Weekend travel

A Perfect Sacramento Trip: New Hotels, Locavore Hotspots and Wine

The Sacramento city skyline with a view of the river

Milquetoast’s reputation be damned: Sacramento is the perfect getaway for small-town lovers. Sure, it’s the center of California politics and you’ve probably heard of its historic Old Town district, but it’s also a place where farm-to-fork restaurants rule, vineyards flourish at nearby and the nightlife scene includes live mermaids swimming in a saltwater aquarium. Yes, it’s that kind of fun – and it’ll give you a chance to catch up with friends who moved here to escape SF rent.

Sacramento: Running California from 1850s

Located where the Sacramento and American Rivers converge, Sacramento’s “modern” history began as a fort, when John Sutter arrived in 1839 and built Sutter’s Forst as an enclave designed to revive agriculture in the region. But then gold was discovered in the Sierra foothills in 1848, and all hell broke loose. The city exploded with citizens; meanwhile, California became a U.S. state in 1850, and by 1854 Sacramento had become its permanent capital.

The Pony Express was born here, as was the first transcontinental railroad. Old Sacramento rose on the banks of the Sacramento River and became the link between the two. As such, it’s the perfect place to start your visit. Visit the Sacramento Museum of History, take a river cruise or horse-drawn carriage ride, and try some old-fashioned candy (right after watching them make them). Take a look at the BF Hastings Bank building on 2nd Street in Old Town, where the Pony Express originated, then head to the nearby Pony Express statue on J Street.

Chances are someone you’re traveling with will love Evangeline’s Costume Mansion (up the stairs at 113 K Street), where they’ll find an incredible selection of everything from costumes to masks, hats, and everything you need. to turn you into whatever character strikes your fancy. It’s a legendary costume shop that will suck you in for hours.

Use the underpass to venture into the new(er)town to see the California State Capitol, which was built in 1860 (check out the museum for more historical trips) and don’t sleep in the amazing grounds of the State Capitol which runs for three long blocks in front of the majestic building, with trees from around the world and a huge and beautiful rose garden. Then take a short walk to the ornate Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, opened in 1889 and still a fine example of Italian Renaissance architecture.

Let the games begin: eat, drink, watch the mermaids

When you’re ready to eat, drink, and party, Sacramento has plenty of top-notch choices. Plan ahead with a reservation for The Kitchen, the town’s Michelin-starred family restaurant that’s been leading Sacto’s farm-to-fork locavore dining scene for 30 years. Expect a six-course New American-style prix-fixe dinner.

Elsewhere, check out Localis, nominated for Best Chef in California by James Beard, Chris Barnum-Dann, who he runs with his wife Jessica, for another exemplary New American meal focused on local ingredients, and book for brunch at Barn, yet another award-winning farmhouse. Fork-focused restaurant run by Chef Dane Blom, where the cookies alone are worth the trip.

For a British take on California cuisine, head to Oliver Ridgeway’s Camden Spit & Larder. He cooks delicious locally sourced dishes, including his famous English sausage rolls and his own take on a classic meat pie. Lighter dishes include wild Alaskan halibut in a brown buttery truffle jus that is sublime.

As things progress in Sacto, start the party at Cookies, the cannabis store with potent exclusive strains, then head to Dive Bar (pun intended), where they host real live mermaid shows in a 40 foot aquarium. The Roost and The Snug are other cool nightlife spots to sneak into, both offering plenty of cocktails and other libations.

Of course, California wine is big in and around Sacramento, so if that’s your thing, head up the Sacramento River Delta to the Clarksburg AVA (about 30 minutes away) and visit Bogle Family Vineyards, where they have been producing fine wines for over 50 years from grapes grown directly on their beautiful property. Relax in the gardens or take a seat on the balcony for great views of their extensive vineyards and sample their Petite Sirah and Zinfandels. Also, be sure to visit Silt Wine, a relative newcomer to the Clarksburg scene, and be sure to try their tasty dry Albariño, grown very close to their tasting room.

The farm to fork festival: the big event in September

For a unique Sacramento experience, the annual Farm to Fork Festival in September pulls out all the stops with a series of foodie events. In 2022, it begins Sept. 8 with Legends of Wine Night, on the lawn of the State Capitol, which features regional wineries paired with local restaurants. The festivities culminate on the weekend of September 23-24, with a massive two-day street festival packed with food, wine, beer and music. The must-attend event on 9/11 is the legendary Tower Bridge Dinner, when this famous golden lift bridge is transformed into an elegant dining venue, with hundreds of seats for a dining extravaganza featuring many of the city’s best toques . To get two tickets for that one, you’ll need to enter a raffle before July 24; 40 sets of tickets will go to the lucky winners, who will dress in their best for a completely different local dining experience.

Where to stay: your dorms

Choose the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel for your nights sleep and you’ll be right in the heart of the city, able to walk to most of the sights and restaurants in the heart of this very walkable city. It is located on the edge of Downtown Commons (DOCO), literally next to the Golden 1 Center, where the Kings hold court. This is a sophisticated hotel with a rooftop pool and very comfortable beds.

Alternatively, book into The Exchange Sacramento, in what was once the California Fruit Building, built in 1914 and now a beautiful reminder of the city’s early days when it was the tallest building on the Mississippi River. Now part of the Hilton empire and open since fall 2021, the hotel is both modern and inspired by the past, just like the city itself.

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