Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga named the Sacramento River and Valley for the Holy Sacrament - a land where "...canopies of oaks and cottonwoods, many festooned with grapevines, overhung both sides of the blue current. Birds chattered in the trees and big fish darted through the pellucid depths. The air was like Champagne."
A Swiss settler, John Sutter and later his son, helped make the area a commercial success, beginning with a trading colony in 1839. The town grew quickly in the 1850s, downstream as it was from gold strikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and became the California state capital in 1879.
Between 1927 and 1940 the Delta King steam paddle boat made daily trips between San Francisco and Sacramento; a prohibition era journey of almost 11 hours, with drinking, jazz bands, gambling and fine dining. Refurbished and permanently moored along the Old Sacramento riverfront, it's again a city icon, with a 44 room hotel, two restaurants, and two dinner theaters.
Established in 1885, The Crocker Art Museum is one of California's leading art institutions, with fine collections of Californian European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art, plus international ceramics works and many touring exhibitions. The Sacramento Zoo, in shady Land Park, has hundreds of rare and endangered animals including primates, lions, tigers, kangaroos, giraffes, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.
Sacramento International Airport is situated to the northwest of the city, on the Sacramento River. The Super Shuttle provides service to downtown and to Reno. The Yolobus provides hourly public transportation from both terminal buildings, to J & 8th and L at 13th; a trip of 15-20 minutes, for a $3 fare.
Amtrak's Capitol Corridor provides daily rail service between Auburn and San Jose, with stops at Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Santa Clara and other stations. Bus connections get you from San Francisco to the Emeryville station (between Berkeley and Oakland), then hop the train to Sacramento. Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara, the Napa region and Reno Nevada also have bus connections to this rail line. Almost 20 trains per day make the journey each weekday, about half as many on weekends. Grab a pdf schedule from their website.
Greyhound buses can also get you in and out of Sacramento, from their sleek new terminal building at 420 Richards Boulevard.
The Sacramento Regional Transite website has routes, schedules and fares information for all area bus and light rail services. For getting back to the airport see Yolobus. The distances between most businesses in the gay district can be walked, and taxis can cover most other needs.
Zipcar has rentals by the hour, from five downtown locations, on or around I, J and L Streets. Join online for a Zipcard to unlock cars here, and in over 50 North American cities.
For biking in Sacramento see lots of information and links at the SABA website (Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates).
The gayest neighborhood is in Midtown. Lavender Heights around pedestrian-only K Street has a number of bars and restaurants, along with some art galleries, museums, and shops. Area stages include the Crest Theatre, and the California Musical Center. The Lambda Players' 21st & L Street Theatre shut down in 2011, after 22 years of presenting shows for the LGBT community. Local colleges like Sacramento State University contribute to a youthful and energetic scene in this place the locals call "Sactown."
The Tower District one of Sacramento's oldest neighborhood commercial areas, is anchored by the old Art-Deco style Tower Theatre, now a cinema. Ethnic restaurants and specialty shops make the area a favorite of residents in nearby Land Park, South Side Park, Poverty Ridge, and Sierra Curtis, and out-of-towners too.
Media & resources
Outword is the local gay magazine you can pick up around town, or download from their website.
A directory of businesses, theaters, museums and other places for the arts and culture, plus a city map, can be downloaded from the website Downtown Sacramento.
Gay social groups include: the Capital Crossroads Gay Rodeo Association, organizers of the annual Sierra Stampede in June; the Sacramento Valley Bears; and the Leather Journal has news and events information for the leather community, including the Sacramento Valley Leathercorps.
The Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Film Festival takes place each October at the Crest Theatre.
The Sacramento News & Review has local news, reviews and general public events listings. The City of Sacramento website has other general information, plus links to many area websites of interest to visitors.
For a city map and website links to area businesses, museums and entertainment venues, see our gay Sacramento listings pages. For some photos from around town see our gallery; and we list some important local events, and activities too.
Bars, restaurants and clubs
58 Degrees (1217 18th St), gay-friendly bistro restaurant and bar; lunch, brunch, dinner, beer, wine by the glass.
Badlands (2003 K St) two levels, dancing nightly, big floor, patio, mezzanine, balconies overlooking K Street, Latin nights, Sunday T-dance/beer bust, erotic dancers.
Bolt (2560 Boxwood St), men's bar, cowboys, bears, leather, beer bust and barbeques, cigar nights, Mr Bolt Leather to IML. Free 10pm and midnight bus shuttle service from downtown / Kennedy Gallery, 20th & K Streets.
Depot Video Bar (2001 K St) games, contests, pool leagues, trivia shows and comedy nights, outdoor patio, 16 beers on tap; Friday FAG (Fabulous & Gay), Sunday bingo and sports; Hush Ladies Nights.
Faces (2000 K St), big nightly 21+ gay dance club, three floors of music choices, swimming pool, Latin nights, stripper-go-go dancers, performers, guest porn stars, drag shows, karaoke, fashion shows, cash prize contests.
Mango's (1930 K St), "a place for Latinos created by Latinos" gay-friendly mix, 3-level dance club, 18+ nights, upscale dress code, large patio.
Mercantile Saloon (1928 L St), aka "the Merc" - strong and cheap drinks, pool games, patio, men/women, friendly vibe, no attitude, great night-starter.
Midtown Barfly (1119 21st St), Saturday and Sunday gay/mixed dance club, 18+ swing, Salsa/Bachata, live music nights; plus Gothic/ industrial and other special events.
Sidetraxx (2007 K St), Thursday - Sunday LGBT bar/video lounge next to Badlands, dancing, drag shows, Latin nights, women's nights, Hip/Hop-RnB nights, karaoke, bingo, drag, amateur talent shows; bar food menu.
See more restaurants at our map & listings pages.
Citizen Hotel (926 J St; 916 447-2700) downtown Sacramento hotel with 20th century grace and 21st century urban luxury, moments from California’s State Capitol, and Sacramento Convention Center.
Greens Hotel (1700 Del Paso Blvd; 916-921-1736), charming, uniquely hip getaway; 26 rooms, courtyard/picnic area, swimming pool.
Hyatt Regency Sacramento (1209 L St; 916 443 1234), AAA Four Diamond luxury urban hotel and resort, modern American dining on open-air patio, Vines Café, Dawson's Bar and Amourath 1819 Lounge; outdoor pool and fitness center.
Inn at Parkside B&B (2116 Sixth St; 916-658-1818), relaxing oasis overlooking Southside Park, walking distance to California State Capitol and vibrant downtown; gourmet breakfasts, Italian arias, and candlelit evenings.
Red Lion Woodlake Hotel Sacramento (500 Leisure Lane; 916-922-2020), luxury setting, five minutes from California State Capitol and Old Sacramento, finest service and comforts, 306 spacious rooms, 29 suites, lakeside pool & spa. Formerly the Radisson.
Planet Earth Rising (625 Sutter St), metaphysical store, quality merchandise and healing practitioner services.