An Overview to Exploring Sacramento: History, Food, Art, and Nature Recommendations

Overview of Sacramento and introduction to some of the activities, food, and culture in the region

Exploring state capitals is a great starting point for domestic travel ideas.  One such city is Sacramento.  No short article can truly capture all the beauty and history of Sacramento, but this will provide a brief overview. Whether you are a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, a food and wine lover, or someone just looking to explore somewhere new, the greater Sacramento area pretty much has something for everyone.

Sacramento's Historic Past

For history buffs, sites such as Sutter's Fort, Old Town, and various sites throughout the area evidencing California's Gold Rush make interesting stops.  Incorporated in 1850, Sacramento was the first incorporated city in California.  It was also the western end of the Pony Express and the site for the first Transcontinental Railroad.  There is a railroad museum in Old Sacramento and within a hour or so drive, you can actually tour an old gold mine from the Gold Rush era.

For those more interested in politics, stop by Frank Fat's Restaurant downtown where you might find a famous politician enjoying lunch or perhaps relive history by dining at one of the booths known for the landmark bills signed there.  Frank Fat's is proof that Sacramento has another major draw....food.

Local Food, Wine, and Beer

Sacramento is quite a mecca of culinary treasures. Midtown is filled with incredible restaurants and bars, many of which are fairly easy to get in with short notice.  The Paragarys group operates a number of highly popular restaurants in Sacramento, one of which is Centro Cocina in Midtown.  With over 150 types of tequila and various weeknight specials,  it is a popular stop, especially on Infused Fridays.  Every week a new infused tequila is introduced, available either as a large shot or a margarita.  One infused tequila not to be missed is the anniversary blend - kiwi, strawberry, and pineapple.  Heavenly! 

Other areas like Old Town, feature The Firehouse, built in 1853 and originally the home of Sacramento No. 3.  Even those looking for more of a celebrity chef angle will be happy - Biba is owned by best-selling cookbook author, Biba Caggiano.  For Food Network junkies, try either of Guy Fieri's two restaurants - Tex Wasabi's in Sacramento and Johnny Garlic's in Roseville.

Craving something a little less formal and happen to be a beer lover? Sacramento has several local breweries, all with great food. Several popular ones include Brew It Up, Sac Brew, and Hoppy Brewery.  Travel up into the foothills and give Jack Russell Brewery's Chocolate Raspberry Stout a try. 

If wine is more your style, drive a short distance along the Sacramento River to the Old Sugar Mill and do some wine tasting.  Open Friday through Sunday, there are currently four wineries offering tasting and many weekends during the summer feature events.  Pack a picnic lunch and be sure to stop by Todd Taylor Wines, noted for his phenomenal single vineyard designated reds, and Heringer Estates, offering an incredible Petite Syrah Port!  Not there over a weekend or looking to stay in Downtown?  No problem, check out L Wine Lounge (they actually feature several Todd Taylor offerings) or Revolution Winery which has a tasting room in the area.

Outdoor Enthusiasts and Nature Lovers

With moderate temperatures and pretty warm summers, Sacramento is known for its many outdoor recreation options.  Rent a bicycle and try the American River trail extending from Old Town to Folsom Lake.  Or rent a boat and cruise down the Sacramento River for the day.  If hiking is more your thing, there are numerous hiking trails in Sacramento and the neighboring foothill areas, some of which feature incredible history and beautiful scenery like waterfalls.  North of Sacramento is a big wildlife refuge and is a hit with bird lovers.  Salmon fishing and white water rafting (both seasonal) are also popular activities for locals and tourists alike.

For off-road enthusiasts, Prairie City offers an offroading mecca. For those a little less hands on, the Sacramento Raceway has a calendar of upcoming events including monster trucks and drag racing.  Indoor Kart Racing is a fun way to spend a day with your family as well.

Arts and Festivals

Surprising to many, Sacramento has a number of theaters and the Crocker Art Museum.  Local productions and Second Saturday Art Walks are popular with many residents and often bring people back time and time again.  Larger Broadway productions like Lion King and Cats have toured downtown. 

Many festivals come to the area as well - beer, wine, and culinary festivals are popular during the summer.  The Apple Hill region gets quite a tourist draw in fall when apple season begins.  Especially popular with families, weekly concerts in the park (usually free) are offered throughout the greater Sacramento area. And who can forget the California State Fair? Cotton candy, fried twinkies, and pig races abound!  A unique element to the California fair, the Grape and Gourmet event that features all the award winning wines from the various wineries for that year.  For around $75, you can try as many wines as you can and dine on some of Sacramento's best culinary creations.  Make sure to have that designated driver or cab lined up!

Lastly, the local sports scene deserves mention.  Take in NBA Kings' game at Arco Arena or check out a minor league (Oakland A's Triple-A team) Sacramento Rivercats at Raley Field in West Sacramento.  And for Kings fans, make sure to stop by Center Court, Chris Webb's restaurant located near Arco Arena.

Overall, Sacramento certainly has something that can appeal to anyone.  It is a great destination for single people, couples, and those with families.  Those with extra time to explore will find that Sacramento is a great central point for many other popular destinations that are less than two hours away such as Lake Tahoe, Reno, San Francisco, and the Napa/Sonoma wine regions.

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