The Visitor's Guide To Sacramento

Sacramento hasn’t hosted a major track and field meet since NCAA’s in 2007, so this week’s USA Outdoor Championships will be attracting a new class of athletes, supporters, and fans unfamiliar with the city and all it has to offer. As a public service, here’s a guide of places to run, see, eat, and drink during your stay in California’s capital city.

If you have any feedback, please feel free to shoot me a note at spikeduppsy[email protected] or on Twitter at @RunLiao.

Where to run

Sacramento is blessed to have the American River Parkway, a 23-mile trail system that runs along the aforementioned river. Many parts of the trail are shaded (great for the warm Sacramento summers) and include multiple trail options to run on including single track, cinder surface adjacent to the paved bike path, etc.

Flotrack’s video feature of the trail does a good job of showing this at the 2:00 mark of the video:

There are numerous locations where you can hop on the trail, including downtown at C & 20th Streets, on the Sac State campus, at Cordova High School (recommended by Olympian and Sacramento resident Kim Conley), and at Nimbus Dam toward Folsom Lake (park in paid lot just south of Sac State Aquatic Center; h/t Tim Tollefson).

The Sacramento Bee has a tremendous interactive map with all the details here.

What’s better than brunch after a morning run?

Tower Cafe's French toast, this one loaded with seasonal fruit

Tower Cafe’s French toast, this one loaded with seasonal fruit

The answer: nothing…and Sacramento has plenty of options to fulfill your mid-morning appetite.

Highlighting them all is Tower Cafe, located just south of the downtown grid and next to the the iconic Tower Theatre. Pretty much every choice at Tower is a solid option, but the French toast in particular is a can’t-miss item.

Two other brunch spots worth checking out: Orphan Breakfast House (h/t again to Kim Conley) and Bacon & Butter (recently relocated from midtown to the Tahoe Park neighborhood).

You’re in California…so MEXICAN FOOD!

For all of you out-of-staters coming to California, you have to try our Mexican food. It’s no accident that a FiveThirtyEight analysis found 16 of America’s 19 best burritos were found here in the Golden State.Thank you, Nate Silver, for reinforcing California is the best at…EVERYTHING.

In Sacto, your best bets are Chando’s Tacos (in the Arden area near the meet HQ hotels) and Lalo’s Restaurant (if there on the weekend, order the barbacoa lamb meat).

Plenty of places for a pre-race meal

Like in any major city, Italian/pasta joints are aplenty and are solid choices for a solid day-before-race meal. Places like The Old Spaghetti Factory and Olive Garden are safe (albeit boring) solutions.

Those looking for classier (and pricier) alternatives should take a look Paesanos and Lucca’s. Both are downtown joints that provide relatively healthy choices to fuel up pre-race.

The truest Italian cuisine experience can be found at Anthony’s Italian Cuisine. It’s the authentic, family-owned Italian joint that every town needs and loves.

Fans of the Food Network should take note that TV food personality Guy Fieri’s restaurant called Johnny Garlic’s has a location in Sacramento.

Runners love coffee…

I’m not a huge coffee person but a few coffee houses that friends rave about are Temple Coffee RoastersTupelo Coffee House and Roasting, and Old Soul (they have three locations, plus one at the airport).

Two of the best downtown coffee spots are The Naked Lounge (clothing optional) and Insight Coffee Roasters.

…and ice cream…

The two absolute go-to ice cream shops in town are Gunther’s and Vic’s. Ask any Sacramentan which of the two they prefer and prepare for a length debate. Try both and decide for yourself!

…and beer, too!

Sacramento is home to a number of breweries where you can sample a bevy of tasty beverages while also grabbing a bite to eat. Capitol Beer and Tap Room and Hoppy Brewing Company are both located a stone’s toss from Hornet Stadium and convenient stops before or after the meet.

Three others to consider are Track 7 Brewing Co (h/t Kevin Yamamura), Pangaea Bier Cafe (vast selection of domestic and foreign brews on tap), and Rubicon Brewing (tasty burgers and West Coast-style IPA’s).

Old Sacramento

Old Sacramento has preserved the Gold Rush-era part of town, everything from the mid-19th century architecture to horse-drawn carriages loping along on the streets. The area is full of shops and restaurants, and is also home to the California State Railroad Museum. Find a full list of attractions here.


After the meet, have a drink (or four)

I may be biased, but Sacramento reigns supreme against its competitors when it comes to nightlife — more than one city block of options (sorry, Des Moines) and bests Eugene’s one bar that everyone goes to and that quickly becomes way too crowded (I love you, Wild Duck Cafe).

A few different categories to enjoy an evening:

Watch a World Cup game: Lots of options from traditional sports bar types (K-Bar, Republic Bar & Grill) to an Irish pub (De Vere’s) to a tequila bar (Mayahuel, which is THE place to watch a Mexico game). Dan Lilot recommends East Sac pub Bonn Lair to watch some futbol.

Beer gardens: German-style beer gardens have become a trend in Sacramento, and just about everyone is happy about it. Bier Garten is an outdoor venue (unfortunately it closes at 10 pm to not disturb the neighbors) while Low Brau is an indoor hall, but both have everything you come to associate with Deutschland: varieties of beers, sausages, fries, and pretzels.

Dive bars with cheap drinks: Simon’s is a legendary spot in Capitol political lore. Pictures of long-forgotten legislators, staffers, and lobbyists adorn the walls of what is a Sacramento establishment. It’s also a Chinese restaurant in case you’re in need of some late night grub.

Speaking of dive bars, there’s a joint actually called Dive Bar, which takes the aquatic theme quite literally. There’s an aquarium located above the bar where every hour or so, a mermaid will swim around to entertain the guests. If you don’t believe me, see the picture below, or better yet check out it this weekend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011.

Where to get ratchet: There’s a pretty thriving nightlife scene on K Street on Friday and Saturday nights if that’s what you’re into. Social Nightclub and The Park Ultra Lounge are your best bets for a good time, but beware of long lines and cover charges.

For those so inclined, there are LGBT-friendly venues Badlands, Faces, and Mercantile Saloon located within a few blocks of one another in the midtown area.

A personal favorite is Press Club, where for a $5 cover you have access to cheap drinks and DJ Larry ending the night playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” What more do you want from life?

Tags: Sacramento Usa Outdoors 2014

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