Add in the appeal of Sacramento’s surrounding regions, including Gold Country and Yosemite National Park, and the options expand to include Indian casinos, Gold Rush artifacts, wine country, a bike museum and more. And that’s to say nothing of the area’s expansive meeting venues and hotels ranging from small boutiques to well-equipped name brands.
When coordinating an event in this California hot spot, it’s hard to know where to begin. To help, we’ve devised a list of top meeting attractions and amenities—all the way from A to Z.
Main image: Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Davis
A is for Aerospace
Aerospace Museum of California, McClellan
A collection of thrilling jets, including a U.S. Navy Blue Angels fighter and an F-14 Tomcat straight out of Top Gun, are on display at the Aerospace Museum of California, located northwest of Sacramento in McClellan. More adventurous attendees can board high-tech simulators, while low-impact revelers can peruse aviation art and a permanent exhibit exploring the manning of Mars. The facility can accommodate up to 1,200 guests for receptions held under suspended aircraft.
B is for Basketball
Fans of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings are some of the league’s most spirited and loyal, known for clanking cow bells at home games and grousing, years later, that the 2002 Western Conference Final game that cost the series was rigged. So it was no surprise that the town fought hard when rumors surfaced that the team may move to Seattle. Luckily, the Kings remained, and visitors who want to see locals fired up should head to Sleep Train Arena for a game. The arena offers several private luxury suites that can be used for events, and provides catering and A/V for meetings.
C is for Crocker Art Museum
This recently expanded museum is a sleek, sophisticated downtown option for cultural connoisseurs. Permanent collections showcase stellar works from Africa, Asia, Europe and beyond. Meeting before October 2014? Don’t miss Nothing, the Film, an intriguing art-house project directed by Bay Area photographer and artist Tracey Snelling. Groups can enjoy guided tours of the museum, participate in studio art classes and mingle during receptions held in elegant meeting venues, including two courtyards, a ballroom and an auditorium.
D is for Delta King
Delta King riverboat, Sacramento, courtesy of Sacramento CVB
In throwback Old Sacramento (see the letter “O”), the Delta Kingis a docked riverboat on the Sacramento River that doubles as a floating hotel. Also on board: two riverfront restaurants, a wine school and an intimate theater that hosts rotating shows spotlighting exciting local actors, as well as a weekly interactive murder-mystery dinner experience. Eight private rooms accommodate meetings and banquets.
F is for Farm to Table
Lamb T-bone dish at Mulvaney’s B & L, Sacramento
Through 2014 and beyond, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau is marketing itself as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.” This isn’t PR spin: As the capital of California, the nation’s largest producer of agriculture, the city is a natural fit for the title. About 70 percent of the region’s land is agricultural, forest or other open space, and it contains 7,000 to 8,000 acres of boutique farms and 50 farmers markets. The city of Sacramento is also home to the largest certified farmers market in California.
In September, the city completed its inaugural Farm-to-Fork Week, featuring special menus and meet-and-greets with local farmers, winemakers and brewers. For the ultimate in private farm-to-fork dining, book Mulvaney’s B & L, where a daily-changing menu features locally sourced produce, fish, meat and more. The restaurant’s onsite banquet hall, Next Door, has two redwood-ceiling rooms that can accommodate 30 or 100 guests for a satisfying sustainable feast.
G is for Gold Rush
In the 1850s, gold seekers descended upon western Nevada County, about 60 miles north of Sacramento, to discover riches and glory. In Grass Valley every summer, Grass Valley Gold Rush Days brings this past to life with the help of costumed vendors and special activities. Guests can watch a blacksmith at work, weave on an old-fashioned loom, take a sepia photo and even pan for gold. Year-round in Grass Valley, attendees can get closer to the Gold Rush by visiting Empire Mine State Historic Park, the location of California’s oldest, largest and richest gold mine, which produced 5.8 million ounces of gold between 1850 and 1956. Today, guests can traverse its 845 acres of forested grounds, stopping along the way to explore original mining buildings.
Another western Nevada County town that remains devoted to its Gold Country past is Placerville. Named after placer gold deposits found in local riverbeds, the town produces a local tabloid called The Gold Panner and is close to Coloma’s Sutter’s Mill, the gold source that prompted a rush to the region. Each October, Coloma holds its own Gold Rush-themed event called, appropriately, Coloma Gold Rush Live.
In Auburn, the Gold Country Museum includes a replica of a hard-rock mining tunnel, and guests are given bags of gravel laced with gold as takeaways. Auburn is also one of the best regional bets for lodging, with hotels including the well-equipped Auburn Holiday Inn. Alternatively, groups staying in Sacramento can head to the region for a day or half-day of offsite exploration.
I is for Indian Casinos
Cache Creek Casino Resort conference room, Brooks
A handful of superb Indian casinos in the area provide one-stop shopping for meeting, dining, gaming and entertainment. Thunder Valley Casino Resort, about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento in Lincoln, is one of the region’s most luxurious venues, with 297 plush guest rooms, 10,000 sq. ft. of elegant meeting space, AAA Four Diamond dining at High Steaks Steakhouse and a pampering spa, where treatments include a 24-karat gold-leaf facial. Even without its abundance of exciting gaming, this would be a top pick for groups.
In Woodland, about 40 miles northwest of Sacramento, Cache Creek Casino Resort ups the ante with its AAA Four Diamond, Forbes Four Star guest rooms, full-service spa and well-rounded dining options, including a steakhouse, 24-hour cafe and Asian kitchen. Onsite conference rooms accommodate smaller groups.
Other casino resorts near the capital include Red Hawk Casino in Placerville and Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson. In Tuolumne County, about two hours outside Sacramento, Black Oak Casino Resort debuted 148 guest rooms and more than 6,000 sq. ft. of event space last spring, and includes a bowling alley, arcade, five restaurants and live entertainment.
J is for Jazz
For 40 years, locals have set aside Memorial Day Weekend for Jazz Jubilee, a four-day celebration of moody blues, rollicking improv tunes and other jazzy jams. Recently, the Jubilee expanded to become the Sacramento Music Festival, showcasing R&B, blues, country, Latin, Cajun/Zydeco and more. But up-and-coming jazz acts and local legends, such as John Lee Hooker Jr. and Johnny “Guitar” Knox, remain the event’s hottest tickets. Make like a local and mark your calendars now for next year’s event.
K is for Kids
Clean, safe and friendly, Sacramento is a good bet for family-friendly meetings and features several excellent attractions geared toward little ones. For younger kids, Fairytale Town is a local favorite with mini-playsets based on fairytales and folklore, including a slide designed to look like the shoe from “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and a castle inspired by the tales of King Arthur. Older kids and teens will find much to keep them busy at the expansive California State Fair, held every summer at Cal Expo (a meeting venue when not hosting the fair). The wonderful Sacramento Zoo, located across the way from Fairytale Town, and Folsom Zoo Sanctuary are also ideal for family outings (see “Z is for Zoo”).
M is for Meeting Space
For large events requiring massive meeting space, the Sacramento Convention Center Complex offers 134,000 sq. ft. of versatile exhibition space and 31 well-equipped meeting rooms. A 24,000-square-foot ballroom ideal for galas and receptions flows out onto an outdoor terrace graced with trees and public art. The complex also includes the stunning Memorial Auditorium, which dates back to 1927 and features ornate fixtures, a grand stage and seating for 3,800.
N is for Nightlife
A large population of college students and young professionals frequent a nightlife scene getting hipper by the year. Order fancy libations and mellow out to live music at the Shady Lady Saloon or sip wine produced in six surrounding regions (see “W is for Wine”) at Downtown & Vine. Both are excellent options for post-meeting nightcaps, and Downtown & Vine can accommodate private events in a patio near the capitol and convention center.
O is for Old Sacramento
No trip to Sacramento is complete without a visit to this 28-acre National Historic Landmark district set along the Sacramento River. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop along dirt roads lined with attractions including a one-room schoolhouse and the California State Railroad Museum. History is accented with quirk, including a sock shop and a kite store. Modern dining options include the acclaimed Firehouse Restaurant, which hosts special events in wine-cellar rooms and a courtyard.
P is for Politics
As the capital of the most-populous state in the nation, Sacramento is a must-see for anyone with an interest in politics. Groups can tour the grand California State Capitol building, which includes the offices of significant political leaders and is outfitted with historic murals, artifacts and art. On sunny days, make time to explore the capitol’s impeccably maintained 40-acre lawn and park, adorned with trees, flowers, monuments and memorials. The capitol is conveniently located across the street from the sophisticated, AAA Four Diamond Hyatt Regency Sacramento, which offers more than 27,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.
Politics is present in other parts of the city as well. The boutique Citizen Hotel, a Joie de Vivre property, offers views of the capitol building from its tented roof deck (which can be booked by private groups) and is decorated with historic political cartoons. The property is also home to Grange, a farm-to-table favorite and one of the hottest spots in town for shoulder-rubbing with rising political stars.
T is for Theater
Music Circus, Sacramento
Broadway thespians are frequently spotted on the playbill of Broadway Sacramento productions at the Community Center Theater, where acting, staging and lighting rival New York shows. The 2014 schedule includes Flashdance(Feb. 4–9), Sister Act(April 8–13) and Wicked(May 28–June 15). Smaller in scale but no less polished, Music Circus showcases big-name musical productions in the round at Wells Fargo Pavilion every summer, with no bad seat in the house. Stay tuned for the 2014 schedule. Group discounts are available at both of these must-book theaters.
U is for University
The University of California, Davis is one of the nation’s premier research universities. Located just 15 miles outside Sacramento in Yolo County, it is also a wonderful option for offsite events surrounded by a thriving academic culture. The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts is a sleek glass-paneled venue that hosts the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and other performing groups throughout the year. When not hosting productions, it rents out space, including an expansive hall and intimate studio theater, to groups.
The university is located in one of the state’s most thriving bike communities. Davis was the first city in the nation to experiment with and implement a bike lane and is home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which can be rented for events.
Sacramento State, which was attended by 28,818 students this fall, features two LEED Gold buildings: The WELL, a recreation and wellness center, and the American River Courtyard residence hall. The campus is home to the California Smart Grid Center, which develops technological solutions to help utility companies respond to peak electrical power demands.
W is for Wine
With its collection of sophisticated and historic wineries, Amador County, about 40 miles east of Sacramento, remains one of the best-kept secrets of California wine country. One of the oldest wine regions in the state, it is home to more than 30 wineries, grows more than 15 different varieties of grapes and is known for its superb zinfandel and Barbera. Best yet, wines are enjoyed against a stunning backdrop of rolling vineyards and the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Villa Toscano Winery pairs Tuscan architecture and fragrant gardens with some of the region’s finest zinfandel, and can host and cater corporate events. Helwig Winery, located in an airy barn structure surrounded by panoramic valley views, also hosts events. Or you can book a ride with Baja Limo to explore several wineries in a day.
Y is for Yosemite
Sacramento’s exciting downtown scene is just a three-hour drive from an entirely different setting: the unspoiled frontiers of Yosemite National Park. Towering sequoia trees, sharp granite cliffs and clear streams span 1,200 sq. mi., and from some vantage points, multiple waterfalls are visible. The gateway to this natural wonder is Tuolumne County, home to towns including Sonora and Groveland.
Unfussy and inviting, the county’s lodging and meeting options have names such as Christmas Tree Inn and A Lovely Place. For a rustic outing with plenty of team-bonding options built in—including horseshoes, ice skating and volleyball—consider Long Barn Lodge. Planners can work with outside caterers or fire up the onsite outdoor barbecue for a down-home dining experience. A 5,000-square-foot meeting room comes with a disco ball for late-night revelry.
In Twain Harte, The Lazy Z Resort can host 200 guests in indoor and outdoor spaces surrounded by 40 acres of woodland. Family owned and operated for three generations, it accommodates guests in comfortable cabins.
For prime access to Yosemite, Evergreen Lodge is located on the park’s western border off Highway 120 and has 17 cabins and more than 14,000 sq. ft. of space. An all-wood tavern with an excellent wine list and live music is ideal for post-meeting festivities.
Z is for Zoo
Not one, but two excellent zoos make Greater Sacramento a prime place for attendees to embrace their wild sides. The Sacramento Zoo spans 14.5 acres and exhibits more than 600 animals. Corporate events can be hosted along the shores of the zoo’s lake, frequented by pelicans, flamingos and red-breasted geese. Private animal encounters and stage shows are also available. The Folsom Zoo Sanctuary, about 25 miles outside Sacramento, protects animals that can’t be cared for in the wild.
If considering an event in California, make sure to include Greater Sacramento and Gold Country on your list. Our roundup of 26 reasons to meet here is just the beginning.
El Dorado County Visitors Authority
Folsom Tourism Bureau
Gold Country Visitors Association
Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce
Placer County Visitors Bureau
Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau
Yolo County Visitors Bureau
Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau
The Remaining Letters
Completing the alphabet, in brief:
E is for Eagle Theatre: This reconstruction of the state’s first public theater is located in Old Sacramento. Watch for the ghost of a former owner.
H is for Hollywood: Thanks to its thriving film commission, Sacramento has positioned itself as the Hollywood of NorCal. Films shot here include Memoirs of a Geisha, American Beauty and Almost Famous.
L is for Lakers: A dirty word in Sacramento. Go Kings!
Q is for Q Street Bar & Grill: Sacramentans love this low-key bar with beers on tap and an inexpensive food menu. The patio outside is ideal for alfresco relaxing.
R is for River Cats: The city’s beloved minor-league baseball team goes to bat at another “R”: Raley Field. When not hosting the River Cats, the field is used for private events.
S is for Sutter’s Fort: Pioneer history comes to life at this popular living-history museum.
V is for Viticulture: The area doesn’t just produce wine; it studies it. The University of California, Davis does groundbreaking research on viticultural production.
X is for X Street Farmers Market: One of 50 superb farmers markets in the region.
Who: SacAnime; 9,000-plus attendees
What: SacAnime Summer 2013
When: Aug. 30–Sept. 1, 2013
Where: Sacramento Convention Center, Sheraton Grand, Hyatt Regency, Marriott Residence Inn
Why: “Our experience overall was very good. The service/ambience of the Sheraton and Hyatt are excellent. We are returning in January 2014.”
–Dan Houck, founder/convention director