Even though it’s capital of the Golden State, Sacramento isn’t necessarily on the radar as a popular tourist destination in California. However, that notion has radically changed in recent years and in fact, this trailblazing city founded in 1850 has become one of the finest and most culturally diverse places for to visit in the entire country. Contributing to its ascension among the distinguished ranks of the America’s best overall cities are the addition of a stunning new state-of-the-art multipurpose entertainment venue and the emergence of its scorching hot culinary scene. But what’s more, the capital city offers a wealth of affordable lodging, activities and attractions for all ages, to complement its world-class entertainment and phenomenal restaurants and award-winning chefs. If you really need any reasons why you should consider Sacramento for your next vacation, here are just five of the best for you to ponder.
America’s Farm to Fork Capital
Although the origins of the Farm to Table movement may have originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento lays the accurate claim as the Farm to Fork Capital of America. That’s because the city lies in a bountiful region described as the largest agricultural producer in the nation, with 1.5 million acres of farmland and yielding more than 120 types of crops. To further stake the claim, there are over 40 regional farmers markets in the Greater Sacramento area including the Sunday Farmers Market, the largest in the state featuring some of the freshest and most delicious fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and dairy products that can be found anywhere on the planet. This also means popular Sacramento restaurants like Mulvaney’s B&L, Grange Restaurant and Bar and Kitchen Restaurant are all blessed with an abundance of locally sourced food items, such as almonds, rice, gourmet cheeses, heirloom tomatoes and grass fed beef. Even the city’s top new attraction – the Golden 1 Center – whose food concessions program is led by the acclaimed executive chef Michael Tuohy, will feature gourmet food items with 90 percent of its ingredients sourced from within a 150-mile radius of the capital city.
California State Capitol
Completed in 1874, the California State Capitol is easily the most recognizable landmark in Sacramento as well as the most visited. Designed in the familiar Roman Corinthian architectural style much like the U.S. Capitol, complete with a central rotunda and Roman columns, the State Capitol is home to both chambers of the California State Legislature and the office of the Governor of California. The State Capitol is open to visitors daily and includes free hourly tours of the State Capitol Museum, situated on the basement level and the original section of the first floor, which includes a visit to the restored offices of the Secretary of State, State Treasure and the Governor of California. Visitors may also be able to visit the offices of members of the California State Senate and Assembly, as well as attend a live Floor Session. As California’s seat of government, all visitors will be subject to security control measures and checks, including passing through a metal detector. The California State Capitol resides on 40 acres just south of the heart of downtown Sacramento and also features a large number of notable memorials and monuments on the Capitol Grounds, such as a Veterans Memorial and a Vietnam Memorial.
For some visitors, it may come as a complete surprise to discover that Sacramento has about 30 exceptional museums and historical sites. Among the most-see for first time or even repeat visitors are the California State Railroad Museum, California History Museum and the renowned Crocker Art Museum, the oldest public art museum west of the Mississippi. The latter was formerly known as the E.B Crocker Art Gallery and possesses one of most important collections of California art dating back to the Gold Rush days, but also has on display thousands of other prominent works of art in its permanent collection, such as American, Asian and European art from such important artists as Thomas Hill, Georgia O’Keefe, Richard Diebenkorn, Edwin Deakin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Gerrit van Honthorst. The California State Railroad Museum is located in historic Old Sacramento and is a definite must for railroad buffs and particularly for families with children who love model railroads or holiday train rides on the Polar Express beginning Thanksgiving weekend. Other notable spots to consider visiting in Sacramento are the Governor’s Mansion, Sutter’s Fort, the California Automobile Museum, the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park and the Sacramento Zoo.
Golden 1 Center
Opening its doors to the public just days ago, the Golden 1 Center is Sacramento’s newest and without question one of its most important attractions. The new, cutting edge facility is home to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and is the world’s first and only arena that’s entirely solar powered. The Golden 1 Center also holds the NBA’s largest and only high resolution 4K video screens, as well as the most efficient and most expansive Wi-Fi network, reportedly far surpassing the Bay Area’s own Levi’s Stadium. The breathtaking arena also features exclusive lounges for season ticket holders, interior and exterior artwork from local artists and quite possibly the world’s best arena food backed with a “Farm to Court” philosophy. The crowning achievement of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s tenure, the Golden 1 Center is the centerpiece of a much larger project known as Downtown Commons (DOCO), that is expected to have several more retail, dining and entertainment options, while revitalizing the entire downtown area.
Wine & Cheese
Also contributing to Sacramento’s epic Farm to Fork movement are its regional wineries, many of which contribute to some of the most famous wines from the fabulous Napa and Sonoma Wine countries. In all, the region has over 200 wineries spread across eight counties, yet all within a day’s drive from the capital city. But for a shorter, more casual drive, visitors should head over to wineries like Bogle Vineyards, Heringer Estates and Julietta Winery for superb wine tasting in Clarksburg, a small farming community about 15 miles south of the capital city. The Greater Sacramento region is also renowned for its award-winning farmstead cheeses, from family owned businesses like Jollity Farm, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company. Lastly, it’s also worth mentioning the availability of exceptional honey and extra virgin olive oil from the Sacramento Sunday Farmers Market from regional businesses like Bariani and Mad Dog Mesa.