A couple of decades ago, if you were to walk into any room in Sacramento, approach the nearest local and ask them what their favorite thing about Sacramento is, chances were they would say, “Well, we’re about an hour and a half from Tahoe and about an hour and a half from San Francisco!” But that was then, this is now, and Sacramento has changed a hell of a lot in 20 years. The once-sleepy “city by the city by the Bay” is wide awake, and the best things about it have nothing to do with getting out of town. Here are 18 reasons to love Sacramento right now, why we’re proud to call it home, and why out-of-town visitors always end up enamored with our corner of the world.
1. Because of its small-town feel
With a population of more than 500,000 and as the ninth-largest capital in the United States, Sacramento is definitely a city—a fact we’re reminded of every time we have to drive anywhere. But we get all of the big-city amenities with a small-town feel: It’s still a place where we actually get to know our neighbors and feel a sense of community, where we can become a “regular” instead of just another face at any local spot, where we can still find somewhere to eat dinner out (and park) at 6 p.m. on Saturday night without a reservation, where we bump into friends at the grocery store, and where we can let the hustle and bustle fade as we stroll through the walkable neighborhoods and admire the character and charm of our city. Sacramento is cozy, but also convenient.
2. Because of Our Parks and Recreation
Got green? Our city boasts more than 5,000 acres of parkland and recreation centers. In addition to the 223 PARKS sprinkled throughout the blocks and neighborhoods within city limits, including the 40-acre CAPITOL PARK that surrounds the State Capitol and features more than 200 types of trees, the AMERICAN RIVER PARKWAY is an urban gem that spans 32 miles of trails. And when we want to get our feet wet, we have options: Because we’re located at the confluence of the SACRAMENTO AND AMERICAN RIVERS, there are limitless opportunities for riverbank lounging, rafting, kayaking and fishing.
3. Because It’s a Great Place to Try Something New
When our evenings and weekends start feeling a little bit too much like Groundhog Day, we have a host of options to get out of our rut. We can learn improv at Northern California’s largest comedy school, SACRAMENTO COMEDY SPOT (1050 20th St.). Get our swing on at MIDTOWN STOMP (2534 Industrial Blvd.). Brush up on our Spanish at CASA DE ESPAÑOL (1101 R St.). Get crafty and pick up metalworking for jewelry or 3D printing at MADE STUDIO (3519 Broadway); make everything from a pen to a cabinet at WOODCRAFT OF SACRAMENTO (9523 Folsom Blvd.); or learn how to sew our own clothing and add pockets to every garment at MEISSNER (2417 Cormorant Way). We can pick up a sport—anything from cornhole to soccer—with everyone else who didn’t quite go pro at XOSO SPORT & SOCIAL LEAGUE (xososports.com), or reach new heights by giving indoor rock climbing a try at SACRAMENTO PIPEWORKS (116 N. 16th St.) or THE BOULDER FIELD (8425 Belvedere Ave.).
4. Because It’s All Fun and Games
When we say Sacramento is a great place to work and play, we mean “play” quite literally.
We can hit the bull’s-eye with an ax or get our anger out in a rage room, which is exactly what it sounds like: Don protective gear, then break everything in sight. Both options are surprisingly therapeutic. 600 Broadway; (916) 548-8182; smashsacramento.com
THERE & BACK CAFE . . . AND GAMES
Experienced dungeon masters and tabletop gaming newcomers alike will find a welcoming community-gaming experience at this much-anticipated addition to the city. Come with friends, meet new people and join a game, or just stop by for a Mana Potion (a beverage made with cream soda and Curaçao). 1020 11th St.; (916) 237-5925; thereandback.cafe
COIN-OP GAME ROOM
This retro arcade feels like home. Between the funky frat party aroma and the classic hits like Frogger and Pacman, Coin-Op manages to hit all the high notes of nostalgia. The last Sundays of the month are free play. 21+. 908 K St.; (916) 661-6983; coinopsac.com
It’s mini golf, but in a pub. Need we say more? 630 K St.; (916) 872-0772; tipsyputt.com
5. Because of The Delta Breeze
On many afternoons in the spring, summer and fall, the sun takes on a sinister glow and mutates into a laser beam that penetrates shade sails and sunglasses alike, descending upon the city like an inescapable homing missile of heat and despair. But just as we pull up Zillow and begin to seriously contemplate a life in a place that doesn’t feel like an oven, it happens: the magical movement of the leaves and branches overhead; a cool whisper of hope on the back of our necks. The beloved Delta Breeze has arrived. Blowing off of the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, the southwest wind carries cool air from the Pacific Ocean, often cooling the air by more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, Sacramento gets hot. But Sacramento is also home to nature’s best air conditioner. And even on sweltering days when the Delta Breeze is curiously absent, the evening temperatures reliably drop enough for us to pop open the windows and breathe a sigh of relief.
6. Because You Can Shop Locally for Almost Anything
Rather than filling up an Amazon shopping cart, we can find just about anything we’re looking for around town. Need an original gift in a pinch? We’ve got it: STRAPPING STORE (the flagship store is at 3405 Broadway; (916) 477-3376; strappingstore.com). Baby clothes and accessories? We’ve got it: JAM BABY (3330 Broadway; (916) 706-2472; shopjambaby.com). Vintage finds that don’t suck? We’ve got it: OLD GOLD (at WAL Public Market, 1104 R St.; (916) 761-5950; facebook.com/shopoldgold). A new houseplant that we’re definitely not going to over-water this time? We’ve got it: PROPAGATE (1700 I St.; (916) 399-4804; propagatesac.com). Something new to read? We’ve got it: CAPITAL BOOKS ON K (1101 K St.; (916) 492-6657; capitalbooksonk.com). Home decor? We’ve got it: MIDTOWN BLISS HOME AND GIFTS, (2722 R St.; (916) 376-7319; vintageblissmarketplace.com). Costume apparel? We’ve got it: EVANGELINE’S (113 K St.; (916) 443-2181; evangelines.com). The point is, in Sacramento, every day is Small Business Saturday.
7. Because Women are Represented in Our Local Government
Women are historically underrepresented as government officials, but that isn’t the case in the greater Sacramento area. A majority-women Sacramento City Council was elected for the second time in history at the end of 2022, the mayor and all four councilmembers of West Sacramento are women, and Sacramento’s county executive is Ann Edwards.
8. Because Beer
With more than 50 breweries operating in the Sacramento region, we’ve definitely got hops, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Before Prohibition, Sacramento was the largest beer production spot west of the Mississippi. Our breweries have also earned accolades outside the city limits: In 2022, ALARO CRAFT BREWERY’s first IPA took home a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival; URBAN ROOTS won California Brewery of the Year in 2021; and just across the causeway, Davis’ SUDWERK BREWING CO. won Top U.S. Brewery and Brewer of the Year at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival.
9. Because We Love Animals
If the couch is starting to feel a little empty, there are plenty of places to find a new best friend: Sacramento County Animal Care Services, also known as Bradshaw Animal Shelter (3839 Bradshaw Road), and Sacramento City Animal Care, also known as Front Street Animal Shelter (2127 Front St.), plus the Sacramento SPCA (6201 Florin Perkins Road). For the latest in canine fashion, we can stop by Leash and Collar dog boutique (1901 Q St.) and then show it off at one of the city’s 14 dog parks. For pups that prefer to sit by our sides instead of play with other dogs, there are spots for that, too: Most patios in town are dog friendly. One spot where we love to have pints with our pooch is SacYard Community Tap House & Beer Garden (1725 33rd St.): Pups can sit both inside and out, and there’s plenty of space for dogs to sprawl.
10. Because It’s Colorful
THE GRASS MAY BE GREENER IN THE SUMMER IN SOME OTHER CITIES, BUT SACRAMENTO IS A VIBRANT PLACE TO BE YEAR-ROUND THANKS TO OUR THRIVING ART SCENE.
WIDE OPEN WALLS
Conceived in 2016 as the Sacramento Mural Festival, the city’s artistic brainchild has made bigger and bigger strokes with every year. Designed to activate spaces in alleyways and buildings throughout Sacramento, Wide Open Walls transforms otherwise drab backdrops into an urban gallery, adding pizazz and personality to the usual beige cityscape and bringing art into everyday commutes and conversations. Scattered across Sacramento’s streets are 178 stunning murals. Visit wideopenwalls.com to map out your favorites and take a walking tour.
Artist GARR UGALDE created a walkable art adventure in the heart of Sacramento: a series of seven sculptures sprinkled along a 1-mile stretch downtown that embody the sense of the bird/human relationship. The exact locations of the sculptures aren’t published: You start at the Delta King on the Old Sacramento Waterfront and experience the treasure hunt of discovering each sculpture for yourself. Visit spiritwings916.com for more information.
And, of course, we have traditional museum experiences, too. Highlights include CROCKER ART MUSEUM (216 O St.; (916) 808-7000; crockerart.org), the oldest art museum in the western United States, which hosts one of the state’s premier collections of California art; the beloved CALIFORNIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM (125 I St.; (916) 323-9280; californiarailroad.museum), with 2.5 acres of exhibits on the property and a historic authentic excursion train ride April through September; and SACRAMENTO HISTORY MUSEUM (101 I St.; (916) 808-7059; sachistorymuseum.org), offering its famous Underground Tours showing how Sacramento lifted itself up out of the floodwaters of the 1860s and 1870s.
11. Because We Don’t have to Leave Town to Taste Flavors form Around the World
Sacramento is the Farm-to-Fork Capital after all, but our fork extends around the globe. Here’s a short list of places we can try when wanderlust hits our palate: brunch in France (BRASSERIE DU MONDE, 1201 K St.) or Mexico (MEZCAL GRILL, 5701 Broadway); lunch in Indonesia (BALI KITCHEN, 1100 Front St.), Ethiopia (ABYSSINIA ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANT, 1346 Fulton Ave.) or Vietnam (QUÁN NEM NINH HÒA, 6450 Stockton Blvd.); and dinner in Nepal (NEW KATHMANDU KITCHEN, 2672 J St.), the Czech Republic (LA TRATTORIA BOHEMIA, 3649 J St.) or Spain (TAPA THE WORLD, 2115 J St.). And for a sweet blast from the past, we can stop for a slice from RICK’S DESSERT DINER (2401 J St.).
12. Because Our Utilities are Community Owned
Does any other city send local utility companies heart emojis on social media regularly? A quick trip to SMUD’s comment section reveals recent feedback like “We are so lucky to have SMUD!” and “You all rock!” Progressive and climate friendly, SMUD is a nationwide energy leader with a 2030 Zero Carbon Vision—a goal of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2030. Plus, SMUD is a not-for-profit, community-owned electric utility company that lines neighborhoods with trees instead of lining shareholders’ pockets. Since 1990, SMUD has worked in partnership with Sacramento Tree Foundation to plant more than 600,000 shade trees in the Sacramento area, and it offers up to 10 free shade trees per customer to address growing environmental concerns. Known for its top-notch customer service and speedy power restorations, you might say we’re de-lighted that we’re powered by SMUD.
13. Because We’re Having a Moment with Urban Grapes
Is Sacramento a wine destination? Perhaps not officially, but with shorter lines and lower
prices, isn’t it better that way? In recent years, California’s capital city has become something of a wine lover’s playground, with trendy wine bars and vibrant tasting rooms buzzing to life all over town. Honestly, who needs Napa? (Don’t quote us.) Here are just a handful of spots to try:
For wines made on-site and some of the best plant-based food in town: REVOLUTION WINERY AND KITCHEN (2831 S St.; (916) 444-7711; rev.wine)
For natural wine in a cozy boho space: RO SHAM BEAUX (2413 J St.; (916) 365-1216; roshambeauxbar.com)
For natural wine and R Street people watching: NICO WINE (1710 R St.; (916) 400-9925; nicowine.co)
For a neighborhood-y, retro hangout with novel to-go goodies: GOOD NEWS WINE (1050 20th St.; (916) 400-0533; goodnewswine.com)
For atmosphere, top-notch sammies and all of the bottles: BETTY WINE BAR & BOTTLE SHOP (1103 T St., betty-wine.com, (916) 898-2116)
For a bright, airy French-inspired tasting experience from sunrise to cocktail hour: FRANQUETTE (965 Bridge St., West Sacramento; hellofranquette.com; (916) 572-0046)
14. Because We Can Order a White Linen in the Place Where it was Invented
Featured in The New York Times and now found at watering holes around the country, this thirst-quenching gin-based libation was first poured during Sacramento Cocktail Week at Ella by bartender Rene Dominguez in 2008. Light, crisp and refreshing, it might just be the perfect spring nightcap (or evening starter). ELLA DINING ROOM & BAR, 1131 K St.; (916) 443-3772; elladiningroomandbar.com
15. Because of All the Drama
The best kind of drama is the kind you can spectate. When we’re in the mood for more substance than scrolling through Netflix, we’ve got lots of options around town.
THE SOFIA, HOME OF B STREET THEATRE
Fresh and fun, The Sofia has something for everyone. Producing more than 100 innovative plays and hosting local and international acts, the theater offers a diverse and delightful lineup of musicals, storytelling and improv for adults, and is home to the Family Series, Northern California’s only fully professional resident theater for children. 2700 Capitol Ave.; (916) 443-5300; bstreettheatre.org
A local landmark, the iconic Tower Theatre opened its doors in 1938 and continues to play independent and foreign films. 2508 Land Park Drive; (916) 442-0985
WEST WIND DRIVE-IN
The novelty of drive-in movie theaters is something that never gets old, and we have one in town! This throwback experience offers relaxed family fun and plays movie premieres at the same time as indoor theaters, with midnight screenings of major releases. 9616 Oates Drive; (916) 363-6572; westwinddi.com
A historic theater and urban center for performing arts and cinema, the theater offers a welcoming stage and Saturday comedy nights in the heart of Oak Park. 2828 35th St.; guildtheater.com
THE DREAMLAND CINEMA
Film aficionados shouldn’t miss this intimate movie theater that offers a selection of indie, cult, international and art-house films. 1901 P St.; thedreamlandcinema.com
16. Because We’ve Got Spirit
Powered by four lasers capable of producing 1,000 watts of RGB laser power, a purple “Victory Beam” shoots out of downtown’s GOLDEN 1 CENTER when the KINGS win a game, home or away. There’s a sense of pride we feel when that bright color of royalty cuts through the night sky, and it’s also fun to chant: LIGHT THE BEAM!
17. Because of Coffee
For the record, we love caffeine, and for the record, we think our coffee is some of the best. No matter which coffee shop we wander into, it’s a good choice. It’s hard to have a favorite, but when we’re on a particular mission, here are a few places we like:
FOR WORKING: On a deadline? We love all the chairs and tables at PACHAMAMA COFFEE in East Sacramento, and that they use creamy oat milk as their base offering. 3644 J St.; (916) 476-4385; drinkpacha.com
FOR LATE-NIGHT GATHERING: It’s no secret that this revered local coffee chain always delivers, but we love that TEMPLE COFFEE ROASTERS is open until 10 p.m. for when we need an after-hours fix. 2829 S St.; (916) 454-1272; templecoffee.com
FOR THE PATIO: When we want to enjoy the weather with our pick-me-ups, there’s only one place to go: OLD SOUL AT THE WEATHERSTONE. And if everyone else has the same idea, taking our cup for a leisurely walk around Boulevard Park is just another perk of this location. 812 21st St.; (916) 443-6340; oldsoulco.com
FOR THE COLD FOAM: DRIP, a Black-, woman- and sister-owned coffee shop centered around espresso, community and culture, also has some of the most velvety toffee-flavored cold foam we’ve ever tasted. 1004 24th St.; (916) 306-4087; dripespresso.coffee
FOR THE LOVE OF CROISSANTS: The delicious coffee is a bonus, but while we’re at FARIA BAKERY, you know we’re not leaving without a fragrant, flaky, freshly baked croissant. 3417 Broadway; (916) 204-8726; fariabakery.com
18. Because If We Do Need to Leave, We Can Do It From the Best Midsized Airport in the Country
Outshining every other midsized airport in the nation, Sacramento International Airport (SMF) was crowned “best midsized airport” by The Wall Street Journal at the end of 2022. (This wasn’t really news to a lot of us, but we’ll never say no to a national nod.) It’s known for its speedy security lines, surprisingly good customer service and extensive (and punctual) flight options—SMF offers more than 155 daily nonstop flights on 12 domestic and international carriers to 36 destinations. During the next five years, the airport plans to expand, with more gates at Terminal B, a consolidated center for taxi, rideshare and shuttle services, a new parking garage and more.