Sacramento is located at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers and is best known as the home of prestigious University of California Davis and Sacramento State University. Visitors can tour the California State Capitol Building for free or take free self-guided tours of the area's Jelly Belly Factory. For lower-cost access to attractions, visitors can use the city's SacRT transit system, which offers bus and light rail services.
1.The California State Capitol Museum
© Courtesy of Andrei - Fotolia.com
The California State Capitol Museum allows visitors to explore the California State Capitol building, which is home to both the executive and legislative branches of the California state government. The elegant Neoclassical-style building was constructed in 1874 to mimic Washington, D.C.'s United States Capitol building and is a California Historical Landmark today, located within a 10-block grounds area known as Capitol Park. Visitors can explore the building's beautiful architecture and public exhibits as part of self-guided tours available daily during business hours, with the exception of major holidays. Free documentary films are also shown daily at the building's basement theater. Student groups can also reserve free guided tours for groups of up to 35.
1315 10th St B-27, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-324-0333
2.The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum
© Courtesy of morsted - Fotolia.com
The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum is a beautifully recreated replica of a typical 19th-century one-room schoolhouse in California, open to the public for free as a living history museum. The schoolhouse, which is located within Old Sacramento State Historic Park, was originally dedicated in 1977 and is intended to recreate the original design of the 1884 Cañon School, which operated in the Capay Valley. Visitors can explore the 1,040-square-foot building daily during the afternoon hours, with costumed interpreters showcased on site to elaborate on the school's operations and artifacts. Public parking is located across Interstate 5 for visitors at Old Sacramento State Historic Park.
1200 Front St, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-483-8818
3.Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery
© Courtesy of zwiebackesser - Fotolia.com
Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery is the city's oldest still-operating cemetery, originally established in 1849 and designed to mimic a beautiful Victorian-era garden. Located at Sacramento's highest point, the cemetery is a National Register of Historic Places-listed site is noted for its splendid collection of roses, considered among the finest rose collections in the state. Visitors can explore the 44-acre cemetery daily for free during daylight hours and see notable burials of state politicians and business leaders, including Mark Hopkins, Jr., the founder of the Central Pacific Railroad, and Jerome C. Davis, the namesake of the University of California Davis. Free guided walking tours are also offered daily by docents through the Old City Cemetery Committee. Visitors should note that cemetery parking is very limited and should plan to avoid peak visitation times to secure free parking.
1000 Broadway Sacramento, CA 95818, Phone: 916-448-0811
4.Sacramento's Wells Fargo Museums
© Courtesy of savelov - Fotolia.com
Sacramento's Wells Fargo Museums are two of 10 Wells Fargo museum locations across the country, showcasing historic artifacts related to the world's second-largest bank corporation, which was originally founded following the California Gold Rush. A location at the city's Old Sacramento State Historic Park preserves the second Wells Fargo office ever opened, allowing visitors to operate an historic 19th-century telegraph and communicate with other Wells Fargo museums around the country. Visitors can also dress in historic railroad messenger gear for photos and watch a silent movie entitled "The Shrinking World." The museum's second Sacramento outpost, located within the city's Capitol Mall, showcases an 1866 Abbot-Downing stagecoach, collection of postal covers, and gold specimens uncovered within the central California region.
1000 Second Street, Sacramento, California 95814, Phone: 916-440-4263
5.Sacramento Museum Day
© Sacramento Museums
Sacramento Museum Day lets Sacramento-area residents and visitors explore 26 museums throughout the city for free on a select Saturday in February, thanks to the sponsorship of area organizations such as Sutter Health and California Family Fitness. Participating museums include the California State Railroad Museum, the Sacramento History Museum, the Aerospace Museum of California, and the attractions of Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Special events are hosted at several locations, including children's storytime events, family-friendly activities, and special demonstrations. Additional attractions, including the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town, offer half-price admission as part of the event, with participating area restaurants offering deals and discounts for museum visitors. Visitors with printed Museum Day flyers can also ride free all day on SacRT bus and light rail trains.
6.Wide Open Walls
© Courtesy of stasenso - Fotolia.com
Wide Open Walls is an annual Sacramento street and mural art festival that is held in August, bringing regional and international mural artists to the city for 10 days to transform urban buildings and spaces into public art murals. More than 40 top artists are selected to participate in the event each year and are challenged to create designs at specific sites to work in harmony with existing urban landscapes, serving as permanent gifts to the city of Sacramento. Visitors can observe murals in progress or take self-guided tours of past mural projects throughout the city. Past participants have included Shepard Fairey, the artist responsible for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign "Hope" design. Several other free public events are also hosted annually by the Wide Open Walls organization, including a Mural Jam and a public block party and music festival.
7.Old Sacramento State Historic Park
© Courtesy of Jo Ann Snover - Fotolia.com
Old Sacramento State Historic Park preserves eight blocks of Sacramento's historic 19th-century downtown district, which was originally developed following the 1848 California Gold Rush. The 28-acre National Historic Landmark district is free to explore and is one of the city's top tourist destinations today, attracting over five million visitors each year. Beautiful Spanish architecture is showcased at sites such as the Big Four House and the B.F. Hastings building, with elegant arched doorways and intricate wrought-iron balconies preserved. Museums at the site include the Sacramento History Museum, the California Automobile Museum, and the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, with some offering free admission daily or on select days. Walking tours of the district are offered by the Old Sacramento Historical Foundation, and public special events such as the Gold Rush Days Festival are held in the district annually. For an additional fee, visitors can also take rides aboard the historic Sacramento Southern Railroad excursion train or the restored Delta King Riverboat.
1014 2nd Street, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-970-5226
8.The Sacramento Outdoor Film Festival
© Courtesy of kohanova1991 - Fotolia.com
The Sacramento Outdoor Film Festival is a free outdoor film festival offered each autumn at Fremont Park, hosted by the City of Sacramento in cooperation with Front Street Animal Shelter. The annual festival showcases four film offerings throughout September and October, organized around a general theme such as "coming of age" or works by female filmmakers. Due to the nature of films frequently shown, it is open to adult audiences ages 18 or older. Local food truck vendors sell food before and during films, with beer and wine also available for purchase. Lawn games are also available for visitors to play before films start. All proceeds from liquor sales benefit the Front Street Animal Shelter's regional operations.
1515 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
9.The Sacramento Public Library
© The Sacramento Public Library
The Sacramento Public Library is California's fourth-largest public library system, circulating over two million items throughout 28 regional branches. The system was originally founded in 1857 and became a public library system in 1879, opening its current Italian Renaissance Revival-style central library branch in 1918. Visitors can explore the National Register of Historic Places-listed central library building Tuesdays through Sundays, with free resources available such as internet workstations and a makerspace with 3D printing and graphic design services. More than 288,000 items are held by the library, including collections of materials in Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. Free public special events held throughout the library system include children's storytimes, lectures, and arts and maker workshops.
828 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-264-2700
10.Gold Rush Days
© Courtesy of jzajic - Fotolia.com
Gold Rush Days is Sacramento's biggest annual bash, held each year over Labor Day weekend within Old Sacramento State Historic Park. The four-day pioneer celebration showcases live entertainment on several stages, along with Old West reenactments and demonstrations presented throughout the event. All of the district's streets ban automobile traffic throughout the event, with wagon, pony, and stagecoach rides available for visitors. Historic food and beverages are sold at the Embarcadero Tent City, including traditional sarsaparilla. Other activities include free outdoor film showings, a beer crawl, a country dance vent, and a statehood celebratory procession featuring living history performers and a brass band.
1014 2nd Street, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-970-5226
11.William Land Park
© Courtesy of Kasi - Fotolia.com
William Land Park, commonly known as Land Park, is one of Sacramento's liveliest urban park areas, located near Interstate 5. The 166-acre park is named in honor of regional pioneer William Land, the owner of the California Historical Landmark Western Hotel, and is the home of the Sacramento Zoo. Other paid-admission attractions within the park include the William Land Golf Course, the Fairytale Land children's park, and the Funderland kiddie amusement park. The park provides ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, offering softball, basketball, and soccer fields, along with several children's playgrounds, a wading pool, a village green, and day-use picnic areas.
3800 W Land Park Dr, Sacramento, CA 95822, Phone: 916-808-6060
12.The American River Bicycle Trail
© Courtesy of Microgen - Fotolia.com
The American River Bicycle Trail is a 32-mile scenic pathway that spans the length of the beautiful American River between Sacramento's downtown district and Folsom Lake's Beal's Point. The accessible two-lane trail welcomes pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters, with public restroom facilities and drinking fountains provided along its course route. Along the way, the path spans through several public parks and riparian habitats, connecting a number of the region's historic districts and major attractions. Though the trail is shaded throughout the majority of its route, visitors should note that temperatures can climb high during the summer months and are advised to bring water and use sunscreen. For cyclists, the route connects with the Sacramento Northern Bike Trail in downtown Sacramento.
13.The California State Library
© Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
The California State Library is the state of California's central research and reference library, located within Sacramento's Capitol Mall. The library was originally established in 1850 to serve as the state's main information hub and the main research facility for the state government. Eight major collections are held by the library, including significant collections of law, historical, civic, and genealogical materials and substantial holdings of Braille and talking book volumes. Visitors are welcome to explore the library's collections during business hours Mondays through Fridays, including its free public photography, art, and historic artifact exhibits. Docent-led tours of the library may also be scheduled for free Mondays through Fridays for groups of up to 15 visitors, including school field tour groups.
914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-323-9843
14.Loch Leven Lakes Trail
© Courtesy of Al - Fotolia.com
Loch Leven Lakes Trail is a popular hiking trail located within Tahoe National Forest, which spans six counties near Lake Tahoe and the 8,587-foot Sierra Buttes peak. The moderate-difficulty trail is accessible from Placer County Road approximately ?-mile east of the Big Bend Fire Station and traverses the South Yuba river canyon and the Loch Leven Lakes, which were formed from glacial movement. Along the way, visitors can view railroad tracks from the 1860s route of the Central Pacific Railroad, along with a petroleum pipeline and markers for a telephone trunk line. At Salmon Lake and the high and middle Lochs, visitors can fish for a variety of fish species, with campfires allowed with permits. In all, the route spans 3.6 miles one way. The trail is open to the public weather permitting between June and November.
631 Coyote Street, Nevada City CA 95959, Phone: 530-265-4531
15.Jelly Belly Factory Tours
© Courtesy of philn99 - Fotolia.com
Jelly Belly Factory Tours give visitors an inside look at the operations of California's Jelly Belly Factory, which produces more than 50 varieties of delicious and unique jelly bean flavors, ranging from traditional flavors such as lime and cherry to speciality flavors such as Harry Potter-inspired beans and alcoholic beverage flavors. Free self-guided tours of the Fairfield factory are offered daily between 9:00am and 4:00pm, with the exception of major national holidays. Visitors can watch factory observations on high-definition videos and explore interactive exhibits along a ¼-mile self-guided tour lane high above the factory floor. While at the factory, visitors can also browse the Jelly Belly Bean Art Gallery, shop at the factory's official candy store, or dine at its Jelly Bean Cafe.
1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, CA 94533, Phone: 707-428-2838
16.Second Saturday Art Walks
© Courtesy of Stanislaw - Fotolia.com
Second Saturday Art Walks are a monthly art crawl throughout Sacramento's Midtown area, highlighting many of its most notable art galleries and studios. Each second Saturday of the month, visitors can explore open houses at local galleries between 5:30pm and 9:00pm, with select locations open later hours. Many galleries showcase exhibit openings and offer complimentary wine and refreshments, with live music performances and art demonstrations hosted periodically. Food trucks and artisan vendors are also hosted on site as part of the event's street fair festivities. Free or discounted parking is offered at a number of sites throughout the district for the duration of the event.
© Courtesy of renamarie - Fotolia.com
Folsom Lake is a 11,500-acre manmade reservoir within California's Sierra Nevada foothills, serving as the anchor for the popular Folsom Lake State Recreational Area. As one of the state's most visited public park areas, the 19,500-acre park attracts two million annual visitors and is home to a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, and waterskiing. Visitors can fish for bass, catfish, and trout, though safe-eating restrictions apply due to high mercury content in the lake's waters. Tours of Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park showcase Sacramento's former electrical power plant, which operated between 1885 and 1952. Several campgrounds are offered, including the year-round Beals Point Campground.
7755 Folsom-Auburn Rd, Folsom, CA 95630, Phone: 916-988-0205
18.Folsom Historic District
© Folsom Historic District
Folsom Historic District preserves the historic heart of Folsom, California, which was originally developed in the 1850s following the California Gold Rush. Today, the district is home to a wide variety of preserved 19th and early 20th-century buildings, known as the "place where the West came and stayed." Visitors can take in the downtown district's beautiful architecture as part of self-guided walking tours or explore several museums, including the Folsom History Museum, the Folsom Railroad Museum, and the HIstoric Railroad Turntable. Art galleries, boutiques, and nightclubs abound, along with restaurants serving up traditional coastal California cuisine alongside a variety of international options. The district also serves as a terminus for the American River Bike Trail Path, which begins in downtown Sacramento's Old Sacramento State Historic Park.
915 Sutter St #110, Folsom, CA 95630, Phone: 916-985-7452
19.Certified Farmer's Markets
© Courtesy of rastkobelic - Fotolia.com
Certified Farmer's Markets provide Sacramento-area citizens and visitors with an opportunity to shop healthy and shop local, hosted at several sites throughout the city's downtown district weekly. Tuesday markets are hosted at Fremont and Roosevelt Parks between May and September, as are Thursday markets located at the city's Capitol Mall. On Wednesdays, Cesar Chavez Park hosts markets between May and October. Dozens of local farmers and vendors sell locally-produced fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses, with pantry and baked goods, flowers, and herbs also available from many vendors. Seasonal produce is sold by many vendors, ranging from spring flowers and asparagus to many varieties of apples available during the autumn months.
20.Sacramento Heritage Self-Guided Walking Tours
© Courtesy of ablokhin - Fotolia.com
Sacramento Heritage Self-Guided Walking Tours let Sacramento-area visitors explore the city's historic landmarks and beautiful neighborhoods as part of self-guided tour routes available for download on the Sacramento Heritage iPhone and Android apps. A series of tours showcase the city's Victorian-era structures and California Gold Rush landmarks, including the preserved historic buildings and attractions of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Tours are available for the city's Founder's Area, City Hall Area, J and K Street Commercial District, and Capitol Mall region. Several other organizations also provide tours that are accessible on the app, which may be used with offline data to avoid additional smartphone network charges.
20 Best Free Things to Do in Sacramento Year Round
- The California State Capitol Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Andrei - Fotolia.com
- The Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, Photo: Courtesy of morsted - Fotolia.com
- Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery, Photo: Courtesy of zwiebackesser - Fotolia.com
- Sacramento's Wells Fargo Museums, Photo: Courtesy of savelov - Fotolia.com
- Sacramento Museum Day, Photo: Sacramento Museums
- Wide Open Walls, Photo: Courtesy of stasenso - Fotolia.com
- Old Sacramento State Historic Park, Photo: Courtesy of Jo Ann Snover - Fotolia.com
- The Sacramento Outdoor Film Festival, Photo: Courtesy of kohanova1991 - Fotolia.com
- The Sacramento Public Library, Photo: The Sacramento Public Library
- Gold Rush Days, Photo: Courtesy of jzajic - Fotolia.com
- William Land Park, Photo: Courtesy of Kasi - Fotolia.com
- The American River Bicycle Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Microgen - Fotolia.com
- The California State Library, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Loch Leven Lakes Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Al - Fotolia.com
- Jelly Belly Factory Tours, Photo: Courtesy of philn99 - Fotolia.com
- Second Saturday Art Walks, Photo: Courtesy of Stanislaw - Fotolia.com
- Folsom Lake, Photo: Courtesy of renamarie - Fotolia.com
- Folsom Historic District, Photo: Folsom Historic District
- Certified Farmer's Markets, Photo: Courtesy of rastkobelic - Fotolia.com
- Sacramento Heritage Self-Guided Walking Tours, Photo: Courtesy of ablokhin - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of belyay - Fotolia.com