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When you think about traveling to California, you might think San Francisco, Sonoma, LA and San Diego. Sacramento, on the other hand, will probably only come up if you’re taking a capitals quiz. Things have changed a lot, though, in recent years, as the Golden State’s capital city has developed a thriving farm-to-fork food scene, some fresh cultural attractions and even a few unforgettable bars (one with real live mermaids!). Read on to see why now is the time to give Sacramento a chance.

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Central Farmers Market | Flickr CC: Robert Couse-Baker Central Farmers Market | Flickr CC: Robert Couse-Baker

Get fresh at the Central Farmers Market

While Central Farmers Market has been feeding locals for decades , its influence on Sacramento dining has definitely skyrocketed as of late. As the largest California Certified Farmers Market in the state, it’s the place to snap up some of the best fruits and veggies anywhere, plus spot top chefs from near and far.

Indulge in Farm-to-Fork dining

About five years ago, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the city’s first homegrown and African-American mayor, declared Sacramento the nation’s “Farm-to-Fork Capital.” Seems a fair assessment considering most of the food in in town comes from within 25 miles of the city. Much of the rest comes from within 150 miles. That said, expect to find fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable and artisanal food at every turn. Among the many standouts are Federalist Public House & Beer Garden, Hock Farm, Grange Restaurant & Bar and Ella’s.

Sample away at the Farm-to-Fork Festival

Get a true taste of the city at Sacramento’s annual Farm-to-Fork Festival. More than 80 vendors of local food, wine and beer gather on the city’s Capitol Mall in September while exhibits from farms, live music, cooking shows, butchering competitions and other activities round out the offerings. The event is free and attracts more than 50,000 people annually.

Low Brau | Photo courtesy of @rnjewels Low Brau | Photo courtesy of @rnjewels

Stay cool in the Midtown neighborhood

On weekends, the place to be is Midtown, where you’ll find a hip set hanging out at restaurants, coffee shops, bars and indie shops. There’s a smaller farmers’ market here on Saturdays, too, plus the popular patio at Low Brau, the locally-made art at Kennedy Gallery, and your very own artistry at the Painted Cork, where you can create a masterpiece over a bottle of wine or beer.

Crocker Art Museum Crocker Art Museum | Flickr CC: Nathan Hughes Hamilton

Explore the museums

While the Sacramento History Museum, California State Railroad Museum and California Automobile Museum are all worth checking out, art enthusiasts will appreciate the collection at the Crocker Art Museum. The impressive array of work here includes Californian and American, European, Asian, African and Oceanic art, as well as international ceramics and 1,500 master drawings.

Dive Bar | Photo courtesy of @divebarsacramento Dive Bar | Photo courtesy of @divebarsacramento

Imbibe in the nightlife

Did you think Sacramento was a sleepy little town? Maybe at some point it was but now there’s plenty keep you out, including the fascinating Dive Bar. Head here to marvel at the huge aquarium above the bar, and catch a glimpse of the mermaids swimming in it! Rumor has it they never show before midnight, so arrive late.

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Catch a major concert or game

Locals are especially pumped, though, about the new Golden 1 Center, the state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex, that is a big piece of downtown’s revitalization. Superstar artist Jeff Koons recently unveiled his towering sculpture at the entrance of the Center, which is the new home of hoopsters the Sacramento Kings. Word is that the arena is the most technically advanced and sustainable in the country. With a farm-to-fork menu, the fans will have some of the best stadium eats anywhere. Executive Chef Michael Tuohy plans to take arena food to a new level.

Old Sacramento | Flickr CC: Jack Snell Old Sacramento | Flickr CC: Jack Snell

Revisit California history

Make your way to Old Sacramento, where you can visit several museums such as Wells Fargo, and the automobile and railroad museums mentioned above. The Old Sacramento Underground Tour departs from this area, as well, and offers a peak into the past when the streets were raised in the 1860s and 1870s to protect the city from flooding. The area is also home to boutiques, art, antique shops, carriage rides, Hornblower cruises, train rides, and plenty of restaurants and bars.

Photo courtesy of the Citizen Hotel

Stay in style

There’s no shortage of great places to stay in Sacramento. Opt for a bed and breakfast, or go for a big hotel such as the Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront Promenade, Hyatt Regency and Four Points by Sheraton, plus the historic Citizen Hotel. Once you’re rested up, head out and knock off a few more of those incredible restaurants off your list! And then, repeat.

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Tagged: California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, Events, Family, Festivals, Types of Travel

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