This chill metropolis has earned its place on California's list of underrated cities thanks to lush greenspaces, museums galore, and abundant foodie delights, both high-brow and low. And while residents and repeat visitors alike tend to be very familiar with Sacramento’s top experiences—ranging from rafting down the American River to exploring the Crocker Museum—there are plenty of undiscovered gems still waiting to be found.
Whether you’re a local looking for staycation inspiration or a visitor hungry for something new, the suggestions below should give you with a deeper understanding of this town’s broad appeal.
The best cinnamon buns in town come from an unlikely place: a tiny annex built off a 76 gas station on Suttervillle Road. This 30-year-old mom and pop enterprise is worth a visit—and every calorie—before you head over for a day of play at William Land Park. The Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town (a whimsical storybook-themed amusement park), and Funderland (a ride haven) are go-to attractions for families, but the serene WPA Rock Garden is worth a stroll for all ages—think winding paths of native plants and flora (head over to the lake across the way for a spectacular display of water lilies too).
Wide Open Walls
You’ll find vibrant evidence of the largest mural festival in the country splashed across the public facades at Sacramento’s Wide Open Walls. These 100 murals range from the Jillian Evelyn Mural at Sacramento State University to Shepard Fairey’s commanding portrayal of Johnny Cash. To create your own custom tour, click on this interactive map, select a neighborhood or artist or year, and plan your trek. You’ll also find key insights about the artists and their creations.
Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.
Sacramento built its reputation as the Farm-to-Fork Capital thanks to two key ingredients: great local produce and a cluster of talented local chefs. You’ll find plenty of Michelin-rated restaurants in town—The Kitchen, Localis, Bacon & Butter, etc.—but consider starting your culinary explorations at Hook & Ladder. In addition to its celebrated food program, this spot also offers delicious farm-to-cocktail drinks, such as the Lazy Summer, a peach-infused rye with peach bitters made with local peaches. You can even take a two-hour cocktail class here and become a better mixologist.
Corti Brothers Grocery
More than a grocery store, Corti Brothers is a culinary institution. Owner Darrell Corti has been credited with sparking California’s Food Revolution of the 1970s, when balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and artisanal bread were not yet staples in American kitchens. Corti’s 50-plus-year-old newsletter touting rare, high-end foods from his travels to Europe and Asia alone can make your mouth water. Order up the legendary raviolis and browse the aisles of international delicacies and wine to go.
Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary
The Sacramento Zoo is impressive, and everybody knows it. But the smaller Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, located just outside of Sacramento, is also great: It’s a safe haven for primates, birds, farm animals, and other creatures that have been injured, rescued, or abused. The internationally acclaimed organization takes exceptional care of its animals, which include cougars, tigers, and bobcats. The peaceful grounds make it easy to appreciate and better understand the animals, and there’s also a miniature-scale live steam train that circles the Lion Park—perfect for kids.
The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
This civic and religious landmark, just steps away from the State Capitol Building, is a work of art in its own right and worth a tour inside and out. The ornate stained glass, marble statues, and Italian Renaissance architecture may just turn you into a true believer.
Urban Roots Brewery and Smokehouse
Sacramento has more than its fair share of craft breweries; Urban Roots also happens to have some of the best BBQ in town. Not a bad combo, right? You can enjoy everything from rib tips to pork ribs, with soul-comforting sides like white cheddar and black pepper grits, collard greens with ham, and whipped yams. Kids are welcome to join their parents, and Urban Roots even provides some entertainment for the youngsters: Ask for a coloring page, each one featuring a different part of the massive mural outside.
Discover old-style and new-school Vietnamese cuisine up and down Stockton Boulevard. Phở Bolsa is one of the longstanding institutions in Little Saigon, serving up cha ca la vong (turmeric-flavored catfish) and bun rieu, a tomato-based noodle soup topped with freshwater crab. Pho 1920 is something of an upstart, cooking up a brisket-filled noodle soup with its housemade chili sauce, a spicy souvenir to grab on your way out.
Delta King Hotel
Sure, this restored 1927 paddlewheel riverboat along the Old Sacramento Waterfront is an iconic landmark and impossible to miss, but have you ever been inside? An overnight stay in one of its luxe staterooms with city views, or the splurge-worthy two-story suite with private veranda, offers an unforgettable experience. Even if you don’t stay the night, grabbing a cocktail at the Delta Bar & Grill is a smart move.
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Step back in time at this 150-year-old facility built by Swiss immigrant John Sutter. Docent volunteers dressed in historic costume (and in full character) answer any and all questions about life in the 1840s, or you can take a self-guided tour. The two-story adobe quarters is filled with relics from pioneer life, including the doll a young Patty Reed, of the ill-fated Donner party, smuggled along on the trans-continental journey (Note: this historic doll rotates on and off display). Look for demos in butter churning, cannon firings (weather permitting), weaving, and rope making. There’s even an overnight camp for kids who get to dress and act the part.
This Ethiopian restaurant in Land Park serves up the ultimate finger food. Scoop up fresh, seasonal dishes with traditional Injera bread (our go-to: the Doro Wot with chicken simmered in spiced butter and herbs, but the vegetarian combo with spicy lentils, split peas and spinach also gets high marks). Order a glass of Tej, Ethiopian honey wine, for an authentic experience, or come by on Sundays for the Ancient Coffee Ceremony, a two-hour tradition where beans are roasted, ground, brewed, and poured in traditional cookware and pottery.
Soil Born Farms
This 55-acre urban farm was designed to connect city people to their roots with backyard farming inspiration. The nonprofit teaches hands-on and virtual classes for kids and adults and donates their crops to food banks around the city. Pick up starters, seasonal fruits and veggies, and fresh eggs at the drive-thru farmstand on Saturdays.
Camellia Coffee Roasters
Coffee is serious business in Sacramento, with established favorites like Temple and Old Soul drawing loyal followings. Newer players abound too, like Camellia Coffee Roasters, which is located inside WAL Public Market in the R Street Corridor. Grab the Horchata Cold Brew in a take-home-friendly half gallon. Hungry? Fuel up with a savory breakfast sando on a brioche bun or a sweet cherry hand pie, all housemade. Then explore the old railroad district for art, shopping, and Sacramento history.