Vacation on a strict budget is never ideal. Fortunately, if you live in or are visiting Sacramento, there are plenty of free things to do in the area that don’t cost a dime. From historic sites to candy tours, you can take your family on a day trip that’s fun, educational and incredibly affordable.
Free Sacramento Area Attractions
Sacramento Museum Day happens each year and permits guests to roam the rooms of local museums for absolutely free. They include smaller establishments like the California Military Museum and California State Indian Museum; as well as some larger destinations like the Crocker Art Museum and Sutter’s Fort. For the kids, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo are also included in the free day. The only downside to Sacramento Museum Day is the crowds – go early and plan on staying at only one or two destinations.
The free day is traditionally the first Saturday in February but varies by year.
2. Historic City Cemetery
Cemeteries are just plain fun. They’re spooky, historic and full of nooks and crannies to explore. The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is no exception, as it’s lined with gorgeous statues and well-kept gardens. This cemetery is considered to be a museum due to the graves it houses, ranging from the Gold Rush Era through today.
About a half hour’s drive outside Sacramento, the city of Fairfield is home to the Jelly Belly factory. This place is a true land of sweets for all ages with a café and ice cream shop and plenty of jelly beans for purchase. Want to keep your visit 100% free? The visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm and offers free walking tours that last about 40 minutes. With an official tour guide and an official factory hat of your very own, you’ll see factory workers creating America’s favorite jelly bean below observation decks (weekdays only).
You’ll also view some art pieces made completely out of jelly beans, and receive a package of assorted flavors for your own consumption. Tours depart every 10-15 minutes, seven days a week, with the exception of major holidays. See their website for up-to-date hours and holiday closings.
Every second Saturday of the month, Sacramento art galleries stay open late and invite guests to view their pieces for free. Live music fills the air and local talent comes out to show off their best work in this Sacramento tradition. This is an especially nice choice during summer evenings, but it does get crowded. Food & drinks are for sale at each Second Saturday. The galleries span all throughout the region but focus on the downtown/midtown grid. Visit the Second Saturday Art Walk website for more info.
5. American River Bike Trail
Sacramento is home to many cycling events and trails, and the American River Bike Trail is one of the most beautiful. Also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, it begins at Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and ends at Beal’s Point near Folsom Lake. The entire stretch is 32 miles, and the entire trail surface is asphalt. If you aren’t a cyclist, consider skating, hiking or even horseback riding. Sans the horses unless you have your own, all modes of transportation on the trail are free.
6. Folsom Lake
Home to some of the most diverse array of recreational activities in the Sacramento region, Folsom Lake is actually part of a state recreation area that sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills. With around 75 miles of shoreline, the lake welcomes swimmers, fishermen, boaters and campers. Hikers, cyclists and nature enthusiasts of many other types are also found daily on the trails. Folsom Lake is free to visit.
As with any tourist destination or nature site, check their official website for updated hours and to confirm a visit is in fact free. Some places will sometimes request a small donation to maintain facilities or to benefit a non-profit. However, at the time of publication, these are just a few of the great spots in Sacramento that are free to enjoy.