Downtown Sacramento was founded on the affluence of the Gold Rush era and has never looked back. Growing in strength and importance through trade and industry, the city become the capital of the state of California in the mid-1800s.
Downtown Sac, as its name is often abbreviated to, is flanked on its western side by the Sacramento River and to the north by the American River and is one of the most attractive water-fronted downtowns anywhere in the United States.
If cultural activities top your list of preferred activities, then in DT Sac, you’re in for a treat. The downtown neighborhood boasts a plethora of first-class art galleries, theaters and museums, numerous historical buildings plus world-class sports stadiums and a social scene to keep any night owl more than occupied. Fifteen of the best things to do in Downtown Sacramento? Read on to find out.
1. Sacramento Historic Boat Cruise
Board the Capitol Hornblower at its moorings on the Sacramento River down by Front Street, climb up onto the sun deck, then sit back and relax while cruising downstream past the stunning sight of the Downtown Sac skyline.
The twin-decked river cruiser can carry up to one hundred and twenty passengers for the one-hour sailing which is accompanied by a detailed narration of DT Sac’s history.
Don’t want history? Then take a one and a half hour Alive After Five or Rock The Yacht cruise with full bar service and music from DJ’s plus spectacular views of DT by night.
Book online: Sacramento Historic River Cruise
2. The California Museum
The California Museum on O Street is the place to visit to discover all the fascinating historical facts associated with Downtown Sacramento and the state of California.
The museum has over twenty thousand square feet of gallery space dedicated to the people who founded the district beginning from the time of the indigenous inhabitants and continuing through the pioneering gold rush days right up to modern times.
The California Museum has several interactive exhibitions including a boardable bus and an in-house theater for films showing the effect Hollywood’s portrayal of the state has had on its residents.
3. Golden 1 Center
The Golden 1 Center is a multi-purpose indoor arena on David J Stern Walk in Downtown Sacramento. Home to the city’s basketball team, the Sacramento Kings, the arena not only hosts all their major NBA games but many other mainstream sporting events and music concerts.
The arena has a spectator capacity of up to nineteen thousand and around fifty private VIP lounges. There are food and beverage concessions on every level as well as pop-up food carts and the majority follow the concept of serving locally sourced ingredients.
Aside from the frequent Kings games expect to see names as diverse as Andrea Bocelli, Bob Seger, Justin Timberlake or Metallica gracing the facade of the stadium.
4. Sactown Bike Bus Tour
Is it a bike or is it a bus? Believe it or not, the Sactown Bike Bus is a bit of both. Join the tour on Downtown’s J Street and get ready to pedal and party.
The guide-driven Sactown Bus-bike can carry up to fifteen passengers, think more minibus than double-decker, has an on-board misting system for those warm Californian evenings, plus beer taps and karaoke.
Choose between taking a two hour Downtown Sac bar crawl stopping off at some of DT’s liveliest pubs or enjoy a pedal around DT’s landmark locations. Both are great fun and so is the Sac Brew Boat – read about it further on.
5. Crocker Art Museum
The Crocker Art Museum on O Street in Downtown Sacramento has been displaying works of art to the public for over one-hundred and twenty-five years.
The gallery, which was built in the early 1870s, now covers one-hundred and forty thousand plus square feet of exhibition space and has one of the most extensive collections of Californian art anywhere in the world as well as many other artworks from around the globe.
The Crocker Art Museum also hosts frequent events including film nights and concerts in its auditorium.
6. Dive Bar
Submerge in the unusual nocturnal marine life of the Dive Bar on K Street in Downtown Sac. This is no normal run-of-the-mill dive bar by any means.
Furnished with plush leather sofas, chandeliers and a seven thousand five hundred gallon aquarium behind the bar, this is where the mermaids, mermen, and locals of Sacramento go to rave.
When the mer swim show has finished, it’s time to hit the dance floor as the DJ’s spin techno, house, and hip-hop.
7. Downtown Commons
Downtown Commons or DOCO as it’s known in Downtown Sacramento, is a shopping and entertainment complex located on the district’s J Street.
The multi-story mall draws the Sacramento crowds for its high-end retail outlets and abundance of great eateries. From department stores like Macy’s to ice cream specialists Hagen Daz there’s no shortage of familiar names.
When the shops close, there’s plenty of bars and restaurants to continue the night in or catch a movie at the Century DOCO and XD cinema complex.
8. Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
Reminiscent of a French château, the elaborate and imposing house known as the Leland Stanford Mansion is like an oasis of bygone luxury amid Downtown Sacramento’s skyscrapers.
The mansion was built in the late 1850s by a building merchant but later purchased by railroad tycoon and state governor, Leland Stanford. Having been put to various uses over the decades, the house is now a national landmark and museum set in its own landscaped grounds.
Tour the mansion to discover the incredible interior complete with lavish period furnishings. It’s an eye-opening journey into the world of wealth.
9. Capital Casino
For an ace night out in Downtown Sacramento check out the Capital Casino on North 16th Street.
The casino hosts Sacramento’s number one poker rooms where it’s possible to participate in five variations of the game including Omaha Hi-lo, Texas Hold’em and Pai Gow poker.
If the thought of poker brings on a flush, stop by the casino for dinner or breakfast instead. In the casino restaurant, they serve a tasty Chicken Fried Steak or Midwest Meatloaf made to a secret house recipe. After an all-nighter, the Eggs Benedict or Corned Beef Hash and Eggs will help start the day off right.
10. World Peace Rose Garden
Take a stroll through Downtown Sacramento’s State Capitol Park and at the eastern end, encounter the half an acre which has been dedicated as a World Peace Rose Garden.
Landscaped to replicate a garden from Victorian times, the inspirational space is dotted with over one-hundred and forty plaques bearing messages of peace amid the six-hundred and fifty rose bushes.
With a heart-shaped seating wall surrounding its central pavilion, the World Peace Rose Garden is a beautiful place to just sit and reflect on the complexities of life even when the roses are not in full bloom.
11. Downtown Scavenger Hunt
Add an element of tension, excitement, and competitiveness to sightseeing in Downtown Sacramento by joining a Downtown Scavenger Hunt.
Download the app from Scavengerhunt.com and head over to DT Sac’s 10th Street to start solving trivia based questions and puzzles which will guide you through the district and to many of the major landmarks.
Play alone or with family or friends and see if you score high enough to enter the rankings on the Downtown Sacramento leaderboards.
12. Frank Fats
While they may not serve up typical North American cuisine, Frank Fats, on Downtown Sacramento’s L Street, is a district tradition and has been serving up first-class Chinese and Asian inspired food since 1939.
Winners of the James Beard Foundation American Classic Award in 2013, this is one Downtown eatery which should be on everyone’s list of must visits. Don’t miss Frank’s Wor WonTon Soup, Chicken Wingo or Braised Tofu with Mushrooms. They’ll leave you wanting to start at the top of the menu and eat your way through all of it. There’s really no surprise why this restaurant has kept the DT Sac community happily fed for almost eighty years.
13. Sac Brew Boat
The Sac Brew Boat is a party paddle boat with a difference which navigates the Sacramento River.
Board the boat at its Front Street moorings, take a seat and start pedaling because this paddleboat is not powered by steam but by the energy and leg-work of its passengers. Sail past Downtown Sacramento on the one and a half hour outing while enjoying a drink or two and music from your personal playlist.
The Sac Brew Boat has public sailings, or private charters can be arranged for groups of six people or more to a maximum of sixteen.
14. California State Capitol Museum
Spend a full day exploring the California State Capitol Museum and the forty acres of ground full of memorials and statues it sits in. The grandiose building on Downtown Sacramento’s L Street was modeled on the White House and still functions as the state of California’s governmental seat.
Head down to the basement to watch informative films in the museum’s theater before investigating the many rooms there and on the first floor which have been renovated to reflect how the governor’s offices would have been in 1906.
The museum also houses collections of art including murals, statues, and fifty historical flags. Guided tours are available daily.
15. The Park
The Park on Downtown Sac’s 15th Street is one of California’s hottest night spots. Smart and sophisticated, The Park Ultra Lounge is bang up to date decor-wise and hosts both local and international DJ’s who know how to create the perfect club atmosphere.
The club has a stunning chill-out patio for drinks under the Sacramento stars plus intimate VIP lounges for quieter get-togethers away from the dance floor.
At The Park, just the same as in Downtown Sacramento, a capitally good time is guaranteed.