I just recently wrapped up a trip to Sacramento, CA, touching down just long enough to see a bunch of old friends, eat copious amounts of Mexican food, and attend my main man Noah’s wedding.
While it was an exhausting whirlwind, it was still fun, as Sacramento is the city I lived in for about a decade until 2011 (at which time I moved abroad to Costa Rica), and it also wasn’t inconvenient. In fact, whether it was taking the Capital Corridor train from San Francisco to Sacramento or flying out of Sactown to Los Angeles, traveling in the capital of California is pretty easy.
A big part of that is thanks to Sacramento International Airport, which is just big enough to offer plenty of routes, direct flights, and even international destinations, but still small enough to be easily accessible and not at all overwhelming or unmanageable.
With the IATA airport code SMF, this airport serves all of northern California, but specifically the capital region (Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose are the nearest airports in the Bay Area). And just like the 916 has seen a dynamic transformation and meteoric growth in the last few years as the downtown area is completely redeveloped, Sacramento’s airport has seen vast improvements and growth, as well.
Last year, nearly 11 million passengers (10,912,080) flew in or out of SMF on 118,783 individual flights. That’s way up from just 2014, for instance, when less than 9 million passengers flew in and out of Sacramento’s airport. These days, it also serves as a hub for Southwest Airlines, which made up more than half (53%) of all flights. Other popular airlines include American Airlines (11% of all flights), United Airlines (7%), Delta Airlines (6.8%), and SkyWest Airlines (6%).
The great thing about SMF is also its location, as it sits smack dab in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Sacramento in an area called Natomas, with nothing but farmer’s fields around. That means that once you clear downtown and Natomas traffic, you have smooth sailing up until the airport, with no confusing surface streets to contend with. Parking is also easy at SMF, as they have a huge span of outdoor parking where you can leave your car (although it takes a while to walk and catch the shuttle), and new parking structures if you want your ride indoors or for the shorter term.
Inside, SMF is almost never too crowded and clean, modern, well laid out, and spacious. However, double check your ticket because airlines sometimes consolidate or sponsor smaller routes, so even though your ticket says Alaska, for instance, you may be actually on an American Eagle flight in a separate terminal. Once you check in, you’ll find a few nice cafes, restaurants, and places to get a beer or glass of wine while you wait.
So, where can you fly from SMF? Of course, the most popular destination is Los Angeles, followed by San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and more in Orange County. But I especially appreciate the nonstop flight on JetBlue from Sacramento to JFK in New York, which only costs about $300 on average, so I can easily fly cross country from my second home to my real hometown in Connecticut.