People new to, or visiting, Sacramento may enjoy these unique, off-the-beaten path places and things to see that might not be listed any other place. This list is by no means complete, so feel free to add to it.
American River Parkway
American River Parkway. A nice bike path runs from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake. It's about 30 miles (a great bike ride) but there are numerous parks along the way so you can drive to a park, park, then explore a segment of the river. My favorite parts: Guy West Bridge at Sac State (like a miniature Golden Gate Bridge), Lake Natoma, and the stretch between Cal Expo and Discovery Park (you are so close to a lot of traffic but still somewhat secluded). Very crowded on weekends during warm weather, so pay attention. A great place to see nature, naturally.
Pardee's Cameras is a family-owned camera store that is half store, half museum. A large selection of cameras and accessories. The employees know their stuff, too. Go in, look around, and buy something here so they stay in business. 3335 El Camino Ave; 916-483-3435 website
Tower Theatre/Cafe on Broadway is where the Tower Records chain began, in the back of Tower Drugs (where the Cafe is currently). Note the old neon sign above the cafe! The first "store" was located on Watt Ave. The 1940's era theatre is a fun place and the gardens outside the cafe are very nice, especially on a hot day with the sprinklers going. website
Old Sacramento is great fun for kids and families, with many shops set in historic buildings, with wooden plank sidewalks. Major tourist trap. Most of the shops are geared towards tourists (candy, old-time photos) but also some shops that locals enjoy, like an antique shop and some decent eateries. Parking can be tough on weekends, there are meters, lots, and the garage near the Tower Bridge. The most fun (and probably the most crowded) time to visit is in June during Gold Rush Days, when they recreate gunfights, mining camps, etc. See it once and you've seen it all. Getting less appealing with the addition of chains like Subways. But the costume shops are worth stopping by on Halloween. Also home to the Railroad Museum. website
A favorite stop in Old Sacramento is the candy shop near the Old School House. Why? Free samples but you have to eat them in the store. They have employees outside handing out coupons for "free samples" but (insider's tip here) you don't need the coupon.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Even if you're not a religious person, you'll likely find this chuch to be quite a visual treat, inside and out. Mass is presented daily in English, with masses said in Spanish at certain times. Located at 11th and K streets, adjacent to Cathedral Square, which is home to the Crest Theater.website
California State Fair
California State Fair Held at Cal Expo in late August and running for a few weeks, the California State Fair is a big a-fair! Yes, every county has their "county fair", but this is beyond compare. Nearly one million people attend the fair and it can be tough to see it all in one day! Fair events include the standard midway and commercial exhibits, but the 2006 fair included a rodeo, turkey racing, dog obstacle courses. A unique feature of Cal Expo is the monorail that glides above the grounds. The State Fair also offers some unique food, like deep fried Twinkies and a Krispy Kreme donut chicken sandwich. During the non-fair weeks, Cal Expo hosts horse racing, sportsman fesitvals, community events, and RV park and a waterslide amusement park. website
Folsom Prison has a great museum and gift shop, paying homage to the ancient institution. Interesting for the historian with a dark bent, there is a lot of information about Johnny Cash, cell-made weapons, and a "pretend" cell complete with a striped-suit-wearing dummy. From the museum one can also see the foreboding main gate. Look for the guard who stands outside the gate to hand the newly-released inmates a new suit and a $20 bill. website
Old Folsom Powerhouse
Sacramento Bike Kitchen
The Delta Breeze
It is not a place. It is an event, a state of grace. It is salvation! Basically, it is what cool Sacramento off during the Summer. Without the wind kicking up the Sacramento River Delta into the Capitol City, you and I would be toast.
Speaking of the actual place, the Delta region contains some of the most scenic and interesting towns you'll find in the region, including Locke, considered to be America's last authentic rural Chinese town, and Iselton, the smallest incorporated city in Sacramento County, with a political landscape that makes a disproportionate number of appearances in the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento County Grand Jury report.
"The Most Dangerous Man in America"*
Lawyer and jurist Anthony Kennedy lived almost his entire life in his family's home in Sacramento before President Ronald Reagan asked him to move to the United States Supreme Court. *According to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who disliked Kennedy's support for abortion and gay rights.
Eats and Treats
Gold Cadillac at Poor Red's
Not exactly in Sacramento, but close by in El Dorado, is Poor Red's and its signature drink, the Gold Cadillac. The Sierra foothills bar is so famous for this cocktail that it is the leading purchaser in the world of Galliano, the liqueur used to make it.
Karen's Bakery website 705 Gold Lake Dr., Folsom; 916-985-2665. Lunches, coffee, and a lot of interesting specialty cakes. Karen's home-made Ho-Hos were awarded the best snack cake by the Sacramento News and Review. Very tasty!
Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop website Numerous locations throughout Sacramento. They do have quite a selection — all with slightly humorous names like The Little Pig and The Italian Stallion. They also have many varieties of french fries. The garlic fries are disappointing if you are used to the garlic fries sold at AT&T park during Giants games. On a hot day, try a Merlino's Freeze. They are like frozen Slurpees. They are so refreshing!
Fortune Cookie Factory
New World Company at 1713 10th St., near "Q". A very interesting place. No tours or inside photography. DARN! Just walk in and tell them what you want. A one-pound bag of cookies is $1.50, but you can get a one-pound bag of broken cookies for $1.00. I wonder how come they end up with so many broken cookies? Maybe just their bad luck. Hours are somewhat limited but if you are in the area, pay attention for the sweet smell of fresh-baked fortune cookies. The fortune cookie factory is located next to the Jue Lim Noodle Factory, where one can buy noodles. There is also a nice little tea shop Tea Cozy around the corner. Coincidence? Opinion: Eh not that unique. All Chinatowns have one. The one in Oakland is larger. But who doesn't love the smell of fortune cookies.
Pancake Circus resembles a cross between a truck stop and a restaurant in a casino. It's a noisy, crowded place where they try to get you in, get you stuffed, then get you out as quickly as possible. The food isn't the best, but this place is pretty unique. 21st and Broadway, down the street from the Tower Theater. A lot of people seem to nurse hangovers there on Sunday mornings. Maybe it's the clowns on the walls. Review on sacrag.com
Cafe au Creme
Cafe au Creme is a combo African-themed coffeehouse and Midwest BBQ joint. Most people probably don't go for just the coffee, though, as the ribs are what make this south of Broadway a Sacramento standout.