If you came to San Francisco this summer dreaming of a California heat wave, you might be a little confused. Sure, SF's proud of its quirky weather patterns, which tend to bring sunshine in the fall and winter and chilly fog in the summer. But there's nothing wrong with looking a bit further afield when you need a little Vitamin D.
Enter California's State Capital, Sacramento. Just a few hours from San Francisco, Sacramento couldn't be more different when it comes to weather. In fact, this former Gold Rush town gets 285 days of sunshine per year, making it the perfect summer destination when you get a little too cold in the City by the Bay.
Best of all, it's easy and inexpensive to expand your visit to Northern California with a night or weekend in Sacramento. From San Francisco, the MegaBus line will take you to Sacramento in just under two hours for as little as $3. And once you get to town, HI-Sacramento's got you covered with Victorian mansion luxury at budget-friendly prices.
Still need more convincing? Read on for our five favorite reasons to visit Sacramento this summer!
Once you're in the land of the summer sun, cool off with a frosty local brew. Sacramento's home to a number of small-scale breweries perfect for thirsty travelers. At the River City Brewing Company, about a 15-minute walk from the hostel, get a taste of Sacramento with a pint of Sac Town Gold or Cap City IPA (pints are just $2.50 on Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. 'til close). Over at the Hoppy Brewing Company, about a 30-minute bus ride from the hostel, mellow out with Liquid Sunshine Blonde Ale, Hoppy Face Amber Ale, or Total Eclipse Black Ale brewed on-site. Also a quick bus ride from the hostel, the New Helvetia Brewing Company was made for summer, with an outdoor courtyard perfect for libations under clear skies. The brewery's even been known to invite local food trucks to come by and join in the fun.
Sacramento may not be on the ocean, but it's still got plenty of ways for you to get out on the water this summer. Lake Natoma is a popular destination for locals looking to take out kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. Rent your watercraft of choice at Sacramento State University's Aquatic Center, located right on the water about an hour's bus ride from HI-Sacramento. Kayak rentals start at just $10, SUP boards are $12.
Craving a little more movement? Better get yourself on the river. It's here that the American River meets the Sacramento River (after merging, they eventually flow to the San Francisco Bay). The waterways are popular local spots for both wild rafting trips and lazy days in an inner tube.
When the weather's nice, even land-lubbers love heading to the American River. Along its banks you'll find the American River Parkway and its 30 miles of bike trails. If you get tired of pedaling, just stop off at one of the beaches or swimming holes you'll pass along the trails.
At Lake Natoma, rent bicycles from the Aquatic Center and hit the lakefront trails for a mere $8 per hour.
There are plenty of bike-friendly routes around the city, too, taking cyclists everywhere from historic sites to chic shopping districts. Bring your own bike to Sacramento and store it for free at the hostel, or rent one from nearby Practical Cycle and get 10% off just for being an HI-Sacramento guest.
The Summer Events
Feeling athletic this summer? Enter (or just watch) Eppie's Great Race, the only triathlon in the world in which kayaking replaces swimming, taking place this year on July 19. If the theater's more your cup of tea, you can take in an al fresco Bard production at the annual Sacramento Shakespeare Festival. And throughout the summer, marvel at the local talent during Second Saturday Art Walks, or free Friday night concerts in the park at Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Sacramento's been called everything from "Sac-a-tomatoes" to "America's Farm-to-Fork Capital," and at no time are these titles more deserved than during the summer. The region surrounding the city produces everything from walnuts to watermelons, organic eggs to grass-fed beef. And with about 8,000 acres of boutique farms nearby, more than 50 regional farmers' markets, and a restaurant scene that makes good use of it all, Sacramento makes it easy to sample the homegrown delicacies (to find out what's in season during your visit, check out this handy chart!)
Stay at HI-Sacramento, located in a gorgeously restored Victorian mansion in the heart of the State Capital.