Sacramento is the capital city of the state of California and is a great place for vacationing as its climate is sunny almost all year round, with mild winters. It also exhibits the earliest examples of technology, the Transcontinental Railroad, which was first started right in Sacramento. But beyond this beautiful city of old and new landmarks, such as the California State Capitol Building, the iconic Tower Bridge, and Old Sacramento Waterfront, the city will also charm you with its accommodation options such as hotels by the river. As there is so much to see in the region, you can also take refuge in the family resorts near Sacramento. While here, why not opt for interesting day trips outside of the city? If you’re looking to take a much-deserved break, check out our list of the top day trips from Sacramento, California.
Lake Tahoe, nestled in the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, is a pristine alpine gem that beckons travellers seeking natural beauty and outdoor adventure. With its shimmering blue waters and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it offers a picturesque escape.
During the summer, embrace the endless possibilities of boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the crystal-clear lake. Hiking enthusiasts can explore numerous scenic trails that reveal panoramic vistas and hidden waterfalls. In the winter, Lake Tahoe transforms into a winter wonderland, attracting skiers and snowboarders to its world-class slopes.
Beyond the outdoor activities, Lake Tahoe boasts charming towns and villages that exude a laid-back atmosphere. Stroll through the quaint streets with boutique shops, art galleries, and delectable dining options. With all these, there’s no denying that this freshwater lake is terrific for day trips from Sacramento for families.
Duration: 7 hours
2. San Jose
San Jose is the third wealthiest city in the United States and is perfect for short trips from Sacramento as it is located just two hours away. But, there are still great attractions in town to do on a budget or even for free. San Jose being in the home of Apple, a visit to the Apple Park and Visitor Centre is a must. The city also has many quality art museums like The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and The Rosicrucian Planetarium, which has daily presentations of our cosmos.
Another fun activity that will keep your mind and body occupied is the free Japantown Walking Tours that the Japanese American History Museum conducts. For great food at affordable prices and bargain hunting, head down to the San Jose Flea Market which operates on Wednesday and Friday to Sunday.
3. El Dorado National Forest
The El Dorado National Forest lies in El Dorado County, California and is about an hour’s drive from Sacramento. The forest is designated as a United States National Forest, meaning that it has been well-protected over the years. The majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range can be seen from the forest park, while flora and foliage thrive alongside native wildlife. The park is good for many activities, such as hiking along its numerous trails, fishing in permitted areas, camping with licenses, as well as cross-country and down-hill skiing in winter. Modern-day gold-hunters take note that you cannot remove anything from the gold-rich rivers and waterways that still exist in the El Dorado National Forest.
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4. San Francisco
San Francisco, or San Fran as it is affectionately called by the residents, is an eclectic city, where there is room for everyone. When you’re tired of the Mediterranean climate in Sacramento, hop into a rental and make your way to San Fran by the coast, which is just under two hours’ drive. Visit the famous Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco for holiday snapshots, then take a slow stroll across the bridge to the Fisherman’s Wharf. There, you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of San Fran’s busiest and most vibrant districts. Among the many different things to do, some of the most popular things include trying a clam or crab chowder in a gigantic sourdough bread bowl and visiting the famous sea lion community in the area.
Truckee is a mountain town in Nevada County, California, about two hours away from Sacramento by car. Its name is derived from a 19th-century Paiute Indian chief, who used his knowledge of the various hidden routes to guide thousands of immigrants westward.
An excellent destination for sightseeing from Sacramento, Truckee is famous for its scenic views that are breathtaking, both in winter and summer. In the cold season, visit Truckee for skiing at any of the award-winning ski resorts in the town. In summer, put on your hiking boots and take the many pleasant walking trails that lead to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The charming and historic Truckee Downtown is also worth exploring for its many mom-and-pop stores that preserve local culture and arts.
6. Yosemite National Park
Any day trip from Sacramento to Yosemite National Park is worthwhile. This scenic landscape is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges and is world-famous for its many awe-inspiring natural attractions. It is also a very manageable three hours drive from Sacramento.
This national park was first opened to the greater public in 1890 and since then, it has been drawing visitors from all over the world. The best time to visit is from May to September, when visitors can enjoy mild weather to view the ancient Sequoia trees that dwarf everything. If you are lucky, you might just get the chance to see the black bears of Yosemite National Park near the salmon-rich waters that are fed by the glaciers high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
7. Nevada City
Just an hour’s car ride from Sacramento lies Nevada City. This impeccably preserved Gold County town is a sight to behold, with its Victorian-era residences and historic tree-lined avenues. Theatre buffs would recognize the name Nevada Theatre as the greats of the American performing arts. Mark Twain, Jack London, and Mötley Crüe, among many others, have tread the floorboards here. Walking around Nevada City’s downtown, you will also notice that modern-day shops selling food, gifts, and experiences that are perfectly juxtaposed with the 19th-century buildings. Something not to be missed is the season farmers’ markets in Nevada City, where you will not only pick up the freshest produce, but also score locally-made products such as soap and accessories.
Sausalito, a charming waterfront town across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, offers a delightful escape for travelers seeking beauty and tranquility. With its Mediterranean flair and stunning views of the San Francisco skyline, this picturesque enclave is a true gem.
Explore the waterfront promenade, where you’ll find quaint boutiques, art galleries, and enticing restaurants with fresh seafood delicacies. Savor a delicious meal while enjoying breathtaking views of the bay. For nature enthusiasts, explore the nearby Marin Headlands, offering scenic hiking trails and panoramic vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike and cycle along the idyllic coastal routes.
Take the chance to visit the famous Sausalito houseboat community, where vibrant and eclectic floating homes create a bohemian atmosphere. Additionally, the charming streets of Sausalito are adorned with beautiful Victorian houses and lush gardens, perfect for a stroll.
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
Carmel-By-The-Sea is a quaint and idyllic beach city that hugs the Monterey Peninsula, California. This laid-back town is known for its casual ‘70s vibe, where life was good and people were kind. Take the Scenic Bluff Path that ends at the famed Carmel Beach. With its pristine white sands and quiet coves, an afternoon at the beach here is far from the frenzy in California’s other famous beaches. In line with its reputation as a beach city, Carmel-By-The-Sea is also great for surfing and scuba diving.
When you are ready to drag yourself from the peaceful beaches, head for a casual wine-tasting at any of the wine-tasting rooms in town. Shopping addicts must also pay a visit to the many gems of boutique shops on Ocean Avenue, where things that are for sale are unique to Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Calistoga is a city in Napa Valley, California, about two hours from Sacramento. It is a hot springs slash mud bath slash winery town, thanks to the Old Faithful Geyser in California that erupts regularly. A visit to the Calistoga Hot Springs Spa is a must for a luxurious afternoon of pampering mud baths and hot springs. Visitors can also take a hot air balloon ride that will take them over Napa Valley’s many vineyards, play a round of golf on the lush greens, visit Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-style castle built with authentic materials, or go on a wine-tasting tour curated by celebrated wine-maker, Dario Sattui.
Napa, which is most famous for the Napa Valley wine country, is only one hour from Sacramento, making it an ideal day trip destination. An interesting twist to the usual Napa Valley vineyard tours and tasting sessions is the Napa Valley Wine Train that takes visitors past the beautiful Napa countryside with various wine-tastings on-board, plus a gourmet Western course meal that is prepared by the top kitchens in Napa. The train tours range from lunch or dinner tours, to half-day tours that take visitors to a vineyard, as well as a multi-vineyard train tour. Beside wines, Napa is also known for its vibrant art scene that is presented in vividly arranged art galleries and boutiques throughout downtown Napa. The Oxbow Public Market is also worth a visit, as it holds a farmers’ market daily from dawn to dusk. Besides wine of course, you can find many top-notch local products, such as cheeses, craft chocolates, and many more.
Reno, Nevada City, is probably best known for its casinos. Just two and a half hours by car from Sacramento, this desert town is also known for its automobiles. For visitors who want to take a break from gambling in Reno, visit the National Automobile Museum, where you can see Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado and Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L6.4 proudly on display. You can also indulge in water sports at the Lake Tahoe, the country’s second deepest lake. For the younger ones, take them to the Animal Ark, where visitors of all ages can learn about the native ecology and how the rescue animals at the Animal Ark are taken care of.
Go beyond Sacramento
There you have it, a comprehensive list of our favorite top trips from Sacramento, California! What gets these destinations a thumbs-up in our books is the accessibility from Sacramento and the difference in experiences that we can get. We reckon that you can find a day trip that suits your every requirement from this list.
Frequently asked questions about day trips from Sacramento, California
1. What are the best day trip destinations near Sacramento for wine lovers?
Whether you’re a newbie or an expert in the world of wine, you must head over to these destinations for flavorful amounts of wine varieties: i) Calistoga, ii) Napa, iii) Carmel-By-The-Sea, and iv) Sausalito.
2. Which locations near Sacramento are ideal for a fun day out with the family?
If you’re looking to have a fun-filled holiday with the entire family, you can never go wrong with these locations around the charming city of Sacramento: i) Lake Tahoe, ii) San Francisco, iii) Truckee, and iv) Carmel-By-The-Sea.
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