California’s state capital is located smack in the middle of the fertile Central Valley—producer of more than half the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the country—so it’s no surprise that the city styles itself as America’s “Farm-to-Fork Capital.” Start your day of local and sustainable grazing at Magpie Cafe, just west of downtown in the booming Midtown neighborhood, with a board of avocado toast on Acme bread, topped with sunchokes, micro herbs, and smoked Pacific salmon. Then give yourself an extra treat: a tasty lemon-lavender ice cream sandwich.
Grab a cab back past the Neoclassical State Capitol and stop just short of the mighty Sacramento River at the Crocker Art Museum. The building serves as a sort of metaphor for old-money-meets-new-money California: An opulent 19th-century Italianate mansion that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places is attached to a sleek 125,000-square-foot pavilion that was completed in 2010. Likewise, the collection runs the gamut from 17th-century European art to depictions of the Gold Rush to an awesome assemblage of works by modern California artists, including Wayne Thiebaud, Peter Voulkos, and Dorothea Lange.
Almost a quarter of Sacramento’s population is of Mexican descent, so head back to Midtown to pay respect to your Latino neighbors at Cantina Alley. Based on the sort of cantina you might find yourself drinking at in Guadalajara, the outdoor space, which opened last summer, is adorned with bright murals that range from kaleidoscopic to kitschy (don’t miss the wall-size lucha libre wrestler in the back corner). Order ceviche tostadas, pozole, and elote (Mexican corn on the cob), and wash it all down with a paloma. ¡Salud!
You’ve already had a lot to eat and the midday sun is scorching, so head back downtown for a quick nap in your suite at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, which opened in October. When you’re all freshened up, head to Revival, the hotel’s rooftop pool bar, already one of Sacramento’s most poppin’ spots, for happy hour. You might even bump into a visiting NBA player or coach (Rhapsody may or may not have crossed paths with San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Pau Gasol coming off the elevator).
The reason for the athlete sightings at the Sawyer? The hotel is next door to the Golden 1 Center, which is in its second season as the home of the Sacramento Kings. (The team is leading the redevelopment of this part of downtown, now called DOCO, with the help of JMA Ventures LLC and Rios Clementi Hale Studios.) The on-court product hasn’t been much to boast about since the Chris Webber days, but Sacramento fans are still just as rabid and renowned for being among the NBA’s loudest (they ring cowbells in the stands). In 2016, team management built them a much-deserved modern arena—an 84-foot 4K Ultra HD screen hangs above the court, and the building is LEED Platinum–certified.
You worked up an appetite watching all those athletic dudes run around on the court, so zip over to Mulvaney’s Building & Loan, one of Sactown’s locavore pioneers. Take a seat at the chef’s counter in the high-ceilinged 1893 firehouse and dig into house-smoked salmon with Irish brown bread and amazingly creamy butter; sesame-crusted seared tuna with a fennel, blood orange, and avocado salad; and a 21-day dry-aged ribeye. A cabernet sauvignon from nearby Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain Vineyard pairs nicely with that steak.
Walk off dinner with a 15-minute stroll to the Shady Lady Saloon, which Esquire put on its 2014 Best Bars in America list. Given the bar’s name, the red-light-district-speakeasy vibe—red upholstery, vintage chandeliers and sconces, blush-inducing artwork—comes as no surprise, but the seasonal cocktails glitter with inventiveness. Since it’s springtime, try the White Blossom, a mix of gin, housemade cherry blossom–honey syrup, lemon juice, and soda, a drink created to honor Sacramento’s Japanese community. You’ll surely agree that this entire rising city is worth a toast.