From Gold Rush-era lore to recently revitalized corridors, Sacramento’s past and present are brimming with character. Get to know the famously walkable city this spring. Whether you’re a longtime resident, recent transplant, or just passing through, these tours will introduce you to the capital of California.
Local Roots Food Tours: Downtown Historical Sacramento or R Street Historical Corridor
Through the delightful medium of food, Local Roots connects guests with the history of the city, local lore and legends, current events and, of course, the diverse chefs and shop owners. Take a tour of Downtown Historical Sacramento or the R Street Historical Corridor, two notable hot spots experiencing a 21st century renaissance. No matter which edible adventure you choose, each tour focuses on five to six locally owned and independent restaurants—some with Michelin Guide bragging rights, and some “hole-in-the-wall” eateries, both of which focus on locally procured seasonal ingredients. Local Roots works with restaurants to showcase signature dishes and chef specialties, and each tour is curated with an eye toward diverse tasting experiences. The Downtown Historical Tour might include a Crema de Chili Poblano soup from Michelin Guide Plate award-winner Tequila Museo Mayahuel and a Pastrami and Matzo Ball soup from Solomon’s Delicatessen (named for Sacramento native Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records), while the R Street Historical Tour could offer a visit to Fish Face Poke Bar, where the goal is to provide simple and flavorful meals with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, plus a stop at Magpie for the Dalai Lama’s favorite: a carrot cake cookie with cream cheese frosting.
Insider tip: Breaking bread is only the tip of the iceberg, as Local Roots also focuses on staying up to date with current events taking place in this dynamic city. If it’s happening in Sacramento, they know about it, and after the tour, so will you.
Tour info: Tour groups are limited to no more than 14 people. Private tours can be booked. Special dietary needs can be met with prior notice. The tour takes place Monday through Friday, starting at 1 p.m. Downtown Historical Tour, $75; R Street Historical Tour, $78. (800) 407-8919.
SacTown Bites: Farm-to-Table Midtown Tour
Experience America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital the way it was meant to be experienced: with your taste buds. Hit the scrumptious streets of Midtown on a food tour adventure with SacTown Bites, a women-owned tour company that showcases the bounty of the Sacramento Valley. With an emphasis on eateries that focus on sustainability, fair trade and labor practices, community engagement, and local sourcing, this tour delivers an authentic farm-to-fork experience. (Think a hummus bowl piled with seasonal grilled vegetables, Japonica forbidden black rice, a six-minute egg, and Acme grilled bread, drizzled with olive oil from Seka Hills in Capay Valley.) Small groups (no more than 12 people) take advantage of the city’s walkability and restaurant scene by strolling to several eateries (up to six per tour) to enjoy a specially prepared dish while learning about the chefs and owners, the inspiration behind the recipes, the ingredients, and the farms where the ingredients are sourced. The tour, which covers approximately one and a half miles, is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all fitness levels.
Insider tip: The food is family- and vegan/vegetarian-friendly. In between restaurant stops, the experience also includes viewing some of Sacramento’s public art, such as the Capital Box Art Project, Walk of Stars and Wide Open Walls.
Tour info: $79 per adult (no alcohol), $99 for three drink pairings per 21+ adult, $59 for children 12 and under. Tours last approximately three hours. (800) 656-0713.
This tour starts at the Sacramento History Museum and takes you below Old Sacramento Waterfront, where the original city used to be. During the rush for California gold following its discovery in the nearby foothills, local merchant Sam Brannan set up shop because of the area’s convenient waterfront location. The city grew into a trading center for miners outfitting themselves, but merchants were busy capitalizing on the moment and didn’t think too much about the future—otherwise, they might have thought twice about building on two riverbanks. Sacramento flooded frequently and disastrously, with three floods in its first official year, 1850, and continued notable flooding in 1852, 1853, and 1854. Then a storm hit in December 1861, which brought 45 days of rain. The city eventually raised its center an average of 9 feet 6 inches, a process that took 13 years, but the hard work paid off: the city prevailed in becoming the permanent capital of the state, the seat of government power, and the Western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. This hour-long tour, which runs through half of the Old Sacramento Historic District and into key underground spaces, offers guides portraying characters from mid-19th century Sacramento.
Insider Tip: The Underground After Hours tour runs Tuesday–Saturday May–October. Though it follows the same route, it covers notorious crime, gambling, prostitution, duels, saloon fights, steamboat disasters and other true tales befitting the nightlife of Sacramento. It stops at the River City Saloon, where guests receive a commemorative shot glass and drink discounts. 90 minutes. $25 for adults 21+.
Tour Info: Tour runs year-round with at least one per day. The tour is $18 for adults, $12 for kids 6-17, and free for children 5 and younger. It includes museum admission that day. 101 I St.; (916) 808-7059.
Sac Tour Company Public Art Tours
Add some color to your next walk with a tour of Sacramento’s stunning street art scene. Discover more than 40 pieces of street art, including the city’s newest murals, iconic pieces, and classic graffiti. This vibrant public art can be traced back 50 years, mirroring the rise of modern graffiti on the east coast. The Royal Chicano Air Force, founded in 1970 by Jose Montoya and Esteban Villa, is a locally based art collective that spurred a political, educational and cultural street art movement beginning in the late ’60s. Were it not for them, Sacramento’s buildings likely wouldn’t be punctuated with the vivid imagery that they boast today. Another way to explore the city is through the lens of filmmaker and Sacramento native Greta Gerwig. Meander past seven key filming locations from the Oscar-nominated film “Lady Bird,” including the iconic “blue house,” the famed Fab 40s neighborhood, McKinley Park Rose Garden, Pasty Shack, and more. This in-depth local Hollywood story tour includes information about the locations, filming, Gerwig’s inspiration, Sacramento history and more.
Insider tip: Sac Tour Company also offers running tours (3.3 miles, 1.25 hours) and biking tours (6 miles, two hours). With plenty of breaks, most people report that it’s the “easiest 5K ever.”
Tour info: $25-$35 per person for public tours. $40 per person for 2-4 people for private tours, $35 for 5+ people, $32 for 10+ people.
Cal Events: California State Capitol Tour
A tour company since 1973, Cal Events offers delightful vantages of Sacramento ranging from single-day tours to a week’s worth of discovery about local people, places and venues. The California State Capitol is one of the region’s most popular and sought-after tours. Lasting approximately 90 minutes, the walking tour of the historic building includes secrets of the California State Seal, the stories of California’s most recent governors and the history of the 11.5-ton Roman Corinthian columns. This one-of-a-kind tour includes visits to both chambers of the state Legislature and tales of notable figures like President Ronald Reagan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Willie Brown. Then, you’ll step outside for a pleasant stroll through the magnificent 40-acre Capitol Park while you listen to the history of its memorials, learn about the hundreds of diverse trees—many of them gifts from other countries—and even hear the best-kept secrets about America’s space tree, plus the story of why Sacramento’s founders planted the beautiful camellia grove as a testament to the diversity of this fair city.
Insider tip: Other tours offered by Cal Events include visits to Old Sacramento and city tours from the Governor’s Mansion to McKinley Park. Cal Events also provides custom services for guests in town for conventions and conferences, such as on-site registration support, unusual food and beverage functions, and custom-led wine tasting tours with a wine historian.
Tour info: Prices start at $50 per person and vary depending on tour and length. (877)225-3836.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this “Resting Place of Pioneers” was established in 1849 when the Sutter family gave Sacramento 10 acres just south of Y Street (now Broadway) for a new site for a cemetery. Land donations, including one from Margaret Crocker, expanded the cemetery to nearly 60 acres. Today, it’s half that size. Broadway was widened to become a major thoroughfare, effectively eliminating some of the cemetery’s acreage, and then there was the sale of land to two fraternal organizations, the Order of Masons and the Order of Odd Fellows. Now, the 30-acre space is the final resting place for more than 25,000 people as well as three gardens: the Historic Rose Garden, Hamilton Square Perennial Plant Garden, and the California Native Plant Demonstration Garden. Private tours for groups up to 50 take 1.5 hours and include introductions to famous cemetery residents like John Sutter Jr., the Crocker family, Mark Hopkins, and William Stephen Hamilton (Alexander’s son), as well as less famous denizens with fascinating life stories.
Insider Tip: Beginning in February, free monthly tours focusing on specific topics (African-American history, baseball in Sacramento, and mausoleums, to name a few) take place, plus special seasonal evening tours, like Haunted Sacramento and Beyond the Veil.
Tour Info: $25 for up to five people, or $5 per person for larger groups. Tours can focus on cemetery history, gardens, or both and must be arranged in advance. Self-guided tours are available, brochures are located at a kiosk in front of the cemetery.
For more thoughts on things to do, visit our spring activities guide.