It hasn't been on the top of my trip list to be quite honest but when the opportunity came around to celebrate my family in Sacramento, I HAD to be there. Then excitement set in, not only for the upcoming wedding but to experience what another city had to offer. Considering I don't know much about Cali, I just went with the mantra of that summer/sunny, green leaves type of feel and wouldn't even consider the thought that they experience fall. Yea....I was completely wrong. Fall in Northern California was absolutely beautiful! From the colorful leaves to the mild days, it was practically perfect.
Granted I wasn't able to cover every last detail of this slower paced city (I say that in comparison to it's neighbor San Fran) I have put together a guide to help you when planning a Fall/Winter vacay to the area (and a little beyond).
PLACES TO STAY
I decided to go a bit earlier than the rest of my family to scout out the city. I arrived with NO hotel booked and if you know me, that is NOTHING like me. I even attempted on numerous occasions to see pricing through the "Hotel Tonight" app, but it kept glitching so it must have been God telling me to wait. I'm glad I did! I decided to hop on Hotwire.com and try out their Hot Rate tab. I am quite skeptical (and controlling) when it comes to accommodations. After cross checking between the site and trip advisor to see which 4star hotels were available, I bit the bullet. I was able to book two of my hotel nights through the site and was extremely happy with how it worked out...especially the price.
First stay was the Hyatt Regency Sacramento. I was pleasantly surprised at the inclusiveness of the hotel, from the bar area (open until midnight) to the full service restaurant and in room dining. I didn't partake of any of the hotel amenities outside of their gym (which is located off site but in walking distance) but I thoroughly enjoyed by Capitol building view and morning stroll across the street through the park. If possible, upgrade to a king corner suite to get the best view of the capitol and pool. Would recommend staying in this hotel if you are looking for a central location that has easy walkability to the main pedestrian/rail car street (J street) and midtown. Parking - they have a self parking garage with in/out privileges for $20/day. Happened to be the cheapest from my extended stay in Sacramento and one of the easier days of getting to and from my vehicle.
Second part of the trip, I stayed at The Citizen Hotel. This was pure boutique with it's historic exterior and lobby entrance. It definitely welcomed you with a prohibition-esque vibe with the decor and sophisticated color palette. The hotel included a lot of political/satirical art throughout and quotes from politicians...not necessarily a great elevator conversation starter but if you are daring, why not?
I personally was surprised at how small the lobby/social areas were considering this was a high traffic area. The elevators, restaurant, ballroom entrance were all in close proximity but to have a large crowd in the lobby area would include a task of weaving through to get to your destination. This hotel is valet only ($32/night) and like most, I suggest you call before you come down to wait on your vehicle.
The event space in this hotel is on the 7th floor and you will hear the party. Conversation, music and noise travel effortlessly though the halls and will keep you alerted until 11pm before quiet hours are enstated. The king size room I had was spacious but more could be said about the bathroom. I was hoping for a little more counter space but the gorgeous floor tile was able to be highlighted due to the smaller sink, haha! My window had a picturesque view of the capitol dome and was a sight to see closer to sunset. I didn't get a chance to indulge in the hotel restaurant next door "Grange" but from the looks and vibe, it seems like a lovely place to enjoy an evening dinner & drinks.
Third stay in Sacramento was my second score with Hotwire. This was quite possibly my favorite hotel to stay at, the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. Easily accessible and right in the mix of everything. Walking in, the lobby made a statement and they had wine hour currently happening when I checked in...WINNING. It was spacious and seemed like the perfect stop for business and leisure travelers from all over. From the Golden 1 Center view from my window to the second floor easy access to PunchBowl Social, all you needed was so convenient and centrally located with this hotel. The room was clean, spacious and modern - seemed like the perfect setting for a spy or James Bond film. Think backlit mirrors and sliding closet doors that looked like artwork. I didn't get a chance to indulge in their sexy rooftop bar and lounge, Revival but that is clearly the place to be for a cocktail and apps. Parking was quite steep being at $35/night so prepare for that.
At least you are winning when it comes to booking a reasonable HotRate deal.
WHERE TO EAT - SACRAMENTO
Coming from Houston, you know food is a our love language. Now since Sacramento recently changed their city from "City of Trees" to "Farm to Fork" capital, I had to indulge in some noteworthy restaurants.
If you are looking for somewhere to start your night, Fizz, a champagne & bubbles bar is a VERY cute stop to grab some bubbly while the evening gets started. It's a small place located in DOCO but very IG worthy. Think pampas grass hanging chandeliers - gorge!
Another place to try that is within walking distance and local is Polanco Cantina a Mexican bar & eatery. This place was colorful so you know I loved it, from the mural to the faux taco truck outside the entrance. Most of the place was picture worthy and the plates were a feast for the eyes also. Don't forget to indulge in their craft cocktails and margaritas on their gorgeous and colorful patio overlooking the Golden 1 Center space below.
Coming from the south, I always enjoy down home cooking and a restaurant by the name of Fixins - Soul Kitchen was the spot to get your southern fix. From fried/smothered chicken to catfish and a plethora of sides, you will leave stuffed and happy. I personally enjoyed their catfish and I heard the okra was perfect.
Let's get into breakfast, I heard about the hype for Bacon and Butter and had to indulge. My first visit I ordered a mimosa and the chicken and waffles with pomegranate & persimmon syrup. The portion was a good size and the waffle was golden and soft. Personally, the chicken strips that topped it left more to want when it came to flavor, but the syrup did help take things up a notch. I enjoyed the mix of pomegranate and persimmon flavor combo. Second trip, I took a tip from my surroundings and ordered multiple a la carte items - toast, bacon platter, country potatoes, and the special flapjack. I enjoyed this brunch outing much better. The toast was literally a loaf (the jam was absolutely delish), the bacon was fried crispy (just how I love it) and the potatoes were the perfect mix of salty, savory and a crispy shell. The flapjack special had bacon cooked inside the batter with an egg on top. Yum! I highly suggest swinging by but be prepared to wait - the location is small and you are on their wait time. There are bar tops and community tables available that seem to be quicker should you not mind the traditional route.
Earlier I mentioned Punchbowl Social which happens to be entertainment, sports bar and food all in one spot. This was a multilevel establishment that catered to the sports fan and the person who is looking for something to do. From board game tables to bowling and darts there was plenty to in this space. Indulged in a A La Bama Chicken sandwich with what they called white bbq sauce. To me it tasted like some type of remoulade...yummy to say the least.
Last mention of food happens to be a place that seems to be popular throughout the US. Customizable fast food pizza chains. The location I went to was called Pizza Press and I got the concept really quick. What I didn't expect was for the cheese and ingredients to taste so good - you could tell the level of freshness was there. I was raving about their bell and banana peppers because it was so yummy. My favorite part of this place was their chocolate chip cookies. I AM OBSESSED WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. I went back twice to get the two cookie deal and I'm not ashamed. They even ran it through the warmer for me to melt the chocolate pieces. I don't know what their secret was but you HAVE to go to just get the cookie at least. You are very welcome in advance.
THINGS TO DO
After exploring downtown and enjoying the Downtown Ice Skating Rink - I happened to come on Drag Queen Night they have a variety of activities planned throughout the month. You will need to stay up to date with their calendar or at least their social media to be in the know. This helped me select some of my recs for the trip.
I was in walkable distance to DOCO or the Downtown Commons where they encourage outdoor play with lawn games, a full service (outdoor bar) and restaurants lining the Golden 1 Center.
Mural hopping is another thing to do that will keep you busy. I was unable to keep up with all the beautiful murals but if you are up to the challenge visit https://www.wideopenwalls.com I was able to catch a few murals but not nearly as many as I saw.
Sacramento has some wonderful day trip areas that are in close proximity. We took a day and travelled to the the San Francisco bridge and took some photos along with Alcatraz Island in the background.
From there we drove a few miles to the cutest quaint town called Sausalito. It reminded me of Greece...at least the photos of Greece because I have never been. From the homes off the mountainside looking out into the bay filled with boats, it was the most beautiful sight.
We enjoyed lunch at Napa Valley Burger Company - known for their ....burgers. They had their fare range of burger types but I opted for their Crispy Chicken Sandwich that was HUGE and pretty yummy. Paired with some truffle fries and aioli I was set. Other burgers included their Baja Burger and Classic.
I absolutely would love to come back and stay in Sausalito for a few days to enjoy this slice of paradise right outside the hustle and bustle of the city.
So many cute and quaint local shops...I couldn't help but stop in.
Another stop was Napa. You couldn't visit northern California and not take a trip to Napa...I was so happy to be able to stop by a few wineries and really indulge in the sips this region is known for. I must say, I was thoroughly convinced and impressed by the selection and absolute euphoric taste of the wine. We enjoyed a full tasting at Mumm Napa overlooking the vineyard and that will be an experience I won't forget. Now this was fall so the grapes were not on the vine but the warm, rich tones of fall were covering the trees and vines that made it all so picturesque.
We ate brunch at the delicious Kitchen Door Napa. A bit apprehensive with the name of the dish I ordered but an empty plate was the result. Get the One Eyed Pig which is a pancake stuffed with ham and swiss cheese topped with bacon and egg. I opted for additional bacon and no egg. The pancake sits on a bed of hot syrup and topped with finishing salt which was such an amazing flavor contrast of salty and sweet. Would absolutely go back and indulge in that again.
Crossing over from mainstream Napa, we took a tour of St. Jorge Winery (I think I found some of my favorite wine from here) in Lodi, California. If Lodi was a person, it seems to be the younger, hip, millennial sibling compared to Napa, the refined, sophisticated, classical sibling. Each equally amazing but in their own ways.
Now you are probably wondering how I was able to get around and do ALL of this without racking up a significant Uber bill. I partnered with Mazda to take me to all of these colorful places and to be honest, I felt like a complete show-stopper (cue Danity Kane showstopper song).
If you have kept up with me on my stories, you know I am in the market to look for a new vehicle since my "egg" has been with me for some time. Plus I was looking for something not only professional but I am able to add a lil Toast from the Host color and sass to it. If I'm being honest, I feel so old school, I don't even know what all the bells and whistles are in cars nowadays. After taking the 2019 Mazda3 Sedan (Premium package) for a spin, I have been missing out.
Let's talk about the color - you will be noticed in the Soul Red Crystal Metallic. It seemed to fit right in with the colorful countryside outside of Sacramento. The navigation helped guide me all the way from in town to out in the valley. I felt like a complete superstar with the sunroof open, windows down and music playing along to my life soundtrack. You ever have moments where you're like this would be a perfect commercial, I definitely felt that way.
I will be honest and say I was a bit nervous coming from a vehicle that didn't have the Drive Assist or a rear facing camera, I wasn't sure what to be aware of first but the vehicle was aware for me. I was able to adjust the seat to my liking so I felt confident on the road. She...yes I have decided that she is a she, was smooth on the road and could handle the hills & valleys with ease. Normally, I have to white knuckle the steering wheel when passing (or being passed) by an 18 wheeler but I was completely comfortable cruising on by.
I kept talking about how this would be the perfect Christmas gift should anyone (ahem Mazda) would want to gift me considering this car seemed to fit me more than I realized. My friends call my current vehicle a clown car by how much stuff I pack into it when traveling to and from events or setting up for some, I can only imagine how much I would be able to tote and still have space leftover with this. I'm up for the "clown car" challenge!
To be quite honest, I didn't think my next vehicle would be another car/sedan but after driving her around for a few days, I'm convinced this is something I definitely need to look into.
Wrapping Up this travel guide I have created a graphic below as a quick view guide for the next time you are planning your trip. I can't wait to go back and visit more of the stops I was unable to get to like the Sacramento Zoo. Let me know where you decide to go on your next Sacramento trip - I'd love to know if any of my recs helped you - please let me know!