Top 12 Attractions in Sacramento

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As California’s capital city, Sacramento delivers dynamic opportunities to experience living history along with food, arts and culture defining Northern California. Where else can you tour an active state Capitol building, wander tree-lined Victorian neighborhoods and sample local wines, beer and innovative farm-to-fork cuisine all in one weekend escape?

AttractionDescription
Old Sacramento Historic State ParkA walk through California’s Gold Rush history along the waterfront.
California State CapitolTours of this National Historic Landmark offer insights into California’s political history.
McKinley ParkA 60-acre park in East Sacramento with various recreational activities.
California’s Automobile MuseumShowcases over 150 vehicles and the state’s car culture.
River CruiseEvening cruises along the Sacramento River with views of the city skyline.
California’s Great AmericaAn amusement park with rollercoasters and family-friendly attractions in Santa Clara.
Sacramento History MuseumDedicated to Sacramento’s history with interactive exhibits for all ages.
State Indian MuseumPreserves California’s tribal history with artifacts and exhibits.
Food & Drink SceneHighlights Sacramento’s farm-to-fork cuisine and local breweries and wineries.
Crocker Art MuseumThe oldest art museum in the West with diverse collections and exhibits.
Fairytale TownA themed park for children based on fairytales and nursery rhymes.

These 12 top-tier attractions capture can’t-miss sights and experiences to fully embrace Sacramento’s vibrant spirit.

Explore Old Sacramento Historic State Park

Name and Location: Old Sacramento Historic State Park, located along the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Old Sacramento became a state historic park in the 1960s to preserve the oldest part of the city. Many buildings date back to the 1840s-1870s when Sacramento was founded during the Gold Rush era.

What to Expect: Visitors can walk along the wooden sidewalks and explore the many shops, restaurants, museums, rides and attractions within the 28 acre park. There are also train rides and river cruises.

Visitor Information: Open daily; hours vary by season. Entry into the outdoor area is free, but there are charges for individual attractions and activities.

Step into California’s living Gold Rush history along the waterfront at Old Sacramento Historic State Park.

Or relive frontier traveling history aboard the California State Railroad Museum’s train pulled by 19th century-style locomotives. Between rustic retail and eateries lining the streets, Old Sacramento Historic State Park transports all who wander through decades to reveal where Sacramento’s foundations first began.

Marvel at the California State Capitol

Name and Location: The California State Capitol in Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Completed in 1874, the California State Capitol has housed the state legislature and the office of the governor. Its architecture and history make it a symbol of Californian government.

What to Expect: Visitors can tour the inside of the Capitol building, explore the 40 acre park, and view the architecture and gardens surrounding it. Tours provide a wealth of history.

Visitor Information: Free guided tours offered daily. Open to visitors Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, and on weekends.

As the seat of California’s state government since 1854, the California State Capitol continues playing an active role in laws and leadership shaping the world’s fifth largest economy. Tours reveal this National Historic Landmark’s artistic marvels, political intrigue and resilient spirit spanning the eras. Stroll the 40-acre park-like grounds to spot playful squirrels before standing underneath the towering dome soaring 220 feet tall capped by a bronze statue symbolizing California’s prosperity.

Inside, overwhelming chambers overflow with intricacies like citrus-scented leather chairs, chandeliers weighting 2,500 pounds and Cuban mahogany trim framing iconic portraits of governors and political titans who shaped The Golden State’s history and future. Looking ahead, the Capitol Museum also shares the global impact of Sacramento’s ongoing policy decisions and houses unique state treasures sure to inspire modern day changemakers.

Get Your Steps In at McKinley Park

Name and Location: McKinley Park in East Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Originally created in 1912, McKinley Park is one of Sacramento’s oldest and largest public parks at over 60 acres. It has been an important public space for the community for exercise, events, and recreation.

What to Expect: Visitors will find a rose garden, large grass field, tennis courts, playground, picnic areas, pool, and paths for walking/running. There are also public events and concerts held here.

Visitor Information: Open daily from 5am to 11pm. No entrance fees. Public parking available.

Nestled in East Sacramento’s historic brick neighborhoods, this 60-acre community park charms locals and visitors as one of California’s Capital City gems. Mornings fill with sights of tennis players volleying on one of the park’s 33 courts alongside joggers circling the one-mile loop. By afternoon, happy picnickers claim tables or relax under soaring valley oak and redwood trees that provide plenty of cooling shade.

Traveling play fountains keep kids busy testing which button delivers the biggest surprise spray while grownups sign up for pottery or painting enrichment classes at Ellen Feickert Community Center. Historic sites like the Alhambra Theater continue hosting community theatre productions too. No matter the time of day or activity that brings you, expect to make fast friends with McKinley Park’s welcoming spirit in this corner of Sacramento.

Tour California’s Automobile Museum

Name and Location: California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Founded in 1987, this car museum celebrates California’s role in automotive history with over 150 vehicles on display. It has one of the largest collections of running classic cars in the nation.

What to Expect: Guests can view antique and muscle cars, motorcycles, and concept cars. Displays change over time and highlight different themes related to transportation in California.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission fees apply. Guided tours available.

In a state known for iconic cars and car culture innovations, Sacramento pays tribute to its auto heritage at the impressive California Automobile Museum. Walk through recreated main streets and garages to admire pristine models like a 1903 Ford Model A Rear Entrance Tonneau to the 1980 Delorean hitting 88 mph in Back to the Future time travel style. Start your engines alongside displays capturing Sacramento’s unique role breeding race car engineers while kids delight getting behind the driver’s seat of an imaginative future prototype vehicle.

With more than 150 vehicles and rotating exhibits showcasing how California’s geography and spirit shaped iconic cars over the past 120 years, the California Automobile Museum offers memorable insights into what continues driving The Golden State.

River Cruise Through Old Sacramento

Name and Location: Riverboat cruises along the Sacramento River out of Old Sacramento.

History and Significance: River cruises showcase the Sacramento River which was essential to early settlers during the Gold Rush era for migration, trade and transport. Cruises provide views of the Old Sacramento historical sites along the waterfront.

What to Expect: Several riverboat cruise lines offer 1-2 hour sightseeing tours with live narration highlighting the significance of Sacramento’s waterfront. Food, drinks, and sometimes live music provide entertainment.

Visitor Information: Various cruises and schedules available spring through fall. Ticket prices vary by cruise line and range $10-$40. Reservations recommended.

Expand your city sightseeing perspective with an evening cruise along the scenic Sacramento River winding through downtown. Choose from public cruises or specialty charter options allowing you to soak up Old Sacramento’s glittering skyline with a glass of regional wine and cheese pairings in hand from an open upper deck. Or sail in air-conditioned comfort inside climate-controlled yachts featuring full service bars as you relax taking in 10 miles of waterfront views.

Along your river route, admire sites like Tower Bridge shining bright against the night, high-rises of Sacramento’s business district, Raley Field where the River Cats minor league baseball team plays and glimpses of the State Capitol dome in the distance. Whether a date night escape or outing with visiting friends, Sacramento River cruises refreshingly showcase Northern California’s Capital City from a floating perspective.

Ride the Rollercoasters at California’s Great America

Name and Location: California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, CA.

History and Significance: Opening in 1976, California’s Great America was themed around the history and landscape of California. Now owned by Cedar Fair, it remains one of California’s top theme parks famous for its thrilling rollercoasters and rides.

What to Expect: Guests can enjoy over 40 rides and attractions including adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters like Railblazer, Flight Deck, and Gold Striker. Live entertainment, kids areas, shops, restaurants, and more can all be found here.

Visitor Information: Open seasonally March-December, hours vary by day. Single day tickets start around $50, season passes available. Website has full details on tickets and schedules.

Ready for big thrills just minutes outside Sacramento in charming Santa Clara? The marquee attraction at California’s Great America amusement park, Railblazer impressively claims Northern California’s only single-rail rollercoaster sending riders along over 3,000 feet of looping inversions and drops with feet dangling in open air. Nearby, the park’s original 1976 classic coaster, The Demon, continues delivering screams plunging down its first breath-catching 85-degree drop reaching 50 mph speeds.

When you need a break from adrenaline-pumping rides, let kids splash their way through Boomerang Bay’s massive wave pools or shoot down three-story slides. Every summer evening finishes with impressive fireworks shows against Great America’s signature iconic carousel. With over 40 rides, live shows and Peanuts themed experiences, this amusement park makes for prime family-friendly thrills near Sacramento.

Submerge Into Sacramento History

Name and Location: Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento

History and Significance: Open since 1993, this museum covers Sacramento’s history from indigenous people and explorers to the Gold Rush boomtown to today’s cosmopolitan city. Interactive exhibits showcase the valley’s history.

What to Expect: Three floors of exhibits invite visitors to immerse themselves in different eras. Artifacts, reproductions, audio-visual displays and living history interpreters transport guests back in time to visualize Sacramento’s storied history.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm except major holidays. Admission tickets: $8 Adults, $5 Youth 6-17, under 6 free. Guided tours available.

As California’s first museum dedicated entirely to Sacramento’s own history and future trajectory, the Sacramento History Museum brings local heritage to life through interactive exhibits for all ages. Get oriented to area geography and view eye-catching dioramas dramatizing impactful events like cholera epidemics and flooding challenges overcome to build the bustling city we know today.

See an original pony express mailbag next to telegraph equipment showcasing communication advancements. Compare an early 20th century voting booth to modern digital models to appreciate political shifts. Fun activity explorer backpacks give kids an engaging museum experience while special exhibits highlight Sacramento’s leadership in innovative future-focused industries from agriculture to aerospace and beyond.

Tour the State Indian Museum

Name and Location: State Indian Museum in Midtown, Sacramento

History and Significance: Founded in 1940, this museum preserves and interprets the diverse cultures of California’s first peoples through exhibits of artifacts, art, basketry, recordings and more. It hosts Native American dancers and storytellers.

What to Expect: Guests can explore replica dwellings from tribes around California and see items used for cooking, hunting, fishing, basketweaving, jewelry making and tribal ceremonies. The museum offers cultural displays and family activies.

Visitor Information: Open Mon-Sat 10am–5pm. Closed state holidays. Admission is free. Guided tours available with advance request.

Sacramento provides the ideal location for understanding the captivating cultures of native tribes shaping California’s past and present with the California State Indian Museum. Displaying one of the largest collections preserving the state’s tribal history, guests young and old immerse themselves in original artifacts, art forms and lifeways defining these resilient communities through rotating exhibits.

Catch glimpses of intricate basket weaving or etched grinding stones used in food preparation alongside ceremonial dance regalia. An intact California grizzly bear exhibit reflects the once abundant wildlife roaming the same valleys, forests and deserts early Californians called home. Outdoors, trained volunteers often demonstrate tribal dance techniques while creating traditional arts and crafts using all natural materials gathered locally just as their ancestors practiced for generations.

Sample Sacramento’s Food & Drink Scene

Name and Location: Restaurants and bars located downtown and in Midtown Sacramento

History and Significance: As California’s Farm-to-Fork Capital, Sacramento’s dining scene features fresh, local cuisine. Its mix of classic eateries and trendy new spots provide tasty treats for foodies and drink connoisseurs.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore Sacramento’s blend of fine dining and casual eats. Cuisine ranges from regional specialties to global fusion foods. Craft breweries, urban wineries and cocktail bars invite guests to sip local vintages.

Visitor Information: Restaurant and bar locations concentrated downtown and Midtown. Hours and prices vary. Reservations recommended for upscale dining.

As an agricultural empire breathing new life into California cuisine trends, Sacramento’s creative chefs revel in ready access to fresh bounty from surrounding valleys and foothills used to shape innovative dining concepts. Taste the city’s commitment to hyper-local, sustainable ingredients at The Kitchen Restaurant minimizing their carbon footprint by designing dishes utilizing produce grown steps from their backyard garden. Or try the Japanese-inspired small plates with wine pairings at Hayakawa Restaurant launched by a husband-wife team focused on hospitality paired with wines produced just minutes away.

Sacramento’s beer culture also continues gaining national attention through operations like New Helvetia Brewing Company even hosting a resting place for transplanted redwoods wrapped around their outdoor taproom. And several urban wineries now call Sacramento home too, with options to savor Northern California vineyard honey wines without leaving city limits. From craft breweries to James Beard-recognized dining to third wave coffee houses, Sacramento continues maturing into a top foodie destination in its own right.

Crocker Art Museum

Name and Location: Crocker Art Museum in downtown Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Founded in 1885, the Crocker boasts one of the nation’s finest collections of Californian art. Its holdings span from Gold Rush-era to contemporary works in a complex expanded over the museum’s 130-year history.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore paintings, sculptures, photos, ceramics, and more in galleries focused on specific eras and artists. Interactive spaces allow guests to create art. On-site cafe and store available.

Visitor Information: Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission $12 Adults, discounts for students, seniors, military.

As the longest continuously operating art museum founded in the American West in 1885, the esteemed Crocker Art Museum defines Sacramento’s vibrant creative scene. Wander European masters’ galleries to admire Raphael sketches, then contemplate enigmatic Magritte paintings around the corner—all included with general admission. With 10,000 works among Cracker’s permanent collections spanning centuries of movements and styles, this architectural wonder makes for one of California’s Capitol City cultural crown jewels.

Rotating exhibits regularly showcase prominent Northern California painters’ landscape oil interpretations or contemporary installations using unexpected organic materials addressing urgent social issues. Frequent community events, lectures from globally-renowned art experts and children’s studios offering hands-on projects inspire visitors to not just view art, but become immersed in the creative process unfolding every day at the Crocker.

Fairytale Town

Name and Location: Fairytale Town children’s park in Sacramento, CA

History and Significance: Open since 1959, Fairytale Town brings fairytales and nursery rhymes to life with interactive play sets spread over 2.5 acres of gardens, mini buildings, and structures. It provides imagination-based play.

What to Expect: Families with young children can explore areas themed around classic stories like Jack & the Beanstalk, the Three Little Pigs and more. Storytelling, play events and arts activities engage kids’ creativity.

Visitor Information: Open daily Mar-Oct, weekends only Nov-Feb. Hours vary seasonally. Admission $7.50, free under 1 year. Group rates available.

Both kids and adults rediscover the wonder of childhood make-believe at Fairytale Town’s elaborately themed two-acre park tucked inside Sacramento’s William Land Park. Interact with play cottages straight from the pages of treasured nursery rhymes and fairytales that inspire young imaginations. One minute scale pint-sized climbing structures, then scamper through whimsical caves before peeking out of the Old Woman’s oversized Shoe’s laces. Special events and story time further bring fables to life, even turning rides into fantastical creatures each October for the attraction’s popular annual zoo-themed Halloween celebration. Created to foster creative free play and literacy foundations for early learners, Fairytale Town’s joy-filled experiences stay with visitors long after the last page of bedtime stories end.

Conclusion

These experiences represent just a sample of Sacramento’s history, arts, culture, and innovations ready to inspire families, couples and solo travelers alike. Where else can you tour an active U.S. landmark like the State Capitol building, test gold panning skills where the California Gold Rush first began, then relax with award-winning local wine reflecting Northern California’s agricultural roots – all in the same weekend. Vibrant yet relaxed, Sacramento invites visitors to fully embrace everything that makes living in The Golden State an unforgettable adventure.

Leave a Comment