As the capitol of the state of California, Sacramento is also its oldest incorporated city, located between the confluences of the Sacramento and American rivers. While it was founded in 1849, experiencing explosive growth when gold was discovered in a nearby, many landmarks of its history remain, including Sutter’s Fort, Old Sacramento, and what remains of the original ground level of Sacramento. Today, Sacramento has a population of 490,000 city and over two million in the metropolitan area overall.
While a fairly large city, the pace of life is slower in Sacramento than in other California cities of comparable size, and the people are generally warm and friendly, with Sacramento being named the most diverse city in the U.S. by Time magazine.
As Sacramento is a state capital, no visit to the city would be complete without a tour of the California State Capitol Museum, which includes the historical state capitol building and the surrounding 16 square city blocks, known as Capitol Park. Inside, visitors can see the capitol, its legislative chambers, and its restored historic offices. Outside, patrons can tour the museum’s many gardens, memorials, and monuments, all located throughout the 40-acre park’s grounds. Next up is a trip to Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, the oldest restored fort in the United States. Built by John Sutter in the 1840s, the fort now holds a collection of pioneer and early California artifacts. Located next to Sutter’s Fort is the State Indian Museum, which contains displays of Native American basketry, beadwork, clothing and exhibits pertaining to the ongoing traditions of various California Indian tribes.
Other historical attractions include the California State Railroad Museum, a museum dedicated to railroad history housing a large collection of old yet well-preserved trains and equipment. Also operated by the museum is the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot, which offers 40 minute steam train rides. Then there is the Sacramento History Museum, which examines the region’s history from the pre-Gold Rush days to present times.
Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Crocker Art Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in the West, home to a leading collection of California art.
Outdoor activities abound in Sacramento, in places like Cesar Chavez Park, formerly known as Plaza Park, a scenic park in the middle of downtown Sacramento that connects the public library, Sacramento’s historic city hall, and Sacramento’s Citizen Hotel. It also provides a great scenic outlook for photos of the Sacramento skyline, and hosts concerts in the summer. For a more rustic experience, a visit to Folsom Lake is in store. As one of Northern California’s largest lakes, Folsom Lake is great place to go for fishing, biking, sailing, kayaking or jet-skiing during the summer.
Animal lovers will love a visit to the Sacramento Zoo. Located in William Land Park, this attraction is a must for families with young children.
Last but not least is Old Sacramento, a thriving riverfront pioneer town turned living historic district, complete with boardwalk-style sidewalks and horse-drawn stagecoaches. Old Sacramento contains several museums, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
While Sacramento may be a more relaxed vacation destination, activities still abound for visitors to experience and enjoy, starting with the Second Saturdays Art Walk, a monthly foray into local art galleries in midtown Sacramento; Concerts in the Park, a free weekly summer concert series; the Sacramento Jazz Festival & Jubilee, an annual Memorial Day weekend concert series; leisurely self-guided river rafting trips along the Lower American River; the Sacramento Pride Festival and Parade, an annual LGBT tradition attracting nearly 10,000 visitors from northern and central California; the California State Fair, a 150+ year old tradition held every summer that draws nearly one million visitors to witness exciting exhibits and amazing attractions, plus live entertainment and the Magnificent Midway; a Sacramento Kings NBA basketball game; riding the American River Bike Trail, a 32-mile world-class bike path stretching between Sacramento and Folsom, California; and Raging Waters, a Sacramento water park featuring over 25 water attractions, such as slides, pools and activities for children and adults. Then there is the Sacramento Gold Rush Days, held every Labor Day weekend. During this time, the city of Sacramento trucks dirt into its historic Old Sacramento area, setting the stage for an event filled with Old West music, food, stories, shows and reenactments of Old West life.
Shoppers will be happy to hear that Sacramento offers a wide variety of stores to meet their needs, starting with Shop the Grid, located in midtown Sacramento. This area features more than 50 boutique shops that cater to a variety of interests. There are also various farmers’ marketers located throughout the metropolitan area, each with its own unique feel, and each selling its own unique products: dairy, meat, seafood, produce, crafts, and artisan items. Last but not least are the area malls, which offer all the shops one would expect to see in a major shopping area: the Arden Fair Mall, home to more than 165 national retail shops, boutiques, and restaurants, with its adjacent Market Square, home to additional shopping, restaurants, and a movie theater; the Westfield Galleria at Roseville, the largest mall in the Sacramento metropolitan area, offering several high-end retailers; the Sunrise Mall, the Country Club Plaza Mall, and the Downtown Plaza.