No matter what time of year it is, it’s always a good time for a visit to Sacramento. It condenses all the spirit of California in one gorgeous town, where it feels like the sun is always shining – but it’s actually the positive spirit of the locals. Whether you’re after some historical sights, day fun with the family, or a romantic stroll down the river, Sacramento has a lot to offer.
Nothing can really beat a good picnic in Capitol Park, or a visit to some of the excellent theatres, art galleries and museums that are almost on every street corner in Sacramento. Even better, there are so many places where you can go outside of it – all within about an hours’ drive of the city. Discover the inimitable spirit of California and embark on a wonderful journey with this 15 great day trips you can take from Sacramento.
1. Napa Valley
No trip to Sacramento would be complete without a visit to the historic Napa Valley.
California is well-known as being the winemaking state of the U.S. and Napa Valley will show you exactly why that’s the case.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of taking a drive through the endless roads and rolling hills of the valley, taking in the sight and the smell of the vineyards.
Or, if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, then hop on a quick train there and enjoy the classic Pullman train cars, preserved all the way back from the 1900s.
If you have the time, make sure to visit some of the excellent restaurants of the vineyards, where you can sample the area’s absolute finest produce.
A gem in the crown of Northern California, Napa Valley is a must-see for any wine connoisseur.
2. River Delta Cruise
The River Delta cruise is really one of the easiest day trips you can take from Sacramento.
Board the cruise boat in Sacramento and enjoy the serenity and beauty of your surroundings with a special tour of the most notable sights across the Delta.
The waterway also has an impressive range of wildlife and its natural beauty is really second to none in the region.
The history tour will explain how the River Delta became instrumental in turning Sacramento from a small colony to the metropolitan city it is today.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Ziggurat Building as you sail past it – you’ll definitely recognize it as it’s the most photographed building on the cruise.
3. Brannan Island
The Brannan Island State Recreation area is exactly halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco, along the east bank of the Sacramento River.
You may be surprised to learn that Brannan Island isn’t actually an island but rather it’s only surrounded by water on three sides and you can get there with an easy drive along the state highway.
The park offers a fascinating view of the Delta’s wildlife and history and has many activities you can take part in to make the most of your day.
If you’re a keen angler, there’s plenty of opportunities for fishing.
You can catch striped bass, sturgeon, catfish, black bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, bullhead – or even sometimes a salmon or steelhead.
Camping is also very popular on Brannan Island if you feel like you want to get even closer to nature.
4. Jelly Belly Factory
If you’ve got your kids with you on holiday then the Jelly Belly factory is a very popular day trip choice.
Only a short drive on the highway from Sacramento, it’s completely free to visit and there’s frequent guided tours.
The queue can sometimes be quite long but there’s lots to do while waiting, like browsing the store or having as quick snack.
On the tour, you can take a good look at every stage of a jelly belly’s life.
There are various displays – all of them child-friendly – that explain everything that’s happening in a lot more detail.
There’s state of the art equipment on show in the factory and there’s even two robots that help with the manufacture of the jelly bellies.
We dare you to not feel hungry after this scrumptious tour.
5. Sutter Creek
Right at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Foothills lies Sutter Creek, arguably one of the most walkable towns in the whole area.
The town is littered with reminders of the Gold Rush era that can all be seen on foot.
Make sure to visit the creepy Sutter Creek Cemetery – maybe look out for a ghost or two in this reportedly haunted area.
Definitely pay a visit to the Knight Foundry, as well as Preston Castle, one of the oldest reform schools in the U.S. Sutter Creek is a quaint little town full of history and you can explore all of that with the wonderful exhibits in the Sutter Creek museum, too.
If you’re more the adventurous type, make sure to take a hike through the Eldorado National Forest and start your high Sierra adventure.
Sutter Creek is easily accessible at a close 45 miles from Sacramento.
Take a short drive to have one of the most beautiful cities in central California waiting at your doorstep.
Intersected by waterways and rivers, Stockton combines everything you need for the perfect day trip.
The way there is surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills and gorgeous views of the San Joaquin Valley’s farm.
The city used to be a hotspot for prospectors during the Gold Rush and it’s definitely retained some of its former grandeur.
The gorgeous promenade is a wonderful place for a romantic walk at sundown and if you’re there at the right time of year, there’s a plethora of events hosted in the romantic spot as well.
Make sure to visit the historic Bob Hope theatre as well, enjoying its lavishly decorated murals, enormous crystal chandeliers and intricate woodwork.
7. Amador Flower Farm
Following the track of Californian wine lovers isn’t easy, however if you’re determined of discovering the state’s rich history of winemaking, then Amador Flower Farm should definitely be on the list.
It’s located right in the center of the Amador County Wine country and it’s truly a sight to behold.
On the short drive there, you’ll drive past – and can even stop by – some of the county’s most luscious vineyards and do all the wine tasting you can handle.
But a lot of visitors to Amador miss the Flower Farm, which is a true hidden gem.
With over 1,000 varieties of flowers, this is a perfect day trip for tourists of any age.
8. Apple Hill Orchards
Renowned as one of the best family destinations for over half a century, Apple Hill Orchards has a lovely mix of child-friendly and adult attractions.
One of their most famous activities is the 50 u-pick apple ranches, where you get to teach your children all the benefits of fresh fruit and a little bit about farm life as well.
Other attractions include a Christmas tree farm and a microbrewery.
The Orchards are about 50 miles away from Sacramento and easily accessible via the highway.
They’re best to visit in October/November as apple-picking as at its height then and the leaves of the apple trees are stunning in autumn.
But if you go in the summer, you can still enjoy a wonderful picnic in the relaxing shade of the orchards.
If you love the towering Sierra Nevada hills, then a visit to Placerville is a must.
The gorgeous town is located at 2,000′ elevation and the short drive there is incredibly picturesque, as it cuts right through the foothills outside Sacramento.
Placerville is the seat of El Dorado County and was a hub during the Gold Rush as well.
Visitors will certainly enjoy the main street, lined from top to bottom with historic buildings that will definitely make you feel as if you’ve gone into a time machine.
The gorgeous architecture is well blended with the commodities of contemporary life, so if you’re craving a Starbucks, you’ll be able to get it there!
10. Marshall Gold Discovery Park
Any history and outdoor enthusiasts will definitely enjoy Marshall Gold Discovery Park, a lovely remainder of one of California’s most important Gold Rush sites.
Located just over 45 miles northwest from Sacramento, the park has been named after James W. Marshall.
Marshall was the man to first discover gold in 1848, which led to the greatest mass movement of people in U.S. history and the Gold Rush.
The park is situated in the historic area of Coloma and visitors can enjoy lovely open spaces for a hike or a picnic, as well as multiple events and exhibitions throughout the year.
11. Nevada City
One of the towns with the richest history in the district is Nevada City, whose population of almost 3,000 people has hardly grown over the last 100 years.
Several sites in Nevada City are on the National Register of Historical Places, including Firehouse No. 2 and the National Hotel – the oldest and, surprisingly, still fully-functional hotel in the Rockies.
There’s also plenty of lovely museums with fantastic exhibits to explore.
A notable one is the Nevada Country Railroad Museum, maintained only by volunteers, who are looking to keep the history of the area alive.
Only a short drive from Sacramento, Nevada City can offer something to everyone.
12. Sonoma Valley
Most wine lovers who visit California will head straight to Napa Valley, leaving the not less picturesque and interesting Sonoma Valley behind.
But there’s so much to Sonoma Valley that begs to be discovered! Once an important Mexican military outpost, Sonoma town is now an important historical landmark, with a gorgeous picturesque square, winding alleyways and cobblestone courtyards.
There’s so many cafes and restaurants you can go to as well as artisan boutiques and galleries to discover.
Don’t miss the nearby Cornerstone gardens, where you can explore gorgeous creations designed by some of the world’s most famous landscape architects.
It takes just under two hours to drive to Sonoma Valley from Sacramento but every minute will be worth it once you get there.
About 82 miles away from Sacramento lies the historic town of Benicia.
Its waterfront architecture is enough to attract anyone looking for a quiet relaxed time in a historic landmark.
The town has had a very interesting past and has been instrumental in important events such as the Gold Rush, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the Civil War.
Bits and pieces of the town’s history are scattered all over and there are several museums to explore too.
A must-see is the Benicia Fire Museum, home to some of the first fire engines in the state.
14. Mount Diablo
Ideal for any outdoor lovers, the Mount Diablo park is a roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sacramento.
If you want to hike straight for the summit and enjoy the panoramic views you can, however make sure to pay attention to what’s on the way, too.
Make a stop by the Mitchell Canyon Interpretative Center, which will give you all the information you need to enjoy the natural wonders of the park.
There’s a gift shop and a guide to various aspects of Mount Diablo, including the most common wildlife you can encounter.
Visitors can choose between several trails and, needless to say, once you get to the summit you won’t forget that gorgeous view for a long time.
As one of the longer day trips you can take from Sacramento, Truckee is just over 100 miles from the city but the little charismatic mountain town has lots to offer.
Named after a Paiute chief, Truckee has a unique blend of historic and contemporary scenes.
Make sure to take a stroll around Donner Lake for some lovely nature views and – if you’re feeling adventurous – take a boat up the gorgeous Truckee River and the nearby Lake Tahoe.
There’s lots of hiking and biking trails to suit any taste and the downtown district of Truckee has lots of great historic buildings.
If you’re after a relaxing lunch, choose one of the many excellent restaurants in Truckee and enjoy a lovely meal in a gorgeous rustic atmosphere.