While Sacramento doesn’t appear on the list of hot tourist destinations, one of the oldest cities in California still can offer plenty of amazing experiences.
Sacramento is a place full of history
The very first inhabitants on the lands of modern Sacramento were the Nisenans and Miwoks, whose livelihood was based on hunting and gathering. In 1799 the entire territory, now occupied by the capital’s center, was explored by Spanish travelers leaded by Gabriel Moraga, who was captivated by the beauty and abundance of these lands. In 1839 John Sutter, an American pioneer of Swiss descent, arrived here and founded a trading colony. Almost 10 years later, gold was discovered on this land; the fort and the colony began to grow rapidly and after a couple of years received the status of a city. It was a truly prosperous place, since Sacramento was the only city in California that managed to pay $1 million in 1854 to gain the status of the state capital. Here are some other interesting facts about Sacramento:
- Apart from the city we know, there is a “hidden” Sacramento — a large and abandoned network of tunnels — beneath the ground.
- The restoration project for Sacramento Capitol building was registered as the largest in American history at that time.
- Sacramento has many affectionate nicknames such as Sactown, Camellia capital of the world, River City, or even the Big Tomato.
- The only city that has more trees than Sacramento is Paris.
- The best time to visit Sacramento is spring and autumn, since the summer weather can become very hot.
Every year, the city receives hundreds of thousands of tourists who speak of Sacramento as a hearty and welcoming place. Still further, there are lots of things to do, see and taste here. Museums, architectural monuments, parks and zoos make Sacramento attractive for tourist visits. The capital of California offers a broad selection of cultural experiences like visiting theaters, watching ballet performances and listening to symphonic music. Special dining locations are, of course, a part of local culture and complement the list of top Sacramento experiences. Don’t forget to check numerous annual events and festivals, which may fall on your visiting dates: Cultural Arts Carnaval, various film and food festivals are just few of the many unique experiences you can add to your Sacramento experience list.
time for visiting Sacramento attractions is limited to a single day, you may not reach all the places worth visiting, but you still can enjoy the main historical sights of the city. First, head to Old Sacramento and immerse into the feeling of travelling through the centuries into the past. Most buildings in the area (State Historic Park) date back to the 19th century. All of them required reconstruction because of the catastrophic fire that occurred in 1852. Nevertheless, the surviving buildings help to convey the spirit of their time, and once you get there, you most likely will get a feeling you entered a scene from a Western movie.
Initially, the city began to build up on the east bank of the Sacramento River, the first city structure was founded here in 1800. Now this area of old buildings and factories is called Old Sacramento. Most of the houses here aren’t used for their intended purpose nowadays: they became restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and museums. Numerous cruise ships set sail from Old Sacramento Waterfront Public Docks.
Amazing 19th century Californian style houses are spread on the main street of old Sacramento. Be sure to enjoy the real wooden sidewalks! There is also the old passenger depot built in 1867 and reconstructed in 1976 as a part of largest in North America railroad museum, which is just a few blocks away. Nearby is the Schoolhouse Museum, located in the old wooden school of Sacramento: here you can learn how school life was back in the 19th century. Within 200 feet on the waterfront, you will find the miracle of engineering from the 1930s: the Tower Bridge is an electric bridge over the Sacramento River, the central part of which rose to let ships pass during the navigation period. It became the first in California bridge with a vertical elevator.
Turning your back to the bridge, in the distance you will see another attraction and important historical site of the city — the Capitol of Sacramento, where the state government of California works. Entrance to the California State Capitol is free of charge, with guided tours conducted every hour from 9 am until 4 pm. Before entering the Sacramento Capitol, you can enjoy the surrounding area of the Capitol park, which houses a large variety of (labeled) trees, a rose garden and succulent garden.
The Capitol Building
The Capitol is considered one of the magnificent historical buildings of Sacramento, which houses the Governor’s Office and the legislature of California. Its construction began in 1861 and lasted about thirteen years. Shortly before the end of construction, the monument was included in the national register of historic places. In the middle of the last century, $68 million — a great amount of money at that time — was spent to reconstruct the Sacramento Capitol building, and it is no exaggeration to say that the majestic white building still looks worthy of Washington.
The similarity between the U.S. Capitol in Washington and California State Capitol is easy to spot. A portico is leading to the entrance, with a roof structure supported by columns over the walkway. The cornice depicts Menerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, surrounded by Justice, Education, Industry, and Mining. Of particular interest is the dome rising 210 ft above the roof of the building, its appearance harmoniously complemented by large arched windows. Every day at night, a golden ball-shaped lantern is turned on, which illuminates the crowning structure. Unlike other capitols topped with statues, the gold-plated ball on top of Sacramento Capitol building symbolizes the 1849 Gold Rush.
As the present, past and future interact in the Sacramento Capitol, it serves as both a museum and working place for public officials. Standing out is the Senate Chamber, where forty elected officials take part in the legislative process. Californians can view the proceedings from the balcony gallery, which overlooks the Senate Chamber floor and reflects free public access and participation. A red carpet in Victorian design is spread out along the corridor leading to this room. The ceiling of the senatorial chamber is decorated with a huge crystal chandelier. In the center of the building there is a monument to Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Queen Isabella, who allegedly sponsored his trip to the shores of America with the money earned from the mortgage of her jewelry.
A short acquaintance with Sacramento can be completed at the origins of this city, near the famous fortress, which was the beginning of the city’s rapid development; Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is located 1.5 miles away from the State Capitol.
Even though the local zoo is not the largest in California, visitors love it for its animal-friendly environment and efficient planning. The Sacramento Zoo houses more than 500 animals, representing about 120 species — native, exotic, rare or endangered — which include mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Apart from close encounters with their favorite animals, the zoo offers other experiences such as carousel and train rides, and climbing. Keep your eyes open for special events and temporary exhibitions, such as realistic dinosaur displays, photography classes and events for young nature explorers.
Crocker Art Museum
The art collection stored in the Sacramento Crocker Art Museum is one of the most impressive in the whole state. Known as a Sacramento gem great for all ages and groups, the Crocker serves as a place for study and appreciation of fine arts. The museum offers a wide spectrum of exhibitions and events including concerts, movies, lectures and classes. Here is a place for both classic and contemporary art, paintings, sculpture, and ceramics. The collection includes American, European, Asian, and African art, with works of California artists occupying an important place in the permanent exhibition. Since the site is so extensive, you would be happy to wear some good walking shoes here!
California State Railroad Museum
The California State Railroad Museum will almost certainly appeal to both children and adults, novices and experts — with beautifully restored locomotives and railroad cars, vintage serviettes, porcelain tableware, cutlery and candelabra from the dining saloons, it provides a good illustration of state’s railroad history. The museum is home to 225,000 square-feet of exhibits, as well as famous excursion train rides along the Sacramento waterfront. The second floor of the museum showcases a collection of toy railways with some 1000 vintage toy trains, collected by Thomas W. Sefton. This Sacramento museum offers guided adult tours and interactive activities for children, which can be booked through the official website.
California Automobile Museum
Do you like cars? Sacramento has a very impressive theme museum where locals and visitors can see 120+ cars covering about 120 years of history. The collection, consisting of cars of different brands, includes items from the early history of American automotive industry as well as modern cars equipped with the latest tech. At a specially designated place, the presented cars can even be purchased while visiting the museum. Opening the collection is the first electric motor car launched in the 1899. The number of museum displays today does not allow to list all available car models, since a special type of transport is presented here from every decade. Well-written information panels and knowledgeable volunteers will help the visitors to learn a good bit of social and technological history. Many of the exhibits, despite their centuries-old age, are still an active means of transportation, which is why during the wedding ceremonies, city parades and processions, some of them are driven out to the streets of Sacramento.
Dining in Sacramento
Sacramento is also known as the “farm-to-fork capital”, since much of the America’s produce comes from Central California. You can stock your fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, honey, oil, nuts and freshly prepared local goods from the Midtown Farmers Weekend Market, which works all year round. But apart from its unmatched produce, Sacramento also offers a very diverse and thriving restaurant scene. Since Sacramento is one of the most racially diverse cities in the United States, it also grants an opportunity to try different cuisines while taking a break from visiting its amazing tourist sites. Some even would say that dining out is one of the best Sacramento experiences in itself.
The Kitchen Restaurant
Rated as the #1 Sacramento restaurant by TripAdvisor, the Kitchen Restaurant offers event-like, interactive dining experiences rather than just having another meal. Reservations are required and can take three months to get. As all the guests gather in place at 6.30 pm, the doors are closed and the event can begin. With atmosphere both elegant and casual, the chef starts by explaining how will the evening proceed. The menu is fixed, however, the restaurant accommodates vegetarian and gluten-free options. The kitchen is open, everyone can observe the cooking process, ask questions and make suggestions while the five-course meal is served. Although the experience is pricey, the food prepared from the finest and freshest ingredients is described by visitors as incredible, superb, and even ‘best ever experienced’.
Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Ranked as one of the best restaurants in Sacramento, Mikuni is a sushi restaurant located in the heart of city, with a vast menu, fresh, delicious and creative food. But Mikuni is also unique as an overall experience, with attention paid to every detail like decor and drinks. The Mikuni’s master chef Kotaro Arai creates and implements amazing culinary delights that range from traditional sushi to contemporary options that would be more pleasing to Americans.
Frank Fat’s Restaurant
The Fat Family Restaurant Group has celebrated 80 years of service in 2019, and the food is testament to why so many visitors keep returning. Located just a few blocks from the Sacramento Capitol building, it offers a large variety of Asian dishes and is the favourite place for Chinese food for many locals. Frank Fat’s Restaurant is famous for its Honey Walnut Prawns, New York Steak and Banana Cream pie, althoug all dishes are well prepared and delightfully served.
Tres Hermanas Mexican Restaurant (Midtown)
Sometimes called the very best Mexican restaurant in Sacramento, Tres Hermanas is praised for authentic, fresh, and flavorful food. Being a part of Sacramento restaurant scene for two decades, it offers indoor and outdoor seating, prompt and fast service, casual atmosphere and food made from the finest ingredients. The menu includes Mexican dishes such as traditional tacos and enchiladas, Carnitas, Rich Mole Poblano, etc.