A Travel Price Comparison for California Sacramento vs. South Lake Tahoe for Nightlife, Families, Couples, and Attractions

Should you visit Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

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

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe, 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.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a breathtaking, idyllic, and scenic town. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. Visitors also love the shopping, skiing, and nightlife.

Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights


Is there more to do in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Visitors will usually find more to do in South Lake Tahoe than Sacramento, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. South Lake Tahoe is better known for its skiing, nightlife, resorts, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Sacramento is more popular for its museums. South Lake Tahoe is more touristy than Sacramento and is popular for its casino resorts, ski resorts, and beautiful setting. Also, South Lake Tahoe is famous for the Heavenly Gondola. Sacramento is well known for its history and state capital.

How is Sacramento different from South Lake Tahoe?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe Better for Skiing?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for skiing and snowboarding. However, Sacramento is not a skiing destination.

Visitors travel far to experience snow skiing in South Lake Tahoe. There are three ski resorts in the area. Heavenly Mountain Resort is the largest, but if you're looking for something smaller, head to Kirkwood, which is tucked away and less well known. There's also Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, which is popular with groups and families because it caters to a range of skill levels.

Sacramento is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

Sacramento is a well-known place for its sights and museums. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a good town for its museums and history.

With a variety of museums, monuments, and historical sights, a trip to Sacramento can be an interesting and educational experience. 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.

While most people don't head to South Lake Tahoe specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. Most people spend their time exploring the area's nature, but you can also stop by Tallac Historic Site or the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum.

Is the Food Better in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

Both Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe offer notable local cuisine and restaurants.

Sacramento has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. 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.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the South Lake Tahoe area. While most resorts have their own restaurants, there are a number of options around town that specialize in "alpine comfort cuisine", which is worth sampling. You'll also find plenty of cafes that serve up a hearty breakfast - the perfect way to start an active day.

Is Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe Better for Nightlife?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is very popular for nightlife and partying. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its evening party scene.

South Lake Tahoe is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. The resort town has plenty of nightclubs, bars, and music venues. There are outdoor options when the weather is warm as well as indoor settings for cooler weather. You'll also find casinos and live shows.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Resorts?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for its luxury resorts. However, Sacramento is not a resort destination.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular resort destination that attracts visitors from everywhere. It's a resort town, so there are plenty of options to choose from, many with pools, spas, or casinos.

Sacramento is not a resort destination.

Is Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe Better for Hiking?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is very popular for its hiking trails. However, Sacramento is not a hiking destination.

Known for its hiking, South Lake Tahoe draws a crowd to experience the nature and the trails. There are miles of beautiful hikes in the area that follow the lake's shore or explore the diverse terrain. Skyline Trail Hike is a favorite. It is accessible by lift and offers spectacular views. For a relaxing stroll check out Fallen Leaf Lake Hike.

Sacramento is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

Shoppers can find a variety of notable stores in both Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Sacramento. 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.

Many visitors go to South Lake Tahoe to go shopping. Most of the shopping involves retailers selling ski gear or outdoor equipment. There are also clothing shops, gift stores, and some art galleries.


Is Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe Better for Families?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

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

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing family-friendly town to visit. Kids will love the outdoor adventures that the area is filled with. There are gondolas, lakefront beaches, adventure parks, and tubing. There are also miles of hiking trails and a beautiful setting that even the young ones will appreciate.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Couples?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is very popular for its romantic activities. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for couples.

South Lake Tahoe has so much to offer for a romantic couple's vacation. It's beautiful setting and wide variety of adventurous activities make this the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. The lake has hidden coves and nearby hiking trails. There are also hot springs, gondolas, and carriage rides. You can go hiking when the weather is warm or skiing when the weather is cold.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe. There are a couple of hostels in the area and the skiing and hiking attracts the backpacker crowd.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

Visitors will find respectable public transit in both Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe.

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

Public transit is generally limited in South Lake Tahoe. While there are some shuttles and buses, if you really want to explore the area, you'll need your own car.

Is Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe a more walkable city?

Sacramento
South Lake Tahoe

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

South Lake Tahoe is a very walkable town. Once you get to town, the area is very walkable.

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 South Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in South Lake Tahoe or Sacramento?

How long in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

In either Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Sacramento because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Sacramento, and 3-5 days is enough time in South Lake Tahoe.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe.


  • How many days in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Sacramento 1-2 
    South Lake Tahoe 3-5

One day in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find food and shopping around the relaxed destination of Sacramento. Because of this, one day is usually enough time for a trip here. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from.

With shopping and skiing around the breathtaking town of South Lake Tahoe, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find shopping and museums around the relaxed city of Sacramento. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities.

With skiing and nightlife around the destination of South Lake Tahoe, there's plenty to do. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. It offers something for everyone. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.

Five days in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Sacramento is a popular choice for travelers. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

South Lake Tahoe, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. This is a popular place to visit for five days. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. In five days, you should have a good grasp of this town. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Sacramento is a great place to explore. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. 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 One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City, The Best 2-Week Tours from Anchorage, and The Best 2-Week Tours from San Francisco.


Which place is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe is $118. 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 South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Sacramento $111
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Sacramento $222
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe? 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 South Lake Tahoe


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 South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Sacramento $51
    South Lake Tahoe $24

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: $110
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $219

Is it cheaper to fly into Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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
    South Lake Tahoe $38

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sacramento

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

  • Historic Old Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $95
  • Midtown Sacramento Arts and Food Tour: $98
  • Downtown Sacramento Historical Food Tour: $98
  • Midtown Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $125
  • Midtown Walking Food Tour: $145
  • Italian Cooking and Dance Class Experience: $160

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Sacramento $19
    South Lake Tahoe $56

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
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Historic Folsom: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Self-Guided City Game: $10
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Placerville to Jackson: $12
  • Driving in Delta’s Wine Country: Private Self-Guided Audio Tour: $12
  • Delta's History and Wine: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Jackson to Angels Camp: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Auburn to Placerville: $12
  • Sacramento Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for South Lake Tahoe are as follows:

  • 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe: $140
  • Clear Kayak Paddle Tour at Sand Harbor: $150
  • Clear Kayak Tour of Lake Tahoe: $165
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Audio Tour From Tahoe City to Incline Village: $9.99
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Tour From Incline Village to South Lake Tahoe: $12
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Tour from South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City: $12
  • Electric Dirtbike Adventure in Lake Tahoe: $200
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $110
  • Emerald Bay Private Luxury Boat Tours: $775
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80
  • Guided Tour of Historic Virginia City and Carson City from South Lake Tahoe: $70

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Sacramento $12
    South Lake Tahoe $34

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
  • Cider and Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch - near Sacramento: $125

Sample the Local Flavors in South Lake Tahoe

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

  • Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay Sunset Wine Tasting Yacht Cruise: $150


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that Sacramento is more expensive. And not only is South Lake Tahoe much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to South Lake Tahoe would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe.

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


Which is Bigger, Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe?

Sacramento has a larger population, and is about 20 times larger than the population of South Lake Tahoe. When comparing the sizes of Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, 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.