk
Head over to Midtown to explore the local galleries, along with food and wine, and live music. It’s a great way to support local artists and mingle with locals in a relaxed environment. The art walk is on every 2nd Saturday of the month and starts around 5:30 pm.
The Tower Theater
I’m a sucker for historical movie theaters, and this one oozes nostalgia. It has been a local favorite for 80 years and shows independent films on its four screens. What it lacks in modern day amenities, it makes up with its charm. Parking in the lot can be difficult so make sure to come early to snag a spot.
A beautiful historical venue located centrally in Downtown to catch a movie or see a concert in. The line-up is diverse from a Japanese film festival to an Indigo Girl concert, there’s a little something for everyone. If you’re into shows that thrive off of audience participation make sure to stop by for the popular Sound Of Music sing-a-long.
Sacramento Theater Company
As someone who was deeply involved in theater during high school, I always love a good local theater performance. This company puts on top-notch plays and musicals throughout the year and has an intimate seating set-up where there are no bad seats in the house. If you’re there during the holidays, check out their excellent version of A Christmas Carol.
Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera
From Vivaldi to Journey, this company puts on a show for a diverse number of musical tastes. The performances make for a great night out if you want to do something a bit different and take advantage of some of the city’s top musical talent.
A ballet company that puts on a range of different performances, from classical shows to events like the Beer and Ballet series, which combines a diverse range of dance numbers with a complentary glass of beer and wine. If you’re in town during December, The Nutcracker will definitely leave you in the holiday spirit.
Sacramento Kings Game at Golden 1 Center
Hometown pride runs deep with the city’s only major league team, and there’s no better place to witness it than at this shinny new downtown arena. Whether or not you are a basketball fan, a game is worth experiencing to see what all the (literal) noise is all about and sample the upgraded food options, like the pork sandwich from Porchetta House.
Asha Urban Baths
This spa is an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. It’s a small space, but very calming with a large warm water pool, a cold plunge pool, a sauna and a steam room. Classical music, lemon water, and numerous lounge chairs make you never want to leave. There are also yoga classes given on-site. A day pass costs $25.
What are your favorite things to do in Sacramento?
Photo sources: Dragon House