frugal guide to sacramento
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A FRUGAL GUIDE TO SACRAMENTO, CA – GUEST POST

frugal guide to Sacramento

This week’s Travel Tuesday is brought to you from Hannah of Hannah on Horizon! On her site you can find lifestyle, travel, and clean beauty content. I’ve been following Hannah on social media for some time now and love her travel posts, and was delighted when she agreed to write a post for this series!


When you think of California, you are probably imagining the European charm of San Francisco to LA’s glitzy vibe. 

You probably don’t have Sacramento on your radar, but you should.

California’s capital is often overlooked by the coastal towns and the larger, glamorous cities. In fact, Sacramento is known more for being in close proximity to the more well-known California vacation spots such as SF, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and even Napa. 

In the past Sacramento almost never got recognition for its own city, but slowly it’s starting to change. Living in this area for almost 20 years, I have seen our humble little city grow into a haven for foodies, artists, families, and those who love the outdoors. Best of all? There are so many fun things you can do for free or on a budget. Sacramento’s cost of living has always been lower than other California cities, but unfortunately, it has been slowly increasing from the Bay Area transplants who can no longer afford to live in SF and the surrounding cities. However, your dollar will still stretch much further here.

Below is a list of ways to enjoy what Sacramento has to offer without blowing your budget:

1. WANDER AROUND OLD SACRAMENTO

What was once a district full of small businesses during the Gold Rush era is now Sacramento’s biggest tourist attraction overlooking the river and Tower Bridge. Walking around Old Sacramento takes you back to the 19th century with its western saloon buildings and cobblestone streets, both of which tourists and locals enjoy. There are so many gift shops, restaurants, bars, and walkable areas where you can sit back and people watch. One of my favorite things to do is to go to Candy Heaven and sample all of the different flavors of saltwater taffy.

CANDY HEAVEN

LAFFY TAFFY AT CANDY HEAVEN

It’s fun to window shop too even if you don’t end up buying anything. I highly suggest stopping by Evangeline’s to check some quirky novelty gifts. They also have a costume mansion adjacent to their gift shop where you can scope out all of the different types of costumes (though I will warn you, it is very pricey). The costume mansion is an experience because it is 2 floors of different themed costumes.

EVANGELINE’S – THE GIFT SHOP AT FLOOR LEVEL

THE COSTUME MANSION AT EVANGELINE’S

2. FREE MUSEUM DAY

Photo credit: Visit Sacramento

This day occurs in the first week of February where you have a chance to visit any (or all) of the museums for free. There are also participating eateries that offer discounts during Free Museum Day. Even though it is now October and the event has expired, you can still check out the list of museums that participated this year (ahh..the pre-pandemic days). I honestly don’t know if Free Museum Day will occur in 2021, but it’s something I want to put in your radar if you are on a budget! I highly suggest picking one or two museums and arriving early, because it can get really crowded.

3. CATCH SOME RAYS AT FOLSOM LAKE

Summer is now coming to an end, but in case you do end up visiting Sacramento in your lifetime, I would highly recommend swinging by Folsom Lake on a hot day. As much as I would love to hop on a plane to Hawaii and swim in one of their many oceans, I cannot and the beaches in San Francisco or Lake Tahoe can get really cold. Folsom Lake gives you a chance to cool down and refresh, because it can get blazing hot in Sacramento during the summer. Bring a beach towel, a cooler, and some gear because you’re going to want to hang out for hours! There are other water activities you can do such as paddleboarding and jet skiing. My husband and I went to the main beach which is by Granite Bay. It is $12 to enter, and there are picnic tables along the way to the beach. Have fun soaking up the sun and waves!

4. HIKE, BIKE, OR BOAT ALONG AMERICAN RIVER

American River is a 30-mile-long river streaming from the Sierra Nevada to its confluence with Sacramento River in the Sacramento Valley. American River is divided into three forks: North, Middle, and South. Depending on where you are, you can go rafting, paddleboarding, or fishing. If water activities aren’t your thing, there are plenty of scenic trails where you can run, hike, bike, or even go horseback riding! I highly recommend hiking along the Foresthill Bridge, where the North fork of the American River. It is a pretty steep hike, but it’s gradual and you can take some breaks along the way. But once you reach the peak, you have an epic view of the Lake Clementine dam. 

FORESTHILL BRIDGE

LAKE CLEMENTINE DAM

For a more leisurely stroll, I suggest going to the South Fork through the Fair Oaks bridge. After you cross the bridge, you can hike as long as you want by the river. I went last year with my husband, Cecilio, his sister and her boyfriend along with our dogs. We just decided to have the pups play in the water since it was too hot for all of us to go further.

THE SOUTH FORK OF THE AMERICAN RIVER

FAIR OAKS BRIDGE JUST ABOVE AMERICAN RIVER

BONUS

Because of COVID-19, so many classic Sacramento events had to be canceled. This includes the following:

CONCERTS IN THE PARK

Every Friday during the summer, local and national bands play in Cesar Chavez Park, at the heart of Downtown. Concerts in the Park (CIPSAC) attracts over 6,000 fans yearly and has been a Sacramento tradition for the past 26 years. Although it was canceled this year, you can click here to listen to a #CIPSAC playlist.

SECOND SATURDAY

All year round, art galleries open up every Second Saturday of the month in Midtown and Downtown to host an open house and showcase their exhibits. But that’s not it: there’s also live music, food trucks, local vendors, and nightlife. Second Saturday highlights Sacramento’s creative scene along with its vibrant, entertaining side. You can take a look at some of the past exhibits here.

RUN TO FEED THE HUNGRY

Run to Feed the Hungry is the ultimate Thanksgiving Sacramento tradition. One of the largest Thanksgiving races in the US, it attracts around 30,000 participants. The start line starts in Sacramento State University, leading you through the Fab 40’s, an affluent neighborhood in East Sac, with red and gold leaves. But because of COVID-19, the run has gone completely virtual, and you can register here from anywhere in the world. All proceeds go to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

RUN TO FEED THE HUNGRY 2018

Sacramento truly is California’s hidden treasure. You would be missing out on many enriching activities by overlooking the Capital of our state. Whether you want a historical tour, a thriving art scene, nightlife, or the majestic outdoors, Sacramento has it all. Especially on a modest budget.

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1 Comment

  1. Ana

    Fun post! Sacramento has so much to do and it’s enjoyable on a low budget. Love the beautiful photos. Thank you for the frugal guide.

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