From LAX, nonstop service is available on Southwest and United. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $158.
At least six wildlife refuges are located within a 90-minute drive of Sacramento:
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley; (530) 846-7500, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region2/graylodge/index.html. About 60 miles north of Sacramento. Admission $2.50 for ages 16 and older; kids are free. Open sunrise to sunset. Docent-led tours are available 10 a.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays, unless raining, through peak viewing season, about October-February. Best viewing of wintering waterfowl is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. September is the best month to see sandhill cranes.
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 752 County Road 99W, Willows; (530) 934-2801, http://www.fws.gov/sacramentovalleyrefuges. About 80 miles north of Sacramento. Admission $3 a car. The visitors center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily from November through February, and weekdays the rest of the year. A two-mile walking trail and six-mile driving route are open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Mid-November to mid-December is the best time to see peak concentrations of waterfowl, but they're around from October through mid-March.
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, 45211 County Road 32B, Davis; (530) 757-2461, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region3/yolo/index.html. About 10 miles southwest of Sacramento. Free public tours available the second Saturday of most months are conducted by the Yolo Basin Foundation, http://www.yolobasin.org. Open year-round from sunrise to sunset, but may close if there's winter flooding. The best time to see migratory shorebirds and waterfowl is September through March.
Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, 1624 Hood-Franklin Road, Elk Grove; (916) 775-4420, http://www.fws.gov/stonelakes. About 17 miles south of Sacramento. Free. Accessible only by docent-led tours September through June.
Woodbridge Ecological Reserve (also known as the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve), about 35 miles south of Sacramento), off Woodbridge Road in Lodi; (209) 948-7708, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/3/cranetour. Accessible by self-guided or docent-led tour. Tours take place the first three weekends of each month from October through February, except Nov. 6 and 7, when there is a different schedule. Tours meet 90 minutes before sunset; $8 donation is requested. Sign up online.
Cosumnes River Preserve, 13501 Franklin Blvd., Galt; (916) 684-2816, http://www.cosumnes.org. Free. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; weekday hours vary. Much of the preserve is open for self-guided tours, but guided walks are held at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month. The best time to see waterfowl is October to February; for sandhill cranes, early September through mid-March.
WHERE TO STAY
The Citizen Hotel, 926 J St., Sacramento; (916) 447-2700, http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/sacramento/citizen/. Tongue-in-cheek political humor decorates this recently rehabbed 1926 Beaux-Arts high-rise. Doubles begin at $149 on weekends and $199 weekdays.
Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J St., Sacramento; (916) 447-1700, http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1247.A $5-million renovation completed in January spruced up this hotel, whose public spaces are housed in a 1923 former market designed by architect Julia Morgan. Doubles start at $99.
WHERE TO EAT
Grange Restaurant & Bar, 926 J St., Sacramento; (916) 492-4450, http://www.grangesacramento.com. Located inside the Citizen Hotel, the handsome dining room showcases local farm-to-table cuisine. Entrees about $15 to $38.
Hot Italian Pizza & Panini Bar, 1627 16th St.; (916) 444-3000, http://www.hotitalian.net. Admire vintage Bianchi bicycles while eating thin-crust, artisan-style pizza, plus panini, calzones, salads, and gelato in a Euro-chic setting. Entrees about $9 to $18.
TO LEARN MORE
Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, http://www.discovergold.org.