Nestled around 90-miles from San Francisco, Sacramento is California’s capital and a great place to visit. From historical to world-class museums, there’s a heap of epic spots and the best things to do in Sacramento that’ll fill up your trip to the city.
Now, from an “across the pond” perspective, you might not visit Sacramento on a stand-alone trip. Though don’t get it confused, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting… far from!
Sacramento a totally great city to explore and well worth including as part of a wider California road trip.
So, to help you get the most outta your time in the city, I wanted to share some total gems you shouldn’t miss. This way, you can keep your focus on exploring and save time being bogged down with all the planning.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Sacramento in California. Have an amazing time when you visit.
1.) Old Sacramento State Historic Park
If you’re into your history, this spot will be for you!
Old Sacramento State Historic Park is a historical area that has a heap of buildings from the Gold Rush era that’s too good to miss. It’s the kind of place where time has stood still, especially when visiting the Eagle, the B. F. Hastings Building, and the Big Four Building.
You see, way back when, the district earned its fame from its role as the Western Terminus to the Pony Express and the transcontinental railroad. Though there’s no need to be on the search for gold to visit nowadays, it’s within easy reach of The I Street Bridge and well worth a gander.
Once you arrive, be sure to stroll through the little eateries, shops and River City Saloon that’s been around for centuries.
Fancy a longer tour? Rent a bike and join the River Bike Trail that takes in some of the best things to do in Sacramento. Just be sure to wear a helmet!
2.) California State Railroad Museum
When it comes to iconic spots in the city, the California State Railroad Museum is certainly up there. Not only that, you don’t need to be a train-enthusiast to enjoy this spot; it’s filled with history and you really can’t miss it.
Stationed in Old Sacramento and covering an area of more than 200,000+ square feet, it’s one of the world’s largest railway museums.
As you stroll through the vast rooms, you’ll get to see a heap of restored steam trains and railway coaches which are a real slice of history. They’re totally pristine, even though they’re from centuries ago.
Along the routes, you’ll get to learn more about railroad history and how the railroad influenced California. It’s pretty epic.
3.) Crocker Art Museum
Housing an vast variety of California art from the 1860s until the present, the Crocker Art Museum is one of the best things to do in Sacramento. Well, if you love art at least.
Not only does it have thousands of pieces to see, but it also holds the largest and eye-catching collections of international ceramics in the US.
If that’s not your thing, head across to the American photography exhibits and European paintings and drawings, too. They’re incredible.
Oh, and if you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to check out what goes on in the Courtyard. Typically, there’s a heap of events from film nights to music concerts right within the courtyard itself.
Afterwards, head across for brunch at the Tower Cafe (on Broadway). Their French toast and pancakes are everything!
4.) Stanford Mansion
Stanford Mansion is a whopping 19,000-square-foot building that’s too good to miss. Featuring 17-foot high ceilings and the most ornate woodwork, it’s easily one of the best things to do in Sacramento when you visit.
Filled with period pieces, ornately decorated and Victorian-era architecture, it’s the kind of spot that’s well worth a nosey around.
On most days, the mansion is open to guests but these tours may be cancelled if the structure is used for state functions.
Oh, and remember, you can only take pics from outside; there’s no photography allowed within Stanford Mansion itself.
If you fancy something a little faster-paced, head over to Raging Waters; Sacramento’s largest waterpark. There’s a heap of rides and I almost guarantee you’ll scream on some of them.
5.) California State Capitol
Nestled right in the heart of Sacramento, the California State Capitol is another must-see spot to learn about California history.
Not only is it totally iconic, but It also holds the chambers of the California State Legislature, as well the city’s current active government buildings.
Once here, you can hop on a guided tour around the museum, too. Just be sure to take a gander at the Rotunda from the first floor. It’s breathtaking.
That being said, if you fancy a gander out of the city centre, head across to the Old Sugar Mill. Originally established in 1934 as a beet sugar refinery, it has transformed into a yummy winery and tasting spot that has heaps of varieties of northern California’s wines.
Midtown is one of the busiest areas on the east side of downtown Sacramento and is really easy to visit.
With a huge stretch of shops, art galleries, theatre, festivals, and dining venues; it’s the kind of place you can easily base yourself for a whole weekend.
Hankering for a sweet treat? Get yourself over to Rick’s Dessert Diner. They make the best cakes in the city. If coffee is your thing, head straight to Temple Coffee Roasters; their coffee is incredible.
If you’re visiting on a Saturday morning, be sure to check out the Midtown Farmers Market. They have a load of food trucks, organic produce and baked goodies to enjoy.
Oh, and don’t forget Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, too (see below).
7.) Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Another Midtown gem, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is the oldest (somewhat restored) fort in all the US.
Long ago, the fort once played a key role in agriculture, trade, and European settlement in the Central Valley. But when an employee found gold in the parameters of the property, the fort was soon abandoned. It’s said that this finding helped to usher in the Gold Rush era!
After undergoing a complete restoration, the fort joins the ranks of remarkable places on the register of National Historic Landmarks and is too incredible to miss.
If you’re lucky, you might even rock up during a demonstration day when local volunteers dress in period clothing and reenact certain aspects of time gone by.
8.) Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Right in the heart of downtown, near the California State Capitol Museum, is the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
Not only is it one of the first churches in Sacramento, but it’s also totally beautiful to see. The centuries-old cathedral is just breathtaking and well worth looking around as you stroll the downtown area.
Just don’t forget to go inside and see the interior of the dome. It stands at a whopping 34m high, is one of the cathedral’s most iconic spots.
Getting hungry? Stop off for dinner at Ella Dining Room and Bar. They make the best seafood; especially the wood-fired octopus and scallops.
9.) American River
Along time ago, the American River was one of the most important rivers surrounding Sacramento, It had a prime role during the Gold Rush era in 1848 and became a key part of the Goldrush activities.
Today, the river is a site for various outdoor activities such as rafting from American River Raft Rentals. It’s near the Sunrise Recreation Area; you can’t miss it.
Not into your water sports?
Well, running around the river is the American River Trail, a paved path under Sacramento’s Regional Park system.
The trail stretches out for 32 miles between the Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Beal’s Point, making it a perfect area for biking.