Build the Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

One of my goals for this summer was to spend more time exploring my own backyard. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all that Downtown and Midtown Sacramento have to offer these days. Even all the coffee options overwhelm me…S.O. (that’s single-origin espresso) and nitro coffee, just to name a couple.

Recently I had the chance to play tour guide while showing two blogging friends, Cassie and Garrick, around Sacramento for the day. Their day trip began with a train ride on the Capitol Corridor from the Bay Area to Sacramento. To avoid more transportation, we opted for a walking tour of central Sac and found plenty to keep us busy for several hours. If you’re looking for ideas for what to do in a day trip to Downtown & Midtown Sacramento, you can mix and match these suggestions.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Click the map for a Google Map of the places featured in this post

 

Time: About five hours. Total walking = 2-3 miles (Walk east on Capitol and N, then west back to the train station on J).

Cost: Activities are free. $10-20 for drinks and $12-20 for lunch.

Parking: All day parking at the train station for $10 (don’t park in spaces #1-32–those are 2-hour spots). Downtown garages have $5 all day rates on the weekends.

Tips for kids: Old Sacramento, the California Railroad Museum, and the Crocker Art Museum are fun with kids. Hot Italian serves pizza and gelato, making it a pleaser for adults and kids; plus, there’s a small playground across the street.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Besides outlining what we did that day, I’ve included additional ideas so that you can build the perfect day trip to Sacramento.

Sacramento’s Coffee Culture:

Sacramento is home to a surprising number of high-quality coffee roasters, and local residents take coffee culture pretty seriously. Temple Coffee Roasters is perhaps the best known–it’s home to light roasts and “award-winning, 90+ point farm-to-cup coffees, including the #1 Coffee of 2013 by CoffeeReview.com.”

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

But Insight Coffee, Old Soul, and Chocolate Fish are also worth trying, and with several downtown and midtown locations, you’ll run into at least one of them.

Architecture

Downtown Sacramento has a mix of old and new architecture. Being the capital of California, Sacramento has many state offices, most of which are found in modern buildings in the blocks surrounding the Capitol.

Historic architecture provides reminders of the city’s past. J Street has many of the city’s grand buildings from the early 20th century, like the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium and Elks Lodge. Old Sacramento is a must, if not for the tacky shops, at least for a view of its preserved Gold Rush architecture. And the Crocker Art Museum is housed in two distinctly different buildings–one is a light-filled modern wing, and the other is the historic Crocker mansion, which is worth visiting just to see the 19th century interior.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My HappinessThe Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My HappinessThe Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento| This Is My Happiness.com

The Leland Stanford Mansion (a state historic park) is one of the city’s grandest old buildings; you can walk around outside, but to get inside, you need to sign up for a tour.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Any trip to Sacramento should include a stop at the city’s best known structure, the Capitol, and the surrounding Capitol Park, which is a delight for plant enthusiasts–it has 450 varieties of trees and plants from around the world (each of which is marked its name and origin), a rose garden, and a succulent garden. Entry to the Capitol is free, but you’ll need to briefly go through security as you enter the building. Be sure to peek in all the rooms, including the second floor view of the Rotunda and Senate Chamber.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My HappinessThe Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

The Handle District

The Handle District is a four-block area of trendy restaurants and shops in Midtown. Try Aioli Bodega Española for Spanish tapas, Zanzibar and The Art of Toys for gifts from around the world, The Rind for cheese and wine, Devine Gelateria for the city’s best gelato, and Ginger Elizabeth for Sacramento’s finest chocolate and macarons.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My HappinessThe Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Scout Living is my favorite place to browse in Midtown. The collective is owned by a couple who recently moved here from San Francisco and sells vintage items in beautiful condition, especially midcentury furniture.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Near the Handle District is Preservation & Co (you can stop here on the way to Hook & Ladder, which I recommend below for lunch or Happy Hour). This shop sells handcrafted specialty preserved goods, which are made in the back half of the shop (when we stopped in, they were in the middle of making balsamic beets).

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Only locally grown, seasonal ingredients are used to make jams, pickles, Bloody Mary mix, and more. Stop by for samples–they make great gifts from Sac!

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Where to eat:

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. is my current favorite for lunch because the food and cocktails are very good, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is laid back. The interior is decorated with funky details–unique furniture, water fixtures that have been transformed into lights, and old board games.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

Try their salads, roasted carrot and smoked mozzarella ravioli with sweet corn, daily burger special, and delectable desserts. Happy Hour starts at 2:00 and includes our favorites, the $6 Moscow Mule and Whistleblower, and small plates.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My HappinessThe Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

If you find yourself downtown around lunch time, try Mother.

Local Craft Beer

Besides artisan cocktails and coffee, Sacramento is known for its craft beer. Try Ruhstaller Brewery and Taproom, a cozy room discreetly located in a basement on K Street, right next to the busy construction of downtown’s new sports arena. This brewery uses “indigenous hops,” meaning hops that are locally grown–in this case, the hops are grown right at the Ruhstaller farm outside nearby Davis. Try a glass for $5 or a flight of four beers for $10.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

By the way, don’t be put off by the entrance. There’s no big sign with Ruhstaller; instead, look for black doors with “Ring Bell for Beer.” Despite appearances, no reservations are needed, and the place is friendly and laid-back.

The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness The Perfect Day Trip to Sacramento | This Is My Happiness

The more I explore my hometown, the more I find to love. While there is much more to do in Sacramento than what’s listed here, I prefer the idea of doing a slow walking tour of Midtown for a day trip.

What suggestions do you have for a day trip to Downtown & Midtown Sacramento?

20 Comments

  • If one comes to Sacramento, especially with kids in tow, definitely stop in at Andy’s Candy Apothecary (on 9th near J / next door to Temple) -> “filled to the brim with a wide and every-changing array of fine candy, Andy’s Candy Apothecary is a treat for the eyes and tastebuds”. Also May-October Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates has her ice cream/frozen dessert menu up 🙂 And I totally agree, Devine’s gelato is some of the best, and they’re comparable to the best of gelato spots in other big/bigger cities 😀

    • Jenna says:

      I’ve passed Andy’s Candy Apothecary twice but haven’t gone in. It sounds like I need to check it out! And I have seen Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates’ ice cream menu but haven’t tried them. Everything there is so divine. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Hey, great post! I love traveling and you’ve really highlighted all the must sees places!

    http://www.petiteandpretty.com
    PetiteandPretty recently posted..Don’t forget to have fun on your Wedding day!My Profile

  • Kieran says:

    Please come to Louisville and do this haha! How’d you go about finding all these places? Driving around till you ran into something that looked interesting?

    • Jenna says:

      I spend time in that area of town about once a week and try to walk there as much as possible so that I can get to know the neighborhood.

  • That’s it. I can no longer read your blog because it does nothing to help my yearning to live in northern California. Nothing. Thanks for that. 😉 (Need to bookmark this for the next time I head out that way!)
    Katie @ Domestiphobia recently posted..I Found My Happy Place, And I Didn’t Expect It Would Be Here.My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      🙂 You’re very welcome! I hope you can make your way out here again soon, but you must get in touch when you do!

  • Murissa says:

    Such a cool place with so many gems! I sadly only had 3 hours in the centre of town to do my own thing while I was there on a business trip. This is a great list to keep in my back pocket next time!
    Murissa recently posted..Honeymoon Hunting: Searching for Ancestors in EnglandMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I hope you can come and spend a bit more time–considering your love of food and wine, I think you’d enjoy discovering the food scene here.

  • Tricia says:

    Jenna, I regret that we didn’t make it to Sacramento to explore the city, as it looks like there’s much to offer. The café culture & art scene sound fun, and we’d also hoped to make it there for the 2nd Saturday Art Walk. There’s always next time when we’re visiting Shawn’s family. 🙂
    Tricia recently posted..Moments to Remember: A Long Weekend in Saint-Emilion, FranceMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to 2nd Saturday in a very long time. Yes, when you come back out, you should come here, and then we can meet! 🙂

  • Gina says:

    Hi! New reader here. I love this post and I love your blog! I live in Sacramento (born and raised) and I still learned about some new places just by reading this post. Can’t wait to follow along more and learn about all our city has to offer!
    Gina recently posted..{Currently} JulyMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Gina, Thanks for stopping by! I still discover new places in Sac all the time. It’s been hard to keep up with everything new and fun going on here.

  • that’s so awesome you’re exploring more of your hometown. We have driven through Sac many times but never thought to stop in. Next time, we’ll have to stop at some of these places. 🙂
    Esther of Local Adventurer recently posted..Waypoint Public – Popular Local Hangout in North ParkMy Profile

  • Andi says:

    As you know I am a HUGE fan of Midtown, love, love, love it! Great everything! My hubby went to visit a friend there last week and I made him bring back a pile of Ginger Elizabeth chocolate bars!
    Andi recently posted..San Francisco Profiles – Sean Timberlake of Punk DomesticsMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Yum, I love Ginger Elizabeth chocolates. I haven’t tried the bars yet, but I love their dark chocolate pearls (and their macarons and their chocolate squares, of course).

  • Lily says:

    Hi Jenna, thanks for the tips. My hubby and I are thinking about taking our 5 year old girl to visit Sac in October… do you know any good or unique hotels/ accommodations for families? We’d love to visit the Railroad Museum, Gelato place, and Ginger Elizabeth… we will also definitely try to see the inside of the Capitol too.

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Lily! Your daughter will have fun in Sac. You might want to think about taking the steam train ride from Old Sac along the river. In October, they’re probably doing the Halloween themed ride. The Capitol is lovely–I’ve taken my kids there for years, and they enjoy running around in Capitol Park and smelling all the roses at the far end of that park. I think the Citizen Hotel is your best bet for a unique hotel in that location. However, check out the recommendations on the Visit Sac website (or contact them directly for suggestions): http://www.visitsacramento.com/

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