18 Things To Do in and Around Sacramento For Under $10 (and Free!)
Maybe you avoid exploring your city in depth for fear of spending too much money on various activities and events. And we don’t blame you! Staying active in the community can be an expensive pastime. However, this list will eliminate that excuse completely, as it suggests several free and inexpensive things to do in the Sacramento area.
The only thing better than experiencing Sacramento is having a full wallet while you’re doing so!
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
The Effie Yeaw Nature Center is an award-winning environmental and cultural education center nestled in the American River Parkway in Carmichael. Stop by for free in order to see the 100-acre nature preserve with interpretive trails winding along the American River with wildlife including deer, coyotes, migratory songbirds, raptors, wild turkeys and more. This is a great opportunity for children and adults alike to get immersed in nature and learn a lot in the meantime!
Explore Capitol Park
Capitol Park is a monumental park surrounding the Capitol Building, featuring 40 acres of beautiful nature, monuments and lots of green grass. Visit the memorials honoring several significant California events and individuals, including a Civil War Memorial Grove, a life-sized statue of Father Junípero Serra, the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the California Veterans Memorial (honoring veterans from a number of wars).
Tour the State Capitol Building
Speaking of the Capitol Building…
Whether you’ve been in Sacramento for a day or a year, it’s likely you haven’t yet stepped foot inside the California State Capitol building. But with free admission, you absolutely must add it to your budget-friendly to-do list. The building is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Explore McKinley Park
McKinley Park is a major activity hub in the city, featuring an arts center, a rose garden, a seasonal pool, a playground, trails, various sports facilities, and much more! Leave your wallet behind and stop by the Shepard Garden & Arts Center, take in the beauty of nature at the McKinley Rose Garden, and let the kids play around on the massive playground.
See Local Art at the 2nd Saturday Art Walk
On the second Saturday of every month, admire the works of local artists with 2nd Saturday Art Walk. Sacramento galleries in the downtown and midtown areas host an open house from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. or later. Mingle with local artists, enjoy their art exhibits, sample food and wine, hear live music, visit street fairs and enjoy special events!
Visit Old Sacramento State Historic Park
Take a trip back in time with a stroll through the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, featuring a cluster of noteworthy, early Gold Rush commercial structures dating back to the 1850s. The Old Sacramento area is certainly worth a visit, as it was named a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and features over 50 historic buildings. Notable buildings include the 1849 Eagle Theater, the 1853 B.F. Hastings Building, and the 1855 Big Four Building.
Get Some Coffee
Another easy and cost-effective way to be involved with small businesses (while staying properly caffeinated!) is with a visit to a local coffee shop. Need some direction or a new suggestion for your overdone coffee routine? Check out 12 of the best coffee shops in the Sacramento area.
Photos courtesy of Insight Coffee
Go on an Educational Walk
Take your neighborhood stroll to the next level with a guided walking tour through our beautiful city. Sacramento Heritage offers free walking tours tailored to specific themes and neighborhoods throughout the year. You can turn this into a self-guided walking tour operating on your schedule by downloading their free iPhone app or Android app to take on the go!
Tour the Jelly Belly Factory
Take the 45-minute “road trip” to Fairfield for a special (and free!) tour of the Jelly Belly Factory offered daily! During your tour, you’ll watch videos that provide an up-close-and-personal look at their candy manufacturing process, see interactive exhibits, go on a self-guided walk along the elevated lane that provides a bird’s-eye view of the operation, and the best part — eat free samples.
Pick Berries at Patrick’s Berry Farm
$5 Per Person + Varying You-Pick Berries Price
Head to Camino to pick your own berries at Patrick’s Berry Farm! You’ll pay $5 per person to pick and berries start at $5 per pound. This is an interactive way to get your own fresh berries to snack on during the summer, and get out and enjoy the California sunshine in the meantime. But be careful — it can get hot out there, so consider visiting the farm in the morning to stay cool. The farm is open for picking on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Get Fresh Produce at a Local Farmers’ Market
While admission to a farmers’ market is always free, we bet you can’t leave with having spent less than $10. But that’s okay! If you’re going to put your money somewhere, a farmers’ market supporting local farmers, artisans and small business owners is the place to do it. Check out our interactive map featuring farmers’ markets throughout the Sacramento area — some of which are active all year long!
Stroll Through Jensen Botanical Gardens
Travel to Carmichael to take in the breathtaking landscape of Jensen Botanical Gardens, where several events take place, including their Garden Work Days, where the community is invited to get their hands dirty in the garden together! They even have a Nature Path for the Blind, specifically designed for the visually impaired, where they can feel the different textures and smell the unique fragrances of their natural surroundings.
Get Outside at Folsom Lake
As you can expect, a visit to Folsom Lake is completely free! The surrounding recreation area is a great place to go hiking, biking, running, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, water-skiing and boating. Go on a leisurely bike ride along the 32-mile bike path that connects Folsom Lake with several Sacramento County parks, culminating in Old Sacramento.
Go to the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary
Did you know we have not one, but two amazing zoos in the area?! Get out of your routine with a visit to the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, which houses a wide variety of exotic animals in their pristine facilities in Folsom. Admission is just $4 for children ages 2–12 and $5 for those 13 and older on the weekdays, and $5 for children ages 2–12 and $6 for those 13 and older on the weekends. Children under 2 are always free! This is a cost-effective way to spend your day experiencing nature as a family.
Drink a Local Brew
This may seem obvious, but a visit to a local brewery is a great way to experience the flavors and culture of an area without breaking the bank. For your convenience, we compiled a list of our favorite places to grab a beer in the area — complete with an interactive map!
Photo courtesy of Jackrabbit Brewing Company
Have a Blast at Fairytale Town
Take the kids to Fairytale Town in Land Park’s William Land Park for an inexpensive day of adventure. This long-standing kid-focused attraction that has been in the park for over 50 years! It offers children and families a safe place to imagine, play and learn with 25 playsets based on nursery rhymes and fairytales, a friendly flock of farm animals, two performing arts stages and several gardens. And the best part? Admission costs just $4.75 per person on the weekdays and $5.75 per person on the weekends!
Tour the Crocker Art Museum
The Crocker Art Museum offers an incredible collection of diverse art exhibitions. This historic building near the Sacramento River downtown is worth a visit, especially since tickets cost only $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, college students and military, and $5 for youth ages 7–17.
On a more time-sensitive note…
Go to the Sacramento Banana Festival!
The Sacramento Banana Festival is an exciting two-day festival coming up on August 20 and 21! The festivities kick off with a 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, and continues with fun for all ages throughout the weekend, including food, exciting live entertainment, multi-cultural exhibits, a marketplace and more. Head to Shasta Park in Elk Grove to be a part of the banana craze from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 in advance or $6 at the gate, and is free for children ages 5 and under.
Photo courtesy of Sacramento Banana Festival
What are your favorite cost-effective activities in the area?
We’d love to add your suggestions to the list to help everyone save a few bucks!
Category Local Events, Neighborhood Guides
Cathy Harrington is Lyon Real Estate’s director of marketing, overseeing the content on the Lyon Local blog, website and social media channels.