Old Town Sacramento gives a fascinating look into California’s past. Many of the Old Town’s buildings are national and California Historical Landmarks. There is more than enough to do here to keep you busy for a day. Visit the California State Railroad Museum, take a Sacramento River river cruise, learn about history at several museums, or pick up some souvenirs at one of the Sacramento old town shops.
Enjoy a relaxing sightseeing trip along the Sacramento River. Departing from Old Town Sacramento, the one-hour cruise passes under Tower Bridge past historical sites, including the Delta King, the I Street Bridge, and the Air Force Docks. Food and snacks are available on the ship. Evening and special event river cruises are available on select days and holidays.
The Sacramento River Train runs from West Sacramento 14 miles along the Sacramento River and through fertile agricultural land and the Yolo Wildlife Refuge to Woodland. The round-trip train ride lasts about three hours, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The River train excursion also offers dinner trains, wine trains, beer, train, Mother and Father days trains, Christmas, and Halloween trains.
Visiting the State Capitol is probably the best free thing to do in Sacramento. For those interested in California history, or just like old buildings, a visit to the California State Capitol Museum is something you should not miss. Guided tours are available, or you can stroll around the building and grounds on your own. Top off your trip with a visit to the nearby Old Town Sacramento for a full day of fun activities.
In 1840, Sutter, using both his workers and local Indians, began building an adobe fort. Back then, Sutter’s Fort was called New Helvetia. Today the fort is visited by hundreds of tourists and schoolchildren each year. Also on site is the California State Indian Museum, which is well worth looking at while visiting this historic site.
The Sacramento zoo is involved in several global conservation projects. It hosts various educational programs on its 14.5-acre property in William Land Park in Sacramento, California. Zoo visitors will be impressed by the extensive roster of animals.
If you love trains, the California State Railroad Museum should be on the top of your bucket list. The museum features locomotives and railroad cars from the 1860s up until the 1960s. One of the most popular exhibits is The “Sierra Scene,” a large-scale mock-up of a construction scene high in the Sierra Nevada representing Donner Pass circa 1867, featuring the locomotive Gov. Stanford.
Less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Sacramento takes you to The City of Davis. This college town is mostly built around the University of California, Davis campus, and UC Davis Arboretum. Another exciting attraction in Davis is the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which features photos, trophies, medals, and a beautiful collection of bicycles.
Another fun day trip from Sacramento that is not too far away is the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Situated on the American River banks, the hatchery was constructed to replace the salmon and steelhead runs blocked by Nimbus and Folsom dams. Nimbus is more than just a spawning ground for our finned friends; it’s an adventure for the whole family. Admission and parking, free.
Only 24 miles from Sacramento, the Folsom zoo features is a surprising assortment of animals. Unlike other zoos, most of these critters are orphaned, seized, or relinquished that cannot be released back into the wild. Visitors can view everything from raccoons, black bears, mountain lions, and even two tigers, Misty and Pounce. There is also a fun little train ride at the zoo that will delight the children.
Twenty-eight miles from Sacramento, you will find the little town of Locke. Built in 1915 by the Chinese, the Chinese workers, were displaced by a fire in nearby Walnut Grove. Part of this day’s fun is the scenic drive along the levee road, Highway 160. Once you arrive, you can stroll around Locke, have lunch at Locke Garden Chinese Restaurant, and learn about the town’s past at the Dai Loi Museum.
Most anything you like to do, outdoor or nature-related, is enjoyed at Folsom Lake. Popular activities include hiking, boat-in camping, and shore camping at over 100 campsites. There are launching facilities where you can take your picnic to the water and enjoy some time on the lake in your boat. Folsom Lake is easy to find just 30 miles east of Sacramento.
Winters rests on the foothills nestled between Sacramento and Napa Valley. This cozy little town is a perfect day trip destination from Sacramento or the Bay Area. Many visitors travel in winter to visit the local wineries. Winters is an up-and-coming wine country, not as famous as its Napa neighbor, but connoisseurs will love the range of varietals grown in the valleys of Yolo County.
Brannan Island State Recreation Area is halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento along the Sacramento River’s east bank. Surrounded on three sides by water Brannan Island features camping, swimming, and boating activities. Travel distance 44 miles from Sacramento. Brannan Island makes an excellent day trip destination or weekend camping adventure.
The Jelly Belly Candy Factory Tour is one of the best Sacramento day trips for kids. Along with Jelly Belly candies of every color and flavor, visitors can take a free factory tour. At the end of the tour, everyone gets a free sample bag of jelly beans. Two things are inevitable when you visit Jelly Belly: one, you will have fun, and two, you will buy some of this delicious candy to take home.
Sutter Creek is Amador County’s most walkable town. There are plenty of reminders of the significant Gold Rush era that can be visited on foot. Attractions include the Knight Foundry, Sutter Creek Cemetery, and Preston Castle —one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States.
It’s not just Stockton’s location that makes it a good fit for day-trippers in northern California. Stockton is the hub of the California Delta. It is intersected by waterways and rivers that offer outdoor adventures, cultural centers, unique shopping and dining opportunities, and family-oriented activities that appeal to almost any taste.
Amador Flower Farm is a beautiful destination within an easy day-trip distance of Sacramento. Located in Amador County Wine Country’s center, the flower farm is a quiet retreat that specializes in daylilies. Spring and early summer, offering the largest selection of flowers to view.
The place that put California on the map, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, is one of the most significant historic sites in the United States today. Marshall Gold Discovery Park preserves a living portrait of the story that unfolded into “Yellow Fever.” Throughout the year, visitors can also participate in special events, exhibits, and “Live History Days.”
Travel distance 61 miles. Nevada City, California, is a perfect destination if you want to add a little history to your next road trip. With a population of just over 3,000, the town has hardly grown in the past 100 years. Whether you choose Nevada City as your only destination for the day or part of a tour of the area, you will surely enjoy this part of California’s history.
Travel distance 61 miles. Napa Valley is a great day trip or weekend getaway. Visitors come worldwide to see the beautiful valley, taste the world-famous wines, enjoy fine dining, shop the boutiques, and get pampered in the spas.
Travel distance 69 miles. The park covers nearly 20-miles from Malakoff Diggins State Historical Park to the banks of the Yuba River. Visitors can enjoy swimming, hiking, and exploring the trails leading to historic mining sites, panning for gold and gorgeous wildflowers in the spring.
Travel distance 70 miles. With so much to see and do, visitors can easily spend much of the day merely visiting the mine’s structure, including the hollow opening of the mine’s 5,000-foot-deep shaft or taking a historical tour of 4,600 square foot Bourne Cottage, built-in 1897.
Travel distance 76 miles. When you get to Angles Camp, a great place to start is at the Angels Camp Museum and Carriage House. Located on South Main Street, this museum covers three acres and displays a comprehensive collection of artifacts that speak to the area’s rich and diverse history.
Travel distance 82 miles. Benicia has a long and fascinating past and has, over the years, played an essential role in California’s history. For a short period in the mid 19th century, the town became the state capital. The original capitol building is now a historical landmark.
Travel distance 91 miles. California’s past still lives in Jamestown 1897 State Historic Park, from the architecture of its buildings along Main Street to Railtown, a state park that has preserved a still-functioning steam locomotive repair and maintenance facility portions of which date back as far as 1897.
Travel distance 98 miles. Formed when a mass of underlying rock emerged through the earth’s surface, Mount Diablo towers 3,849 feet over the San Francisco Bay. On a clear day, from the summit of this California ecological treasure, it is said that visitors can see 35 of California’s 58 counties.
The downtown district is Truckee’s heart and soul, with its unique restaurants and shops set in authentic historic buildings. Downtown is an epicenter of activity, where visitors can browse dozens of independently owned and operated shops and dine in delectable eateries. Travel distance 105 miles. From Sacramento.