As long as you know your letters and numbers, it’s easy to indicate what intersection to meet your Uber driver as they get ready to take you to yet another one of the exciting tourist attractions in Northern California‘s Sacramento. Explore the grid-patterned downtown district to discover the waterfront of Old Sacramento or see landmarks showcasing its current claim to fame as the California state capital.
Sacramento makes a great day trip from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, or Napa Valley, arriving within hours to a place unveiling a rich Gold Era history, family-friendly attractions for everybody, and riverfront beauty proving why it’s called the ‘City of Trees.’
Here are 25 things to do in Sacramento that we know you and your crew are going to love.
California State Capitol Museum
Trees lining Capitol Park perfectly frame the massive dome sitting atop the California State Capitol Museum in Downtown Sacramento.
Peek into government offices and the assembly room that suited politicians scurry into for important law-making sessions. Uncover California history through art depicting important state symbols, like a life-sized brown bear, ornate light fixtures, and Victorian-era furniture decorating the building. Lastly, try not to get dizzy when stepping onto the checked floor of the rotunda to peer up at the dome interior.
Humpty Dumpty sitting on the entrance wall of Fairytale Town as if welcoming you to explore the worlds of your favorite childhood tales brought to life.
Squeeze your way through the kid birthday party crowds as you explore more than 25 fairytale attractions. Ride across town on the Little Engine That Could. Try not to lose your glass slipper while taking photos inside Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage to the ball. Attend story time at the Dr. Seuss reading wall and listen to one of his classic tales.
Fairytale Town is located at William Land Park, where you’ll also find the Sacramento Zoo, Funderland, lakes, picnic areas, trails, an adventure park, rock garden, wading pool, and sports fields.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Swing open the heavy doors of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and a spiritual sensation overcomes you as this Roman Catholic Church fills with angelic music.
Tour inside this historical building more than a century old. Natural light shines through decorative stained-glass windows onto polished wood pews with seating for 1,400 people. You might stumble across one of the multi-lingual church services catering to the diverse population in Sacramento.
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Live out your Wild West fantasies inside the Old Sacramento State Historic Park — a place that appeared frozen in California’s Gold Rush era.
Dusty horses trot gleefully on the dirt roads pulling carriages of visitors navigating throughout the historic waterfront district. Preserved 19th century historic buildings that once were a meeting place of weary gold miners and ambitious merchants have ushered in a new era of saloons, restaurants, and candy shops.
Make plans to see the B.F. Hastings Bank Building, which was the western terminus for the Pony Express during most of its existence.
Old Sacramento is one of California’s National Historical Landmarks, and cannot be missed.
California Automobile Museum
Car culture is big in Sacramento, with hydraulic pump old-school rides showing off at the red lights or weekly car club joy rides from the locals. However, the streets can never compete with the collection of more than 150 cars exhibited in the California Automobile Museum.
Walk the open-floor gallery to see classic Cadillacs parked alongside vintage Lamborghinis and early Ford model cars next to high-tech Tesla cars.
Weekend afternoons are always buzzing with families spending time in McKinley Park. Kids rule over the playscape area while parents seek a few minutes of peace walking around the rose garden.
Play a round of horseshoes while the rest of your group sets up the onsite picnic tables with a delicious meal that might inspire you to take a few paces along the one-mile jogging route around the park to walk it off.
McKinley Park Rose Garden
Wake up and smell the roses when you step inside the Fredrick N. Evans Memorial Rose Garden, also known as McKinley Park Rose Garden.
Fresh aromas from more than 1,200 rose bushes fill the grassy paths as you go for a stroll around the oldest public rose garden in Sacramento. Enjoy the relaxing setting while sitting on the park benches as you watch the rose blossoms sway in the breeze behind families posing for their annual portrait photoshoots.
Crocker Art Museum
Splurging on art during the Crocker’s 1800s trip to Europe led to establishing the first art gallery in California, now the Crocker Art Museum.
Colorful paintings decorate the pristine gallery walls showcasing fine art examples from California, European, and Asian art disciplines. Permanent and temporary exhibitions fill the galleries year-round with paintings, ceramics, and more. It also frequently hosts film screenings and art lectures.
Feeding time at the Sacramento Zoo is always the best time to visit. Sleepy lions leap from their naps, giraffes congregate within arms reach of the fence, flamingos splash around, and over 140 other animal species can be seen here.
Trek the paved pathways between themed areas, including a Dinosaur Safari, where you’ll encounter a life-sized T-rex.
Midtown Farmers Market
Live music always creates a fun atmosphere during the Midtown Farmers Market. Every Saturday, bring the family down to the market to enjoy shopping, activities, and more.
Chat with friendly Sacramentans raving about their latest products harvested on their local farms, or artisans showing off their latest creations already on sale for you to take home. Stick around for a chef demonstration before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the prepared-meal stations.
California State Railroad Museum
A steaming whistle pipes from vintage locomotives signaling that it’s ready to leave the station en route for yet another excursion.
Before riding in one of the antique train cars in the California State Railroad Museum, explore the gallery of 21 restored trains recounting locomotive history in America. Knowledgeable docents walk you around the museum’s two floors, explaining exciting stories about the trains and artifacts like the golden railroad stake.
Make time to take a 50-minute round trip train ride along the scenic Sacramento River!
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Sutter’s Fort doesn’t seem like it’s missed a beat ever since it was established in 1846. Visit today, and you’ll still see the fort grounds just as lively, except now with costumed actors showing the lifestyle of diverse groups living and passing through the fort.
See covered wagons set aside homes maintained by early pioneers, soldiers patrolling the grounds, and even live music performances to enjoy the tunes of the pioneer era.
You’ll also find picnic areas, guided tours, and hiking and biking trails here.
B Street Theatre
The popularity of the world-class theater shows performed every season in the B Street Theatre has led to relocation and upgrade for one of Sacramento’s favorite entertainment venues.
The Sofia now hosts the venue that puts on a mix of classic theater performances for those who appreciate timeless works of art, and contemporary shows for those seeking something new.
Kayak the Sacramento River
Sacramento was established on the banks of the Sacramento River as a convenient waterway route to San Francisco Bay. And while early explorers used to route for trade and transportation, it serves a new purpose for recreation.
Rent kayaks and paddle your way down the gently flowing river to see how much of the 350-miles total you can fit into a day. Keep an eye out for wildlife hiding in the brush lining the river banks.
American River Bicycle Trail
Enjoy the outdoors with a ride on the American River Bicycle Trail. Rent a couple of electric bikes and start your journey on California’s longest bike path.
Running parallel with the American River, sounds of the water keep you on track as you navigate the 32-mile route between Discovery Park and Beal’s Point in Folsom Lake. You’ll have the scenery of tranquil woodlands, river views, and landmarks — like Rainbow Bridge.
Raging Waters Sacramento
Note: We are sorry to report that Raging Waters Sacramento will not reopen in 2023.
Drops of water and wet footprints on the pavement at Raging Waters Sacramento lead you like breadcrumbs to the park’s favorite attractions.
You’ll have a splashing good time while swirling around on the Dragon’s Den Water slide, gliding down the Honolulu Half Pipe in a tube, leaping over the swells rolling in from the Breaker Beach Wave Pool, or simply taking the day easy floating down the lazy river.
Westfield Downtown Plaza Ice Rink
Every year when the holidays come around, excitement builds up for the Westfield Downtown Plaza Ice Rink.
Downtown Commons becomes a California-style winter wonderland as you have fun gliding around the slick 7,000 square foot surface. Ride the walls or go for a high-speed lap around the rink, before warming in the more than 20 stores inside this Downtown Sacramento complex.
High Hill Ranch
The smell of autumn is in the air with scents of freshly baking apple pies and sweet apple cider at the High Hill Ranch.
Journey into Apple Hill to discover this sprawling apple field, where hayrides are the best way to get a closer look at the trees lining its 155 acres. The line to the Pie House is totally worth it after tasting their warm, gooey apple pies, while the adults of your group can indulge in apple wine.
Leland Stanford Mansion
The Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park is now one of Sacramento’s history museums, and it’s worth a visit. It’s customary to snap a few photos for your Instagram on the elegant entrance staircase of the mansion before entering inside this opulent estate. Then, at the top of the hour, join the free tour of the estate.
An introductory film preps you for the experience before you’ll see offices used in their current role as the reception center for the California government, the grand ballroom, and original 19th-century furniture preserved, even after the recent multi-million dollar renovation to the historic building.
Carolee Shields White Flower Garden
Can you guess what color flowers you can expect to see in the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden? This Asian-inspired garden is found inside the UC Davis Arboretum and curates a beautiful floral display of various plants that each blossom white flowers.
You’ll lose track of time while reading the labels about each flower, but there’s always time to spare for relaxing beneath the wooden gazebo.
The first time you wake up aboard the paddlewheel riverboat, Delta King, you’ll feel like you’ve time-traveled back to the 1920s.
Slide out of the soft linens as you stretch to views of the Sacramento River from your window. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast before checking out the Old Sacramento Waterfront, just steps from where the boat is docked. For the evening, make reservations at the Pilothouse Restaurant, which presents their award-winning wine list to provide the spirits of the night.
West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In
Enjoy the juxtaposition of modern blockbuster films screened in a retro drive-in theatre setting. The West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In is the perfect place to go for a Sacramento date night or to switch up the nightly Netflix binges.
Pull up to a vacant parking space, flip your FM Radio to the indicated station for audio, let your seat back, and enjoy the double-feature movies.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
Pack a pair of binoculars because there’s plenty to grab your attention at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center.
Explore the park’s nature trails, winding through the oak woodlands, along the banks of the American River, and shrubby fields. See friendly forest wildlife like deer, turkeys, and birds flying above the forest canopy.
The center provides an educational experience with exhibitions giving information about the environment.
SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity
The SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity is the perfect place to spend time with your kids. With over 100 interactive exhibits, a planetarium, theater shows, live demonstrations, and events — this place has it all.
Visit the themed galleries that feature topics like health, nature, energy, water, space, and engineering.
Make sure to make time to visit Destination Space — an out-of-this-world exhibition where you can pilot a Mars rover and test out rockets! Your kids (and you!) will love it.
Second Saturday Art Walk
On the 2nd Saturday of every month, Sacramento art galleries and other local businesses host an open house, usually starting around 5:30 p.m. and going until 9.
Enjoy the art exhibits, local artists, food and wine, live music, and other events at this year-round event.
Free Concerts In The Park
One of Sacramento’s most popular music festivals also happens to be FREE!
California’s largest, longest-running free music festival, Concerts in the Park, can be seen and heard in downtown Sacramento. Each year features a packed lineup with Grammy-winning artists, DJs, and Sacramento legends.
Every Friday from 5-9 PM, from May through July, enjoy free music, live artists, photo ops, and food trucks and beverages.
Concerts in the Park is held at Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Scandia Family Fun Center
Scandia Family Fun Center is the place to go for kids, and kids at heart. At Scandia, you’ll find batting cages, an arcade, rides, and mini golf.
Take a ride on the Crazy Dane Coaster, or get flipped around on the Sky Screamer. You’ll also find bumper boats, miniature race cars, a scrambler, and a couple rides for little ones too.
Things To Do In Sacramento FAQ
What is Sacramento best known for?
Sacramento is best known as the capital of California. It’s also known for its role in the California Gold Rush.
Is Sacramento worth visiting?
Sacramento is definitely worth a visit! You can learn more about the state by visiting the California State Capitol Museum, and you can learn more about the history of the city by visiting Old Sacramento. There’s also plenty of museums, parks, restaurants, attractions, and family-friendly activities here.
How can I spend an afternoon in Sacramento?
You can spend an afternoon in Sacramento by visiting the California State Capitol Museum, explore the Midtown area and its murals, or visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
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Where To Stay In Sacramento
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