Though often described as a sleepy city, Sacramento exudes a certain je ne sais quoi, inspiring its visitors to go out and explore. The city, steeped in the fascinating history of the Old West and the California Gold Rush, has recently also gained attention as the beloved backdrop of the award winning film Lady Bird. Whether spending a blazing summer day or a crisp, chilly winter day in the city, Sacramento certainly offers a quaint yet unforgettable experience. Grab some yummy grub, stroll through beautiful gardens and see the sites.
Check out these 24 things to do in Sacramento, California.
6 a.m. Get Physical along the American River
Start your morning with a jog or bike ride along the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Your morning workout will serve as an exhilarating wakeup call with the crisp air blowing past your face. The 32-mile trail bordering the American River offers spectacular views from Discovery Park in Old Sac to the glistening banks of Folsom Lake. “The view is really beautiful. It’s a nice way to start the morning,” University of California, Berkeley junior Sydney Hanzalik said. However much of the trail you decide to explore, the Northern California air and natural landscape will not disappoint.
7 a.m. Sip a Cup of Coffee at a Local Coffee Roaster
Grab a refreshing cup of joe at Temple Coffee Roasters. “I like to go to Temple Coffee, which is a local coffee roaster in the greater Sacramento area,” UC Berkeley junior Rizal Wong said. In addition to serving a variety of flavorful coffees and teas to start your morning off right, Temple Coffee offers interesting classes later in the day. “I also like going to their ‘cuppings’ on Friday afternoons, where you can participate in coffee tastings, espresso and dessert pairing classes, or learn about what different espresso is sourced and how that affects taste—all for free,” Wong said. Stop by this local hotspot for a refreshing start your day.
8 a.m. Stuff Your Face at the Waffle Experience
After consuming your daily dose of caffeine, stop by the Waffle Experience for the most important meal of the day in America’s Farm to Fork Capital. Taste a variety of sweet and savory breakfast options, including piping hot, chocolate-y Smor’Tella waffles or their cleverly named “Praise the Lard” gourmet waffle and omelette combo, complete with a satiating lardon-studded whole wheat waffle and braised pork belly to get you through the next 22 hours. Chefs craft each meal with locally sourced ingredients, allowing you not only to experience, but also taste the charm of Sacramento.
9 a.m. Visit some Furry Friends at the Sacramento Zoo
Once you finish a hearty breakfast, consider a nostalgic trip to the Sacramento Zoo. Located within William Land Park, the zoo, bordered by a forest of trees as tall as skyscrapers, offers an escape from the exciting California urban hustle and bustle. The zoo gives off a sense of serenity as you observe the slow, majestic lions or the flamboyant flamingos. The zoo even allows you to visit a Zoboomafoo look-alike and play with surprisingly sociable giraffes. “Recently, I went to the zoo, and watching people feed the giraffes was pretty entertaining,” Sacramento State University junior Rachel Chu said. The zoo also operates as a nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare, so your visit will benefit your new furry friends.
10 a.m. Culture yourself at the Crocker Museum
This museum blows away any boring art history gen ed. Once you observe the natural beauty of exotic animals, appreciate the beauty of classic art at the oldest art museum in the West. Experience part of California’s history with artifacts from the Gold Rush, as well as master drawings from world renowned artists. The museum also features European art, Asian art, African art and ceramics from all over the world.
11 a.m. Pop Some Tags at Sacramento’s Eclectic Thrift Stores
For those of you with old souls, check out one of Sacramento’s classic thrift stores, such as Thrift Town, which the film Lady Bird featured. Indulge in the musty smell, the expansive variety of clothes suitable for any fashion sense and the low prices for pieces you otherwise wouldn’t even imagine purchasing. “There are some cute stores like Evangeline’s for costumes and little signs to hang up,” Sacramento State junior Angie Eserini said. Score some major deals with unique pieces at Freestyle or Upscale Thrift, both located in close proximity to one another.
12 p.m. Fill up at Fat’s
For lunch, consider Frank Fat’s located in the heart of the city. This family owned and operated restaurant has offered scrumptious, spicy, traditional Chinese dishes since 1939. As such, Frank Fat’s serves as the perfect spot for you to experience the character of Sacramento. Enjoy the fresh, aromatic, spice-drenched food as you relish in the strong sense of community present at this Sacramentan landmark.
1 p.m. Eat Enough to Gain 20 Pounds at Rick’s Dessert Diner
Everyone knows a meal cannot be complete without dessert. Check out Rick’s Dessert Diner, another classic Sacramento institution. Rick’s consistently earned the title as the number one dessert spot in Sacramento and for good reason. With a wide selection of buttery pastries, indulgent cakes and decadent tortes, Rick’s has the perfect treat for anyone with a sweet tooth.
2 p.m. Fawn over the Fab 40s
Take a stroll through East Sacramento to admire the ornate Fab 40s. Also featured in Lady Bird, this historic neighborhood features unique, custom homes that exude sentimentality of a time and place that could have existed. “The Fab 40s are nestled in a quieter, more affluent community in East Sacramento. My favorite thing to do is to walk up and down the streets of the Fab 40s, admiring the unique character of the houses and wishing I grew up there,” Wong said. You’ll discover why people describe the neighborhood as “fabulous” within the first few minutes of your time there.
3 p.m. Brush up on Your Sacramento Trivia at the Sacramento History Museum
In order to fully appreciate the historical significance Sacramento holds, visit the Sacramento History Museum. The establishment informs its visitors on the Gold Rush that put Sacramento on the map, including nuggets of gold found in the area. You can also learn about the indigenous people who originally populated Sacramento, particularly the Nisenan tribe. Before visiting Old Town, visitors can learn about its conception into the historical landmark it serves as today.
4 p.m. Step into the past in Old Sacramento
Once you learn of Old Sacramento’s birth, you’ll certainly want to experience this part of the city for yourself. “Old Town Sacramento is my favorite place because it’s interesting to see the history of the city. It’s really cute and I like its aesthetic,” University of California, Los Angeles junior Neha Rajkumar said. Perhaps the most beloved part of the city, you’ll feel as though you stepped back in time when walking the streets of Old Sac. With quaint buildings accompanied by horse drawn carriages throughout the streets, who wouldn’t love to experience Old Sacramento?
5 p.m. Visit the Most Important Place in California
L.A. may be the most important when it comes to spotting some Hollywood heartthrobs, but you can’t visit Sacramento (and California in general) without taking a look at the Capitol Building. Walk through the clean, shaded streets, the well-manicured lawns, the towering trees surrounding the building. Marvel at the neoclassical-inspired architecture as you ponder the important decisions debated within its halls. You may even catch a glance at Governor Brown, or Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein.
6 p.m. Enjoy the Sunset at the Rose Gardens
As golden hour hits, make sure you stop by the World Peace Rose Gardens. Appreciate the sea of plush rose bushes. Stop and smell the fresh pink, red and white roses in the middle of bustling Downtown. “My favorite thing to do is have mini photo shoots in the Rose Garden. It’s completely surreal being surrounded by mountains of flowers, especially in the spring,” UC Davis sophomore Olivia Smith said. You may even spot a few lovebirds tying the knot, as the Rose Gardens serves as a beloved wedding location.
7 p.m. Chow down at the Tower Bridge Bistro
As you start craving something flavorful, consider a restaurant with a view of one of the most iconic Sacramento landmarks around. The Tower Bridge Bistro, located inside the Riverfront Promenade of Embassy Suites, overlooks the American River with a view of the iconic Tower Bridge. In addition, the upscale restaurant delivers satiating dishes, including seasonal dishes crafted with local produce such as the Double R Ranch Beef with a demi-glace, the salmon in a lemon chardonnay butter sauce and the chicken marsala. Stuff yourself with perhaps the most impressive food in the Farm to Fork capital of the U.S., all while appreciating the golden glow of the Tower Bridge in the distance.
8 p.m. Show your Sacramento Pride by Cheering on the Sacramento Kings
Despite their reputation as a lower-end NBA team, attending a Sacramento King’s game at the newly constructed Golden 1 Center does not disappoint. “The Kings are worth seeing because you feel so much Sacramento pride. Even though they kind of suck, it makes it even more exciting when they unexpectedly pull off something good,” University of California, Davis graduate Rafe Wong said. Cheer on the first-round pick in the 2017 NBA draft De’Aaron Fox as he coordinates with his veteran teammate post Zach Randolph. Whether or not the Kings lose, you’ll feel a positive sense of pride, excitement and community watching this team play.
9 p.m. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth at Gunther’s
With the night still young, pop by Gunther’s Ice Cream, established in 1940. This classic Sacramento landmark serves particularly rich ice cream flavors as Gunther’s uses an extra 5 percent butterfat cream in their recipes. Try their more exciting flavors including Thai Tea, lemon custard, butter brickle, Swiss orange chip and more. Grab a few scoops of sugary ice cream in a fresh, house-made cone to fuel you for the rest of your night on the town.
10 p.m. Jam out at Ace of Spades
Continue to experience the excitement the city has to offer by jamming out at the Ace of Spades, located in the most trendy part of town. The small, weathered brick theater serves as the perfect place to appreciate only the hippest music. With performances from Lany, Mayday Parade, Borns, Snoop Dogg, Tyler the Creator, the Wu Tang Clan and more, Ace of Spades serves as one of the top music scene locations in Northern California.
11 p.m. Watch a Flick at the Tower Theater
A night in Sacramento cannot end without paying a visit to the classic Tower Theater. Yet another location featured in Lady Bird, the Tower Theater represents the essence of the Sacramento experience. Continue feeling like you’ve stepped back in time by attending this classic Sacramento landmark, originally built in 1938. Catch the latest indie film in this quintessential cinema, complete with elegant carpet, sophisticated chandeliers and plush seating. The Tower Theater not only serves as a relaxing late night activity, but also as a romantic location for a date on the town.
12 a.m. Admire the Beauty of the Gleaming Tower Bridge
Recreate the iconic Lady Bird scene by dropping by the Tower Bridge at night. In the dark twilight, the Tower Bridge gleams, radiating a golden light representative of the Golden State. Whether creating a romantic moment with your significant other or choosing to appreciate the beauty the city has to offer on your own, the Tower Bridge will certainly create a lasting memory of the city.
1 a.m. Get Lit at Fox and Goose Pub
After quietly appreciating the Tower Bridge, let loose at the Fox and Goose Pub. Order your favorite drink alongside a classic English dish such as banger rolls, a vegetarian pasty, eggs and chips or a doughy, cheesy ploughman’s repast. Continue your entertainment binge with the Fox and Goose’s live music, primarily from underground artists to satisfy a variety of music tastes.
2 a.m. Sing your Heart out at Oishii Sushi and Karaoke Bar
After hearing others perform, the time has come for you to stand behind the mic. Check out Oishii Sushi and Karaoke Bar for a private karaoke experience that doesn’t capitalize on the embarrassment. This retro, neon covered karaoke lounge welcomes all ages, and even serves enticing dine-in options. The drinks for the over 21 crowd make the night even more fun. Every drink shares a name with one of your favorite songs or performers, like the chocolate swirled martini named for “Milkshake” by Kelis. Feel free to belt out your favorite *NSYNC song without judgement from complete strangers.
3 a.m. Stargaze in Discovery Park
Even though most of the streets roll up at night in Sacramento, you can still appreciate all the natural things the city has to offer by stargazing in Discovery Park. The city’s clean air and clear skies offer a clear view of the heavens, presenting the perfect relaxing activity towards the end of your 24-hour stay.
4 a.m. Have a Late Night Snack at La Garnacha
Take advantage of one of the city’s only 24-hour locations by indulging in pleasantly unhealthy Mexican food at La Garnacha in downtown Sacramento. Indulge your late night cravings with carne asada fries, a Super Burrito or an Azteca burger, all for an affordable price. La Garnacha offers the perfect end to a day full of delectable foods in California’s capital.
5 a.m. Watch the Sunrise on Front Street
Despite having a reputation as a boring city, the last 23 hours have proven Sacramento an exciting urban experience. Top off your Sacramento adventures by watching the sunrise on Front Street. Take in the crisp morning air and look back on the underrated character and warmth the city provides. Despite not having all the flash of other Californian cities, the little things, like the sunrise in the heart of downtown, give Sacramento an irreplaceable liveliness.