When you think of California, the first thing that pops into your head is probably the cool breeze floating in from the ocean into Los Angeles or the stunningly beautiful view of downtown San Francisco from a nearby hilltop. There’s another occasionally overlooked city overlooked located in the Golden State where you can stay for days and still not cover all of the social, cultural, and recreational venues.
We’re talking about Sacramento, the capital city of California.
With a population of more than 500,000 in 2018 and a metro-wide population of nearly 2.5 million, Sacramento sits at the confluence of the American River and Sacramento River. Located in the highly fertile plains of Sacramento Valley, the City of Trees bustles with a diversified economy, as well as a large number of attractions that keep the tourist trade humming along. As the home of numerous think tanks and lobbying groups, the capital city of California is the seat for the California governor and legislature.
When we began discussing plans to write about the things to do when you visit Sacramento, we reached out to a California expert, Pete Evering of Utopia Management Sacramento. Pete shared with us the following social, cultural, and recreational gems the next time you visit Sacramento.
Must-See Attractions in Sacramento, California
Despite media attention to the contrary, Sacramento is much more than a city where powerful people cut deals. In fact, the capital city has earned the status of being a tourist and business traveler destination that is on par with the prominence of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Revitalized business districts, stunningly attractive hotels, and a vibrant restaurant scene are just some of the reasons to visit Sacramento, CA.
Here are six additional compelling reasons to make Sacramento the first stop on your California journey.
Tour the Capitol/Relax in Capitol Park
Okay, we said Sacramento is much more than a political center. However, you cannot expect to absorb the true ambiance of the city, without first taking some time for a tour of the California State Capitol. Doors open for tours from 7:30 am to 6 pm Monday thru Friday. On weekends, you can take a tour of the state capitol between 9 am and 5 pm.
After you complete the free admission tour, which goes deep into the history of California politics, relax outside of the capitol building in a park that boasts a wide variety of tree species that are native to the Golden State. Sit under the thick branches dangling from a palm, citrus, or redwood tree, while admiring the tranquility exuded by the rose garden.
Professional Hoops with the Sacramento Kings
As a franchise that is part of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Sacramento Kings play in the same division as one of the preeminent franchises in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers. As the only professional sports team playing in Sacramento, the Kings often play to sold-out crowds. Played at the Golden 1 Center, home games are scheduled from early October to around the middle of April. The franchise won an NBA best 61 games during the 2001-02 regular season.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
Forget the image of the Sacramento Valley being flat, fertile land. The rolling hills overlooking the spectacular American River is where you will find Effie Yeaw Nature Center. Maidu Village, which presents an extensive display of local Native American artifacts, offers visitors a rich history lesson that emphasizes how to maintain sustainable farmland. Resident animal experts lead nature walks that take you through different micro-ecosystems.
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Adventurous miners discovered the vast natural resources surrounding Sacramento, and Old Sacramento State Historic Park is a testament to the powerful legacy of gold and silver. Developed during the height of the Gold Rush, the state park includes covered plank sidewalks, well-preserved historical architecture, and original landmarks such as the firehouse and the only schoolhouse. Several unique boutiques line the main section of the park.
You might be limited to when you can attend Second Saturday, but rest assured, you will not be limited to what you will find during the open house event. Held the second Saturday of every month, Second Saturday allows visitors to tour the homes and art galleries that sit between the intersections of J/18th Street and N/24th Street. The art galleries offer wine and snacks, as well as a vast array of artwork. The event starts at 5:30 pm and runs until 9 pm or later.
Crocker Art Museum
Situated a few blocks away from Old Sacramento and the Golden 1 Center, Crocker Art Museum is a venue that you can schedule an entire day visiting. The longest-running art museum located on the west coast features two different buildings. Constructed in 1872, the Italian-themed mansion houses the popular “Boston Cremes” painting created by Sacramento artist, Wayne Thiebaud. Adjacent to the mansion is the contemporary art museum, which is an open venue that invites the sun in to put a spotlight on world-renowned artifacts.
The best time to visit Sacramento is after the peak tourist season that runs from Memorial Day until Labor Day. If you visit Tree City in the fall or the spring, remember that the educational venues might be busy because of school tours.