No mere refueling stop on the way to Tahoe, Sacramento is a bustling riverside city of bars, shops, and galleries, plus restaurants that draw from the bounty of the surrounding farmland. Midtown remains the center of action; just this summer, a gritty warehouse district was made over into a buzzing commercial hub. But it’s also worth exploring the residential areas that make the California state capital feel more like a small town—one in which family-run soda fountains lie down the street from artisan pizza joints. So forget politics for a moment (save the capitol building and its half-acre rose garden for another trip), and get to know the other side of Sactown.
10:30 A.M. There’s no shortage of good coffee around here, but you’ll find some of the best at The Mill in Midtown. Fuel up with a latte enriched by housemade almond and macadamia nut milk.
11:30 A.M. Drive over to 28th Street, park at Sutter’s Landing Regional Park, and take a quiet walk along the American River. You’re not far from downtown, which makes the forested shoreline feel even more like a find.
1:15 P.M. Head south for a modern Mexican lunch at La Venadita in Oak Park, where the veggie tacos are as vibrant as the bright pink walls covered with art.
2:45 P.M. Cross Broadway for a visit to The Plant Foundry, a nursery where you’ll find everything from indoor-friendly succulents and bonsai tools to packets of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
3:30 P.M. To the west, the Warehouse Artist Lofts building is bringing new life to the once-forgettable R Street. On the ground floor, the WAL Public Market hosts shops like Kechmara Designs, which specializes in stunning rugs straight from Morocco. Or try on vintage jeans and pick up locally made gifts at Old Gold.
6 P.M. Follow 11th Street and then Riverside Boulevard south to Masullo for an authentic wood-fired pizza like the Gilda, which is topped with mozzarella, fontina, olives, red onion, and persillade, then whisked straight from the brick oven to your table.
7:30 P.M. For a dose of nostalgia and a cranberry sherbet cone, head even farther down Riverside Boulevard to Vic’s Ice Cream. The old-school soda fountain has been making its own ice cream since 1947.
8 P.M. Back in Midtown, where you started your day, duck into the Block Butcher Bar. This beautifully dark and moody spot is known for stellar cocktails and a stand-out whiskey selection—decadent rewards after a day of cross-town exploring.