What to do in Sacramento
Full disclosure, I’m from Sacramento and recently moved back. I spent eight years living in the Netherlands and never imagined myself moving back to Sacramento – if I ever did move back to California, it would be to the Bay Area. Or so I thought. Call me Lady Bird, or whatever, but I’m back! And I’m happy to report that Sacramento is better than ever and is definitely worth a visit! If you are looking for what to do in Sacramento, you’ve come to the right place.
Everything you see in the film Lady Bird is representative of Sacramento. It is one of those cities that is not as exciting as a big city like New York, LA or San Francisco – but that is what makes it a nice place to live. It is a city that just feels good to be in – it doesn’t need big city vibes to make you want to stay and enjoy it. You won’t need to rush from attraction to attraction here. Take your time, eat our food, and try our beer!
Sacramento is sunny and it is a city on the rise – it was even featured in the New York Times travel section earlier this year. Let me tell you, all Sacramentans are proud of this! In this Sacramento blog post you’ll find fun things to do in Sacramento, along with tips on where to stay in Sacramento.
Want more great California travel tips? Check out these posts:
- Mammoth Lakes in summer, California’s eastern sierra
- Pinnacles National Park: explore California’s newest national park
- California bucket list: California adventures you can’t miss
- Cheap and free things to do in San Francisco
- Los Angeles to San Diego: A 10 day Southern California road trip
Getting around Sacramento
Our public transport isn’t um… the best in Sacramento. But luckily Sacramento is really easy to get around, especially if you plan to stay in Downtown or Midtown. Sacramento has a grid layout, so you’ll easily find your way from place to place. The numbered streets run east to west (from Old Sac toward the mountains), and the lettered streets run north to south.
Great things to do in Sacramento
Visit the State Capitol
What to do in Sacramento if you’re a political buff:
One of the best things to do in Sacramento is take a tour of the capitol building. Sacramento is the capital city of California, and this is where all the politics go down. California is the most important state in the nation (that’s just my humble Californian opinion) – but really, it is true – so much of the legislation that is passed in Sacramento has nationwide consequences. California is also the fifth largest economy in the world, so Sacramento is a hugely influence center of politics.
Public tours of the capitol are available every day between 9am-4pm. Check out this website for more information.
Head to the Crocker Art Museum
What to do in Sacramento if you love art:
Located on the Sacramento River, just a short walk from Old Sacramento is the Crocker Art Museum. The Crocker is a staple of Sacramento Art and Culture and houses California art dating back to the founding of the state up to today’s modern art. I personally recommend the Crocker because it has just the right mix of history and statement art pieces. You can learn about the Big Four who brought the railroads to California, and you can also see some politically driven modern art pieces.
For more info on the Crocker visit their website.
Take in the street art
What do do in Sacramento if you’re a street art afficionado:
One of the newest points of interest in Sacramento is Sacramento Wide Open Walls. Wide Open Walls is a collection of murals that supports public art and expression (not unlike the Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn). All over downtown and midtown Sacramento you’ll find murals all over buildings that have been commissioned by Wide Open Walls – it is pretty impactful.
If you visit Sacramento and love street art, be sure to spend time visiting these murals and take in the art – it’s a great way to explore the city and see some amazing murals at the same time. One of the most famous new murals is by Shephard Fairy (famous for his 2008 Obama campaign posters), who painted a 15 story mural of Johnny Cash — which also happens to be the biggest mural in California, and is meant to raise awareness for prison reform.
It is impressive to see the city making use of walls that were previously barren and uninteresting, and turn them into something beautiful, and adding loads of color to the city.
If you don’t feel like walking from mural to mural, consider getting a Jump Bike. Jump is the newest craze to hit Sacramento. Much like Citi Bike in other US cities, Jump bikes are for rent all over the city – book them through Uber.
For more information on where the murals are located, check out this map
Looking for more tips in Northern California? Check out these cheap things to do in San Francisco!
Farm to Fork Culture
Every foodie will appreciate that I added this to the list of what to do in Sacramento.
Sacramento was recently named America’s-Farm-to-Fork-Capital for our abundance of locally grown food that is available all over the Sacramento region. If you’re a foodie, indulging in this Farm-to-Fork culture is one of the best ways to enjoy Sacramento that is truly unique to this city.
Sacramento is surrounded by agriculture and farming communities – the region actually feeds both the nation and the world. Locally based menus change from season to season so you can always enjoy what is fresh and in season when you sit down to dine in Sacramento.
Our Mediterranean climate means that we can produce diverse crops all year round, which luckily end up on your plate. According to the Farm-to-Fork website, 33% of the world’s tomatoes come from within 250 miles of Sacramento – that is pretty incredible!
Check out this list of the best Farm-to-Fork restaurants where you can eat for under $10.
Sacramento is also home to tons of Farmer’s Markets (most of which take place during the summer). If you’re ready for a shopping spree of fresh goodies, check out this list of Farmer’s Markets you should visit.
Enjoy local craft brews and bars
What to do in Sacramento if you love beer:
What would a guide to a northern Californian city be without a section on local beers? We’re just as crazy about craft beers as we are about local food, and lucky for you, midtown Sacramento has got plenty of options when it comes to local beers. After all, trying out local beers is one of the most fun things to do in Sacramento.
The best way to try out the best brews and bars in down is to hop on the Sac Brew Bike, where you can pedal (or just sit back and relax) on this party bike where you can go from brewery to brewery. If you don’t feel like peddling, no worries the host will basically drive the bike from place to place so you don’t need to put in too much effort.
The Sac Brew Bike is also a great way to see the best parts of Sacramento’s most popular area, Midtown, where you’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants and bars (not to mention many of those murals I mentioned above)!
If the Brew Bike isn’t your thing, try out some of these breweries in Midtown and Downtown Sacramento for your own brewery tour:
- Device Brewery Company
- New Helvetia Brewing Company
- Ruhstaller Brewery
- Urban Roots Brewery and Smokehouse
Visit Old Sac(ramento)
Yes, we have an area of the city we call Old Sac. I’ll give you a moment to giggle.
Old Sac is the historic part of Sacramento that will give you old timey, western vibes. It is one of those places that you kind of have to visit when you visit Sacramento, but it isn’t really a place you’ll want to spend too much time in. Spend a bit of time wandering around Old Sac and snap some photos of the area, but the rest is pretty touristy and honestly, not a place where locals really hang out.
When you’re in Old Sac though, the California Railroad Museum is worth a visit. It is one of those museums that you begrudgingly visit as a kid with your elementary school class, but as an adult come to appreciate it. There you can spend time learning about how the California railways came to life, which is a huge part of the state’s history.
Check out the hipster things to do in Sacramento
I don’t know why, but I can’t really shake the feeling that Sacramento is the new Portland. Maybe its because we have so many people moving here from the Bay Area, or maybe its because Sacramento is become more well known, but hey, there are already tons of hipster things to do in Sacramento.
Besides scoping out all the incredible art murals, Sacramento has tons of other hipster things to do.
One fun and free thing to do in Sacramento is to head to R Street and hop from boutiques, to breweries, cafes, and restaurants. The R Street corridor is one of the hippest places in Sacramento, and has been completely renovated in the past few years.
Check out the shops in WAL Public Market where you’ll find collectibles, home goods and vintage goods. Across from there, stop by Bottle & Barlow where you can stop in for a cocktail and a shave in an old school style barbershop.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the city’s latest hotspot, Beast and Bounty, but be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
Where to stay in Sacramento
When you visit Sacramento, the best areas to stay are Downtown and Midtown Sacramento. From there you’ll be able to walk or bike anywhere you want to go, and you’ll be able to visit all the highlights I mentioned here without renting a car (well maybe you’ll want to take an Uber, but everything is walkable). Sacramento is a much bigger city than downtown and midtown, but these are the areas you’ll really want to check out and where most locals hang out.
The Kimpton Sawyer is the newest and chicest addition to lodging in Sacramento, and I really don’t think it can be beat. The Kimpton Sawyer is located at the DoCo (Downtown Commons) next to the brand spanking new Golden 1 arena. Revival, Sacramento’s first ever real rooftop cocktail lounge is located and the Kimpton, finally serving Sacramento with the upscale cocktail bar it so deserves – move over LA. Er, we have a lot farther to go to catch up to the amazing rooftop bars LA boasts, but Revival is a step in the right direction and is beautifully appointed to boot.
Did this post help you figure out what to do in Sacramento? Let me know in the comments below what I should add to my list of what to do in Sacramento!
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.