While Sacramento might not get as much attention as its more glamorous cousins to the north and to the south, California’s capital city is an underrated gem of a place for a variety of travelers. Whether you’re history buff or political enthusiast, locavore foodie or sun-worshipper, 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. Intrigued? Book your stay at HI Sacramento today and check out how to make the most of a two-day getaway to the laid-back heart of the state.
Hit the road
Sacramento is about an hour-and-a-half drive from San Francisco, or a two-hour Megabus ride, making it the perfect place to escape to when you visit Northern California in the summer and realize that the sun lives inland. You can also catch an Amtrak train directly to Sacramento from Richmond in the East Bay. Whatever your mode of transportation, along the way you’ll pass through rich green hillsides signaling your entrance into one of America’s agricultural centers.
Drop of your bags and car at HI Sacramento hostel – you can’t miss the grand Victorian Mansion standing proudly at the corner of H and 10th Streets – and put on your walking shoes. Or, if you prefer, your cycling gear, as Sacramento is extremely bike friendly and hostel guests get 10% off rentals at Practical Cycle nearby.
First stop is K Street downtown, a hub lined with shops, bars, entertainment venues, and public art. If you’ve arrived hungry, this is also a great place for a budget-friendly bite, from giant burritos and sandwiches to Mediterranean fare and vegetarian eats.
With your energy replenished, you can make your way down to the State Capitol down L Street for a slice of California history. The incredibly ornate building is full of marble sculptures, enormous chandeliers, and architectural details of state symbolism woven into the décor. Plus, we can’t forget the incredible glass dome that feels like something out of an adventure movie. You’re free to walk around the Capitol on your own, but it’s definitely worth taking the free guided tour. Afterwards, head outside to Capitol Park, home to trees from all over the world, and the World Peace Rose Garden, where you can sit amongst the blooms.
From the State Capitol, it’s a quick bike ride to Sutter’s Fort, the oldest restored fort in the country and a glimpse into what this part of Sacramento was like in the 1840s, just before the gold rush. Next door is the State Indian Museum with displays showcasing the jewelry, headdresses, instruments, and weapons used by the Americans who lived here thousands of years ago.
Cruise back down L Street until you reach the American River Parkway. It’s the perfect place to cool off in the hours before the sun goes down, offering pretty views of Old Sacramento, plenty of trees and miles of riverside walking and biking paths.
You’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to dinner options, as Sacramento is also known as America’s farm-to-fork capital and the city offers a diverse range of eats whether you’re looking to save or splurge. Some favorite recommendations include Coin-Op for super fresh picked-that-day ingredients in their bites and drinks, and $2 fish tacos at Streets Pub & Grub’s Taco Tuesday.
After making the most of the free breakfast served in the hostel’s stately-yet-home-like dining area, find out where the nearest farmer’s market is and go scope out some fresh fruit and vegetables. As one of the state’s most important agricultural hubs, Sacramento gives locals and visitors access to some 50 certified farmers’ markets so they get the goods straight from the source.
Delve into the depths of local history during a guided city tour led by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which offers all kinds of tours highlighting classic architecture, public art, neighborhood history and more. From April to December, be sure to check out the underground tour where you get to go under Sacramento’s streets. After a huge flood in the 1860s, the city streets were raised about 10 feet, leaving behind an underground network that makes for an excellent, spooky tour.
End your exploration on a cultural note with a visit to the Crocker Art Museum or the Leland Stanford Mansion museum.
There’s no better way to end a day well spent than a great meal. Using your basket of farmer’s market goodies, prepare your dinner in the hostel’s fully equipped kitchen and enjoy the results on the back patio.
Wind down the night by making new friends over a game of pool or foosball in the hostel’s game room. You might also be here on a night when there’s a hostel activity, like a welcome reception or a crawl out on the town. Either way you might find it hard to leave this mansion where you come as a guest and leave as a friend.
You might also like:8 Spots to Eat Farm to Fork for $10 in Sacramento
Marc Edward’s Guide to Sacramento
Responsible Travel Guide: Sacramento