The capital city of California boasts perennially warm weather and a scenic position along the Sacramento and American Rivers. Besides famous attractions such as Old Town Sacramento and the Crocker Art Museum, the city is home to plentiful lesser-known wonders. Situated in proximity to most Sacramento vacation rentals are fascinating museums, fun family-friendly activities, and lovely parks. Check out the most noteworthy hidden gems in the city of Sacramento.

1. Discovery Park

view of the city across the river
Source: Flickr/Don Barrett

Beautiful Discovery Park lies at the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River on the west side of Sacramento. Among its amenities are walking and cycling trails, picnic areas, barbecue grills, and a softball field. Test your skill with a bow and arrow at the archery range. A boat launch gives you access to both rivers, and fishing for bass, sturgeon, and other species is excellent. A special sandy spot along the river is set aside for swimming.

2. California Automobile Museum

old fashioned automobile
Source: Flickr/Jack Snell

Located south of Old Town on the east bank of the Sacramento River, the California Automobile Museum offers a look at over 150 classic cars, race cars, and celebrity-owned vehicles. For instance, on display are A.J. Foyt’s 1932 Ford hardtop, Linda Ronstadt’s 1982 Porsche, and Ricky Nelson’s 1984 Ford Mustang convertible. The oldest vehicles include a 1900 locomotive steam car and a 1904 Ford Model C Runabout. A special exhibit features cars run with alternative propulsion techniques such as steam, fuel cells, and electricity. Sparkplug Square is an area where children design roadways and play with toy cars. The Car Club Cavalcade is a constantly rotating display of vehicles from regional car clubs.

3. Effie Yeaw Nature Center

winding gravel trail
Source: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

The amazing Effie Yeaw Nature Center is on a bend in the American River near vacation rentals at the northeastern edge of Sacramento. The Visitor Center has an Exhibit Hall with interactive displays on the flora and fauna of the American River area. Additionally, live rescued animals for viewing include hawks, owls, snakes, lizards, and turtles. Several nature trails take you out into the woodlands, meadows, and marshlands of the preserve to observe deer, rabbits, coyotes, many species of birds, and other wildlife in their natural habitats. Explore the preserve on your own on a self-guided tour, or join a group hike with an expert naturalist.

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4. California State Railroad Museum

Locomotives in railroad museum
Source: Flickr/Selbe Lynn

The California State Railroad Museum lies on the north side of Old Sacramento on the east side of the Sacramento River. The museum features numerous historic steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, and other railway cars. Exhibits focus on the history of American railroads, railway labor disputes, and communication equipment used by railroad personnel. An interactive simulator allows you to undergo the experience of high-speed rail travel. A STEM learning center has videos, flipbooks, memorabilia, and a continually-evolving toy train layout. The museum also offers train ride excursions along the bank of the Sacramento River on the Sacramento Southern Railroad line.

5. Nimbus Fish Hatchery

salmon at fish hatchery
Source: Flickr/Bureau of Reclamation

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is just a few minutes northeast of Sacramento on the American River. The hatchery raises steelhead and Chinook salmon for release back into the local river systems. The Visitor Center at the hatchery has displays on the process of hatchery operations, the biology of salmon, and river conservation. Walk the River Discovery Trail to watch steelhead and salmon spawn and observe local wildlife such as river otters, deer, coyotes, and birds. The Super Salmon Playscape is a special play area for children with benches and shade.

6. Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Central Building at Sutter's Fort
Source: Flickr/Ray Bouknight

Located in the Midtown neighborhood of Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is a living history museum commemorating the first pioneer community in California’s Central Valley. Among the numerous areas to explore at the park are the carpenter shop, gunsmith, blacksmith, trade store, and bakery. Docent actors dress up in period costumes to help maintain the illusion of stepping back in history, and an audio narrative provides fascinating historical facts. Displays include personal effects of builder John Sutter as well as artifacts and memorabilia from the California gold rush, the overland trail pioneers, the ill-fated Donner Party who perished in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Wells Fargo stagecoach journeys. Exhibits also trace California’s path to statehood and the impact of the Civil War.

7. Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Cattle egret in the tall grass
Source: Flickr/Becky Matsubara

The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area lies on the western edge of Sacramento in the Yolo Basin, which comprises a section of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. These vast wetlands are home to numerous species of birds, including peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, white-faced ibises, and black-crowned night herons. Every summer evening, more than 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats erupt from the Yolo Causeway. Activities in the area include hiking, cycling, bird watching, and wildlife observation. Fishing is excellent for largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie.

8. California State Indian Museum

State Indian Museum welcome sign
Source: Flickr/Marilyn M

The California State Indian Museum, located in downtown Sacramento on K Street, highlights the cultures and histories of the Native American indigenous peoples of California. Displays include a redwood dugout canoe, basketwork, beadwork, ceremonial regalia, and fishing and hunting tools. A wall of photographs commemorates Native American elders. An interactive area allows visitors to try using Native American implements such as mortar and pestles, and pump drills, which are used for making holes for shell beads. Guided tours are available, and the state park surrounding the museum has hiking and cycling trails.

9. Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

trail bridge spanning the river
Source: Flickr/Ray Bouknight

The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, also known as the American River Bike Trail, is a paved cycling path that runs from the confluence of the American River and Sacramento River near downtown Sacramento to Folsom Lake 32 miles to the northeast. Painted markers show you every half mile of progress, and periodic maps allow you to check your position. The trail has numerous shady spots and passes through several parks and recreational areas on its way to the lake.

 
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