12 Best Sights in Sacramento, Sacramento and the Gold Country

California State Railroad Museum

Old Sacramento Fodor's choice

Sprawling over three floors, this museum celebrates the history of trains from their 19th-century English origins to the pre–jet age glory days of rail travel. A permanent exhibit details Chinese laborers' contributions to the transcontinental railroad's completion (Sacramento was the western terminus). Another section contains one of several gold spikes issued to commemorate the joining in Utah of the west-to-east Central Pacific and east-to-west Union Pacific lines.

Up to 21 of the museum's railroad cars and engines—among them Pullman-style cars and steam locomotives—are on exhibit, and there are interactive displays and a play area for kids. Two nearby affiliated attractions (both free) worth a peek if they're open are the re-creation of the circa-1876 Central Pacific passenger station (930 Front Street) and the Huntington, Hopkins & Company Hardware exhibit (113 I Street), a facsimile of a 19th-century hardware store.


Downtown Fodor's choice

Built between 1860 and 1874 and topped by a 128-foot gilded dome, the Capitol functions as a working museum and, since 1869, the active seat of California's government. When it's open, you can wander freely past reproductions of century-old state offices or join a guided tour. Portraits of former governors on display include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, Earl Warren (later Chief Justice of the United States), and Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, whose father was also governor. Tours of the 40-acre Capitol Park, which contains a rose garden, a fragrant display of camellias (Sacramento's city flower), and more than 1,000 types of trees from around the world, take place on Sunday and Wednesday.

Crocker Art Museum

Downtown Fodor's choice

Established in 1885, Sacramento's premier fine-arts museum specializes in California art, European master drawings, and international ceramics. A highlight is the magnificent Great Canyon of the Sierra, Yosemite (1871) by Thomas Hill. Some works are displayed in two architecturally significant 19th-century structures: the original Italianate Crocker residence and a villa-like gallery. A contemporary, 125,000-square-foot space hosts outstanding traveling exhibitions.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park

Downtown Fodor's choice

Leland Stanford, a railroad baron, California governor, and U.S. senator, expanded the original 1856 two-story row house on this site into a 19,186-square-foot mansion. The opulent space is open for touring except on days when California's governor hosts official events. After the death of Stanford's wife, Jane, Roman Catholic nuns transformed the mansion into an orphanage and later a home for teenage girls. Luckily for the restoration efforts, which began in 1986 following the state acquiring the property, the sisters had stashed many original furnishings and fixtures on the fourth floor, and the renowned photographer Eadweard Muybridge had shot images in 1872 that made clear what rooms looked like and where things belonged. Guided tours (first come, first served) depart hourly from 10 to 4.

California Automobile Museum


More than 150 vehicles—from Model Ts, Hudsons, and Studebakers to modern-day electric-powered ones—are on display at this museum that pays tribute to automotive history and car culture. Check out a replica of Henry Ford's 1896 Quadricycle and a 1920s roadside café and garage exhibit. The museum is south of Downtown and Old Sacramento.

California Museum


Showcasing longtime and temporary residents who helped elevate the Golden State, this museum contains permanent exhibits covering statehood, the experiences of California Native Americans, life for Japanese Americans in World War II internment camps, and the impact of women. The California Hall of Fame honors Walt Disney, Jackie Robinson, Bruce Lee, Amelia Earhart, writer and Sacramento native Joan Didion, and other familiar names.

Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station

Old Sacramento

At this reconstructed 1876 station there's rolling stock to admire and a typical waiting room. On some days, a train departs from the freight depot, south of the passenger station, making a 50-minute out-and-back trip that starts along the banks of the Sacramento River. Cookies and hot chocolate are served aboard sellout Polar Express rides (book way ahead) between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Old Sacramento Waterfront

Old Sacramento

A jumble of historic attractions and bonafide tourist traps—the Sacramento History Museum and the superb California State Railroad Museum representing the former and a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and salt-water taffy and T-shirt concessions the latter—occupies several square blocks of the Sacramento River's eastern banks a quarter-mile west of the Capitol. Shining bright metallic gold, the Tower Bridge, designed in the art-deco Streamline Moderne style and completed in 1935, anchors the waterfront's southern flank.

Old Sugar Mill

A former beet-sugar refinery a 15-minute drive south of downtown in Clarksburg now houses the tasting rooms of 14 Northern California wineries. The Clarksburg AVA (American Viticultural Area), which straddles Sacramento, Yolo, and Solano counties, is known for Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah, though all the wineries also purchase grapes elsewhere. Clarksburg Wine Company, which owns the on-site wine-making facility, is a worthy first stop. Draconis Wines and Three Wine Company also merit investigation, with Bump City, co-owned by the Oakland-based Tower of Power's keyboard player, Roger Smith, another popular stop.

35265 Willow Ave., Clarksburg, California, 95612, USA
sights Details
Rate Includes: Tasting fees vary, Days open vary by winery

Sacramento History Museum

A pandemic-era video campaign revolving around this museum's antique printing presses went viral, making a TikTok star out of a longtime volunteer named Howard. Other exhibits investigate Sacramento's gold-rush past and agricultural, economic, and political evolution. A must-see third-floor stop provides insights into the life of a 12-year-old girl through personal belongings discovered in a trunk a century after her death in 1879. The museum's Old Sacramento Underground Tours, booked separately, explore vestiges of the city before floods wreaked havoc in the 1860s and 1870s and many buildings were raised a story or two higher.

State Indian Museum


Adjacent to Sutter's Fort but run separately, this small but engaging museum explores the lives and history of California's indigenous peoples. Arts-and-crafts displays and other exhibits portray the state's earliest inhabitants.

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park


Nearby office buildings tower over Sacramento's earliest Euro-American settlement, founded in 1839 by German-born Swiss immigrant John Augustus Sutter. A self-guided tour includes a blacksmith's shop, bakery, jail, living quarters, and livestock areas. Staff and docents sometimes demonstrate crafts, food preparation, and other circa-1840s activities.