Like many towns in California, Sacramento was forged out of gold. Not literally, of course; only a lucky handful of people got actual gold during the Gold Rush. But in their quest to find the precious metal in nearby Coloma, prospectors created a makeshift settlement along the Sacramento River that would soon became the capital of the Golden State. Today, Sacramento has a noteworthy farm-to-table dining scene and lovely park land, and you still can get a glimpse of what 19th-century life was like in historic Old Sacramento.
Cobblestone streets punctuated by old-fashioned hitching posts wind through Old Sacramento, a relic of the Gold Rush era. It’s a designated National Historic Landmark, with a wealth of preserved 19th-century buildings.
- Sacramento History Museum: Check out a historic print shop and interactive exhibits on the gold rush, and take an underground tour of the original city before it was raised up as a precaution against flooding.
- California State Railroad Museum: The highlight? Twenty-one restored locomotives, some of which date back to the Civil War.
- Old-timey shops: Pop into the River City Saloon for a pint of sarsaparilla beer, or pick from wooden barrels filled with candy at Munchies Salt Water Taffy.
Food and Drink
Sacramento bills itself as America’s farm-to-fork capital. A whopping 1.5 million acres of active farmland surround the city, and more than 50 farmers’ markets are within a short drive, which makes it easy for restaurants to obtain the freshest local ingredients.
- Sacramento Farmers’ Market: The largest certified farmers' market in California; that is, the farmers here actually must grow or make the foods they sell. More than 100 local farmers set up shop here each Sunday morning, right underneath Highway 50.
- Farm-to-Fork Celebration: Each September, the city hosts this two-week event that showcases local chefs and restaurants with special menus, wine tastings, and cooking demos.
- 200 wineries live in the surrounding wine-making regions, which include the Yolo, El Dorado, and Amador Counties. Amador County, known for its top-notch Zinfandel, has more than 30 vineyards, many of which date to the 1800s.
Downtown Sacramento is situated right where the American River flows into the Sacramento, and has a wealth of green space.
- Sutter’s Landing Regional Park: Keep your eyes peeled for great blue herons, common mergansers, and Swainson’s hawks at this riverfront park, which is also popular for kayaking.
- American River Parkway: Bicyclists and joggers take to this 31.5-mile paved trail, which hugs the American River. You can also rent a bike in Old Sacramento and take a spin on the city’s green-painted bicycling zones.
- Whitewater rafting: The American River has class III, IV, and IV+ rapids, making it good for beginning, intermediate, and advanced rafters.
Where to Stay
- For easy access to the airport: Homewood Suites by Hilton Sacramento Airport-Natomas hotel is just 5 miles from Sacramento International and runs a free 24-hour shuttle to and from the terminals.
- If you want to stay right downtown: The Citizen Hotel has a rooftop patio with sweeping views of the California state capitol.
- For views of the river: Delta King Hotel, built inside an old riverboat docked on the Sacramento River, features two restaurants and a mystery-dinner theater.