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TOP THINGS TO DO IN SACRAMENTO

by Pankaj Upreti
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THINGS TO DO IN SACRAMENTO

Sacramento
Sacramento | Photo Credit –micadew

Sacramento is the capital city of the USA’s Golden State, the third largest sate of the country, California. This city also called the city of trees and also voted as America’s most diverse city.

Three rivers – Sacramento river, American River, San Joaquin River – and a lot of other waterways make its course around the terrain, making it one of the favorite area of water sports enthusiasts around the world. Sacramento has a lot of nicknames owing to its natural and cultural richness.

Is Sacramento Worth Visiting?

With picturesque tree lined streets, to tourists’ delight of all budget range, Sacramento is definitely underrated but has every sign that makes a city worth visiting. Located right on the river, it is a quiet peaceful destination that caters to all types of tourists and travelers. It is also a safe area to visit. From historic, nightlife, retro diners, food and drinks to fun sports Sacramento has a scene and a way for everything.

What Are The Things To Do In Sacramento?

Easy to navigate tree lined streets, and access to low-cost public transport makes Sacramento a budget friendly trip. Here are the best things to do in Sacramento that should be on your itinerary.

OBSERVE THE LEAP

Make sure to look out for a 56-foot-long colossal, suspended red rabbit installation at the time of your arrival at the Sacramento International Airport. The rabbit is shown to be leaping into a suitcase on the airport floor. According to Lawrence Argent, the sculptor, the sculpture symbolizes the human tendency to rush.

EXPLORE A LIVING HISTORIC CITY OF OLD SACRAMENTO

Sacramento History Museum
Sacramento History Museum | Photo Credit – Larry Jacobsen

In days of past, Old Sacramento used to be a thriving riverfront town. This is a good region to start your exploration of the city. It has boardwalk style sidewalks and horse-drawn stagecoaches to give you the historic vibe. Old Sacramento contains several museums which give the name to the site as Old Sacramento Historic State Park. It is a five minute walk from the Amtrak station.

The site includes Sacramento History Museum, Wills Fargo History Museum, and Evangeline’s Costume Shop. This place is well known as home to at least 50 historic buildings. As the name suggests, Sacramento History Museum is devoted to Sacramento history and the gold rush period.

In Sacramento History Museum, you’ll be able to see how the city was raised to avoid the devastations caused by massive floods back in history. Best time to visit the site is in the late afternoon or early evening.

To the west of the museum is the Sacramento River from where you can have a stunning view of both the Tower Bridge and the I Street Bridge. The golden Tower Bridge is suspended over the Sacramento river and connects West Sacramento of Yolo County to downtown East Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO GOLD RUSH DAYS

Gold Rush Days Celebration, Sacramento
SACRAMENTO GOLD RUSH DAYS | Photo Credit – Jack Snell

This is a popular annual event among the locals on Labor day weekend, when Sacramento trucks unload stuff onto the streets of Old Sacramento in downtown. The visitors are then involved in a treasure hunt type of game. Music, food, and drinks are distributed and live shows reenacting life in the Old West are performed.

INDULGE IN ARTS AND HISTORY

Sacramento has 28 museums that exhibit art and history from Gold Rush, California to railroad and medical science.

CROCKER ART MUSEUM

Crocker Art Museum | Photo Credit – Nathan Hughes Hamilton

It started as a private art collection of E B Crocker in 1885 in his historic Italian Crocker Family mansion. Crocker Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums in the states. You can see Californian art, European paintings and drawings, international ceramics collections, and collections of Asian, African, and Oceanic art there.

The museum also hosts rotating exhibits, classes and workshops, guided tours etc.  round the year. Check out their annual calendar here to access such facilities and programs.

CALIFORNIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM

California State Railroad | Photo Credit – Loco Steve

Whether you’re an engineer or just someone with a curious mind, this museum is a must visit for everyone who loves to take a tour in historical setup. The museum has 21 restored locomotives and railroad cars, from1862 to contemporary times. It also hosts various changing exhibits around railroad history and offers an educational program for elementary kids.

If railroad history is not your thing then visit the California state railroad museum to enjoy the Sacramento Southern Railroad train trip that takes passengers on a 40-minutes, 6-miles round trip route along the Sacramento River on a portion of the Walnut Grove branch of the former Southern Pacific Railroad.

This service operates between April and October, make sure to check their website before visiting the museum as it was temporarily closed on 4th August, 202 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

CALIFORNIA MUSEUM

House of California House Of Fame, this museum is for every pop history aficionado. The museum hosts an exhibit space, and also offers facilities for lectures, performances, receptions and events. It also has the famous, massive Constitution Wall that has words taken from California’s Constitution sculpted into it.

The museum also encourages visitors to take a stand against intolerance with its Unity Center. Check their website here before planning your visit. 

OTHER FAMOUS MUSEUMS

ther museums worth mentioning in Sacramento are Aerospace Museum of California for aerospace enthusiasts, and California Automobile Museum for people who dream about vehicles from old times to current. For people interested in the lifestyle of California’s Mexican rancho days, visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park which also has a functional open air theatre in it garden for visiting families.

Then there’s the State Indian Museum dedicated to the culture and history of native people of the land. According to the locals, the most intriguing but also a little haunting museum is the Museum of Medical History of Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society that showcases the development of medicine. 

One of the historical landmarks, Leland Stanford Mansion/Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park is a government protected historic site in downtown Sacramento that was used to be the house of governors of California State. Since 2005, the guided tour facility has been provided at the Leland Stanford during the working hours.

OUTING IN WILLIAM LAND REGIONAL PARK

Several city attractions are situated in this park like Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town, a golf course and a children’s park called Funderland.

SACRAMENTO ZOO

Sacramento Zoo
Sacramento Zoo | Photo Credit – Steve Foster

Established 1920s, the zoo has 500 animals including birds, racoons, deers etc. The zoo had a lot of exhibits installed dedicated to various animals in the past including flamingoes, giraffes, penguins, river otter, grizzly bears, orangutans, African fauna like fennec foxes, red billed hornbill, rare wolf’s Mona monkey, red panda etc.

FAIRYTALE TOWN

Fairytale Town | Photo Credit – Scott Schrantz

A children friendly park on a storybook theme is situated right next to the zoo. With over 25 theme parks based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes like Giant’s Foot etc. A ticket to Fairytale Town coupled with a ticket to Sacramento zoo and Funderland park can be an ideal outing for families with kids. 

EXPLORE CALIFORNIA STATE CAPITOL

California State Capitol | Photo Credit – ccb621

The California State Capitol is the home to the California state government and has two departments for the legislature and the office of the governor. Built more than a century ago in a Neoclassical style, the building is located in central Downtown Sacramento and is considered a California Historical Landmark.

The Capitol building features a free museum called California State Capitol Museum, and inside it offers a free guided tour of the building including its legislative chambers, and its restored historic offices are available daily, and even screens free historic films in the basement.

Don’t miss out on the surrounding 16 square city blocks of the Capitol Park. On the outdoors, the visitors have free access to stroll in the many gardens around the building, and see the memorials, and monuments in the park’s grounds. The State Capitol is visible from the Tower Bridge.

GET YOUR ADRENALINE FIX AT AMERICAN RIVER BIKE TRAIL

AMERICAN RIVER BIKE TRAIL | Photo Credit – Robert Schlie

The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail or the American River Bike Trail is the most popular site among hikers’ and bikers’ fraternity, and historians. It has a world-class bike path and has an abundance of fields for outdoor activities between Sacramento and Folsom, California.

The trail begins at Discovery Park in Sacramento and weaves an uphill path along the Sacramento River, Lake Natoma and ends at Folsom Lake of American River. The trail is a 32-mile (51 km) stretch of automobile-free pavement and is dotted with plenty of parks that offer water and shade ideal for picnics. It also has parking. The return trip is fairly easy. Try looking for a deer or wild turkey while biking here.

For people interested in water sports, the river also offers opportunities to water skiing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and even fish in the warmer months. The trail also features Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which houses information, animals, books, and a gift store. Checkout the map of the trail here.

MURALS

MURALS Sacramento | Photo Credit – Robert Couse-Baker

If street art and graffiti is your thing, then make sure to search and observe the tasteful murals scattered across the city. You can use a map to easily find the murals in Sacramento.

The city also hosts an annual Sacramento street and mural art festival in August called Wide Open Walls. The festival invites 40 local and international mural artists to the city for 10 days to create designs at specific sites. Visitors are free to observe these murals in making and take self-guided tours.

Follow this website to reach the best murals of the city.

CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR

California State Fair | Photo Credit – ray_explores

For the last 150 years or so, every year during summer from mid July to early August, the Cal Expo fairgrounds host the California State Fair that attracts more than one million visitors making it the most attractive highlight of the season in the news. The visitors here are both local and international.

The fair hosts some amazing exhibits, live entertainment, rides, and the Magnificent Midway. The festival showcases the state’s best agricultural products like flowers, livestock, and California’s diverse cultures, traditions, and achievements.The calendar of events that the Cal Expo hosts can be found here.

CESAR CHAVEZ PLAZA

Recognized as  a great public space, Cesar Chavez Plaza or Park is a city park named after American leader. This area has been a center of activities like musical concerts, farmer’s markets and other community activities. Having a Parisian style, the plaza has Sacramento Central Library, City Hall and Citizen’s Hotel right next to it.

The plaza has a central fountain, circular pathways, and cross-axial walkways. The Capitol building is near to it, only three blocks away from the plaza. Each summer, from May to August, a free outdoor concert is held weekly on Friday nights from 5 pm to 9 pm at Cesar Chavez Park where you can spend hours by listening to good music.

SECOND SATURDAY ART WALKS

Second Saturday Art Walks are a distinct art walk throughout Midtown Sacramento. The walk takes the visitors through highly notable art galleries and studios of the city. Each second Saturday of the month, visitors can explore open houses at local galleries between 5:30pm and 9:00pm.

Many galleries also offer complimentary wine and refreshments, with live music performances and art demonstrations and exhibits for the visitors. This also becomes a great time to explore street food as a lot of vendors line there during these Saturdays.

FARMER’S MARKET

farmer’s market | Photo Credit – Robert Couse-Baker

The farmers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley can be found at various certified farmers’ markets throughout the city. Each venue sells something unique like dairy, meat, and seafood in addition to produce, crafts, and artisan items. No matter how odd it sounds, the Sacramento farmer’s market is a must visit while you stay in the city.

With 1.5 million acres of farms and ranches present in the city, the agricultural lifestyle is an identity of the city. This gives the city the identity of farm to fork capital of the states. The produce of these markets are also utilized by many restaurants of the area in all seasons.

RIVER RAFTING

RIVER RAFTING in Sacramento
RIVER RAFTING | Photo Credit – Bureau of Land Management California

The lower banks American River are suitable for leisurely raft trips in almost still waters. The visitor will have to self guide the raft as the water currents are little low here. It is popular in summer. The inflatable river rafts can be found on rent along Sunrise Boulevard and floated down to River Bend Park.

This makes for a 6-mile trip that takes 3 to 4 hours depending on river flows. Shuttle service is available to return rafters to the start point. Rafts sizes vary from 4 to 12 people. The services are suspended on national holidays like 4th of july.

DELTA KING

Delta King | Photo Credit – Jack Snell

The Delta King is a 285-foot-long sternwheel paddle steamboat that was built in Scotland and California for traveling between Sacramento and San Francisco, California. Post its retirement, Delta King is now anchored in Sacramento River waterfront of Old Sacramento, California, and hosts a 44-room hotel with an award winning restaurant called The Pilot House Restaurant. The hotel also has its own professional theater company called Capital Stage.

SACRAMENTO KINGS NBA BASKETBALL

Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings | Photo Credit – Michael Tipton

Home to the Kings, the local basketball team, Sacramento gives one of the best opportunities to see NBA basketball games at Golden 1 Arena, the home of Sacramento Kings. The Kings have been growing steadily in popularity in recent years.  NBA enthusiasts can’t miss this opportunity.

RAGING WATERS SACRAMENTO

Raging Waters Sacramento is a water park that features more than 25 water attractions including slides, pools and activities for children and adults of all ages. It’s located on the Cal Expo grounds in Sacramento, California.

Because of which it does operate during the California State Fair. Few of the famous rides here are Dragon’s den, Honolulu halfpipe, cliffhanger etc.

HOT AIR BALLOONING

Just thirty minutes from Sacramento, Sky Drifters provide hot air balloon Rides in the spectacular Sierra Nevada Foothills over Sacramento state. The balloons are launched from the banks of the Cosumnes river.

Unlike many other popular ballooning locations, hot air ballooning is different here as you will be flying over rivers, lakes, creeks, tall trees, and over the top of other stunning views.

MIDTOWN

Midtown of Sacramento
Midtown of Sacramento | Photo Credit – Eric Fredericks

The Midtown of Sacramento is a hip neighborhood lined with restaurants from global cuisine, craft breweries, gay bars, and nightclubs. This town is a nightlife district of the city. More than 50 independent galleries, clothing boutiques, and vintage shops catering to fashion, beauty, gifts, specialty items, home furnishings, antiques, sporting goods, health and wellness add to the hip character of the area.

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park and the State Indian Museum are also located here. Famous award winning 1950s style Rick’s Dessert Diner is a dream destination that dessert lovers can’t miss. Periodic festivals like Chalk It Up festival also happen here. Midtown is also famous for its Sac Brew Bike. Follow this link to know about more things to do in Midtown.

OLD SUGAR MILL

Old Sugar Mill | Photo Credit – Lisa Nottingham

Now home to  fifteen unique wineries offering best varieties from all over Northern California, this Mill was built in 1934. From Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc to Sangiovese, the mill features a variety of wines.

Just 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento, the Old Sugar Mill also offers picnic grounds. They also host corporate events, offsite retreats, birthdays, anniversaries, luncheons and dinners, weddings, holiday parties, showers, and non-profit fundraisers from intimate to grand. Click here to save spots at the Mill.

CREST THEATRE

Crest theater | Photo Credit – Michael Dunn

Another historic feature of the downtown, the Crest theater opened its doors over a century ago as the Empress Theatre. It now has an impressive art deco style theatre. Visitors can see niche films, live performances, and lectures. It also hosts events and film festivals such as the Sacramento French Film Festival, Sacramento Japanese Film Festival, Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Sacramento International Film Festival, Sacramento Film and Music Festival and Sacramento Jewish Film Festival.

Where to shop and eat in Sacramento?

From Midtown to Downtown, Sacramento is lined up with quirky restaurants of different cuisines. Special breweries and wineries are other highlights of the city.

Similarly shops are located throughout the Downtown and Midtown areas, with the majority around J and K streets from 15th to Alhambra, with the hub at 20th and J Streets. Check out this link to find places to shop and eat in Downtown and this link for Midtown.

What are the free things to do in Sacramento?

Although, there are a lot of free things to do in and around Sacramento, the most popular are few. State Capitol Museum, Wells Fargo Museum, City Cemetery, etc. are free things to see/do all year round.

Self guided tours by the help of apps like Sac Grid app, and Sac heritage walking tour app is also a popular free thing to do here.

Please also read about Things to do in Brooklyn.


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