Sacramento is in the midst of its latest boom. The state’s fastest-growing big city is drawing a steady flow of people to the metropolitan area and big investments in the city proper. And it’s not all trendy breweries, urban wineries, and hip coffee roasters that are flourishing. An indoor stadium and a thriving art scene are bringing renewed life and changing the landscape of the once-sleepy capital. But at its core, Sacramento is firmly tied to its historical roots, and there is still plenty of space to look back on what made the city what it is today.
Things to do in Sacramento
Stop and smell the roses, including the James Gamble Alexander Fragrance Award–winners Angel Face and Secret, at the McKinley Rose Garden. With roughly 1,200 rose bushes sprawled out over 1.5 acres, it’s no wonder the location was used in filming the Academy Award–nominated film Lady Bird. Celebrity-named florals abound, such as the Ronald Reagan rose, named after the U.S. president who lived just blocks away from the garden when he served as governor of California. Take a leisurely stroll on your own, or book a private rose garden tour in advance.
Once a month, Midtown becomes a pedestrian’s paradise during the 2nd Saturday Art Walk. Take in live music as you make your way through vibrant galleries, perusing the rotating exhibitions (and enjoying a full bar that benefits charity) at Kennedy Gallery Art Center and seeing gorgeous hand-blown pieces at Sacramento Art Glass. Pro tip: If you fancy some local produce and baked goods, head to the area early to hit up the year-round (weather permitting) Midtown Farmers Market.
A trip to Sacramento wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the California State Capitol building. Take in portraits of 36 California governors throughout the west wing, or simply admire the thousands of Italian mosaic pieces used to create the California Golden Poppy floors. Free tours of the museum are offered every hour on the hour throughout the day, though visitors can also meander through the historic wonder themselves.
Walk through Old Town Sacramento to the 285-foot Delta King Riverboat on the waterfront for a glimpse of the past. Now a 44-room hotel with two restaurants, the boat is truly a sight to see. Originally built in 1927 of Scottish steel and American wood, the Delta King took its maiden voyage in 1929 and quickly became the main form of transportation from the San Francisco Bay Area to Sacramento. Historic photos and artifacts abound onboard, but the views of the growing city are just as worthy of a look.
Where to Eat and Drink in Sacramento
Chilly evenings get a little warmer when you step into small-but-mighty midtown gem Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. Choose a delectable bite to go with your Oaxacan spicy hot chocolate—made with organic milk from Straus Family Creamery—such as a coffee caramel macaroon or an olive oil bonbon, which are carefully crafted using local olive oil from Yolo Press in Winters, California.
If you need to cool off instead, Gunther’s Ice Cream is the place to be. Its location on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Franklin Boulevard has stood proud since 1949, earning its spot as a Sacramento historic landmark. The old-fashioned scoops are decadently rich and creamy. Try traditional strawberry, butter pecan, or something more adventurous such as Thai tea.
For date night, Mulvaney’s B&L is a must. This 1893 brick firehouse turned restaurant offers a killer wine list along with local, farm-to-fork cuisine such as house-smoked salmon and tortellini en brodo (in broth) with wild mushrooms. The menu changes daily, so you’re always in for a delicious surprise.
Sacramento’s newest food hall, the Bank, is housed in one of the oldest bank structures west of the Mississippi. Patrons can partake in a beer paradise inside the original vault on the first floor. Roughly 68 self-serve beers await, many with local ties such as Track 7, Urban Roots, and Device. Get a taste of the surrounding caffeine scene with a warm drip coffee from Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters. When hunger strikes, grab a fresh bowl from Poke Bros. or a burger loaded with bacon, cheese, and a fried egg from Station 8, the spinoff of Sacramento restaurant Station 16.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in November through January, plan to ice skate at the outdoor rink in downtown Sacramento.
Catch a star-studded show at the dominating Golden1 Center. Opened in fall 2016, this $500 million arena houses the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team and hosts performances by the likes of Elton John, Jimmy Buffett, and Justin Timberlake.
After a show at the arena, finish your night by taking a short walk over to Punch Bowl Social. Sing killer karaoke tunes, bowl a strike at one of eight lanes, or relax with a cocktail around a giant Jenga game. Order the Pillow Talk, made with lavender bitters, Woodford reserve bourbon, lemon juice, lavender syrup, and sage.
If your idea of a nightcap involves a view, the rooftop pool bar Revival at the Sawyer can’t be beat. Dance the night away to music from live deejays. Tip: Book a room at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, so you’re only a stone’s throw away from a good night’s sleep.
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