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Ever been to a city and have no idea of what to expect, or what might be out there to do? Exactly, a little guidebook can be helpful. Here are some suggestions for those visiting Sacramento
If you are coming from the Sacramento international airport, expect a minimum of 15 minutes to get into downtown Sacramento. Sacramento hase horrible traffic, so it can be much longer, during rush hours and when it rains. Plan accordingly.
Neighborhoods to stay - Downtown or Arden
Depending on where you want to go and what you want to do, there are a few areas recommended for staying. Downtown, the Citizen hotel on J street and the Sheraton further down on J Street are great hotels. You can grab a good deal on hotwire. The Citizen hotel looks like a tiny sliver on the block, but its quite large on the inside and goes up many floors. It resides maybe 4 blocks from the capital building and park, and across the street from Caesar Chavez park, which is personally dubbed "hobo park." If you stick to your side of the street, and continue further down, or onto K street, its much more safe. The décor of the Citizen hotel reminds one of the 1920s and is elegant and fun. The Sheraton, is across the street from the convention center, and about two blocks from the capitol park. It is nicely furnished, and is in a prime location.
Closer to old Sacramento, the Embassy Suites is recommended. With its proximity to old Sacramento (across the street) and Raley field (where the rivercats play baseball) across the bridge, it is an ideal location.
In Arden, stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton. Unlike, downtown, the parking should be free and ample. The doubletree is located by shops, restaurants and is across the street from the Arden Fair mall.
There are several other locations recommended in the "greater Sacramento area" but they technically cities of their own, such as Folsom, Rocklin and Elk Grove.
To get around you should walk, drive, lyft or uber. The regional transit (RT) system is very busy in the morning and rush hour. Not to mention that it is rather inefficient. Routes can be confusing. Also, light rail, although you will see another side of Sacramento, it will probably not be a favorable side. It is best to avoid public transit until Sacramento can make something more efficient and more safe. Hundreds of people have had iPods or phones ripped from their hands or assaulted on the bus. Driving can be crazy, so, you can always take Uber or Lyft for much cheaper (usually around $4-5 within the grid). And take note of that: Sacramento, downtown is on a grid. West to East are streets 5-30 and North to South are streets C-Z. Some are one way street, and for people who don't live here, that can be confusing. Many people bicycle, but it isn't safe. Drivers repeatedly get too close, or don't see you.
Good places for Breakfast: Freeport Bakery, located at 2966 Freeport Blvd. is known for cakes, but their quiche, and other pastries are wonderful. Begin your day here, and break your fast on some delicious item. This is out of the downtown (if you follow 19th Street south it will turn into Freeport). Its a small little bakery, but it is very unique, with different things - who knows? Maybe you will want a cake for later.
If you rather stay in the downtown for breakfast (or the rest of the day), Yellowbill is a great little coffee shop with wonderful pastries and the best mocha. They make their coffee with locally roasted "chocolate fish coffee" and its wonderful. Its located on 14th Street, between N and O Street. It is located at the back of the CA department of Education building. There aren't a lot of internal seats, so plan to take it and go in the winter months. In the summer, there are several seats outside. It is also one block from the capitol building and park.
After breakfast, William Land Park is recommended before heading back into the downtown if you decided to head out of the grid to Freeport Bakery. It is simply further down Freeport Blvd. You could have a round of Golf, or have a nice walk, to work off the pastry, or even stop to feed the ducks at the pond. Its a large park, filled with trees, picnic tables, a golfing area, a basball field, the Sacramento Zoo, Funderland (for children) and Fairytale town (for children). The Sacramento zoo isn't a bad zoo, its on the smaller size, but sometimes that is preferable for the afternoon, and being able to see everything. There are no Elephants, and most of the animals are fairly inactive during the middle of the day. There is a neat Reptile House though, which children might get a kick out of seeing a large ball Python snake.
If you chose to stay on the grid, and maybe went to Yellowbill, make sure to head to the capital. Its a block from the coffee shop. Wander through the walkways. There is a cactus garden, a pond, several memorials - including the vietnam war memorial. There are hundreds of species of tree, plants and flowers. The rose garden (located on the 15th street side) is gorgeous. Sit on the bench and enjoy the beauty. There is plenty of grass for children to run about on, and squirrels to do crazy antics. You can walk into the State Capitol building and take a look about. Exit on the West side of the capitol building and go to the Leland Stanford Governor's mansion. It is an old mansion that housed governor's but now is a historic state building. Its furnished, is guided, and the fee is around $5-8. The tours run at 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4. This mansion is located at 800 N street.
After the tour at the mansion, head back down the street and go to Burgers and Brew on R and 14th for lunch. You order at the counter, and seat yourself during lunch. They have a large variety of beer, and some of the best burgers. I particularly like the spicy guacamole burger, very delish!
After lunch you could go to the newly re-vitalized area of K street. Soon there will be the new sports arena where there was a mall, but for now there are bars, restaurants and the crest theater. If you have time, feel like a movie, go to the Crest. It is an old movie complex, but its beautiful all the same. Sometimes they will play locally made films here. The Dive bar on K street often features mermaids on select nights, swimming through large fish tanks. There is also the Coin-op bar, a bar with many old arcade games. The Sacramento convention center is also located on K street and spans from J street to L. They often play musicals, ballet, and hold other large events.
If you have never been to Sacramento, the one place you must go, and Sacramentans refer to as "Old Sac." Charming, right? Old Sacramento has alot of things to see and do. There are more stores - unique and funny gift shops like Evangelines or Garden of Enchantment. However, there is also several "barrel" candy shops, and a place with decidedly good truffles, the Chocolate Factory. There is the river, the historic school house, a statue of a pony express rider, and the Railroad Museum. There is something for everyone. As a couple, it is particularly romantic setting, sitting on the benches looking out over the river as the sunsets. The train museum might be interesting for children. There is aslo several photo areas where you can take a picture with your family dressed up in olden day garb. A few of the restaurants hang over the river, and have impressive views of both the Tower Bridge and the river.
Before it gets past five, you might want to head over to the Crocker Art Museum. You can walk out of Old Sac (going south) and turn left to cross back over the freeway. The Crocker art Museum with be a few blocks up on your right. Currently it is closed on mondays. Tuesdays - Sunday it is open from 10-5. The first and Third Thursdays its open until 9. Its free on Sundays between 10-1, otherwise it costs $6. They have changing exhibits, but a large amount of California artwork, asian art, and international ceramics.
Downtown can die a little at night. Things close early. On the second Saturday of the month, and referred to by locals in the area as "second Satruday" You can walk the grid and see local artist and their work. Sometimes you can buy their work, enjoy free drink and food, and see live bands.
On fridays and Saturdays the downtown picks up a little - people are out to clubs and bars. There are several bars to reccommend, but first, there should be some other ideas of how to spend an evening. You can catch a comedy show in Old Sacramento. There is also a comedy show place on Howe Avenue if you are in the Arden area. Check out Raley Field (across the bridge from Old Sacramento located in West Sacramento) where you can watch a baseball game of the Sacramento River Cats. During the Winter there is an ice skating rink on K street.
After it all - or during happy hour, there are several good bars. Check out Capitol Garage (15th and k). They serve coffee, some food, and have an excelent drink menu and great happy hour prices. Limelight (alhambra and J) is further off the grid. Its near McKinely Park. It has cards to play, and good drinks. Its a lively friendly place, with small outside seating for those who smoke, with heat lamps in the winter. The Press Club (20th and P) collects an odd assortment of locals, and frequently plays local bands. Luigis Pizza (1050 20th Street) lets you buy pizza by the slice, and pitchers of beers. Its small, fun, and sometimes has local bands in the room next door, for all ages. For more upscale drinks, try the Sheratons bar, or the restaurant Zocalo's drink menu.
If you want to see a little bit of all the neighborhoods, try land park for the zoo, go to the Oak Park Brewery for some beer and food, there is sutter's fort in downtown Sacramento, Ikea in West Sacramento, Chevys on the river in Natomas, bike trails along the American River and the mall in Arden.
Remember, Sacramento may not seem like a big city, but its spread out. Other neighborhoods have things to see and do, but almost every other neighborhood comes with its share of crime. Never let your guard down, and please be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid the endless amount of homeless people, and enjoy Sacramento!