Staying Cool in Sacramento, Part 2: Cool Things to do Outdoors this Summer

In this second of a two-part series on staying cool in Sacramento during the summertime (see part 1 here on staying cool indoors here), we explore not only some of the area’s natural resources, but also many of the made-made assets that help us all stay cool and enjoy this beautiful (but sometimes rather hot) area in which we live.

Rivers and Lakes

Sacramento River Cruise – take a delightful 1-hour cruise aboard the Hornblower as you venture down the river. Stay inside the air-conditioned cabin, or enjoy the open air as you cruise under the Tower Bridge, slowly meander past the Delta King and enjoy scenic views of Old Sacramento, Discovery Park and more. Listen carefully to your captain or river guide as they tell you historic facts about the river and the city that was built around it. The cruises depart three times each Thursday through Sunday during the summer months. Cost is $20 per person. Look for special holiday cruises your whole family can enjoy.

Hornblower Cruise 039


Discovery Park – this 302-acre park located right downtown where the Sacramento and American rivers meet, offers many recreational activities ranging from picnicking to fishing, boating and swimming. While Discovery Park is a popular place to swim, I normally wouldn’t recommend it for families with small children, as the river can be quite dangerous. However, due to the drought, the water level is pretty low, and therefore a less treacherous place to cool off. So, for this might just be a great time to take the kids down for a swim. Even with the more tame conditions, life jackets are always a good idea, especially for your little ones. Parking is $5, $3 small watercraft launch fee.

Discovery Park View


Folsom Lake – Located just 25 miles east of Sacramento at the base of the Sierra foothills, Folsom Lake and Recreation Area offers visitors swimming, water-skiing, boating and fishing in addition to hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping. While the lake level is pretty low this year due to drought, the reports are that the water is warm and shores are less crowded than usual – which can be a good thing. Bring an umbrella or pop-up tent, chairs and some food and enjoy a day lakeside. Parking is $12.

Sacramento State Aquatic Center – The Sacramento State Aquatic Center, located on Lake Natoma, is operated by California State University, Sacramento, the University Union of Sacramento State, California Department of Boating and Waterways, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The Center provides instruction in Sailing, Rowing, Water-ski/Wakeboarding, and Windsurfing not only to Sac State students, but to the general public as well. Also provided are a series of summer camps, and youth programs. The Aquatic Center is open seven days a week and is a great place to learn water sports, have a reunion or birthday party.

Sac State Aquatic Center


Water Parks and Splash Pads

Raging Waters – located within the Cal Expo grounds, this large water park is just minutes from downtown. Raging waters offers 25 attractions for all ages, including fun and thrilling water slides like Hurricane, Splashdown and the Cliffhanger Speed Slide. Other attractions include Breaker Beach Wave Pool, the Calypso Cooler Lazy River, and Treehouse Reef. Hang out poolside, on the grass, or rent a private cabana. This is also a great place for birthday or other celebrations. If you’ll go more than twice this summer, I would recommend buying a season pass from Costco, for $39.99, season ticket holders get a coupon book offering all kinds of discounts, including two “friends” passes. The season pas also gets you access to the California State Fair (July 10-26, 2015). I’m not going to lie, though. While Raging Waters Sacramento is fun and very convenient – my kids have season passes – it’s a bit run down. Here’s to hoping they spruce things up over the next season or two.

Raging Waters Sacramento

GolfLand Sunsplash – this water park is located in Roseville – about 20 miles from downtown Sacramento. The park offers over 30 rides and attractions including water and thrill slides like Vortex and Thunder Falls. There’s also Adventure Island and Thunder Bay Wave Pool in addition to miniature golf, laser tag, a raceway, and some food and beverage establishments. Like Raging Waters, this is also a great place for group events including birthdays. Sunsplash also offers fun Nite Slides. Season passes are quite a bit more expensive though – $99 for single pass. With the season pass you’ll receive 50 percent off non-swim activities like laser tag and golfing.

Neighborhood splash pads – One of the things Sacramento takes pride in, is its neighborhood parks. In fact, last year, the Trust for Public Land ranked Sacramento #7 (tied with Denver) out of 60 cities across the nation for having the best city parks. While we do have some great parks that we can enjoy all year-long, we really appreciate our parks with splash pads during the hot, summer months. And despite the drought, most Sacramento city splash pads will be open this summer – and these parks are a great way to stay cool for FREE. Take a look at our list of splash pads and water parks here.



Cool Treats

Favorite Ice Cream Shops – Sacramento has some amazing ice cream shops. There’s favorites like Vic’s Ice Cream on Franklin Boulevard, Leatherby’s on Arden Way, and Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour on Watt Avenue. And then, there’s Gunther’s Ice Cream. Just last week, Gunther’s was named the best ice cream shop in California by mobile search app Foursquare. The family run ice cream shop has been around for 75 years, and is still going strong!

Shaved Ice – There’s a couple of Sacramento establishments where one can get a great shaved ice treat. When you are out and about and you spot the delightful Local Kine Shave Ice Food Truck you’ve got to make a stop. Or better yet, attend the next SactoMoFo event and make sure your stop by Local Kine for dessert. You can follow them on Facebook here.

And for when you are meandering the streets of Old Sacramento, make sure to stop in at Frozen in Time Treats. This shop serves not only Gunther’s ice cream in the form of cones, sundae’s banana splits (and more), but a great shaved ice as well. Frozen in time is the perfect ending to a fun day spent in Old Sacramento with friends or out-of-town guests.

Vampire Penguin – Fairly new to Sacramento, Vampire Penguin serves…not ice cream, and not shaved ice…but shaved snow. What is shaved snow you ask? Well, it’s a cross between ice cream and shaved ice. Just imagine it. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The local business has one shop on Stockton Boulevard, one in Davis, and another in Elk Grove and one more soon to open in Rocklin.

Osaka-Ya Shaved Ice Sacramento


Osaka-ya – This mom and pop Japanese market has been a Sacramento fixture for over 50 years. Located on 10th Street downtown, Osaka-ya serves the Japanese sweets Mochi and Manju, as well as cream puffs and – the reason they are on our list – shaved ice. They make the typical yummy shaved ice flavors in addition to a few of their own such as sweet red beans, green tea powder and condensed milk. Go ahead, give Osaka-ya a try!


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