A Travel Price Comparison for California Sacramento vs. Santa Monica for Families, Attractions, Food, and Nightlife

Should you visit Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Sacramento or Santa Monica, this travel comparison, which includes costs, can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison down below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Sacramento

Sacramento is a relaxed, undiscovered, and laid back city. And you can't forget about the nightlife, food, and shopping.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a lively, funfilled, and energetic town. Visitors also love the museums, nightlife, and food.

Sacramento and Santa Monica: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good public transit
Things to Consider
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
  • Home to the Santa Monica Pier


Is there more to do in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Santa Monica than Sacramento. While Sacramento is larger than Santa Monica, Santa Monica has more sights and attractions for tourists. Santa Monica is better known for its food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Sacramento is more popular for its museums. Santa Monica is more touristy than Sacramento and is popular for its active lifestyle and fun-filled activities. Also, Santa Monica is famous for the Santa Monica Pier. Sacramento is well known for its history and state capital.

How is Sacramento different from Santa Monica?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Santa Monica and Sacramento. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Sacramento is notable for its sights and museums. Also, Santa Monica is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its museums and history.

Sacramento offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. As the state capital, you'll find a number of historical and informational museums around town. You should check out the State Capital, as well as the California State Railroad Museum, the Crocker Museum of Art, Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, and the California Automobile Museum.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Santa Monica. There's a thriving arts scene and a number of museums around town. Check out the Museum of Flying, the California Heritage Museum, or the Santa Monica History Museum.


Is the Food Better in Sacramento or Santa Monica? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its restaurants. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its restaurant scene.

Santa Monica has a huge number of terrific restaurants. You'll find a diversity of restaurants in the area, many of which make use of the town's many farmer's markets. The restaurant scene has a beachy vibe with a lot of outdoor dining opportunities. There are also a range of cuisines to choose from such as Mexican, Italian, casual, and upscale.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Sacramento area. Casual restaurants with laid back atmospheres are what's most common around town. You'll also find a variety of international cuisines that include Korean and Vietnamese.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Nightlife?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for nightlife and partying. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its evening party scene.

Santa Monica has a large number of nightlife venues. There's a relaxed and laid back vibe to the nightlife scene. Many venues offer outdoor seating and live music in a casual setting. You can hang out on a patio and enjoy the California climate while you sip cold drinks and the beach town atmosphere.

Sacramento has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. There highest concentration of activities are found in Downtown Sacramento. You'll find bars, clubs and live music in the area. You can also head to midtown, which has performing arts and comedy shows.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Beaches?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is very popular for the beache. However, Sacramento is not a beach destination.

The beaches in Santa Monica are among the best in the world. Santa Monica Beach is large and lined with bike trails. It's also filled with activity and you'll find many water sports, beach volleyball, and surfing in the area. There's also the famous Santa Monica Pier, which has an amusement park aquarium, Ferris wheal, dining, and shopping.

Sacramento is not a beach destination.


Is the Shopping Better in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its shopping opportunities. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its shopping areas.

Santa Monica is well-known for its shopping. It's easy to pass the time shopping in Santa Monica. There are independent vendors, fashion boutiques, and art galleries. Head to Montana Avenue or Main Street for some of the best shopping.

Many visitors go to Sacramento to go shopping. You'll find down-to-earth vendors who have reasonable prices and a great selection. Some of the most interesting shopping is found at the Old Sacramento Waterfront or along Folsom Boulevard.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Families?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is very popular for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

Santa Monica is an amazing family-friendly town to visit. Many families spend their days hanging out on the beaches, soaking up the sun, and even trying to surf. There's a boardwalk as well as bike paths that are perfect for people watching. You should also check out the Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, which is a thrilling amusement park.

You'll find plenty of kid-friendly things to do in Sacramento. With the large number of families that live in the area, you'll a variety of kid-friendly activities. Options include smaller amusement parks like Funderland Amusement Park, museums like the Sacramento Children's Museum, and indoor trampoline parks. There's also Fairytale Town, which is an imagination filled playground.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Couples?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its romantic activities. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for couples.

Santa Monica makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Fun days on the beach, peaceful walks at sunset, and a wild nightlife scene make this the perfect couples destination for couples who enjoy activity and excitement.

Sacramento is not always the best place to visit for a couple. Picnics, nice restaurants, and shows make for enjoyable date activities while you're in town.


Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a nice place to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for backpackers.

It's common for backpackers to visit Santa Monica. There's no shortage of activities in the area, whether you're into surfing, partying, or sunbathing. There's also at least one hostel that's great for budget travelers and backpackers.

Sacramento is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. Although most backpackers skip this town for more popular destinations, there are a couple of hostels in town.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Sacramento is a moderate city for its public transit. However, Santa Monica does not have public transit.

Public transit is generally limited in Sacramento. There's both light rail and buses around town.

Santa Monica does not have public transit. The Metro E Line connects the city to downtown Los Angeles. There's also the Big Blue Bus as well the Santa Monica Circuit, which are small electric carts that offer free rides between Wilshire Boulevard and Marine Street, and from the ocean to Fifth Street.

Is Sacramento or Santa Monica a more walkable city?

Sacramento
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its high level of walkability. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for its ease of walking around.

Santa Monica is a very walkable town. The city is very walkable, particularly in the more touristy areas.

Sacramento is generally not very walkable. You'll really want a car to get around town, but Midtown is one of the more walkable areas.


For even more information, also check out Is Sacramento Worth Visiting? and Is Santa Monica Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Santa Monica or Sacramento?

How long in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Sacramento and Santa Monica. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Santa Monica than in Sacramento. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Sacramento, and 1-3 days is enough time in Santa Monica.

Families should spend more time in Santa Monica than Sacramento. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Santa Monica, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Santa Monica than Sacramento. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Santa Monica that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Santa Monica than Sacramento if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Santa Monica.


  • How many days in Sacramento or Santa Monica? Ideal Length of Stay
    Sacramento 1-2 
    Santa Monica 1-3

One day in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

In Sacramento, many people enjoy the food and shopping that this laid back city offers. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. In one day, you should have a good grasp of this city.

With museums and nightlife around the energetic town of Santa Monica, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. One of the main draws to the area is the beaches. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Santa Monica, one day is sufficent for most.

A weekend in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Sacramento is a fun place to experience. If you have a weekend, this is a great place to go. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

With nightlife and food around the destination of Santa Monica, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. One of the main draws to the area is the beaches. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Five days in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

You'll find museums and nightlife around the relaxed destination of Sacramento. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

Santa Monica, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.


A week in Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Sacramento is a popular place to visit. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Santa Monica is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One of the main draws to the area is the beaches. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Sightseeing Tours in United States of America, The Best Cruise Tours and Packages in United States of America, The Best Cultural Tours in United States of America, and The Best Photography Tours in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Monica or Sacramento?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Sacramento is $281, while the average daily cost in Santa Monica is $210. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Sacramento and Santa Monica in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Sacramento $111
    Santa Monica $123
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Sacramento $222
    Santa Monica $246
Compare Hotels in Sacramento and Santa Monica

Looking for a hotel in Sacramento or Santa Monica? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Sacramento


Hotels in Santa Monica


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Sacramento Hotel Prices and Santa Monica Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Sacramento $51
    Santa Monica $50

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Sacramento

Also for Sacramento, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Arrival Private Transfer: $111
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $222
  • Round Trip Private Transfer in Sacramento Airport to Calistoga: $297

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Monica

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Monica:

  • Santa Monica to Los Angeles Airport Departure Private Transfer: $75
  • Santa Monica to Long Beach Airport (LGB) - Deparure Private Transfer: $80

Is it cheaper to fly into Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Prices for flights to both Santa Monica and Sacramento change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Sacramento $53
    Santa Monica $52

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sacramento

For Sacramento, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Midtown Sacramento Arts and Food Tour: $98
  • Downtown Sacramento Historical Food Tour: $98
  • Historic Old Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $115
  • Midtown Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $140
  • Midtown Walking Food Tour: $140
  • Italian Cooking and Dance Class Experience: $160

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Monica

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Santa Monica.

  • Los Angeles Premier Dinner Cruise from Marina del Rey: $124
  • Marina del Rey Father's Day Plated Dinner Cruise: $222

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Sacramento $19
    Santa Monica $38

Tours and Activities in Sacramento

For Sacramento, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Gold Rush & Ghosts SmartPhone App Walking Tour: $6.50
  • Gold Rush and Ghosts of Sacramento Smart Phone guided (App/GPS) Walking Tour: $6.75
  • Romantic Quest Experience: $7.01
  • Historic Folsom: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Self-Guided City Game: $10
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Jackson to Angels Camp: $12
  • Delta's History and Wine: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • Driving in Delta’s Wine Country: Private Self-Guided Audio Tour: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Placerville to Jackson: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Auburn to Placerville: $12

Tours and Activities in Santa Monica

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Santa Monica are as follows:

  • 15 Passengers Open Ocean/Harbor Cruise Party Boat Marina Del Rey: $129
  • 2 Hour Sailing Adventure From Marina Del Rey: $160
  • 3-Hour Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Guided Tour : $72
  • 5.5-Hour Exclusive Malibu Stars Homes & Beautiful Beach Tour: $89
  • Bring-Your-Own-Food and Drinks Marina del Rey Boat Tour: $80
  • City Tour of Los Angeles from Torrance and El Segundo: $122
  • Dolphin Sighting Sunset Tour: $90
  • Explore Malibu's Coast: PCH & Beyond - Self Guided Audio Tour: $30
  • Karaoke Boat Cruise ( Drinks included) LA's best attraction: $149
  • LA & Self-Guided Aerospace Legacy Audio Tour: $30
  • LA: Santa Monica & Venice Beach Guided Bike or eBike Tour: $72
  • Los Angeles Must-See Tour - Filming Locations, Crime Scenes, Celebrity Homes: $197

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Sacramento $12
    Santa Monica $21

Sample the Local Flavors in Sacramento

Also in Sacramento, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Sacramento Bar Hunt: Sacramento Sprint Bar Crawl: $12
  • Placer County Wine Tasting Pass: $19
  • Wine Tasting Audio Tour - Lodi California: $35
  • Clarksburg Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch near Sacramento: $135
  • Old Vine Express Train Ride with Wine Tasting: $174

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Monica

Also in Santa Monica, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Private Vintage VW Hippie Tour to Malibu with wine tasting: $195


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Sacramento and Santa Monica, we can see that Sacramento is more expensive. And not only is Santa Monica much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Santa Monica would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Santa Monica and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Sacramento would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Sacramento than you might in Santa Monica.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Sacramento Expensive? and Is Santa Monica Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Sacramento has a larger population, and is about 5 times larger than the population of Santa Monica. When comparing the sizes of Sacramento and Santa Monica, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Sacramento or Santa Monica?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Monica in the Summer?

The summer brings many poeple to Sacramento as well as Santa Monica. Many visitors come to Sacramento in the summer for the family-friendly experiences. Also, most visitors come to Santa Monica for the beaches and the family-friendly experiences during these months.

Sacramento is a little warmer than Santa Monica in the summer. The daily temperature in Sacramento averages around 76°F (24°C) in July, and Santa Monica fluctuates around 70°F (21°C).

Sacramento usually gets more rain in July than Santa Monica. Sacramento gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0 inches (0 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Sacramento 76°F (24°C) 
    Santa Monica 70°F (21°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Monica in the Autumn?

Both Santa Monica and Sacramento are popular destinations to visit in the autumn with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Sacramento for the shopping scene during these months. Also, the autumn months attract visitors to Santa Monica because of the shopping scene.

In the autumn, Sacramento is cooler than Santa Monica. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Sacramento in October average around 64°F (18°C), and Santa Monica averages at about 67°F (20°C).

In October, Sacramento usually receives more rain than Santa Monica. Sacramento gets 1.1 inches (27 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.2 inches (6 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Sacramento 64°F (18°C) 
    Santa Monica 67°F (20°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Monica in the Winter?

Both Santa Monica and Sacramento during the winter are popular places to visit. The winter months attract visitors to Sacramento because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Furthermore, the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Santa Monica this time of year.

In January, Sacramento is generally much colder than Santa Monica. Daily temperatures in Sacramento average around 45°F (7°C), and Santa Monica fluctuates around 57°F (14°C).

Sacramento usually gets more rain in January than Santa Monica. Sacramento gets 3.8 inches (97 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.7 inches (17 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Sacramento 45°F (7°C) 
    Santa Monica 57°F (14°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Monica in the Spring?

The spring attracts plenty of travelers to both Sacramento and Santa Monica. Furthermore, many travelers come to Santa Monica for the beaches.

Sacramento is around the same temperature as Santa Monica in the spring. The daily temperature in Sacramento averages around 58°F (15°C) in April, and Santa Monica fluctuates around 61°F (16°C).

In April, Sacramento usually receives more rain than Santa Monica. Sacramento gets 1.3 inches (32 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Sacramento 58°F (15°C) 
    Santa Monica 61°F (16°C)

Typical Weather for Santa Monica and Sacramento

Sacramento Santa Monica
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 45°F (7°C) 3.8 inches (97 mm) 57°F (14°C) 0.7 inches (17 mm)
Feb 51°F (10°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm) 58°F (15°C) 0.9 inches (24 mm)
Mar 54°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 58°F (15°C) 0.4 inches (10 mm)
Apr 58°F (15°C) 1.3 inches (32 mm) 61°F (16°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm)
May 65°F (18°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Jun 72°F (22°C) 0.1 inches (3 mm) 66°F (19°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Jul 76°F (24°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 70°F (21°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Aug 75°F (24°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 71°F (22°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Sep 72°F (22°C) 0.5 inches (12 mm) 70°F (21°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Oct 64°F (18°C) 1.1 inches (27 mm) 67°F (20°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Nov 53°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 62°F (17°C) 0.2 inches (5 mm)
Dec 45°F (7°C) 2.6 inches (65 mm) 58°F (14°C) 0.6 inches (15 mm)