Day Trips Within an Hour of Sacramento
Sure, epic, weeks-long vacations are great. The sand in your toes, the sun on your skin, a cocktail in hand. But those aren’t always doable for everyone — especially with airfare and lodging at the highest they’ve been in years.
But you and yours can still get away from it all by taking a day trip to one of the many scenic areas throughout the greater Sacramento area. From wineries to hiking trails, quaint towns to historic sites, there are plenty of places within an hour of Sacramento to visit. Following are some of our favorites.
Just 30 miles from Sacramento, Winters is a charming small town with a quaint, historic city center. The downtown area has charming 19th-century architecture, and it’s easy to spend an afternoon lost in the indie boutiques and unique shops, which offer everything from cowboy boots to handmade beauty products to vintage clothing.
Winters’ agricultural heritage is alive and well, with several world-class restaurants in the vicinity. In the downtown area, Preserve is a farm-to-table eatery that showcases the abundance of the surrounding farms. Nearby Park Winters is an inn and event venue that also offers seasonal cuisine. We’d be remiss not to include Buckhorn Steakhouse, the original in a local chain of meat-centric eateries known for its many mounted animal heads. You can also take farm and garden tours to learn more about the ag industry in Yolo County.
In addition, several tasting rooms offer locally produced wine, craft beer and distilled spirits. Some spots to check out are Turkovich Winery, which has a cozy downtown tasting room; Berryessa Brewing Company, known for its IPAs; and Patio 29 Spirits Company, which produces vodka, gin, rum and whiskey.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, there are plenty of adventures to be had in and around Winters. Lake Berryessa is nearby, offering boating, fishing, swimming and paddling. Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve offers hiking trails with mountain and valley views. The Putah Creek Wildlife Area is popular for bird watching, fishing and hunting.
Just 40 minutes from Sacramento, the town of Plymouth in Amador County is known as the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley — a renowned viticulture area. This low-key wine country features dozens of small, family-run vineyards, most turning out approachable, fruit-forward Zinfandels. Some spots to try are Helwig Winery, which has a large outdoor patio with vineyard views; Vino Noceto, known for its Sangiovese; and Di Arie Vineyard and Winery, a scenic hilltop spot with a rotating selection of food vendors. Not an oenophile? Check out Amador Brewing Company, which produces IPAs, porters and blondes.
Plymouth is also known for its farm-to-table cuisine. Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar features seasonal, prix fixe menus, and has been rated by Zagat as one of the top restaurants in the United States. For something more casual, visit Amador Vintage Market, where you can get all the fixings for a wine country picnic: gourmet sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, artisan cheese, fresh-baked breads and more. You can also pick up farm-fresh produce and local wines at the weekly farmers’ market on main street on Thursday nights.
A unique experience in Plymouth is a visit to the Amador Flower Farm. The farm features 14 acres of gardens featuring 1,200 varieties of day lilies as well as a landscaped demonstration garden. You can bring your own picnic lunch and reserve a table at the pond-side picnic grounds shaded by centuries-old heritage oak trees. There’s also a nursery and gift shop offering gourmet food items, bath and beauty products, and home goods.
An hour’s drive from Sacramento, Grass Valley is a historic mountain town with tons of charm. The downtown area is home to Gold Rush-era buildings, which have since been turned into shops, restaurants and bars. For a bit of retail therapy, check out Yuba Blue, which offers bath products, jewelry and other gift items; Foothill Mercantile, specializing in toys and housewares; or Booktown Books, a collection of independent vendors selling second-hand and rare books, comics and vinyl. Other shops sell everything from antiques to gems, vintage clothing to furniture.
If you’re an art lover, Grass Valley is the ideal spot for a day trip. The town is a haven for artists working in a variety of mediums. You can view some of their work at Art Works Gallery, a collaborative venture for painters, sculptors, photographers and woodworkers. Another spot is The Chambers Project, which focuses on psychedelic art.
Grass Valley is also known for its lively community events. Visit in the summertime for the Grass Valley Thursday Night Market, where you’ll find a farmers’ market, local craft vendors, live music, beer and wine, and food. During the holidays, Grass Valley puts on the annual Cornish Christmas, with food and craft vendors, carolers, musicians, mulled wine and of course, Santa.
Grass Valley is a Gold Rush town, and as such, it has plenty of historical sites to visit. The Grass Valley Museum depicts the Victorian era with its collection of furniture, clothing and other artifacts. There’s also a restored classroom. Empire Mine State Park features one of the oldest, deepest gold mines in the state. You can explore the mine entrance, view its original buildings, and tour the owner’s historic cottage. The grounds have manicured gardens, and the surrounding forest has miles of hiking trails to explore.
Although it’s less than an hour from Sacramento, the California Delta seems like a world away. There’s no one perfect spot along the Delta, so we recommend a road trip to experience it all. South River Road hugs the Sacramento River all the way to the Bay Area, providing amazing scenery and quaint stops along the way. First up are the wineries of the Clarksburg region. Popular spots include Miner’s Leap Winery and Scribner Bend Vineyards, or you can visit more than a dozen tasting rooms under one roof at the Old Sugar Mill. You can even take a wine-tasting river cruise from Sacramento River Cruise in Clarksburg. If beer is more your jam, head to Husick’s Taphouse, which has a great barbecue menu. Or, check out Hemly Cider further down the road.
Along the river you’ll find plenty of spots for fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. In fact, the Delta is one of the best spots in the nation for bird watching. Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 200 species of birds and other animals, and the Cosumnes River Preserve has miles of hiking trails and offers guided paddling trips.
The Delta is also known for its many historic bridges, as well as several historic hotels. Grand Island Mansion is an Italian Renaissance-style villa surrounded by lush, manicured gardens. The Ryde Hotel, originally built in the late 1800s, operated as a speakeasy during prohibition.
The Delta is also known for its legacy communities. These are towns that embody the Delta’s rich cultural heritage. One of the most important is Locke, a National Historic Landmark. Locke was founded and settled by Chinese immigrants, who worked at the nearby farms and canneries. Many of the original buildings are still standing; you can visit the Dai Loy Museum, a former gambling house, or the Locke Chinese School Museum.
Just under an hour from Sacramento, the mountain town of Camino is more commonly known by its autumn alter ego: Apple Hill. Sure, stocking up on just-picked apples and indulging in apple-based desserts is great, but Camino has year-round attractions as well. For starters, it has a rich agricultural draw, featuring small, family-run farms growing vegetables, berries and flowers — some even offer u-pick options. At 24 Carrot Farm, you can pick your own seasonal produce or visit their farm stand. You can browse the acres of lavender grown at Bluestone Meadow and even pick your own bouquet.
The Camino area is also a vibrant wine-growing region, its unique landscape conducive to a range of varietals. Madroña Vineyards produces estate-grown Rhône and Bordeaux varietals. Findleton Estate Winery is a boutique winery that features the artwork of local artist and co-owner Pamela Findleton. Wine isn’t your thing? Head to Jack Russel Farm Brewery to try their ales, ciders and mead. They also offer live music most weekends.
Need a bit of outdoor adventure? Just up the road from Camino is the Sly Park Recreation Area, home of Jenkinson Lake. The lake is ideal for paddling, swimming and boating, and it’s surrounded by miles of scenic trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. If “outdoor adventure” means rolling greens surrounded by towering pines, try your hand at Apple Mountain Golf Resort, with a pristine 18-hole course and onsite restaurant.