Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Sacramento, CA

  • Published 2022/10/24

Sacramento is the capital of California and the seat of Sacramento County.

The state’s sixth-largest city also holds the distinction of the ninth-largest capital in the United States.

Thanks to its location along the Sacramento River and American River, the city has been nicknamed “River City.”

Long before the arrival of the Spanish, several Native American tribes already lived in the areas surrounding the rivers.

In 1808, a Spanish soldier named Gabriel Moraga explored the area and christened the river after the Blessed Sacrament, now known as the Sacramento River.

However, the official history of Sacramento began with the arrival of John Sutter in 1839.

Originating from Switzerland, Sutter established a fort that eventually transformed into a thriving community during the California Gold Rush.

Unfortunately, the settlement’s proximity to the river and the wooden structures built all over it resulted in several flooding and fires during its early years.

The devastating fires, in particular, prompted the first volunteer fire department in the western country.

Nevertheless, the community continued to thrive and received another boost when it became the state’s capital in 1879.

Today, Sacramento is the fastest-growing major city in California.

As with its geographical location, the city also serves as the cultural and historical heart of the Golden State.

Here are the best things to do in Sacramento, California:

Take a Train Ride to History at California State Railroad Museum

Exterior of the California State Railroad Museum

Kit Leong /

More than a repository of old trains, California State Railroad Museum is a fitting homage to the iconic vehicles deeply tied to the state’s history.

Attracting more than half a million tourists annually, the museum is one of Sacramento’s most popular tourist destinations.

Located near I Street Bridge, the museum features 21 different trains and train cars inside its expansive exhibit area.

Steam locomotive displayed in the California State Railroad Museum

Kit Leong /

Its oldest trains are the 40-ton “Gov. Stanford” built in 1863, followed by “C.P. Huntington” made a year later.

Many of its trains on display were built during the latter half of the 19th century.

From original steam engines and body paint down to delicate and luxurious interiors, the trains were meticulously restored to perfectly capture the bygone era.

Exhibit in the California State Railroad Museum

Kit Leong /

Moreover, the museum also contains exhibits depicting California’s railroad history through photographs and highly-detailed dioramas.

It also hosts fun activities, most notably its 50-minute excursion train rides along the scenic Sacramento River.

With its impressive collection of railroad behemoths, you will be fascinated for hours by the California State Railroad Museum exhibits.

Miniature trains in the California State Railroad Museum

Kit Leong /

Enjoy the Amenities at North Natomas Regional Park

Located in the northern part of Sacramento, North Natomas Regional Park covers an area of more than 212 acres.

Serving as the park’s centerpiece is a gorgeous lake offering stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.

It also features baseball fields, a playground, and a splash pad.

The park is also famous for biking and walking, thanks to its nicely paved pathways.

Additionally, it contains multiple picnic shelters, which are perfect for family gatherings.

Also within the park’s sprawling grounds are two dog parks packed with valuable amenities like drinking fountains and dog wash faucets.

Many local artists also perform at the park’s outdoor stage and amphitheater.

Moreover, the North Natomas Aquatic Complex is also within the park’s premises.

The aquatic complex opens from September to October, featuring several pools for adults and children.

Thanks to its plethora of great amenities and relaxing atmosphere, you will have a wonderful time at North Natomas Regional Park.

See the Amazing Animals at Sacramento Zoo

Entrance to the Sacramento Zoo

Kit Leong /

Located along West Land Park Drive, Sacramento Zoo is one of the most well-known attractions in the city.

Spanning 15 acres, it houses nearly 500 individual animals from over 120 native and exotic species.

From vibrantly tiny yet deadly dart frogs of the Amazon rainforest to mighty lions of the African savannah, the zoo contains animals from different regions worldwide.

Moreover, they house various birds, such as vibrant flamingoes and the endangered thick-billed parrot.

Flamingos on Sacramento Zoo's pond

Kit Leong /

Visitors can also go up close and interact with some animals, most notably the giraffes.

Practicing stringent animal welfare, the zoo ensures that each animal receives excellent care in their facilities.

The zoo also hosts tours and summer camps, among other fun activities.

Offering both educational and recreational experiences for everyone, Sacramento Zoo is the perfect place to learn about the fascinating animals and appreciate nature.

A giraffe at Sacramento Zoo

ZikG /

Go Putting at William Land Golf Course

William Land Golf Course is a nine-hole course in downtown Sacramento.

Blending perfectly with the course’s nice layout are neatly-lined trees and beautiful ponds with occasional wildlife.

It is ideal for beginners, and it features an Academy Hole Practice Facility covering up to 91 yards.

They also provide golf lessons for every level and playgroups for women and seniors.

Together with its useful amenities, the short and easy course is accessible to everyone.

Moreover, it also contains a full-service restaurant where you can dine and relax after a few rounds of golf.

The golf course’s built-in Pro Shop also sells golf gear and other souvenirs.

Combining a perfect location with excellent amenities and a relaxing environment, William Land Golf Course offers hours of fun golfing experience for everybody.

Learn about Pioneer Life at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

The grounds of Sutter’s Fort Historic Park

Kit Leong /

As one of the most important historical landmarks in Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park played a vital role in the creation of the city in the mid-19th century.

Established in 1839, the fort was named after its founder, John Sutter.

Built as an outpost for an agricultural community, the fort was the first non-Native American settlement in Central Valley.

Interior of a building at Sutter’s Fort Historic Park

Kit Leong /

Moreover, it also earned its place in American history with its connection to the ill-fated Donner Party.

Following the fort’s abandonment in the 1850s, the rise of settlements paved the way for the founding of modern-day Sacramento.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961, the fort’s only remaining original structure is the two-story main building.

As a time capsule of life in the mid-1800s, it contains household objects, farm tools, and everyday items of the era.

Re-enactment of the Old West life at Sutter’s Fort Historic Park

Kit Leong /

The historic site also contains a cannon and several rifles used to defend the fort.

Moreover, the historic park also hosts events and activities, such as re-enactments of life in the Old West.

With its historical significance in the formation of Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort Historical Park is a must-visit for history buffs and everyone.

A covered wagon on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort Historic Park

Kit Leong /

See a Movie at West Wind Drive-In and Public Market

Located along Oates Drive, West Wind Drive-In, and Public Market offers an unforgettable movie experience for the whole family.

As its name suggests, the drive-in theater allows moviegoers to enjoy the film right from the comfort of their cars.

The drive-in also keeps up with traditional theaters, screening the latest blockbusters.

Since the theater transmits the movie’s audio directly to the car’s FM radio, you’ll never miss the film’s dialogue and soundtrack.

There are also several food trucks where you can grab a tasty snack to munch on while watching.

Moreover, the drive-in also contains a small playground where kids can play while waiting for the movie to start.

For a fun and memorable movie experience, you can’t find anything better than West Wind Drive-In and Public Market.

Relax at William Land Regional Park

Welcome sign of William Land Regional Park

UncleVinny, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spanning over 207 acres, William Land Regional Park is a sprawling oasis in the western part of Sacramento.

A serene rock garden and a few lakes are among the main features of the park’s beautiful landscapes.

Dotted with lush trees, the park’s clean and well-maintained grounds also host numerous picnic areas with barbecue pits.

The park features an Adventure Play Area, a popular sports and recreation area, a basketball court, and softball and soccer fields.

Grounds and pond of William Land Regional Park

Shannon Mendez /

You can take a dip and enjoy playing in the park’s wading pool to cool off during a hot day.

Its extensive paved trails make it the perfect place for walking and jogging.

Moreover, you can also check local artists perform at the outdoor amphitheater within the park.

With its picturesque views, refreshing environment, and excellent amenities, William Land Regional Park is the ideal place to take a breather from the bustle of urban life.

Garden at William Land Regional Park

Shannon Mendez /

Take a Swim at Raging Waters Sacramento

Situated at Exposition Boulevard, Raging Waters Sacramento is the largest water park in the city.

The water park contains nearly 30 attractions, including 20-plus water slides of varying lengths and features.

You can swim and feel the waves rushing in its famous wave pool or float idly on its 800-foot lazy river.

Thrill-seekers can try their Dragon’s Den, Cliffhanger, and Splashdown, among other nerve-wracking slides.

You can also chill and relax at the private cabanas located by the poolside.

Moreover, the water park also hosts dining and snack concessions where you can grab a meal anytime.

Featuring tons of fantastic and exciting water attractions for the whole family, Raging Waters Sacramento is the perfect place to cool off and enjoy.

See California Artworks at Crocker Art Museum

Exterior of the Crocker Art Museum

imageAllan /

Housed inside two interconnected buildings, Crocker Art Museum represents both the past and the present.

One is an elegant mansion built in 1872 and owned by Judge Edwin B. Crocker of the California Supreme Court.

The other is a modern-style building that added another 125,000 square foot space for galleries and exhibits.

Elegant interior of the Crocker Art Museum

Kit Leong /

The museum boasts an impressive collection of Californian artworks from the early 1800s.

Works by renowned Californian artists like Anne Bremer and E. Charlton Fortune, among others, are prominently displayed in its gallery.

Moreover, it features a collection of rare photos captured by pioneering photographers like Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams.

Framed art pieces in the Crocker Art Museum

Kit Leong /

The museum also holds several master drawings from European artists dating back to the 17th century, many personally collected by Judge Crocker himself.

Along with its collection of Native American pottery, the museum also holds one of the country’s biggest collections of foreign ceramics.

Proudly displaying its collection of Californian art and other fascinating pieces, Crocker Art Museum is a must-visit not only for art enthusiasts but for everyone.

Art sculpture in the Crocker Art Museum

Kit Leong /

Enjoy Riverside Views at Sutter’s Landing Park

Spanning over 166 acres, Sutter’s Landing Park is one of Sacramento’s significant public recreation areas.

Located along the American River, the park features stunning views of the river and a lovely sandy beach for swimming.

The park also contains sports facilities such as basketball and bocce ball courts and skate areas.

Additionally, the park offers plenty of wide open spaces for playing and exercising.

Thanks to its paved trails, it is also an excellent spot for walking and biking.

Moreover, the park also houses a 2.5-acre dog park where your furry pets can roam freely at their hearts’ content.

It may just feature basic amenities, but its beautiful scenery and simple charm make Sutter’s Landing Park one of the best places to relax in Sacramento.

See the Awesome Cars at California Automobile Museum

Exhibit in the California Automobile Museum

Iv-olga /

Located along Front Street, California Automobile Museum will make any car enthusiast giddy excitement with its vast collection of rare and historic cars.

The museum houses over 130 unique cars covering over 120 years of the automobile history.

Among the oldest vehicles in the museum’s collection include the 1880’s “Penny Farthing” bicycle and an early steam-powered car, the 1900 Locomobile.

You can find luxurious vintage automobiles like the 1925 Cadillac V-63 coupe and the 1933 Lincoln KB, among many others, perfectly restored like they just rolled out of the production line.

Vintage cars in the California Automobile Museum

Iv-olga /

They also feature exotic sports cars like the 1985 Ferrari 308 GTS and 1987 Lamborghini Countach.

The museum also contains iconic cars from pop culture, most notably the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 of Back to the Future fame and the hippy van of the Scooby-Doo gang.

Moreover, the museum also hosts rotating and special exhibits with different automobile-related themes.

California Automobile Museum’s robust collection of fascinating cars makes it a must-visit for car lovers and everyone.

A car displayed in the California Automobile Museum

Iv-olga /

Visit California State Capitol Museum

Exterior of the California State Capitol Museum

Cassiohabib /

Housed inside the capitol building, California State Capitol Museum tells California’s history through its historic rooms’ walls.

The historic capitol building, completed in 1874, is a visual marvel with its towering white columns, imposing facade, and majestic dome.

Serving as the highlight of the museum are the capitol’s 14 historic rooms.

From Governor’s Private Office to Legislative Bill Room, the rooms’ original furnishings witnessed the history and formation of the state for over 150 years.

Senate chamber in the California State Capitol Museum

Iv-olga /

You can also find portraits of former governors and several statues in the museum.

Each year, the museum houses different exhibits with themes directly linked to the history and culture of California.

The museum also hosts activities and events such as educational tours and Holiday Music Program every December.

As one of the most beautiful and historical places in Sacramento, the California State Capitol Museum should be at the top of any guest’s itinerary.

Rotunda in the California State Capitol Museum

yhelfman /

Go on River Cruise with Sac Brew Boat

Having earned the nickname “River City,” Sacramento features extensive waterways courtesy of the American River and Sacramento River.

Sac Brew Boat offers a fun and exciting way to explore the city with its fleet of customized leisure vessels.

Take a 90-minute tour along the city’s beautiful waterways with your friends and family.

Its unique-looking cycle boat is big enough to carry up to 16 passengers.

On the other hand, they also have a tiki boat that can accommodate up to 18 people.

Both vessels also allow the passengers to pedal along for extra fun.

On top of that, you can also indulge in your favorite drink and food while enjoying scenic views of the river.

As a one-of-kind and delightful sightseeing experience, going on a tour with Sac Brew Boat is one activity in Sacramento that you shouldn’t miss.

Take a Stroll at California State Capitol Park

Trail lined with trees at California State Capitol Park

Colin Braaten /

Spanning over 40 acres, California State Capitol Park is one of the most beautiful state capitol grounds in the United States.

The park’s gorgeous landscaping contains dozens of attractions and features.

One of the park’s most notable landmarks is the monuments and memorials commemorating the Americans who fought during the Mexican-American War and the Vietnam War.

Other landmarks in the park also include the Firefighters Memorial, Veterans Memorial, and the USS California Bell.

Rose garden at California State Capitol Park /

Moreover, the park is home to several gardens, with many featuring flowers and trees that are native to the state.

However, the World Peace Rose Garden takes center stage with its 650 roses of varying colors and fragrances.

Cutting through the park’s well-maintained grounds and lush trees are paved walkways perfect for strolling any time of the day.

With its stunning landscapes and attractive features, California State Capitol Park offers everyone a pleasant and relaxing experience.

Indulge in Frozen Treats at Gunther’s Ice Cream

Exterior of Gunther’s Ice Cream

Emmy Bersa /

Located along Franklin Boulevard, right at the city’s heart, Gunther’s Ice Cream is the most famous ice cream shop in Sacramento.

Retaining its vintage aesthetics, the iconic ice cream shop has served delicious frozen treats since the 1940s.

With its selection of over 40 different flavors, you should find something to satisfy your sweet-tooth cravings.

Along with classic favorites like chocolate and vanilla, you can also try exquisite ones like Thai tea and coconut pineapple.

They also serve vegan options, which are perfect for the health-conscious.

Moreover, you can try their other frozen treats like sundaes and fruit freezes.

Combining the phenomenal ice cream and nostalgic atmosphere, snacking on the frozen treats at Gunther’s Ice Cream is a must-experience in Sacramento.

Final Thoughts

Sacramento strikes the perfect balance between a major urban center and a lively community with proud historical roots.

The city is one of the top tourist destinations in California, featuring tons of attractions and activities ranging from historical to recreational.

Book your trip to the city today and discover the best things to do in Sacramento, California.

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