101 GuidescityTravel

sacramento city guide {update}

by Grace Bonney


Today’s Sacramento City Guide comes to us from Keli Senkevich, a southern California native and Sacramento resident. Keli currently works as a legal assistant and keeps the food blog, The Marzberry Pig, part time. While very different from her southern California hometown, Keli has grown to love the Sacramento area for its small-town vibe yet big city offerings and today she shares with us some of those very city charms with this guide to California’s capital.  Thanks Keli for such a wonderful glimpse into Sacramento! —Stephanie

*Photo above by Lisa Thibodeau

Read the full guide after the jump…

Sacramento is not your typical California city. Surfer dudes? No ocean for a hundred or so miles. Hollywood starlets? They live further south in those mansions you see on MTV, sort of near the ocean. Sky-high rent? Try San Francisco or Los Angeles. Sacramento is none of those things, which makes it a truly special, unique place. Many forget that aside from the beach, celebrities, and Disneyland, California is also known for its booming agricultural industry in the central region where Sacramento is located – hence the nickname “Saca-tomato.”

But if you want to compare it to another golden state metropolis, in some ways, Sacramento is a scaled-down San Francisco, populated with eco and health conscientious folk. Urban homesteading is on the rise with a recent grassroots attempt to allow homeowners the right to raise egg-laying hens in their backyards.
There’s a farmer’s market within a five-mile radius of any neighborhood as well as yoga studios. An emphasis on local and seasonal produce is at the heart of the restaurant industry. There is a vibrant art scene that opens its doors to the public on the second Saturday of each month. Cyclists and runners crowd the river trails daily and training groups are multiplying as many others are finding enjoyment in exercising outdoors. And, most famously, as the state capitol, Sacramento is rich in California history from its famous governors to Sutter’s Fort and the Gold Rush.

Plus, if you ever need to escape this sleepy city, San Francisco, Napa, and Lake Tahoe are all two-hour drives (or scenic train rides) away. This is truly a perk as there is never a reason to be bored when these destinations are practically a stone’s throw away.

For the most part, Sacramento is a friendly, easygoing and proud city. Its residents don’t take themselves seriously but are passionate in what they do. If you ever pass through for a visit, you won’t be disappointed and will probably want to stay and make yourself at home.

When you do make it out to Sacramento, the best way to experience the city is by neighborhood/region. And, that’s how locals refer to different areas so if you need help navigating, this guide will familiarize you with the lingo. Also, public transportation is not as elaborate as in San Francisco or even Washington DC, so it’s advantageous as a tourist to stick with one section at a time rather than attempt to jump from one spot to another.

We’ll start west and go east.

View the Sacramento Google map for all of the listings below.

“Old Sac”, as locals call it, is a bustling commercial district that’s a throwback to the Gold Rush era with its wooden plank sidewalks and cobblestone thoroughfares. Meander through the many gift shops or stop for a drink at Fanny Ann’s Saloon or O’Malley’s Pub. Or, stroll along the riverfront and take in the refreshing delta breeze.

Evangeline’s: Located in the historic Lady Adams Building and Howard House in Old Sacramento, Evangeline’s is best known and often visited for its vast selection of Halloween costumes and props. But, it’s truly a Sacramento institution with its inventory of toys and gag gifts that shouldn’t be missed. Looking for Clark Kent’s black frames? A rubber chicken? You’ll find them here and more.

The Firehouse Restaurant: While on the pricier side, the Firehouse, also in Old Sacramento, exudes old world elegance with its glittering chandeliers, plush velvet seating, gold-leaf mirrors and paintings, and stained glass dome (rumored to be a Tiffany). There’s no denying that you’re transported back to a time of financiers and countesses. Its menu of American cuisine and extensive wine collection has been recognized by Zagat, which named it one of “America’s Top Restaurants.” If this regal eatery is out of your price range, stop by for the midday menu where plates range from $12-16 or any Tuesday for their $10 wine tastings for an opportunity to enjoy this gorgeous restaurant.

Underground Tours: After two major devastating floods in the 1850s, residents along the river raised their streets, businesses and homes about 10 feet above ground. In doing so, they created an intricate network of tunnels or “hollow sidewalks.” Recently, in an effort to showcase Sacramento’s historical underbelly, the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation began hosting hour-long tours through a stretch of these preserved catacombs, giving participants a glimpse at original storefronts and other architectural artifacts. And, to make it even more interesting, several of the tour guides get in character (“Miss Odessa” and “Toots” are just a couple of them) for the walk through Old Sacramento’s underground.

Old Sacramento Speakeasy Pub Crawl: If history is your thing, you can hear more about Sacramento’s past through the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s extremely popular speakeasy pub crawl. Take a guided tour through Old Sacramento’s underground watering holes and hear all about the capital city’s seedier side during the Prohibition era along the way.

Tower Bridge: The iconic gateway into Sacramento provides picture perfect views of the Sacramento River and state capitol. One of the first vertical lift bridges in California, the Tower Bridge is a site on the National Registry of Historic Places. While the subject of many local paintings, you can also catch a glimpse of the golden bridge in the first few scenes of Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler’s The Ugly Truth. Capitol Mall, Sacramento 95814.

Crocker Art Museum and Store: The city’s premier art institution showcases works from local art celebrities like Wayne Thiebaud and Robert Arneson to master printmaker and painter Rembrandt. Last year, the museum unveiled its modern 125,000-square-foot exhibition space to accompany the original gallery, a multi-story Victorian mansion donated by Margaret Crocker in honor of her late husband, State Supreme Court Judge Edwin B. Crocker, in 1885. In addition to its rotating and permanent collections on view for the public, the Crocker Art Museum offers a number of art classes, screens documentaries and other films, and hosts musical and artistic performances.

Chocolate Fish Coffee: Before embarking on your trek through Old Sacramento or the Crocker Art Gallery stop by Chocolate Fish Coffee for authentic New Zealand style coffee. With a commitment to using only the finest beans available, you’ll fuel up on a quality cup of joe or mocha before taking in all of the sights. Word of warning: they close in the early afternoon on Saturday and Sunday.

Currently undergoing a transformation of sorts as efforts concentrate on revitalizing several blocks near the Downtown Plaza Mall and other financial buildings, the downtown area is home to the state capitol as well as many fine restaurants. Start over by the Governor’s Mansion and meander through the tree-lined streets to observe the unique Victorian architecture that characterizes most of the downtown and midtown residences. Make your way to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (even if you just pass by) which Sacramento’s first bishop, Patrick Manogue, had modeled after a cathedral in Paris and then onto the capitol where I highly encourage you to tour the grounds and building itself.

Governor’s Mansion: Arnold Schwarzenegger may have opted for the Hyatt Regency while governor of California, but until the late 1960s, the governor and his family resided in a large white Italiante Victorian located blocks away from the capital. Home to 12 former governors, including Ronald Reagan for a short time, this tour is a great opportunity to experience the opulence once associated with the position. In some ways the Governor’s Mansion is Sacramento’s Versailles with its marble fireplaces (7 total), Persian rugs, scratch ceilings, formal parlors, and silver bathroom. Yet, its “Danish blue” kitchen adds a hint of modesty.

Sugar and Spice: Sacramento is not alone with its share of cupcake shops, so Carissa Jones’s focus on specialty sweets is a welcome addition to the dessert scene. Some highlights include homemade “Pop Tarts” filled with strawberry jam and slathered with a good helping of vanilla frosting or the French toast sandwich. But, if you’re absolutely craving a cupcake, Jones offers three new flavors daily (I’d say you hit the jackpot if the banana peanut butter is on the menu that day). While the shop is adorable, it’s teeny with no seating, so take your dessert on a short walk over to the J. Neely Johnson Park.

Frank Fat’s: Lunch or dinner is a must at this political landmark that opened its doors in 1939, occupying a former speakeasy near the capitol. Chinese immigrant Frank Fat served so many politicians and lobbyists, who trusted Fat with discourse on their dealings, that the restaurant became known as the third house. After 70 years in business, Fat’s still serves up some delicious dishes like honey walnut prawns or the Shu mei, steamed pork filled dumplings reminiscent of dim sum.

Dive Bar: I wouldn’t suggest spending your entire evening here, but for the novelty of seeing a mermaid or merman swim in a tank the length of a bar is worth one drink if you’re on your way to the Crest Theatre or returning from dinner at a restaurant near this new “dive.”

La Bonne Soupe: You best not be in a hurry if you stop by this cramped café because there will likely be a line out the door. But, every minute is worth the wait as sole proprietor and chef Daniel Pont prepares each meal to order. The French onion soup is highly regarded, but the sandwiches are just as pleasing, and it’s quite magical to watch Pont carefully slice the brie and delicately layer it with prosciutto onto a piece of toasted French bread. 920 8th Street. (916) 492-9506.

Temple Coffee: They don’t joke about coffee here as every detail from beans to temperature is attended to by Temple Coffee’s baristas. Temple aims to offer its customers the finest coffee and espresso available, and it doesn’t surprise anyone that they’re consistently voted for having the best coffee in Sacramento year after year.

There’s a cozy cabin feeling to the downtown location (you’ll find a second store in midtown) which makes it the perfect to place to unwind. In addition to serving caffeinated beverages, the well-versed staff hosts coffee education courses like Latte Art and Milk Chemistry ($15). Or, if you’re just as serious about coffee as they are, try the Hands on Barista Training ($130) taught by Temple’s owner, Sean Kohmescher, who also happens to be the Western Regional Chapter Rep. for the Barista Guild of America.

Vintage YSJ: Who doesn’t love to rifle through a friend’s closet? And, while you probably won’t score Vintage YSJ clothing on the house, their inventory of vintage and secondhand clothing are so reasonably priced that it would be hard not to leave without maybe a 1950s wool purse or a chevron striped maxi dress.

This is the heart of the city which many refer to as the grid. You’ll find more boutiques and unique restaurants here than any part of Sacramento, and as a result, you will run into all walks of life – from the hipsters to families to the one-man band. Most famously, Midtown plays host to the Second Saturday Art Festival where art galleries extend their hours for the greater public and local crafters sell their own works of art on sidewalks. As an extension of Downtown, you still find yourself wandering amongst more Victorian homes, including a salmon-colored mansion designed by Julia Morgan, California’s first female licensed architect. Time seems to stop under the lush canopies of trees that shade most midtown streets, making for a relaxing, leisurely stroll.

Fringe: Fringe is a fun boutique that stocks everything from local beauty products to eclectic home and garden wares to pet collars even. Owner Audrey Wells, a former set decorator and wardrobe stylist, thoughtfully shops for her store at estate sales and flea markets. Even if some of the prices seem steep, the modern bohemian décor is a draw because of its ability to inspire any shopper’s vision for their own home’s interior design.

Never Felt Better: Sure to be the first of many, Never Felt Better is the only vegan shop in the midtown area supplying animal-free clothing as well as vegan food items like Nacheez for any nacho aficionados. Occupying an old apartment building, below the store is Sugar Plum Vegan Café with a menu that includes sandwiches, salads, pasta, and a loaded dessert menu that includes vegan cinnamon rolls and cheesecake.

Newsbeat: Hands down this is my favorite store in Sacramento that does not serve fresh food or baked goods. My affection mainly stems from my love for the written word, but in a town that isn’t exactly teeming with newsstands; you can’t “beat” the selection of magazines – from French Vogue to Donna Hay Magazine, Australia’s Martha Stewart – and newspapers and other novelty gifts that this store carries. It’s always fun to see what’s new there. 1050 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 448-2874.

Kennedy Gallery Art Center: Much like the Sacramento Art Complex, the Kennedy Galley Art Center serves as a showroom for a range of Sacramento artists, including owner Michael Misha Kennedy. Of the art galleries to visit on Second Saturday, this is one of my favorites as you get to see a variety of sculptures and paintings on display but it’s not nearly as overwhelming of a studio as the Sacramento Art Complex. And, if you’re looking for a Sacramento souvenir, artist Keith Hopkins sells greeting cards with one of his acrylic prints of the Tower Bridge.

Lumens Light + Living: With a breath-taking array of chandeliers and ornate pendant lights with vibrant punches of color, Lumens shows you what you’re missing when you limit yourself to inexpensive home goods stores for lighting. While it stocks high-end, designer pieces, you’ll find affordable options as well. Just consider it a splurge that is worth the investment.

Sugar Shack Boutique: A carefully selected inventory of clothing from Obey, Theory, Velvet, Ark & Co. and others occupy this eclectic space with its pastel-colored walls and mismatched chairs in the waiting area. The sister store to East Sac’s larger Krazy Mary, Sugar Shack also carries jewelry from local designers. The staff is friendly and in tune to the current fashion trends.

French Cuff Consignment: For a store with second-hand merchandise, French Cuff Consignment feels like a high-end boutique. The clothing, which includes brands like J. Crew, Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, and BCBG, are all organized by color and type and mannequins throughout the shop sport a variety of styled looks. Accessories include vintage gloves as well as a hit-or-miss jewelry selection.

Time Tested Books: Immaculately organized, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves make Time Tested Books feel like library. Straight-back chairs throughout the store allow you to sit and curl up with the book of your choice. More than a bookseller, Time Tested Books hosts the movers and shakers of Sacramento as part of its Sacramento Living Library series.

Ginger Elizabeth: Not to make any more comparisons to San Francisco, but Ginger Elizabeth reminds me of the Miette Patisserie in the Ferry Building off of Embarcadero. I ate my first Parisian macaroon at Miette many years ago, so when I walk into Ginger Elizabeth and see the tray of salted caramel or blood orange macaroons in the display case, I’m transported back to San Francisco. But, that’s where the similarities end. Shop owner and baker Ginger Elizabeth Hahn is a renowned chocolatier who has trained with Jacques Torres in New York and has competed on Food Network’s Chocolate Wars. In addition to chocolate and macaroons, Ginger Elizabeth occasionally serves up some scrumptious cupcakes (blackberry crumble is delicious), ice-cream sandwiches, and even hot chocolate with marshmallows made from scratch.

Magpie Cafe: Just two years old, Magpie Café has won over diners with its simple menu options that embody the farm-to-table movement so well that Alice Waters would be proud. Most rave about the Fulton Valley Farm roasted chicken but their take on the classic BLT with oven dried organic tomatoes is also perfection.

Shady Lady Saloon: Shimmy back to the roaring 1920s at the Shady Lady Saloon where you can enjoy a classic cocktail mixed with housemade syrups, tonic, ginger ale, or cola under a tin pressed ceiling. I’m partial to a Kentucky sidecar but the gin daisy is also refreshing. Pair your drink with one of the many comfort dishes like the Southern inspired fried green tomatoes and ham and cheddar hush puppies. You’ll also catch jazz acts like the talented Harley White Jr. Orchestra and other bands 7 days a week.

Crepeville: A local favorite, Crepeville is one of the best casual eateries in midtown. For starters, the house fried-potatoes served with most meals are addicting. And, while the crepes are superb, their French toast is the best I’ve ever had in the Sacramento area. The bright décor and chalkboard menus posted above the counter give it a rustic feel that rings true of its relaxed, cozy vibe. It’s a great place to meet up with friends or enjoy a hearty breakfast. Even Sacramento’s mayor fuels up here on the weekends.

Mulvaney’s Building and Loan: Well-known for its St. Patrick’s Day pig roast, Mulvaney’s is the Firehouse of midtown without all the fancy trimmings, though it coincidentally occupies an 1893 firehouse. Its American cuisine is comprised of seasonal and local food, with the menu changing daily. Treat yourself to a plate of Pasta Dave’s handmade Fettuccine noodles tossed in a roasted garlic cream sauce and the scrumptious Valrhona chocolate Ding Dong for dessert.

Rick’s Dessert Diner: Rick’s should be on everyone’s list of places to go. The black and white floor, Formica tables, and jukeboxes at each booth take you back in time, and I am always reminded of Casablanca, oddly enough, each time I go. Plus, Rick’s stays open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays which makes it a great option when you’re not in the mood for alcohol but want a place to gather with family in friends into the wee hours.

Java City: The midtown region boasts a number of independent coffee shops like the Naked Lounge and Old Soul, but I like Java City for its staff who remember your drinks and are by no means coffee purists. The beverages are superior to Starbucks and not overly sweet. I always look forward to their pumpkin spice latte in the fall. Plus, they sell sandwiches and other goods from other local vendors like Bella Bru Café.

Sacramento Tweed Ride: Just for fun is the Sacramento Tweed Ride. Rick and Erin Houston organize seasonal bike rides with participants dressed in tweed or seersucker attire. Visiting with no bike? Practical Cycle in Old Sac or Bikes and Bites offer inexpensive rentals for the day.

Practical Cycle

Bikes and Bites

A storybook neighborhood ideally located minutes from downtown and midtown is a grand mix of brick Tudor-style homes as well as charming bungalows. An active community of runners and cyclists, you’ll always see someone making their way to the American River trail.

McKinley Park: An East Sac hub for families, runners, and ducks, McKinley Park is a recreational hot spot with its tennis courts, running trail, playground, pond, and library. But, it’s the rose garden that makes McKinley Park famous. Volunteers oversee the upkeep of over 1,000 rose bushes. Grab coffee from Starbucks and a cupcake from Baby Cakes at H and 36th Streets and make your way to one of the benches and unwind among the lovely blooms.

Fabulous 40s: One of the most desired, but also one of the most expensive, neighborhoods to live in Sacramento, the Fab 40s is comprised of the spacious homes situated between 38th and 46th Streets. These architecturally interesting residences would grace the pages of House Beautiful magazine or serve as the backdrop in a Norman Rockwell painting. At Christmas, the twinkling homes draw throngs of cars through the area. It’s a great neighborhood to ride your bike through.

Formoli’s Bistro: Small and quaint, Formoli’s has gained quite a following for its service and quality meals. The whiskey burger is what they are most known for, but the scallops are also tasty. Located near McKinley Park, Formoli’s is a great restaurant for dinner before or after a stroll in the park. 3260 J St., Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 448-5699.

Pulp Papery: Some say the handwritten letter has gone the way of the dodo bird, but Pulp Papery’s stock of stationary puts that myth to bed. The selection of paper, tablets, and cards range from whimsical to contemporary designs. They also specialize in custom wedding invitations.

Café Rolle: For a French fix, you can’t find any place more authentic than Café Rolle. Opened in 2002 by French immigrant William Rolle, Café Rolle boasts a country style menu with small dishes. Try the “French meatloaf”, a creamy duck, chicken, or beef pate atop a fresh baguette. Food Network’s Guy Fieri even featured Café Rolle on an episode of his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Haus: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but at Haus you will find most things to decorate your home in a day. Haus has everything from lighting to drapes to love seats. If you’re looking to recreate a room from the Restoration Hardware catalog, Haus can help you.

57th Street Antique Row: An enclave of antique stores, you’ll spend hours weaving in and out the 7 shops.  My favorite is the 57th Street Antique Mall which hosts dozens of vendors and is the most affordable of the Antique Row stores. You will find everything from Pyrex to jadeite dishes to Danish furniture. On 57th Street between H and J Streets, Sacramento, CA 95819.

OneSpeed: Overnight, OneSpeed became wildly popular, and not surprisingly so. Rick Mahan, owner and chef of the successful upscale Waterboy restaurant in midtown, is behind the clever décor, open kitchen concept and thin crust artisan pizzas that always seem to disappear even when only two people are sharing one pie. Recycled wine bottles are used to serve water and OneSpeed delivers locally by bicycle. Can’t beat a simple Margherita pizza with a pint of the locally brewed Two Rivers Gravenstein cider on a Friday night.

Corti Brothers:  This Italian grocery store is for the foodies looking for fine wine and other specialty goods from Italy and Europe. The Corti Brothers import items like Tuscan honey, Italian and Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, smoked basmati rice, Portuguese red wines, and the inventory changes seasonally.

Historically, Land Park occupies part of John Sutter’s failed Sutterville which was established during the hey-day of the Gold Rush. Today’s Land Park neighborhood developed around a 166-acre park funded by hotelier and former mayor William Land in the 1920s. Just south of downtown, Land Park is a friendly community that is another one of Sacramento’s gems.

Tower Theatre: One of Sacramento’s old-time movie houses, Tower Theater still thrives with its selection of independent new releases. It’s musty and in need of a steam-cleaning, but those squeaky, plush seats will lure you back. Plus, the generous student discount and refreshment stand add to its appeal.

Tower Café: Most Sacramentans will say that no one does breakfast like Tower Café, and the long waits on the weekend are a testament to the fan fare. Their French toast soaked in custard is the most requested, but don’t ignore the eggs Benedict or “Tower Eggs.” Tower Café opened on Earth Day in 1990 and celebrates the world’s diverse cultures and cuisines. And, having had the rare treat of seeing Tower’s head pastry chef in action, the case of desserts are nothing to scoff at but rather well-executed indulgences that fluctuate with the seasons.

The Bicycle Business: Along with the farmer’s markets and yoga studios, bike stores are a dime a dozen in Sacramento with its many cycling enthusiasts. Most of them carry the best brands on the market – Trek, Specialized, Felt, Giant. Bike Biz, as it’s also known as, stands out as a great place for those looking to customize their bikes. They carry hip and trendy items like Brooks England saddles, multi-colored rubber grips, chrome stirrup pedals, and a variety of other accessories to help you personalize that fixed gear or cruiser.

Gunther’s: With temperatures often rising into the triple digits during the summer in Sacramento, there’s always an excuse to visit Gunther’s. Since it opened in 1940, the ice cream is still made on site and the variety of flavors makes it an obvious choice over other ice cream shops. Not feeling ice cream? Lactose intolerant? They’ve got 4 sherbet flavors as well as sandwiches and other dishes on the menu.

William Land Park:  In addition to the abundance of picnic tables and BBQ pits, William Land Park also offers fun and excitement in the form of a zoo, two children’s themed play parks, an amphitheatre that features Shakespeare performances, a golf course, a children’s wading pool, and two lakes. It might just be the Central Park of Sacramento.

Freeport Bakery: If you want a cake that looks anything close to the creations designed by Duff and his Ace of Cakes crew, or just a really good sugar cookie, then Freeport Bakery is the place to stop. They’ll make anything you fancy from a three-tiered wedding cake to an edible replica of the Millennium Falcon. Menu staples like the champagne and fruit basket cakes also satisfy any sweet tooth.

Dimple: When Dimple Records opened up shop in this former Tower Records location last year, Dimple’s owners dedicated the store to Tower Records founder and music icon Russ Solomon, who opened his first music store in 1941. Now, not that different from Tower’s merchandise, Dimple carries vinyl, CDS, movies, video games, and posters among other items, with a portion of the CDs and DVDs previously owned. They also carry albums from local musical groups.


Embassy Suites: To take in the scenic Sacramento River and its delta breeze, book a room at the Embassy Suites Sacramento – Riverfront Promenade. The Tower Bridge Bistro on the hotel’s rooftop also offers panoramic views of the city as well as a fine dining experience. Adjacent to Old Sacramento, Embassy Suites is within walking distance of downtown and midtown Sacramento. In addition to its prime location, the hotel provides guests with a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast as well as complimentary cocktails and finger foods during the manager’s happy hour.

Citizen Hotel: The Citizen Hotel, a part of the Joie de Vivre California boutique collection, hosts guests in Sacramento’s first high-rise building, a 15-floor neoclassical design that went up in 1925. An oasis for “urban luxury,” each room features Italian linens, down pillows and duvet, Keurig coffee maker, MP3/iPod sound system, desk with ergonomic chair, LCD TV, steamer, and laptop safe. A complimentary wine hour features local wines and any guest should be required to dine at the in-house and highly regarded Grange restaurant where head chef Michael Tuohy primarily uses local ingredients in his decadent dishes. Nearby the Citizen, visitors can walk to the capitol and other downtown and midtown sights. Modern accommodations and its historically inspired elegance make the Citizen a place to be seen – and to sleep.

Sheraton: For the statesman, the Sheraton will provide that regal experience of being in California’s capitol city. With the state capitol around the corner and the Sacramento Convention Center across the street, visitors will feel like they’re in the heart of it all. Like the Citizen, the Sheraton also occupies a restored historic building – Sacramento’s Public Market Building which was a destination for food shopping. It was also designed by Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed female architect who also drew the plans for Hearst Castle. While many of the amenities are marketed to the business crowd who visit the area, the Sheraton is nonetheless an upscale hotel that will surely make you feel comfortable during your stay. Plus, you can’t beat the swanky bar for a drink after a busy day of sight-seeing.

Sacramento Hostel: Any visitor intrigued or in awe of Sacramento’s Victorian relics is in for a treat. Sacramento’s Hostel is housed in a 19th century Italianate-Stick Style Victorian mansion with a wrap-around veranda, parlor, drawing room, and dining room with a chandelier. There’s a self-serve kitchen for visitors as well as private room options at very affordable rates. It’s no wonder that Frommer’s named it one of the finest hostels in the country.


Deftones – an alternative metal band that formed in 1989 which just released their sixth studio album Diamond Eyes

Tesla – 80s hard rock band and one of Sacramento’s first big musical acts

CAKE – alternative rock band that rose to stardom in the 90s with their hit song “The Distance”

Joan Didion – American writer whose first novel, Run River, takes place in her hometown

Lisa Ling – broadcast journalist who co-hosted The View from 1999-2002 and was a correspondent on the Oprah Winfrey Show

Molly Ringwald – actor famous for her performances in the 80s rom-com movies The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink

Wayne Thiebaud – awarded the National Medal of Art in 1994, his most recognizable works are the production line paintings of pies, cakes, and other confections


Suggested For You


  • Yay! A city just a hop skip and a jump away from home. We live an hour northeast of Sacramento and love venturing down there for dates and a night at the theater. I have to agree that Crocker and the Railroad Museums are must sees!

  • This makes me homesick! I’m now living several states away, but this makes me want to plan a trip. Thanks, Lisa!

  • Sacramento is a great place to experience lots of really great restaurants. There are several Indian and Thai places that are to die for.

  • Nice round up but you forgot Zelda’s Pizza – the absolute best pizza I’ve ever had. I have it every single time I come home to visit my parents. I’ve even had my parents bring it to me in Salt Lake City in a cooler on the airplane.

    And Vic’s Ice Cream! An institution and fabulous ice cream to boot.

  • ah I adore that this is on my home city! I think Sacramento has grown up a great deal and turned into a wonderful place to live :)

    dont forget [a rather new spot] The Shady Lady for expertly mixed old time cocktails in a speak easy setting. They also have a great menu, all their ingredients are top notch and fresh…which is one of the reasons their cocktails are so great. They make all their mixers in house: cola, grenadine, fresh squeezed juices and their own ginger ale!

  • I miss and love my home town! This is a great guide. Fox and the Goose on R and 10th is a great place for English brunch on Sunday morning…yummy clotted cream and scones and there is a great yarn store next door. Also, J Street has some really great shops.

  • Aw, my old digs! We lived in East Sacramento for seven years until just last summer when we moved north to Chico, CA. Great job Lisa! I must, must add a restaurant, though… Mama Susanna’s Pizzeria (East Sac/River Park) is the most AUTHENTIC, straight from Italy, awesome thin crust pizza you can get anywhere. They stick to the classic and perfect choices (Margherita, Caprese, etc) and don’t do any of this “make your own” nonsense. The owner/chef is from North Italy and goes back every summer. Man, I miss that place!

  • A little homesick reading this … lived in Sac for many years from high school to mid/late 20’s! The days of nightclubbing at The Oasis and Spanky’s (may they RIP). There isn’t a greener (SO many trees) water-based (so many rivers!) city to be had in California – miss those days on the river or at the lake!

  • How fantastic to see my home town featured here! I was born and raised in Sac until moving to where I am now and I’m missing it terribly reading this.

    Wonderful article Lisa!

  • Danger Garden – Capitol Park is gorgeous; and has many different gardens within it. My favorite is the succulent garden! East Sacramento also has an annual Garden Tour of private gardens in the Fabulous 40’s.

    Also, a favorite event in Sacramento that wasn’t mentioned is the California State Fair. It’s a great time to stroll around the county exhibits, people watch, eat fried fair food and ride the monorail and ferris wheel!

    I love my city!

  • Danger Garden: for commercial nurseries and gardening, I used to frequent Capital Nursery – they’re very big and have everything, http://www.capitalnursery.com/and also Talini’s Nursery in East Sac – lots of Japanese Maples and shade plants.

    McKinley Park also has a nice rose and citrus garden.

    I second Erica in loving the Garden Tour in the 40’s. It’s around Mother’s day each year.

    However, while they are great for locals, I wouldn’t call any of them must sees for visitors. HTH.

  • Born & Raised. Sooo tickled to see Sac on d*s! Thanks for making my day. Hot Italian has the best pizza ever! I’m a ‘regular’ now…

  • You named some great places in Sacrmamento. My husband and I first date was at Tower cafe and we love going there for Sunday Brunch. It makes me appreciate where I grew up and still live:) Also Freeport bakery in Land Park is a great place for cakes !

  • YaY!! So nice to see Sac on the site… Currently I am living states~ocean~ n country away from home in London… not complaining, and this is a great guide, makes me want to visit home now !

  • woo just in time! as i am moving up to Sacramento/Roseville Area this September, and have no clue about where to go/eat/see/shop/play etc. aren’t i glad to see this helpful guide! great article and great comments!

  • I have lived many places but think this Midwest-in-Calif. town has the best environment in which to raise happy kids.
    Say– don’t forget to check out the fabulous 21- mile ling American River Parkway bike trail. And rent a kayak or sailboat at Lake Natoma! Enjoy our beautiful outdoor life here !

  • I’d like to add to the list Mikuni, which is by far my favorite sushi place. They have locations in both Downtown and in Roseville. I always get the Bob Roll because it’s my name and it’s absolutely delicious!

  • This is great! Just moved to the East Bay and have been researching all the great things to go see in the area. Thanks! Can’t wait to go spend a Saturday.

  • I just want to point out that the Mondavi Center is actually in the city of Davis, and a 25 minute ride away from downtown Sac, if the Traffic Gods allow. I made that commute to UCD from a flat in Midtown last year. Be warned! It can get ugly!

  • We lived in the Sacto area for several years and loved it. Lots of stuff to do, great shopping, no attitude. I have to add to your list of places to eat: Jack’s Urban Eats in Midtown (and I think they’ve expanded into the suburbs) is the best place to go for a huge salad or sandwich. Their urban fries are to die.

    Thanks for recognizing a great city!

  • My husband and I just moved here and are loving Thai Basil on J in Midtown, it’s sooo good, we could eat there a few times a week! Also, we just discovered this amazing antique store called “Three Women and an Armoire”, and it’s so well priced and stuffed with awesome finds. I can’t get enough.

  • you forget one of the best restaurants in the city-Waterboy
    Also-no mention of the Sacramento Philharminic, or Sacramento Opera?

  • My home town! Oh how I miss you!

    Great list, as are all the additions from the comments. Going back this weekend to enjoy midtown and my brother’s birthday…but not looking forward to the heat! yuck.

  • Check out the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, http://www.ccasac.org. We are a museum and are hosting our 4th annual artist studio tour, Sept. 12-13. It is a free tour of over 90 artists all within a 4 mile radius of midtown.

  • Yay for Sacramento…so exciting to see on Design*Sponge…moved away but now I’m back…oh how I love this quirky place!

  • Sacramento, a great place to live or visit. No one mentioned the Music Circus. Performances have been held there every summer since the early 1950’s. Nationaly known actors perform on the theater’s round stage, which is now housed in a permanent building on the same site. Reservations are needed in advance as it is usually sold out

  • I’ve lived in Sac for all of my 23 years of life and have loved everything about it. One minor note: for the best vintage shopping, head to Bows and Arrows on L and 19th. Such good stuff! And i think Babycakes qualifies as East Sac, not midtown. But if you want sweets downtown, go to Goodie Tuchews on L street. And I don’t see any love for the great restaurant, Cafe Morroco. It’s a mom-and-pop place but they have the best Morrocan food I’ve ever had!

  • These city write-ups read almost like an ironic entry in the Things White People Like site. Don’t forget the incredible diversity of Sacramento!
    La Raza/Galeria Posada @704 O St, Carol’s Books 1913 Del Paso Blvd., La Superior Market 4940 Stockton Blvd,

  • Oh my goodness! My hometown! This makes me so happy to see Design Sponge find some of the best parts of Sacramento. Midtown is definitely where it’s at. If you want a good dessert place, Rick’s Dessert Diner never fails! :)

  • I recently moved to Sacramento and this guide is just perfect for a new comer :)

    everything here is so accessible if you’re willing to step outside and give it a go

    <3 sactown

  • just as someone who works as the newly expanded crocker art museum, I wanted to let you know that we are not free sundays from 10-1 anymore. we are free every THIRD sunday all day, from 10-5. I know this hasn’t been updated in awhile but for those that still check out this page, I want them to be informed. Thanks!

  • Don’t forget Magpie Catering, just next door to the Shady Lady Saloon on R Street. Top notch eatery. Fresh, experimental, sustainable, delicious! You will not be disappointed! :)

  • I love this city guide of my home town, the City of Trees. It features many of my favorites, but saddens me to know that a couple of those places have been closed. On a happy note, there are many, many new hoppin’ places. Looking forward to the next update.
    And ditto to Amy about Magpie and Shady Lady. Don’t forget Naked Coffee and Tea, and all of Old Soul Coffee Co. stores.

  • Thanks so much for this! Sacramento is my hometown, and though I am away at college, I always look for great places to explore when I go back. Who knew it was so cool?!

  • born and raised in sacto and miss the days of joes style shop art shows and music. k street mall lit up at christmas and the purple heart thrift store in citrus heights. stoked to see the creativity and love continue in the river city!
    speaking of which a river cats baseball game is a fun time in summer!

  • Adding to the list of great places to eat, Mulvaney’s B&L on 19th Street, and out on Del Paso Boulevard, treat yourself to dinner at Enotria followed by a show at Big Idea Theatre.

  • Sacramento IS a nice place to visit…but it’s even better to LIVE here! Our city merges the good people of the Midwest with the scenery of the West and the creative,, health-conscious vibe of the Bay Area(but without the attitude, thank you!). People move here and stay here because it’s a great place to raise a family and truly enjoy life. We drink wine, eat produce, dairy and meats all from a 100-mile radius, after we ride our bikes home from work while gazing on the snow-covered Sierras in the distance What’s not to like?!

  • Update! Don’t forget Bows And Arrows for vintage goods and art and its partner business Fat Face cafe for popsicles and delicious sandwiches! Also Insight coffee, Beers Books, Fox And Goose pub for Sunday brunch and Orphan cafe for brunch every other day of the week! And Phonoselect for fantastically curated record collections and local zines! So much more we can add to this guide, don’t you agree?

  • For the BEST southern cuisine with a California spin, visit The Porch in Downtown Sac. Low country cuisine with high class. (This comes from a true southern girl, born and raised in Tennessee.) Everything my husband and I tried was amazing – especially the fried chicken and shrimp and grits.

  • If also like to add, Sac has probably the best Vietnamese food around, just head to Broadway for Andy Nguyen and Ho Viet, or go down to South Sac and find Little Saigon

  • Hi can anyone help ? I’m looking for some history /information on a bakery called Snowhite bakery not sure how far back it goes ,I have been told it was in Sacramento California but I can’t seem to find anything about it at all , so anyone that nos anything at all or a email address to find out anything I would soo appreciate it

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