With its huge population of students, Chico has the wild energy of a college kegger during the school year, and a lazy, lethargic hangover during the summer. An oak-shaded downtown and university makes it one of Sacramento Valley’s more attractive hubs, where folks mingle late in the restaurants and bars, which open onto patios when it's warm.
The smoldering streets of Red Bluff – one of California’s hottest towns due to the hot-air trap of the Shasta Cascades – aren't much of a draw on their own. But a glimpse toward the mountainous horizon reveals what brings most travelers this way. Peter Lassen laid out the town site in 1847 and it grew into a key port along the Sacramento River.
North of Sacramento's bustle, the quiet town of Oroville has seen quite a reversal. In the mid-19th century the lust for gold brought a crush of white settlers, who drove out the native community. Today, crowds still seek riches – in the thriving tribal casinos on the outskirts of town.
Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta
The Sacramento Delta is a sprawling web of waterways and one-stoplight towns plucked out of the 1930s. On weekends, locals gun powerboats on glassy waterways and cruise winding levy roads. This wetland area encompasses a huge swath of the state – from the San Francisco Bay to Sacramento, and all the way south to Stockton.