How to Sound Like a Local in Sacramento

Sacramento wasn’t always a place people thought much about–at least not for cool reasons. For decades California’s capitol city has been the Jan Brady of Golden State cities: The middle sister child between hip, bustling San Francisco and gorgeous, outdoorsy Lake Tahoe. In short, it’ s a government town: reliable, sleepy, unassuming.

In recent years though, Sacramento’s been shaking its stodgy reputation. Now, it’s not just seen as a more affordable counterpoint to the likes of Silicon Valley, it’s appreciated as a beautiful, leafy hub with a thriving dining scene, a vibrant arts culture and two expansive rivers just waiting for summer fun.

I wasn’t born here but I’ve lived in the River City long enough to consider it my honorary hometown–which means I know a thing or two about what makes Sacramento so very Sacramento. Read on if you want to learn a little about what it means to do this city right.

Know your city nicknames.

No one here calls it Sacratomato. Oh, sure, legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen (a Sacramento native) did, but let that word escape your mouth today and you’re going to get some serious side-eye. We may be known for our wondrous tomato bounty, but this is Sactown, Sacto or Sac. Period.

Learn the vernacular.

Sacramento boasts a laid-back, easygoing nature that’s equal parts hippie, skater and nature enthusiast. We’re chill. Like hella chill. Hella. Get used to that word because it epitomizes Sacramento’s hang loose vibe.

You live in Sactown? Hella tight, dude.

Keep it real.

Sacramento has grown a lot in the last decade and, accordingly, that means the city’s undergone some radical changes, including new neighborhoods suddenly replacing warehouse districts and run-down blocks getting glitzy makeovers. Sacramento’s DoCo area falls into that latter category but pay attention: No one calls it DoCo. At least not without laughing.

DoCo stands for “Downtown Commons” and it covers a stretch of city blocks that used to be known as one of the city’s grittier areas. These days it boasts a shiny new basketball arena, a gaggle of restaurants and shops and a bright, blocky sign spelling out DoCo. Nice idea, but it’s still just ‘downtown’ to the locals.

Know where the fun happens.

Speaking of neighborhoods, Sacramento’s Midtown District, also known as “the Grid,” is the city’s arts and entertainment hub. In addition to the recent groundswell of trendy restaurants and lofts, it’s also still (thankfully) home to a wealth of long standing dive bars, old school diners and rows upon rows of stately Victorians, Craftsman bungalows and California cottages. Here, old school charm meets new world ideas and innovation.

Still, sometimes it’s an uneasy union. Those who made the Grid home long before it was cool have launched their own unofficial campaign, “keep Midtown janky.” Keep an eye out for the signs and stickers!

Suffer with the rest of us.

This town bleeds purple but loving the Sacramento Kings, Sactown’s only professional sports team, is not for the faint of heart. The longsuffering basketball franchise is basically the Cubs of the NBA but at least the Cubs finally won a championship. The Kings got close to the finals once—gather round, children, and we’ll tell you about the Controversial Ref Call of 2002.

Since then, however, the team’s been in a perpetual state of “rebuilding” and the kind of down-on-its-luck that makes you reach for that extra beer (or two) in the last few minutes of the game. There’s the team’s official hashtag, #SacramentoProud and then there’s #kangz–the one we pop up on Twitter when we’re especially frustrated. Someday we’ll have a winning season again. Someday. Right? Oh, Kangz….

It’s still the City of Trees.

Marketing folks are going to try to tell you we’re famous for being the the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America and while it’s true that this region has a rich agricultural history, our official slogan remains City of Trees. We boast more trees per capita than any other city except Paris and we’re proud of it. Go ahead and replace the slogan on the water tower, we’re still not playing your little games.

It’s a dry heat.

If you’re going to do Sacramento right that means you have to learn to tough out the area’s notoriously blistering hot summers. We’re talking triple digits for days in a row. The upside though? No humidity and the world-famous Delta breeze that blows off the region’s two rivers after dark, bathing the city in wafts of deliciously cool air. Survive your first Sacramento summer and we’ll award you honorary native status.



Rachel Leibrock