With a wealth of good weather year round, Sacramento is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and anyone who is up for new adventures while keeping conscious of their impact on the Earth. And if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find this capital city has plenty of things to do for the traveler in search of local experiences.
For the Locavores
Sacramento is known as the Farm-to-Fork capital of America because of its proximity to 1.5 million acres of crops that go directly to the city’s eateries and markets (as well as to the rest of the country). You’re likely to find a bazaar packed with seasonal local produce and artisanal treats almost every day of the week. Grab ingredients to prepare back at the hostel or have a snack while people watching at the nearby Cesar Chavez Plaza. If you’re not up for doing your own cooking, try Mother, a vegetarian restaurant with mouthwatering Southern inspired food, or Coin-Op, featuring fresh farm-to-fork fare alongside old school arcade games. For soups, sandwiches, and smoothies, check out Harvest Bar, which also has a living wall that harvests microgreens. All of these restaurants are within walking distance of HI Sacramento, so you’ll get to see the neighborhood while getting your lunch.
Pro tip: On Sundays, check out Local Harvest, the state’s largest certified farmers’ market, featuring more than 100 vendors. Held under a bridge, better known as “The Underbelly,” local artists have painted this concrete ceiling to entice its more than 30,000 weekly visitors.
Green Fact: Most crops rely on honey bee pollination, but colonies are collapsing due to industrialized agricultural chemical use. HI Sacramento is helping bees flourish through a partnership with Bee Love Sacramento, offering beekeeping classes and events out of the hostel.
Rent a bicycle from HI Sacramento (just $18 per day), pack some picnic supplies and go exploring along the American River Bike Trail, which is one of the longest of its kind in the country. The 32-mile paved path begins at Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and winds its way along the river. You’ll pass through several scenic parks, swimming areas where you can cool down, and pretty picnic spots with water fountains and restrooms. The trail is also excellent for wildlife viewing, with deer, wild turkey, squirrels, and a kaleidoscope of birds often crossing the path. The strong-legged can take the trail all the way to Folsom and catch the light rail back to Sacramento, which stops just 5 blocks from the hostel.
Pro tip: Be sure to fill up your reusable water bottles before you leave for those parts of the trail that are in between drinking fountains.
Green Fact: Along the American River Parkway you’ll find wild turkey, one of only two domesticated birds native to North America, and Benjamin Franklin’s choice for our national bird.
As a former Gold Rush town, Sacramento has a full and fascinating history, much of which can be experienced in the roughly 8 blocks of Old Sacramento. The historic waterfront area is a hot spot of restaurants, stores and museums, like the California State Railroad Museum. Here you’ll see 21 beautifully restored locomotives and train cars, as well as exhibits that highlight the importance of the railway to California’s history. Then pop next door to the Huntington, Hopkins and Company Hardware store to experience what it might have been like to shop for tools and hardware here in the 19th Century. On the same street, there’s the Sacramento History Museum, with excellent exhibits detailing life in the area from its very first inhabitants to the days of the Gold Rush and beyond. Take an underground tour to see how the entire city was lifted up to protect it from flood waters, and walk through the old sidewalks and alleyways still scattered with old bottles and dolls from the 1870s.
Pro tip: Sacramento is relatively flat, making it easy to explore these museums and more from the seat of a bike.
Green Fact: 100% of HI Sacramento’s energy comes from American wind farms, with 30% of the City of Sacramento’s energy as a whole coming from renewable sources.
One of Sacramento’s many nicknames is “The City of Trees” because it is the #2 city in the world for trees per capita, second only to Paris, France. The majestically domed State Capitol Building is surrounded by a 40-acre park, adorned with more than 200 types of trees from all around the world. Soak up the shade as you peruse more than 100 memorials marking events and people important to California’s history. Take a temporary break from the trees, and drop into the capitol building while you’re in the vicinity, which has a historically rich museum on its lower level. Afterward, kick your feet up outside for an afternoon laze in the sun or enjoy a picnic under your favorite tree.
Pro tip: Visitors to the State Capitol can sometimes sit in and watch legislators debate bills or cast votes for new laws.
Green Fact: The City of Sacramento set a goal to plant 1,000 new trees annually along streets and parks alone.
Guests staying at HI Sacramento can participate in hostel-led activities that are not only great for exploring the city like a local, but also for getting to know new friends from across the country and around the world. Whether it’s the Sunday Fun Day city bike ride and backyard barbecue, the monthly Bike-In Movie nights, or the communal dinners led by hostel staff and volunteers, there’s ample opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow adventurers and the local community. In addition, HI Sacramento shops the local farmers markets for its Wine and Cheese nights, serving only local or regional wines to give guests the real Sacramento experience. And when you’re ready to hit the town, you can ask anyone at the front desk for the inside scoop on where to go, what to see, or what to do in Sacramento.
Pro tip: At a loss for what to do? Just hang out in HI Sacramento’s common spaces – the living room, dining room or comfy front porch – and you’re bound to strike up a conversation with a new friend you can make plans with.
Green Fact: HI Sacramento is a green certified hostel and voted one of the top 20 greenest HI hostels in the world out of nearly 4,000 in 2015.
This is part of the HI USA Green Footprints series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Green Footprints destinations.