The Golden State’s capital offers a ton of things to see and do from museums and theaters to scenic riverside views, lush parks and a fantastic historic waterfront complete with wooden sidewalks, gold-rush era storefronts, cobblestone streets and a host of shops. If you’re trying to figure out what to put on your to-do list while you’re here, be sure to include some of these options.
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Explore Old Sacramento (Nearby Hotels)
Old Sacramento is the historic district that runs along the waterfront. This historical national landmark is home to a number of fascinating museums, including the Sacramento History museum where you can learn about the city’s dramatic diverse history, and the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum for exploring the state’s early days of education in a living replica of traditional one-room schoolhouse. Huntington & Hopkins Hardware recreates a small town hardware business and displays 19th-century tools and machinery, while the automobile museum features an impressive collection that dates from 1885 through present. Carriage and wagon rides are offered year-round and there are a number of bars and lounges as well.
Visit the Crocker Museum of Art (Nearby Hotels)
The Crocker Art Museum was the first public art museum in the western United States, opening its doors back in 1885, and today it’s considered to be longest continuously-operating art museum in the West. It showcases more than 15,000 works of art from around the world, including paintings, ceramics and more in its permanent collection along with continuously changing exhibits.
See the California State Railroad Museum (Nearby Hotels)
Located at the northern edge of Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum not only features many restored trains, all with unique interiors and a unique history to go along with it, but it offers the chance to hop on the Sacramento Southern Railroad train for a scenic ride. There are also a number of exhibits that reveal how railways expanded the West, and chronicle their impact on traveling and commerce.
Discover Sutter's Fort (Nearby Hotels)
Sutter’s Fort is a living history museum located in the heart of midtown Sacramento, preserving some of California’s most important history. It tells the story of the Swiss immigrant John Sutter who built his fortress in 1846 to protect himself and hist crops on the 150,000 acres of land. The fort was a popular home for immigrants who came to the West in hopes of a better life, and helped to harvest the crops within the fort. Just a few years later, James Marshall, whom Sutter commissioned to build a sawmill along the American River east of the fort, discovered the first recorded golden nugget that sparked the California Gold Rush.
See the Sacramento Zoo (Nearby Hotels)
While it’s relatively small compared to most, the Sacramento Zoo is well worth a visit, home to some 140 varied species of animals, many of which are endangered. It offers the usual favorites like lions, tigers, giraffes and primates, along with the popular Reptile House which features more than 200 reptiles and amphibians. The special giraffe encounters offer the chance to feed the giraffes and feel their sticky tongues on your hands. There are a number of inexpensive rides too, like the Conservation Carousel with animals carved from wood and painted by hand, a zoo train and more.
Watch the Kings (Nearby Hotels)
If you want to do what the locals do, and you’re here during the NBA season (October through April), put on your purple and head to Power Balance Pavilion to watch the Sacramento Kings. The city nearly lost the team a few years ago, and fans were extremely passionate about keeping them in town. They also have a reputation for being the most vocal in the entire league, which makes going to a game a lot more fun.
Tour the Capitol (Nearby Hotels)
The architecturally stunning California State Capitol was completed in 1874, and since then, it’s been one of the city’s top attractions. It’s not only the heart of California’s working seat of government, it’s a living museum, dedicated to sharing the state’s history while working to build its future. Tours are free, and it’s open every day except on major holidays.
Head to the River (Nearby Hotels)
The Lower American River flows through Sacramento and offers a ton of activities on and around the water. When it comes to kayaking and whitewater rafting, you’ll find every type type of water you could want, with calm stretches, open lakes and whitewater too. A number of excursions are available from Sacramento through local outfitters. Or you can always join the many fishermen and women hoping for that big catch.
Go Underground (Nearby Hotels)
Taking the Old Sacramento Underground Tour offers a fascinating glimpse at the city’s history and what life was like 150 or so years ago. It all began as a response to the flood of those who came during the gold rush, with the settlement growing the river’s southern banks. While it was great for river access, it flooded a lot, so the city began to raise its streets and buildings. Recent excavations uncovered the former first floors of Old Sacramento, a maze of hidden underground spaces and street, and visitors can go below with a knowledge guide to view the excavated foundations and old artifacts.
Hop Aboard the Delta King (Nearby Hotels)
While you won’t be going anywhere by boarding the Delta King as it’s permanently docked in Old Sacramento, it does offer a number of attractions, including unique accommodations, with the opportunity to spend the night in one of the staterooms. You can also dine at its Pilothouse restaurant or catch a murder mystery show and then enjoy a drink in the outside lounge on a warm summer’s evening.