Moving to Sacramento: 16 Things to Know Before You Go

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Are you considering moving to Sacramento? This article is intended to help people decide if they want to or not. What do you think of when you imagine Sacramento? Maybe the capitol building… a medium-sized city that isn’t San Francisco or LA?

Sacramento doesn’t live in the shadows of these two better-known cities, though to the uninitiated, it may appear that way. LA has Hollywood, so it can’t help but get much more media attention, and San Francisco has more natural beauty, history, and the high-tech industry.

sacramento-aerial

If you don’t know much about Sacramento, you might find it refreshing to visit, because it has more to offer than one might suspect.


How is the weather?

If you like warm winters and hot summers, you will probably like Sacramento, and the heat is not humid like Atlanta or Nashville. There isn’t a whole lot of rain either. The seasons are not nearly as distinct as in some cities like Chicago or Boston, so you might miss them if you move here, but the winters are much more pleasant. No snow, hail, sleet, icy roads and so forth.

California goes through droughts, so sometimes it is very important to be careful with water consumption. If you were passionate about gardening, you may have to adjust to native plants and ecology in order to continue that interest. Otherwise, your water bill might be very high, and that could be quite a waste of money over time.


How much does housing cost?

California is expensive, and San Francisco’s housing market is one of the most expensive in the nation, but Sacramento is refreshingly affordable. The median home value is about $281,000, which is much, much less than the city by the bay. The median rent in Sacramento is about $1,000. You might be able to purchase a small condo in a decent neighborhood in the Sacramento area for about $160,000.

If you are coming from somewhere like Lexington, Kentucky or Columbia, Missouri, Sacramento’s housing is going to be expensive, relatively speaking. If the median home value in Columbia is $150,000, you can find a similar home in Sacramento for probably $100,000 more, but you get much better weather and many cultural benefits. If you were coming from Lexington, you might be in a similar situation, though there are some condos there for less than $90,000.

If you were moving from near Chicago, you might find that Sacramento would be more expensive, but you probably wouldn’t at all be shocked by the prices. If you were moving from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Jose, San Diego, or LA, you might be very happy because you have a much better chance of becoming a homeowner and paying a mortgage.

One of the highest costs is housing, so moving to Sacramento from one of the most expensive areas or cities like NYC, LA or San Francisco is going to be an advantage. You might save a lot of money by moving to Sacramento, and yet still have a quality of life you appreciate.


Are there jobs?

Of course, in a state capital, one of the top employers is going to be the state government.

Some of these departments are:

Corrections
Conservation
Employment Development
Environmental Protection
Insurance
Prison Industry Authority
Transportation

Private sector

Intel (Folsom)
Mercy General Hospital
Kaiser Permanente
Sacramento Bee
Sutter Medical Center

FDI
Agilent (Roseville)
Henwood Energy
Meridian Systems
Tesco Controls
Varian (Rocklin)
Nec Electronics (Roseville)
Hansen IT


How is the food?

Would you envision a city that has been called the Farm-to-Fork Capital of the United States? You see, well over 100 crops are grown in the Sacramento area, which means farmers are bringing their offerings to the capital city frequently, for whoever wants them. Imagine mounds of fresh produce and many chefs making all sorts of dishes with them. Sounds like a fantasy, right? Well, it’s a real event — the Farm-to-Fork Festival.

Yes, that’s right in Sacramento, not Berkeley or San Francisco, and not LA. In fact, the event goes on for several weeks, culminating in a gathering on the Capitol Mall. Tens of thousands of people have attended this free festival in just one instance of the production. Of course, some of fresh produce finds its way to restaurants throughout the year, and Sacramento is known for having quality restaurants. If you are visiting from San Francisco, LA, or Chicago you might be surprised to find such enjoyable restaurants if you are unfamiliar with food here.

Some of the most highly-rated Sacramento restaurants are:

Ramen House Ryujin
Mulvaney’s B & L
Chandos Tacos
Nishiki Sushi
Bacon and Butter
Tres Hermanas
The Coconut Midtown
Tower Cafe
The Firehouse Restaurant
Bandera
The Waffle Experience
La Bonne Soupe Cafe
Cafe Rolle
The Rind
Cafe Europa
Paesanos
Formoli’s Bistro
Seasons 52
Evan’s Kitchen
Cielito Lindo Mexican Gastronomy
Selland’s Market Cafe
The Kitchen Restaurant
Sarom’s Southern Kitchen
Juno’s Kitchen and Deli
Viet Ha Noodles and Grill
Noble Vegetarian
Darna
Baagan
Tasty Thai
Starbread


Grocery stores

Some of the most popular grocery stores in Sacramento are:

Sacramento Natural Foods
Corti Brothers
Whole Foods
Trader Joe’s
Sprouts
Raley’s
Safeway
Taylor’s Market
Nugget Markets

How is the culture?

Sacramento is a diverse city with plenty of options for dining, music venues, theaters, and there are also many events happening throughout the year, so the cultural offering is substantial. San Francisco is a fairly short drive, so if you want more it is within a reasonable distance.

Is there access to nature?

It may be an obvious enough point, but California has many days of sunshine and a physical beauty that is peerless in some ways. So, that means droves of people like outdoor activities like hiking, camping, rock-climbing, dog-walking, kayaking, surfing, water skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, wake boarding, skateboarding, hang gliding and paragliding are available to do at many times. If you aren’t that active physically, there are plenty of indoor activities too, but the most enjoyment in California seems to be for those who appreciate the physical beauty, like the mountains, lakes, beaches and so forth.

Sacramento is within one to two hours of river rafting and kayaking areas, so if you like those kinds of experiences, you might be happy to live near them. They are seasonal though and depend upon rain and water levels in the rivers, like the American, to be enjoyed.

Sacramento is only 118 miles from Lake Tahoe, with its beautiful mountains and impressive lake. Of course, there are many forests, smaller lakes, and streams in the area. A two-hour drive is not much to endure to reach such a natural setting. Sacramento is about 140 miles from Yosemite…yes, the national park visited by millions each year. The drive is less than 3 hours. It should be noted that you can also drive to Tahoe, stay a night or two and then drive to Yosemite for a whole loop experience. Moving to Sacramento will probably be a good choice for people who like access to nature with the ability to also experience the culture of an urban environment.

How is the transportation?

The Sacramento Regional Transit District rail system is one of the busiest of its kind in the nation with an annual ridership of about 30 million. There are 53 stations and 67 bus routes which are connected to the light rail system. Destinations like Folsom and Rancho Cordova are included in the system. This is to say if your workplace is near a station and your home was outside of Sacramento in these areas, you would be able to commute without a car, which saves time and money.

It also means that some residents of the area can live there without having to own their own vehicle. Going carless isn’t for everyone, but it can save thousands each year and that can add up quickly.

The Sacramento airport has direct flights to many destinations throughout the US, and some to Mexico. For flights within California, the time in the air to LA is only about one hour. A little over one hour in the air is required to go to Las Vegas.

Amtrak has a station in Sacramento, so it is convenient to grab a train to the Bay Area if you don’t want to drive. You could also ride much further if that is your preference.


Open-mindedness

People who live in major California cities tend to be open-minded, so things like discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, race, orientation and so forth can upset them very much. There is also an acceptance of religion and spirituality, personal growth and what may be called fads and trends. Alternative lifestyles and the use of marijuana are acceptable to many Californians as well.

Are there wineries?

You probably think Napa and Sonoma for California wines, or maybe even Lodi, but the Sacramento area has dozens of its own wineries. Clarksburg, Folsom, Lincoln and other smaller towns outside of Sacramento are where some of them are located.

Sacramento might seem far off the beaten path, but it is only about 62 miles from Napa, so the drive will be only about one hour and ten minutes unless there are some dense traffic snarls.

Additionally, a visit to Lodi, which might be called the second wine country is even more convenient because it is less than 40 miles away.


How is the art scene?

If someone told you there may be as many as 100 art galleries in the Sacramento area, including places like Grass Valley, Roseville, Placerville and Auburn, would you believe it? Sacramento is not only about politics and public policy, there is an abundance of culture as well.

What are the politics?

Sacramento is the capital of California, the most populous state in America. It is also an agricultural and technological leader. In a state with about 38 million people, which is more than some nations, the political climate can get very contentious.

Is there boating?

Sacramento is located away from the San Francisco Bay, so it might not seem that much boating would be available, but the Sacramento River runs right through the city and there is a marina right on the river. The Sacramento River connects with the delta area which leads to the San Francisco Bay, so while they appear to be isolated they are actually tied together, physically.

It might not sound true, but the whole delta area is worth exploring if you like small marinas and wetlands. Motor boats, jet skis, sailboats, houseboats, canoes, kayaks, and rowboats can all be found on the delta, weather permitting. It’s another outdoor activity that many people might be unfamiliar with, but it can be relaxing and beautiful. There are about 1,000 miles of waterways in the delta area, so there is much exploring to do.

Folsom Lake is also nearby, and many people visit it each year, especially during the summer months.

Disadvantages of moving to Sacramento

There probably aren’t that many disadvantages to moving to Sacramento. If you are moving to Sacramento from a state that doesn’t have a state income tax, you aren’t going to like paying it in California, at least at first. Eventually, you might like living in CA enough, that it doesn’t bother you. Some people move to California for 5-10 years and then move somewhere cheaper, and that works too.

Places to Visit

California State Railroad
Crocker Art Museum
California State Capitol

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
The B Street Theater
Old Sacramento
California Automobile Museum
Sacramento Zoo

Tower Bridge
California Exposition & State Fair
Old City Cemetery
Funderland
Governor’s Mansion
California State Indian Museum
Cal State University, Sacramento
Sacramento Convention Center
Arco Arena
Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum

Aerospace Museum of California
Museum of Medical History
Playhouse Science Center
Roseville Utility Exploration Center
Sacramento Children’s Museum
Soujourner Truth African American Museum
Verge Center for the Arts
California Agriculture Museum
California Automobile Museum
California Museum

Sacramento has 25 or more museums, so this list is not a full accounting of them all.

Parks

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
American River Parkway
William Land Park
Discovery Park
Cesar Chavez Park
Curtis Park
East Portal Park
Tahoe Park
Marco Dog Park
American River Bicycle Trail
McKinley Park
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

American River Parkway is located at: 4040 Bradshaw Rd. Sacramento, CA 95814.

This list is only a small number of the parks in Sacramento — the total is over 220.

How is the drinking water?

The American River has its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada, but it travels to Sacramento where it joins the Sacramento River. Most of Sacramento’s drinking water comes from the American River.

How are the schools?

The public schools in Sacramento are rated about average, by Great Schools. There are many higher education institutions in the area, such as:

Sacramento City College
American River College
California State University

Union Institute & University
Los Rios Community College
Northwestern California University
School of Law
Sierra College
Folsom Lake College

Cosumnes River College
MTI College
Carrington College
The Art Institute of California
Unitek College

UC-Davis is not in Sacramento, but is nearby and is well-respected in a broad sense, and has a number of very high-ranking programs like it’s vet school, medical school, and law school.

Surrounding towns

Some of the more desirable towns around Sacramento are:

Rocklin
Fair Oaks
Roseville
El Dorado Hills
Wildhorse
Del Dayo
Elk Grove
Folsom
Granite Bay
Carmichael
La Riveria

How are the sports?

The Sacramento Kings are there but, no MLB, and no NFL. A minor league team, the Sacramento River Cats, is there though, in case you like or love baseball.

Near Sacramento

Napa — 62 miles
Sonoma — 68 miles
San Francisco — 87 miles
Chico — 89 miles
Tahoe — 118 miles
Reno — 131
Mt. Shasta — 219

So, after reading this information, are you still interested in moving to Sacramento?

Image Credits:

Sacramento Aerial, amadscientist, CC BY-SA 4.0