The Best Things to See and Do in Sacramento

With more than 230 days of sunshine annually and often called the city of trees; Sacramento is the perfect city to explore inside and out. The capital of California is rich in history and culture with a twist of modern added. Step back in time to Old Sacramento where you can explore underground tunnels and buildings that have existed for over hundreds of years. Cool off with an ice cream filled donut; a unique twist on the typical ice cream cone or splash in the class three rapids as you rip down them on a raft. Discover the community of everything apple, the longest running art museum in the West and a riverboat turned into a hotel. Around every corner something new awaits and here are our top ten things to see and do in the city of Sacramento.

10.  American River Parkway

This 23-mile long bike path runs along the American River to Folsom offering visitors scenic beauty and lots of wildlife spotting. Whether you are biking, walking, rollerblading or jogging; this wide path provides enough space for everyone. The numerous dirt trails that run alongside the path are perfect for dirt bikes or horseback riding while the river is popular for rafting and fishing.

Keep your eyes peeled for rabbits, turkeys, beavers, birds and perhaps you may even spot a river otter in the waters. Pack a picnic and set up under one of the large trees in the soft grass. Or splash in the water fountains that operate during the summer. Catch a festival or weekend race that often happen riverside or watch as the fishermen wade into the waters during the early mornings. The American River Parkway is the perfect opportunity to get outside and explore the beautiful nature and sunshine this city offers all year around.

American River Parkway

9. Board the Delta King

The Delta King is a 285-foot long steamboat that once carried passengers between the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco. Today it sits permanently docked adjacent to downtown Sacramento and is home to a riverboat hotel, two restaurants, two professional theaters, a wine school, entertainment and facilities to host beautiful weddings and events.

The two restaurants offer breathtaking views of the water, local food and drink and exceptional service. With live music every week and mystery dinner theaters being offered, this unique dining experience is a must in the city. If you choose to stay at the hotel prepare yourself for beautiful furnishings, views and the ultimate in comfort. With a great location across from the historic museums and a beautifully refinished boat to explore; boarding the Delta King whether for dinner, drinks or a hotel stay is a must top ten thing to do when in Sacramento.

Photo by: Delta King Hotel
Photo by: Delta King Hotel

8. Ride the Rapids

Whitewater rafting is an extremely popular sport in California because of the amazing rivers that run throughout the state. Closest to Sacramento is the American River and the South Fork American River which contains class 3 rapids. This river has the longest rafting season in the West Coast running from March through September.

Numerous rafting companies around the Sacramento area offer rafting packages and whether you choose to go on a half day trip, full day adventure or even stretch it out a few days, there is something for everyone. You’ll face rapids with names such as “Meat Grinder” and “Troublemaker Rapid”. Or hop over to Cache Creek and try your hands at the class 3 rapids throughout this run through a volcanic canyon accessible only by water. With canyons and mountains this scenery will relax you as the rapids excite you. Be aware of the age limitations for some of these trips, as most companies require children to be above 8 or 12 years of age. Suit up and embark on a white water rafting trip of a lifetime in Sacramento California.

South Forks American River

7. California State Fair

This huge state fair is held every July through August in the city of Sacramento at the Cal Expo Center. If you are planning to visit the city during this time; this over the top fair is not to be missed. From the rides to the midway to the concerts to the animal shows; you can’t possibly see everything in one day. With over 150 food vendors this state fair is a haven for anyone looking for epic carnival treats like fried Twinkies, chocolate-covered bacon, gigantic turkey legs and much more.

The monorail that provides respite from the heat, the candy exhibit that features all of your favorite childhood candy, the amusing hypnotist shows and the adorable baby animals that are begging to be petted are enough alone to make this state fair worthy of a visit. Combine the above with wine slushies, county booths that represent all the counties in the state and demolition derbies and we’ve got ourselves one of the best things to do while in Sacramento. Check online before you go to grab some great deals on this fair.

miker / Shutterstock.com
miker / Shutterstock.com

6. Discover Old Sacramento

Visiting Old Sacramento is like stepping back in time over a hundred years ago and walking along the same roads and visiting the same buildings that existed then. This 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park is located along the beautiful Sacramento River and is home to shops, restaurants and attractions. The city has done an exceptional job in keeping the history alive so make the visitors center your first stop here for all the info you need to enjoy this piece of history.

The sidewalk is comprised of wooden planks and the road is cobblestone; so make sure to wear sturdy walking shoes. Old train tracks and refurbished old buildings, along with replica school houses line the streets. Between the antique stores, the picturesque candy stores and the interesting historical railway museum there are many one-off unique stores and buildings to be discovered. Underground tunnels, horse-drawn carriages and views of the golden lit bridge make this old town a magical place to discover. If there is one place to pick up a souvenir from the city; this is it.

Aneta Waberska / Shutterstock.com
Aneta Waberska / Shutterstock.com

5. Eat Some Ice Cream

If there is one food you must eat in Sacramento it’s ice cream. And we aren’t just talking about your typical vanilla and chocolate flavored ice cream. Sacramento’s ice cream shops have taken this tasty frozen treat to a new level adding sea salt, bacon, green tea, coffee and actual pieces of birthday cake. They don’t just stop at boring ice cream cones though; these shops offer ice cream filled donuts, macaroon ice cream sandwiches and the infamous “freeze” (half ice cream, half shaved fruit ice).

Check out Gunther’s, one of the most popular ice cream shops in the city offering up the 50/50 fruit freezes. Order the vanilla ice cream and raspberry or strawberry shaved ice and get ready for it to knock your socks off! Don’t let the line out the door scare you away; this place is worth a little wait. The Parlor on Fair Oaks Blvd perhaps offers the best donut ice cream sandwiches. The choices are endless but laid out for you; pick your ice cream flavor, pick your donut style, pick your mix-ins or toppings and there you have it. On special days make sure to pick up a macaroon ice cream sandwich for a delicious treat. Any ice cream shop you visit will not disappoint in the Sacramento area.

Photo by: Gunther's
Photo by: Gunther’s

4. Crocker Art Museum

The first public art museum founded in the Western United States makes the Crocker Art Museum the longest continuously-operating art museum in the West. From the historic wing that is housed in the mansion to the modern collection that is in the actual museum building, there is enough art, sculptures and videos to discover and admire.

The Crocker Art Museum features typically Californian artists but highlights artists from around the world in their visiting exhibit sections. This museum is also known for its unusually large ceramics collection from around the world. To learn more about the permanent exhibits make sure to visit on a Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the free guided tour offered 4 times throughout the afternoon. With the patio offering live music throughout the year, the café offering splendid food choices and a collection of fabulous art; you cannot go wrong deciding to make the Crocker Art Museum one of your top ten places to visit in Sacramento.

Photo by: Crocker Art Museum
Photo by: Crocker Art Museum

3. Head to Apple Hill

This beautiful foothill farming community is California’s largest concentration of apple growers with over 55 ranches specializing in everything apple. Along with apples, this region has become known for its wineries, cideries, breweries and other produce farms. Bakeries, orchards and fudge shops are present along with exceptional dining and lodging opportunities.

From Abel’s Apple Acres with its mazes, pony rides and trampolines for kids to Madrona Vineyards for the adults; whether you come to Apple Hill with a family, a partner or alone there is so much to discover. Rainbow Orchards is known for having the best apple donuts while the fudge factory offers everything from caramel popcorn to a pumpkin patch. The fall is the most popular time to go and we suggest heading there during the week to avoid the throngs of visitors that take over on weekends. Whether you visit one apple orchard or ten, wine taste, pick a pumpkin or cut down a Christmas tree; Apple Hill is the perfect day trip out of Sacramento.

Apple donuts

2. Capitol Park

A must stop in this capital city of California is Capitol Park where the buildings light up at night and the flowers fill the land by day. With 40 acres of trees, gardens, and memorials surrounding the Capitol, it’s the perfect place for some relaxation. Bring a book, a Frisbee or simply wander the grounds stopping to admire the beautiful unique rose gardens.

You can’t come to Capitol Park without taking a tour of the State Capitol building. The tour is free and is run every hour by knowledgeable tour guides that take you through the 1850’s building. Tours take you through the ceremonial and historic offices and even allow you to take a picture of the giant grizzly bear statue outside the governor’s office. Huge portraits line the hallways and rooms in the building and you will get a great look at California’s political history.  Pack a cooler with a picnic lunch and choose to spend the day in and out of this historic building and the beautiful park that surrounds it.

Sacramento Capitol Park

1. Visit Fairytale Town

Exactly as it sounds, this non-profit park is dedicated to offering children and families a safe place to learn and play amongst 25 play sets based on nursery rhymes and story books. From Storybook Park to live animals to musical concerts to puppet shows this is perfect place to spend a day with the kids in Sacramento. Humpty Dumpty’s bridge, Sherwood Forest, the Wishing Well, the Yellow Brick Road and Pirate’s Cove are just a few of the playgrounds that you can explore.

From slides to coaches to trains to teepees; the littlest to the biggest will delight in this park. A magic key purchased from the gift shop will allow your wee ones to participate in the extra special program that unlocks stories and music from more than 20 red story boxes located through the park. Operating hours vary by season and make sure to check out the website for any special upcoming events that may be going on. Right across from the zoo, this magical play land is a great way to get lost in the thrill of a fairytale.

Photo by: Fairytale Town
Photo by: Fairytale Town

The 20 Dirtiest Cities in America

At the end of 2012, Forbes.com released a list of the 20 American cities considered the dirtiest in terms of groundwater pollution levels and air quality. Economic hardships have only exacerbated the problem in many of these metropolitan areas, and high pollution levels are detrimental to the overall quality of life for residents.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Sperling rating below are based on an index where 1 is the worst and 100 is the best.

20. St.Louis, MO

Over 150 industrial sites dot the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in this area, and chemicals are dumped into the rivers on a regular basis. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 24, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44.

St. Louis MO

19. Cleveland, OH

The ArcelorMittal metals plant is a large source of toxic emissions in the Cleveland area. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Cleveland OH

18. Baltimore, MD

The nearby Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay carry high levels of arsenic, phosphorous and other harmful chemicals from Baltimore’s poultry processing plants. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 14, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 49.

Baltimore MD

17. Los Angeles, CA

The LA metro area is ranked the worst in the nation for ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 2, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 58.

Los Angeles CA

16. Louisville, KY

Louisville is home to the Cane Run Coal Plant, which spews high levels of harmful pollutants into the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 37, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 19.

Louisville KY

15. Akron, OH

The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 20, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 36. Akron is situated along the Cuyahoga River, which has caught fire in the past due to surface pollutants.

Akron OH

14. Baton Rouge, LA

Coal-burning power plants are a major source of air pollution in this city, and recent initiatives have begun for stricter emissions control regulations. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 27.

Baton Rouge Lousiana

13. Houston, TX

Houston houses the biggest number of oil refineries and chemical plants in the country, and it ranks quite high for ozone pollution. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 18, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 51.

Houston TX

12. Sacramento, CA

California’s capital has high rankings for air particle pollution and ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 9, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 48.

Sacramento California

11. New York City, NY

High levels of pollutants from oil spills, industrial development and chemical dumping plague New York City’s and Northern New Jersey’s groundwater supplies. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 23, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

New York City NY

10. Milwaukee, WI

Industrial development and manufacturing have created high concentrations of pollutants in the Milwaukee River as well as in the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 26, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is also 26.

Milwaukee, WI

9. Stockton, CA

Lack of funding for clean-up has resulted in high ozone levels in this central California city. Its Sperling Air Quality Index is 15, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Stockton CA

8. San Jose, CA

This city’s silicon manufacturing has resulted in toxic chemical leaching into the groundwater over the decades. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 13, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 30.

San Jose California

7. New Haven, CT

The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44 in New Haven. The city is located close to Yale University’s flight school and a major intersection of two interstate highways.

New Haven CT

6. Riverside, CA

The Riverside-San Bernardino area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1 and a Sperling Water Quality Index of 49. Drinking water supplies have been contaminated by the manufacture of rockets, motors and explosives.

Riverside, CA

5. Modesto, CA

This central California city ranks 11th in the nation for ozone pollution, and it also shoulders one of the country’s highest unemployment rates. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

Modesto California

4. Bridgeport, CT

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest U.S. states, but local car part manufacturing has lead to contamination of the wetlands with various toxic chemicals. Found contaminants include dangerous levels of lead and asbestos. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 32, and the Sperling Air Quality Index is 8.

Bridgeport, CT

3. Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love is situated on the banks of the Delaware River, which has been lined with operating chemical refineries for several decades. High concentrations of pollutants get released into the river water each year, and the area has a water quality index of 12 as well as an air quality index of 22.

Philadelphia, PA

2. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield’s main employment sector is the oil industry, and the local area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 42. Emissions from oil production facilities are largely the cause of these high pollution levels.

Bakersfield CA

1. Fresno, CA

A major local industry is agriculture, which has lead to the leaching of pesticides and other harmful chemicals into the groundwater. Residents suffer from adverse health effects from the poor groundwater quality, and Fresno also has the 5th worst ranking for air particle pollution. The city’s Sperling Air Quality Index is rated 1 and the Sperling Water Quality Index is rated 22.

Fresno, CA