When most people think of taking a trip to California, images of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego often come to mind. However, the capital city of Sacramento offers a glimpse into a different way of life in California that is unique in its very own way. You don’t have to be on a beach to capture the spirit of California!
This is an affordable and family-friendly destination that has lots of museums, historic sites, and delicious food. It’s easy to keep the whole family busy and entertained when you hit the highlights of Sacramento and get outside to enjoy some of the area’s outdoor recreation opportunities as well. So, as you plan your next California trip, keep Sacramento in mind and add these popular spots to your itinerary!
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Start Your Journey at Capitol Museum & Park (Nearby Hotels)
You don’t have to travel all the way to Washington, DC to learn about American government and about the places where the most important decisions in the country are made. As a tourist, you can explore the Capitol buildings and the museum, and then walk through the park to see the memorials that teach us about significant state history events. This is where you’ll find statues and memorials for certain wars. The lawn is absolutely beautiful and perfect for lounging to take a break from sightseeing on a nice day. Public tours of the Capitol are offered daily on the hour from 9 am to 4 pm. You can also head to the basement theater to watch a free film between 9 am and 5 pm. Outside, you’ll find gardens and trees from around the world.
Explore the Hip Midtown Area on Two Wheels (Nearby Hotels)
As far as neighborhoods go, Midtown is probably the most well-known and popular place to visit. This is a hip and trendy district that’s bordered by E Street, R Street, 16th Street, and 29th Street. It’s still largely residential but also has many boutique shops, bars, and restaurants to check out. Come here for the best of the Sacramento nightlife scene. There are also venues for live music, eclectic art galleries, and street vendors here. The Midtown Farmers Market runs on Saturdays year-round from 8 am to 1 pm on 20th street between J and L streets. The neighborhood is also bike-friendly, and there are some local bike shops and trails nearby too.
Soak Up Culture at the Crocker Museum of Art (Nearby Hotels)
There are over 15,000 works of art at the Crocker Art Museum, which has permanent collections from around the world. Here you’ll find ceramics, paintings, and more from Africa, Oceana, Asia, and beyond. The exhibits continuously change, making this an interesting museum to visit even if you’ve been here before. It’s located at 216 O Street and was the first public art museum in the Western U.S., established in 1885. In addition to the Historic Building, the Teel Family Pavilion was opened in 2010 to allow more space and displays. Check the museum’s website to see what exhibits are being featured and if any special events are going on during your visit.
Catch a Performance at the B Street Theatre (Nearby Hotels)
The B Street Theatre is a nonprofit theater that was founded in 1986 by actor Timothy Busfield as a theater for children. The theater has produced more than 100 new plays, and at least 60 of these are world, national, West Coast, or regional premieres. It offers mainstage performances with seven new plays each season, a family series, contemporary plans, school tours, workshops, and acting classes for both kids and adults. Check the theater’s website to see what’s playing during your visit! Something is happening at the theater pretty much every day except for Mondays.
Gold Rush Era History at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park (Nearby Hotels)
One of the must-visit historic sites in Sacramento is Sutter’s Fort, which is where the Swiss immigrant, John Sutter, built a fort for protection. This was a popular place for immigrants to come to get jobs farming wheat, cotton, and beans, as well as ranching and the fur trade. Not long after the fortifications were built, Sutter’s properties were overrun by gold seekers and the fort is all that now remains. Today, you can visit the fort to embrace the pioneer spirit of the California Gold Rush era. It’s open from 10am to 5pm daily, and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth ages 6-17, and free for kids under five.
Get Active on the American River Bicycle Trail (Nearby Hotels)
Also, locally referred to as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, this is a multi-use pathway that’s perfect for a day out in nature on two wheels. It’s about 32 miles long and has an asphalt surface that’s easy for riders of all skill levels. Walking, wheelchair use, inline skating, and horseback riding are also popular activities here. Dogs are welcome as long as they’re kept on a leash. It’s a two-lane trail that’s lined with mile markers, water foundations, and restrooms along the way. The trail end points are Jibboom Street in Discovery Park and at Beal’s Point by Folsom Lake. Most of the trail is level and shaded, and there are lots of places to stop to grab a bite to eat along the way.
Learn about the Region at the Old Sacramento State Historic Park (Nearby Hotels)
Old Sacramento is a National Historic Landmark District that celebrates the history of the region. There are lots of attractions in this area, including boardwalks, museums, tours, and boat rides. The Old Sacramento State Historic Park is a collection of gold rush era buildings, including the 1849 Eagle Theater, the 1853 B. F. Hastings Building, and the 1855 Big Four Building. There are over 50 historic buildings here than span 296 acres, making it the largest area of its kind in the American West. There are overnight facilities to stay in if you have an RV, trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding, and day-use areas for picnics and fishing as well. Parking is available at the main parking structure located at 3rd and J Streets, as well as some metered spots on the nearby streets.
Trains Galore at the California State Railroad Museum (Hotel Prices & Photos)
One of the top attractions in the Old Sacramento area is the California State Railroad Museum, which is fun for both kids and adults. The museum spans over 225,000 square feet and features restored trains that you can see for yourself. There is also a lot of information provided about how the railroad expansion impacted the American West and grew California into what it has become today. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm and admission is $12 for adults, $6 for youth, and free for kids under five. You can even take a train ride in a closed coach car, open-air gondola, or first-class observation car when you visit. Train rides run on the hour, every hour, between 11am and 4pm.
Car Enthusiasts Delight at the California Automobile Museum (Nearby Hotels)
Another transportation-themed attraction to check out in Sacramento is the California Automobile Museum. This museum celebrates classically restored cars and has a space over 72,000 square feet in size to display them. Inside, you’ll find race cars, muscle cars, hot rods, and vehicles that any car enthusiasts will fall in love with right away. The car exhibits are on loan to the museum, which means that the featured cars may very well be different than the ones you’ve seen there before in the past.
Release Your Inner Kid at the California Exposition & State Fair (Nearby Hotels)
The California State Pair is an epic annual event that takes place at the Cal Expo in Sacramento. It’s held each year in July and typically hosts musical performances, classic car shows, horse racing, animal showings, amusement park rides, hands-on exhibits, action sporting events, over 70 food and drink vendors and unique places to shop. There are also many competitions held here on topics like photography, cheese, beer, fine art, livestock, mechanics, canning and baking, corn dog eating, pie eating, cornhole toss, olive, oil, wine, and more. Even if you don’t visit this area in July, you can still stop by the Cal Expo for various events. Check the Cal Expo website to see what’s happening when you’ll be in town!