Sacramento Travel Guide

USA  #8 in Best Day Trips from San Francisco
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Courtesy of Craig Saewong/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Sacramento

Sacramento may be an uncommon tourist destination, but the city has attractions suitable for all ages. The epicenter of visitor activity, Old Sacramento hosts river views, eateries and museums, including the traveler-praised California State Railroad Museum. History buffs should stick to the downtown area to visit Capitol Park and Sutter's Fort, while young families should head south for the age-appropriate Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated March 29, 2019

  • #1
    Things to do in Sacramento
    View all Photos
    #1 in Sacramento
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Capitol Park has been home to the California state government since 1869. In addition to being the state's seat of government, the neoclassical Capitol building also houses a museum with state artifacts and the Capitol Art Program that holds a collection of artistic depictions of California, plus antiques, murals and governors' portraits.

    After you've explored the Capitol building and museum, take a stroll through the rest of the park that's home to memorials marking significant events in state history, including the Civil War Memorial Grove, the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the California Veterans Memorial and a life-size statue of Junípero Serra, who colonized the state.

  • #2
    Crocker Art Museum
    View all Photos
    #2 in Sacramento
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Boasting more than 15,000 pieces of art, the Crocker Art Museum is Sacramento's dose of high culture. The facility houses permanent collections of artwork from around the world, including Californian pieces that date back to the museum's founders — the Crocker family. Other extensive collections include ceramics from across the globe as well as collections of African, Oceanic and Asian art.

    The museum was originally established in 1885 as a home and art gallery for the Crocker family, and the site most recently added the 125,000-square-foot Teel Family Pavilion to expand the exhibition and gallery space.

  • #3
    Midtown
    View all Photos
    #3 in Sacramento
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Midtown area of Sacramento is known for being the hippest and fastest-growing district in the California capital. The neighborhood is located roughly from E Street to R Street and 16th Street to 29th Street. Originally a large residential neighborhood, it's home to more than 600 businesses ranging from trendy bars to boutique retail shops. Residents and visitors alike also enjoy the burgeoning nightlife scene.

    Midtown is also the epicenter of Sacramento's arts scene and is home to many eclectic galleries and opportunities to see local live music. The neighborhood hosts Second Saturdays — when businesses and galleries open their doors for free from 6 to 9 p.m. for an art walk that's unique to Sacramento. Summer brings in concert series and street vendors for the event.

  • #4
    Old Sacramento
    View all Photos
    #4 in Sacramento
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A subsection of the city along the Sacramento River, Old Sacramento is one of those National Historic Landmark Districts that pays tribute to the days of yesteryear. It can be cheesy. It can be fun. But either way, you're bound to visit because of the density of attractions. Avid historians head to any of the five museums, including the California State Railroad Museum, while the hungry folk dash to one of the numerous eateries. And don't miss the sweet confections available at nine different places. Enjoy your treat while walking along the river — a favorite activity of recent visitors.

    One TripAdvisor user says: "There is so much to do here. ... The old time boardwalks were fun. Also there are museums, underground tour and a boat ride on the Sacramento River. Great way to spend some time!"

  • #5
    California State Railroad Museum
    View all Photos
    #5 in Sacramento
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Situated at the northern edge of Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum excites kids and history buffs alike. With more than 225,000 square feet of exhibition space, this museum hosts numerous restored trains, all with unique histories and interiors. But there is more to examine than locomotives. Educational exhibits show how railways expanded the West and chronicle their impact on commerce and traveling. Those yearning to revisit the old days can hop on the museum-operated Sacramento Southern Railroad train, which departs from the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot in Old Sacramento for a scenic excursion.

    "The trains and displays were very impressive, tour guides were extremely passionate about California's history and knowledgeable of rail transportation. It was an enjoyable afternoon for all," said one TripAdvisor user.  

  • #6
    Sutter's Fort
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    #6 in Sacramento
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    In the mid-1840s, Swiss immigrant John Sutter built his fortress to protect himself and his harvested crops on 150,000 acres of his own land, located a mile away from what is now Capitol Park. The fort was a popular home for immigrants who came to the West and helped harvest the wheat, cotton and bean crops within the fort. Sutter's empire extended into the fur trade and ranching business.

    Less than a decade later, Sutter commissioned James Marshall to build a sawmill 50 miles east of the fort along the American River. Shortly after, Marshall found the first recorded golden nugget, starting the California Gold Rush.

  • #7
    Fairytale Town
    View all Photos
    #7 in Sacramento
    Amusement Parks, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Visitors with small children will want to put Fairytale Town on their to-do list. At this amusement park, children can act out their favorite fairytales on more than 25 fantastical oversized playsets.

    Visitors can also say hello to a few real-life animal pals like Peter Rabbit, Eeyore the donkey and Mary's little lambs. Adults may find the setting a bit cheesy, but youngsters think they've entered fun-filled Neverland. The park also features the Children's Theater and outdoor Mother Goose Stage that offer kid-friendly live theater and musical performances.

  • #8
    Sacramento Zoo
    View all Photos
    #8 in Sacramento
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    South of downtown, the Sacramento Zoo is a relatively small facility (only 14.2 acres), and is home to 140 different species of animals, many of which are endangered. It offers the zoo basics — lions, tigers, zebras and giraffes — as well as a selection of birds, reptiles and amphibians, but nothing to distinguish itself from any other municipal zoo. Still, most visitors find the zoo charming.

    "It's definitely the smallest zoo I've been to. But it's well kept, and really clean. The gift shop's affordable as well. Perfect for the little ones that get bored easily," according to one TripAdvisor reviewer.  

Explore More of Sacramento

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