8 (Instagram-ic) things to love about Sacramento

8 (Instagram-ic) things to love about Sacramento

Sacramento is often dismissed as a cow town capital…because it is. The skyline rises out of flat farmland, recently converted to suburbia. It’s not nearly as sophisticated, or liberal, or fashionable as nearby neighbor San Francisco. There’s less traffic, less Botox, less sunshine than Los Angeles.

Every day is your chance to make this city a little better, Sacramento, California

But Sacramento has a certain charm to it, a humble but optimistic spirit. It’s more of a small town than a big city–everyone seems to know everyone, and it’s seemingly impossible to go anywhere without running into someone you know.  It has a far cheaper cost of living than the Bay Area or Southern California, there are lots of jobs in state and federal agencies and it’s within miles of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the country’s most important and productive agricultural areas.

I’ve been home for 10 weeks now, basking in the mild spring sunshine by my parents’ pool and catching up with friends (and on my writing) galore. I’ve been able to hit up all my old favorites and discover some new haunts in Sacramento, and every day, I love this city a little more. It rarely comes up as a “vacation destination” in California, but I think it’s one of the state’s most livable cities–and more and more, well worth a visit. Here’s why:

Yoga in the Park, McClatchy Park, Sacramento, California

Yoga in the Park: Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., a tree-lined park fills with bright-hued yoga mats and bright-eyed yogis. As part of the non-profit Yoga Across America, Yoga in the Park provides a free vinyasa flow class for all levels. There’s such a brilliant energy here: it’s a wonderfully reinvigorating start to the weekend (followed by a boozy brunch in Midtown, it’s the PERFECT start to the weekend).

People crawling out of a painting mural in downtown Sacramento, California

Street art: It’s nothing like the city-sanctioned graffiti alleys of Melbourne, but Sacramento does have a vibrant collection of murals. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved driving past the “people climbing out of the painting” mural on J Street. Most of the non-commissioned street art is ugly, gang-associated graffiti–but I do love the myriad murals sprinkled across the city.

Tree-lined N Street & Crocker Park in downtown Sacramento, California

Treehugger central: We proudly proclaim ourselves the “City of Trees,” and it’s rumored that we have more trees per capita than any city in the world other than Paris. Even if I can’t find any reliable sources to back up those claims, I don’t doubt our love of and commitment to tree-lined streets, tree-filled parks and trees in every front yard.  Pink blooms in the spring, bursting green in the summer, reds and oranges and yellows in the fall, eerily bare in the winter: trees ARE the landscape of Sacramento.

Chai latte at Old Soul coffee house and cafe in Oak Park, Sacramento, California

Coffeehouse culture: The latte quality doesn’t close to matching Melbourne, I’m sad to admit. But Sacramento has plenty of connected, communal, caffeine-filled spots to sip a drink, catch up with friends or get over a bad case of writers block. My personal favorite is Old Soul Co. in Oak Park (thank you, Natalie Daily!): I went to high school in Oak Park, and it’s a notoriously tough neighborhood–but I love the current rejuvenation effort, with awesome spaces like Old Soul.

Christine Amorose & Katelyn Downey at Paesanos Midtown, Sacramento, California

The people: Granted, I’m biased: Sacramento is home to my best friends, my family, plenty of high school and college acquaintances. But I’m constantly shocked by how friendly and helpful people are in the Sacramento area. It’s honestly a small town at heart, and that vibe shines through in plenty of situations, from how quickly you become a local in a favorite bar to how often you make best friends with a stranger in the line at the grocery store. As contradictory as it sounds, Nor Cal locals take pride in their lack of pretentiousness (and our obvious dominance over So Cal).

Railroad tracks in Old Sacramento, California

The history: Sacramento is the capital of California, mostly because it was one of the first major cities to emerge after the Gold Rush. There are plenty of places to learn more about Sacramento history (every child raised here will take a field trip to Sutter’s Fort), but one of my favorite places to wander is the delightfully touristy neighborhood of Old Sacramento. Cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, stores selling saltwater taffy and incense and photos taken in period dress: it’s a lovely step back to a simpler time.

Clouds above Laguna Creek in Elk Grove, suburb of Sacramento, California

The location: Whenever people ask me what I love most about Sacramento, it’s always how convenient it is: we’re two hours from San Francisco (the city), two hours from the beach, two hours from the snow, a two-hour flight from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland. We’ve got rivers, a lake, parks galore, plenty of flatland–plus urban living, suburban sprawl, shopping and restaurants. I live a five-minute walk from a creek and wildlife preserve teeming with ducks, rabbits, wildflowers: it’s a lovely juxtaposition of nature and the modern world.

Mocha chip and chocolate gelato at Devine Gelateria & Cafe in midtown Sacramento, California

Foodie finds: I’m consistently impressed by the restaurants in Sacramento: the classics never fail to deliver, and there always seems to be a hot new bar/restaurant/pub/cafe with a creative chef, awesome fit-out and emphasis on local ingredients/cultural fusion/comfort food. My absolute favorites: Lemon Grass is Thai-Vietnamese fusion with killer and authentic takes on street food. The Golden Bear for a super laid-back vibe with cold beer, incredible tacos and fun people, although I’ m usually the only girl there without a full sleeve tattoo (did I mention we also have more tattoo parlors per capita than any other city in California?). Mikuni for the best sushi special sauce in town, if not the world. Grange for classy drinks and local ingredients. Tuli Bistro for a year-round patio. Magpie Cafe for vegan chocolate mousse (and after-dinner libations at Shady Lady). Devine Gelateria for the best lunch special in Midtown, that (bonus!) includes gelato.

Have you visited Sacramento? Do you live here? If so, what’s your favorite thing about this city?

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  • For the majority of my life, I dismissed Sacramento as the cow-town capital of our lovely state. THEN, a couple of our friends moved there and, over the course of a few visits, I found Sacramento to be completely charming and full of (to me!) surprises. Fiiiine, I am totally won over.

  • You look gorgeous in that pic!!! I had no idea that you had been back in the States already for 10 weeks. Let me know if you end up passing through Charlotte. You’re welcome to stay at my house!

  • As a Cali native, no elementary school education was complete without at least ONE trip to Sac-town. (School house tour FOREVER!) I love the history of the place. And it always shocks me how close it is to San Francisco. Once you are out of town, it’s barely an other hour. Thanks for bringing attention to the real capital of California! (Even though I live here, it PAINS me when people think the state capital is LA. HELLA NO!)

  • ragamuffinpc

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I came across this by googling that sign on J. I love my city!!!!

  • Great post! I admit to be bias in favor of Sacramento. I was born, bred and raised here. I have been here most my life, other than a few years in Phoenix. If I move I will move to Mission District in San Francisco, but I stay in the heart of Downtown now by J Streets.

    What I love most about Sacramento is the many thousands of trees. Plus, Old Sac ~ I remember when it was Skid Row. So just a quickie to thank you for your post. Twitter @Humane_Being

  • camorose

    Yaaaay glad that other people feel the same way! I think Midtown is just adorable–I’m always seeing new restaurants to try and boutiques to check out.

  • camorose

    Just emailed you about this–and yes, 10 weeks has FLOWN by!

  • camorose

    Ha! Whenever people ask where I’m from and I say Sacramento, I give extra points to people who know it’s the capital! I love how close it is to SF–so much cheaper, but still easy to go to a Giants game or go out for a night in the city.

  • camorose

    Hooray! I saw that sign just a few days after coming home and it made me SO happy–I love the spirit of Sacramento!

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it! The tree-lined streets are definitely one of my favorite parts of Sacramento 🙂

  • Oooh, LOVE those photos. Had no idea it was the capital. Learn somethin’ new everyday. 

  • You forgot Crepeville for restaurants, but I love everything you said about Sacramento. I go to college in Arizona and I’m constantly trying to convince people how amazing Sacramento is. I live in Folsom but I love Sacramento and just walking along looking at all the trees, stopping in little vintage stores, and picking up something delicious to eat. You nailed Sacramento! 

  • LostInCheeseland

    Never been to Sacremento but I love the idea for this post! You definitely sell it!

  • I’ve never really thought of visiting Sacramento before, but this post definitely makes me want to go. There are so many places in North America I haven’t explored yet!

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE Lemon Grass! My parents are moving to Auburn this summer, I’m hoping to get to Sacramento at some point!! I love the restaurant Centro as well, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants!

  • Sarah

    I’ve lived here all my life and I could see myself here for the rest of it (with lots of travel, of course).  I love the American River Parkway bike trails! I biked across the country last summer and it’s hard to find the equivelent anywhere else.  I also love the coffee shop culture – Tupelo is my favorite. And honestly, the weather is great! Doesn’t get too cold in the winter, and it doesn’t even rain for very long. It might get hot in the summer, but the summer nights are so lovely! Thanks for posting this!

  • camorose

    No worries, I don’t think I could tell you many (or any) Canadian capitals 🙂

  • camorose

    I haven’t been to Crepeville in ages, but have heard lots of good things about it! I live in Elk Grove, but love whiling away an afternoon in Midtown 🙂

  • camorose

    Thanks! There are plenty of little things to love, even if I can’t imagine living here full-time forever 🙂

  • camorose

    I wish that I lived closer to the American River Parkway! I’m in Elk Grove, so it’s a bit of a hike to get up there, but used to ride bikes there all the time as a kid–such a gorgeous space! And yes, I’m Sacramento born-and-raised so I can do hot, dry summers and chilly winters without a problems–it’s humidity that kills me!

  • Shelley

    I LOVE this, Christine! Great article & shout out to our beloved hometown 🙂

  • Ann_yasin

    haha I love the less-Botox thing 🙂

  • camorose

    I can’t resist a dig at So Cal 🙂

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  • Erin

    My boyfriend put that sign up about 3 years ago now! It’s been amazing to see what an iconic piece of street art it has become.

  • camorose

    So cool! Love how small of a community Sacramento can be 🙂

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