Carved in white stone, a male and female figure are seated opposite a bird with its wings upraised.

Statuary on the Sacramento Capitol building. Photo © iofoto/123rf.

Sacramento is an easy destination to visit in a long weekend. Most of the must-see attractions are close together, so it doesn’t take much effort to immerse yourself in the capital’s potent brew of history and political theater.

Day 1

Base yourself in Old Sacramento. In the morning, rise early and grab breakfast at Fox and Goose Pub and Restaurant. This British-style pub grills the best omelette in town, with freshly baked muffins on the side. After breakfast, everything begins and ends with the State Capitol. First, arrive early to catch the California Legislature in session, then take a tour of the State Capitol Museum to see the re-created offices of past statesmen. Head out through the sprawling emerald grounds of Capitol Park and pay your respects at the somber Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lawmakers love to shout and grumble at the Capitol, but sometimes real policy gets made on the white paper napkins at Frank Fat’s Chinese restaurant. Stop here for lunch, then walk across the Capitol Mall to K Street; make sure to pass the powder-gray spires of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. In the stately Elks Tower, ride the elevator to the 14th floor for wine-tasting at Rail Bridge Cellars Penthouse Lounge with a stunning bird’s-eye view of downtown.

After sampling the wine and crow’s nest panorama, head to Ella Dining Room and Bar to splurge on dinner, or chow down on grass-fed beef patties at Burgers and Brew in the Historic R Street District. Catch an indie flick or live performance at the majestic Crest Theatre downtown. Afterward, cross the street to finish the evening with drinks and cool beats at ultra-swanky District 30 or hip KBAR.

Day 2

Spend the morning exploring Old Sacramento. Spend at least an hour wandering through the California State Railroad Museum, then board an actual steam train for a jaunt along the Sacramento River. After riding the rails, return to Old Sac for a juicy burger and fries at the iconic Fanny Ann’s Saloon.

Walk off that meaty burger with a stroll down Front and Second Streets. Pop into Evangeline’s for some fun shopping or load up on homemade fudge at The Sacramento Sweets Co. Take a break from the packed cobblestoned streets and spend the afternoon at the Crocker Art Museum; one of the Golden State’s largest collections of California artwork hangs here.

As the museum curators get ready to go home, head back over to Old Sacramento as the day’s last light shines on the Delta King steamboat. Grab dinner at the Rio City Cafe on the riverfront and watch lights from the Tower Bridge twinkle in the water.

Day 3

Don’t let a weekend go by without cruising through Sacramento on two wheels. Rent a bicycle for the day at City Bicycle Works in Midtown and pedal over to East Sacramento for a healthy breakfast of whole grain pancakes or soy chorizo at Orphan. After licking your plate clean, order a cup of Naked Coffee and go for a light stroll in McKinley Park.

Now that the caffeine is pumping through your veins, hop on your bike and pedal through bucolic East Sacramento toward the American River Parkway. Ride a few miles up- or downriver before heading back to East Sacramento. Make sure to pass through Ronald Reagan’s old neighborhood in the Fabulous Forties. After that bike ride, pop into Juno’s for a sandwich or gobble down a plate of fish-and-chips at Bonn Lair. After lunch, head over to Midtown and visit one of Sacramento’s original buildings at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. Docents dressed as blacksmiths and mountain men re-create life inside John Sutter’s imposing adobe 1840s rancho. Hang a left outside the gate and find out more about the Golden State’s native people at the California State Indian Museum.

Pedal back into Midtown for great Italian food at Paesano’s or go a little fancier at Mulvaney’s B&L. The night is still young, so get tickets for a Broadway-style show at the Wells Fargo Pavilion or catch a play at Capital Stage or B Street Theatre. Celebrate the end of a long day with cocktails at Kasbah Lounge.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sacramento & the Gold Country.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Downtown Sacramento

Downtown Sacramento