Planning your time in Sacramento and Gold Country depends very much on your interests. The capital of California, Sacramento is a cosmopolitan city with a friendly vibe, a newly energized entertainment scene, and a firm grip on its historical legacy. From there you can venture into the Gold Country, gorgeous 130-mile-long belt of award-winning wineries and rugged outdoor scenery deep in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The fun continues in the Gold Country, a gorgeous 130-mile-long belt of award-winning wineries and rugged outdoor scenery deep in the Sierra Nevada foothills.Sacramento the city grew along the Sacramento and American Rivers during the Gold Rush era. It provided a vital transit link between the mining country and the port of San Francisco. Today Sacramento has become one of the most diverse cities in the country, known for its multicultural population, politics, outdoor recreation, and a thriving foodie movement sprouting amidst a new generation of gourmet restaurants and the region’s 8,000 acres of boutique farms. It’s no wonder that Sacramento is the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America.

Sacramento skyline at sunset.

Sunset at Sacramento’s Cathedral Square. Photo © Jeff Turner/CC-BY.

In the city’s historical Midtown, Downtown, and East Sacramento neighborhoods, an urban renaissance has remade this storied city into a vibrant, multicultural metropolis with cutting-edge art museums and packed bistros. More than ever, Sacramento is a place of brilliant contrasts, a town always caught in the crucible of compelling styles and personalities. On any day, you might see politicians in tailored suits pedaling their beach cruisers alongside shaggy-haired hipsters in pegged jeans. Where else could flamboyant movie stars like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger begin a second life as governors of the country’s most populous state?

The fun continues in the Gold Country. After prospectors first discovered precious metal here in 1848, California was forever changed by the Gold Rush and the pioneers who poured into the new state searching for riches. These days, modern-day Gold Country prospectors search for antiques, explore caves, find hole-in-the-wall eateries, try river rafting, and discover luxurious inns in renovated farmhouses. From the foothills to Sacramento’s farmland, this diverse region of California has something for every traveler.

Sacramento and Gold Country. Photo © Christopher Arns.

Knights Ferry covered bridge over the Stanislaus River in California’s Gold Country. Photo © Christopher Arns.

Planning Your Time

Sacramento makes a nice day trip or weekend getaway from the Bay Area, or a fun one- to two-day start to a longer Gold Country and Sierra adventure. Winters are mild here, but summers get blisteringly hot.

The Gold Country is physically too large to experience in one day, or even in a weekend. Highway 49 runs more than 100 miles through the rugged Sierra foothills, and it’s impossible to resist side trips to smaller towns and specific caverns, mines, and museums along the way. If you’ve got one day, pick a specific Gold Country town as your destination, and one or two of the major parks and attractions nearby. In a weekend, you can get an overview of either the northern or southern Gold Country, driving from town to town and making short stops along the way. Visiting season in Gold Country runs from late spring to late fall, when the weather is best. Winter brings snow to many of the Sierra foothill towns, which draws skiers and other winter-sports enthusiasts.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Sacramento and Gold County

Sacramento and Gold County

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.