Though the capital city—known affectionately to locals as “Sac”—may not get the attention San Francisco or Los Angeles do, the state’s sixth largest city has plenty of its own charms. Read on for where to drink, stay and play in Sacramento. (For where to eat, you’ll have to wait until June when the first-ever MICHELIN Guide California launches.)
The longest continuously-operating art museum in the Western U.S. is housed in two contrasting buildings: one a late 19th-century Italianate mansion—the one-time home of Edwin and Margaret Crocker—and the other a rounded modern structure built in 2010 to hold art studios, a larger library and an auditorium. The foundation for the museum’s collection came from the Crockers who actively collected California art, ceramics from around the world, and paintings from Europe (including 1,500 Old Master drawings), Asia, Africa and Oceania. The Crocker Museum has one of the world’s best collections of California art, from the early 1870s onward. Works range from impressionism to pop art, and include artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Joan Brown.
Hornblower runs cruises on the Sacramento River four days a week, with four to five cruisings a day. The noon, 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. cruises are an hour ($20/person), during which you’ll float languidly down the Sacramento River as the captain gives an informal history lesson. Come evening, the Alive After Five cruise sets off (1.5h, $25/person), where a DJ spins and food and drink are available (not included in your ticket). For an adults-only jaunt, book Rock the Yacht (8:00 - 9:30 p.m., $25). All cruises depart from the dock at L and Front Streets.
A car-free 23-mile parkway that runs along the American River, this bike trail beckons Sacramento visitors itching to enjoy the warm weather. There are no bike rental shops in the park, but Practical Cycle and Folsom Bike both offer rentals and are within cycling distance of the park.
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For over a decade the city’s only craft winery has been getting grapes from nearby farms and vineyards, including Walker Vineyard, Wilson Vineyards and Fields Family Wines, then crushes, ferments and bottles them into what they call Sacramento terroir. A 2017 Chenin Blanc from nearby Clarksburg is a favorite for its notes of peach and Meyer lemon ($10 for a five-flight tasting).
Right off the blue and gold tram lines and between Midtown and Downtown Sacramento is this speakeasy-style bar with live music five nights a week. The bar goes heavy on the Prohibition vibes—flocked wallpaper, velvet sofas, dark leather banquettes, candelabras, pressed-tin ceiling—but although it’s a little kitsch, it works, as do the cocktails. The not-unpleasantly-medicinal Judas is a potent mix of vermouth, rye whiskey, honey, lemon and bitters.
The Citizen Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Visit Sacramento.)
This Marriott-owned hotel right in Downtown Sacramento is the mid-1920s former Cal-West Building—briefly the tallest building in Sacramento—and pains were taken to preserve its heritage architecture. Its mansard roof, central staircase and the 1920s clock in the lobby all remain. Today it has 198 rooms with handsome striped wallpaper and Gilchrist & Soames bath products. The hotel is within two blocks of three tram lines (gold, blue, green) and is only a 20 minute walk from the Crocker Art Museum.
A charming bed and breakfast in Sacramento’s Midtown neighborhood, Amber has 10 rooms all named after classical museums and writers (Dickinson, Beethoven, etc.). Each room is different—the Dickinson has a fireplace and a wall of windows, the Chaucer has a four-poster bed and an antique bathroom sink—but all include breakfast (think yogurt, fruit and housemade granola, oatmeal, crêpes and eggs).
Sophie Friedman is the Managing Editor of MICHELIN Green Guides. She's crazy about traveling and last year flew more than 200,000 miles to write about the best things to taste, see and do around the globe, from Bordeaux to Bangkok, Sydney to Santiago, and everywhere in between. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @sophiefriedman.