One of the city’s most iconic pretty spaces is only a few blocks away from HI Sacramento. The city's Capitol is surrounded by beautiful gardens perfect for picnicking after you've taken a tour of the Capitol building itself. The green lawns are dotted with benches, historical statues, and trees from all over the world, and on a warm day this is a great spot to relax and do some people watching.
Pack some snacks and songs and set out early for a day trip cruising along Highway 49, which not only features panoramic vistas of wild California and the Sierra Nevada foothills, but is also dotted with historic towns and sights from the Gold Rush era. Head east from Sacramento to the towns of Sutter Creek and Jackson to immerse yourself in history, or just drive along the route and stop somewhere pretty for a picnic.
Emerald Tower Rooftop Park
One of Sacramento’s hidden gems is a serene rooftop park at the top of the Emerald Tower, right in the heart of downtown. Here you’ll find professionals stealing away for lunch at the shaded picnic tables and in-the-know locals checking out the public art on the green lawns. Sitting at the top of an 18-story parking structure, the rooftop garden is also a great spot to take Instagram-worthy shots of the Sacramento River and Tower Bridge.
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
Sutter’s Fort Historic Park, which is located in Midtown about a 12-minute bicycle ride or half-an-hour walk from the hostel, is a staff favorite at HI Sacramento. The park not only has a historic fort associated with California’s Gold Rush and the establishment of the city of Sacramento, but there’s also a nice pond where you’re likely to encounter turtles, ducks, and geese.
Old Sugar Mill
Take the scenic 20-minute drive from downtown Sacramento to the Old Sugar Mill, a former beet-sugar refinery that is now home to a collection of wineries. Here you’ll get to taste some delicious featured wines from all over Northern California, and once you’ve picked your favorite bottle, you can enjoy it with a picnic on the pretty grounds. Bonus points if your picnic spread includes fresh goodies from one of Sacramento's many farmer’s markets or roadside produce stalls.
Just about an hour northwest of Sacramento, you can experience the farm part of Northern California's farm-to-fork culture with a drive to the Capay Valley. Orchards, vegetable fields, and vineyards will pass by your window against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Cache Creek meandering alongside for ultimate road trip pleasure. Stop at one of the small towns on Highway 16 and pick up something fresh to prepare back at the hostel.
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Whether you’re history buff or political enthusiast, locavore foodie or sun-worshiper, you’ll find your little slice of heaven here where farmers, artists, and musicians co-habitate with government officials and an increasing number of curious travelers.