There are many popular museums, theaters, nightclubs, and other entertainment places where all tourists come when they arrive in the city in Sacramento. However, in this article, you will find some unconventional places you should visit to understand Sacramento’s heart and soul and expand your horizons. Enjoy!
1. Spirit of Sacramento
Once, this riverboat was a star of the John Wayne film called Blood Alley, but now it sits abandoned alongside the road, and anyone can see it with their own eyes. This three-story boat has lived several lives under different names. It was known as the Putah, the Mansion Belle, and finally, it was rechristened the Spirit of Sacramento.
The riverboat story started in 1942 when it was built as an Army Corps of Engineers snag boat, and it operated as the Putah until 1954. Then, John Wayne decided to buy it for his famous movie where he starred himself and Lauren Bacall. After the actor sold the boat, it was used for river excursions.
For the first time, it acquired the name Spirit of Sacramento only in the 1990s, after it began to be widely used for river cruises and its former glory returned to it. Unfortunately, a fire that suddenly occurred on the boat and almost burned it to the ground was the reason why the Spirit of Sacramento was repaired but stopped being used for cruises. Since then, it has been standing idle for a long time, half-submerged beneath the water. However, the locals were worried that the ship could sail downstream, destroying everything in its path and lifting it to dry land. Nowadays, the spirit of Sacramento is private property but is still sitting there, left near the road and abandoned.
If you want to visit this place, you need to head down Riego Road towards the Sacramento River until the road ends and then turn left. Head down the Garden Highway for about a minute, and you will see the boat sitting alongside the road. Note: the boat is private, so you better look at it from the road and don’t approach too close.
2.Original Street Level of Sacramento
Interesting historical fact: before the mid-19th century, Sacramento was located 10 feet lower than it is today. However, because of this, the city was often prone to flooding, and therefore it was decided to rebuild it and raise the ground higher, saving its property from disasters. However, one small section of the old town was left at the original elevation by the residents.
This sunken courtyard you can find just opposite the entrance to the California State Railroad Museum if you visit Old Sacramento. Next to this courtyard, you will see an inscription confirming that this place is located on the original level of the city, which existed before the 1860s. Since flooding was a frequent and serious problem for the residents of 19th-century Sacramento, building owners began to slowly abandon the use of ground floors and began to raise the sidewalk to the first-floor level. Over time, many of the roadways were also elevated, so the entire capital city of California was raised.
Visiting the Old district of Sacramento, you can see many skillful reproductions of buildings from the 19th century, as well as real historical buildings that have survived to this day in their original form. These reproductions are still prone to flooding, especially in the basements, which were originally located at the ground floor level.
Many excursions to abandoned underground levels are available in the Old Sacramento area. However, we recommend you book the tickets on the website in advance and take some warm clothes with you as there can be up to a 15-degree temperature difference.
This is a miniature city located in the suburb of Rancho Cordova, created to teach children about safety that was opened in 1984 and has hardly changed significantly since that time. The Safetyville was completed with police and fire departments, state capitol building, and fast-food restaurants, including the small reproduction of McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
In fact, it’s not the most touristy place in Sacramento, but Safetyville is an extremely family-friendly and educational place that will really appeal to the youngest members of your family. Since the part of the mini-city is owned by the non-profit Safety Center, where children can get practical knowledge about how to avoid various urban hazards, as well as many useful tips including rules for oil disposal and so on. In addition, there are various entertainment programs available, designed even for adults, for example “ “Taste of the Little City,” which comes with miniature wine glasses. And you can also organize an exciting private birthday party for your children here.
Anyway, you will like this tiny Californian city no matter whether you have children or not. Sometimes, it is very exciting to forget about reality and admire a tiny replica of an American city with its small light forms, buildings, offices, and feel like a giant. If you want to see this place with your own eyes, Safetyville is located at 3909 Bradshaw Road, Sacramento. To get there, you need to drive one and a half miles south of Hwy. 50 on Bradshaw, and you will see it on the left side of the street.
4.Sacramento Old City Cemetery
To immerse yourself in the historic atmosphere of old Sacramento, you can visit the oldest cemetery in the city. Graves of various people of the Gold Rush era, including governors and prominent political figures, criminals, immigrants, and many other interesting personalities buried in California, can be found here. During the year, many guided tours are held in this cemetery. In addition, you can come and walk around the cemetery yourself in the daytime for free. For the brave ones, the night tours with lanterns, which are especially popular on Halloween eve, are available. As for the day tours, they are absolutely free and are conducted by local volunteers.
The original old cemetery, designed in the style of a Victorian garden, was abandoned by the city’s government until the 1980s. At this time, a group of volunteers decided to take care of the garden on their own and not let it fall into disrepair. Since the garden’s budget is very limited, you should check the opening hours before you come here for a tour. To do this, as well as find a lot of additional information, including a map of the area and the cemetery itself, visit http://www.oldcitycemetery.com/maps.htm.
5. Subtile Sculpture
This fascinating sculpture was installed near the Sacramento River in 2017 and was created by Federico Díaz. The Subtile seems to be a part of nature, but at the same time, it shines in the likeness of a huge disco ball, reflecting nature in the likeness of a mirror, which makes it exciting. Despite the fact that there are many other attractions in this place, none of them attracts the attention of passers-by as much as this sculpture.
The installation is an impressive 26” long, 14’’ high, and six’’ wide, but it fits so perfectly into nature that if it didn’t shine, it would be almost impossible to notice. The sculpture is covered with 34 thousand small mirrors that shine in the sun and ring in the wind. Many people see the image of a group of trees in the Subtile, but if you look at it for a long time, gradually, the edges begin to blur, and the sculpture loses its shape at all.
This sculpture is part of a project to spread art in low-income neighborhoods. To create it, the latest technologies were created that mimic the growth of trees and help make the Subtitle a reflection of the surrounding space, perfectly fitting into Sacramento’s nature.
This is a replica of the first purpose-built public theatre in California created in 1849 in the Gold Rush-era. It is believed that the theater was originally made of boards and canvas taken from abandoned ships because the owners of one of the saloons located nearby wanted to provide entertainment for the miners who flooded the city. This building was supposed to be a permanent element of Sacramento, but three months after its construction, it was destroyed to the ground. However, in 1974, it was decided to put an exact replica of the first theater, and now it is located within the Old Sacramento Historic State Park.
Technically, the reconstruction almost completely repeats the original, but with minor changes. For example, the floor of the new building was decided to be covered with asphalt, while the original was simply beaten with earth. In addition, it was decided to reduce the capacity of the theater, and now the maximum number of people who can fit on a bench in the main hall is one and a half hundred people.
The replica of the Eagle Theatre is located near the California State Railroad Museum and directly opposite the Central Pacific Railroad Station. If you come to this place, you should take a look at this historical reproduction, especially if you are keen on theatre in general.
7.Samson Luggage Sculpture
You can see this amazing installation at the Sacramento International Airport. It consists of two 23-foot towers consisting of more than seven hundred passenger suitcases and luggage, the oldest of which dates back to the early 20th century. Many travelers who arrive at the Sacramento airport for the first time come to a stupor seeing in front of them these two columns of luggage resting on the ceiling.
The installation was created by sculptor Brian Goggin in 1998 and symbolizes the entire period of time during which air travel exists. The baggage columns are mounted on huge white luggage carts, which are used to transport it to the plane.
At first glance, it may seem that the sculpture supports the ceiling of the airport and that if the carts could move, the flow would have already collapsed to the ground. However, in fact, the luggage is built around two existing concrete columns, as if surrounding them on all sides and giving the impression that all the pieces of luggage are held in the air by themselves.
8. St.George Hotel Marker
In 1860, the first pony Express rider delivered his mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, in exactly ten days. A few weeks before the event, preparations were being made in both states for the opening of the fastest mail delivery service, including the selection of applicants who wanted to try themselves as express mail carriers.
On the St. George Hotel Marker, you can see a copy of the advertisement signed by William W. Finney, a Pacific agent of Pony Express’s parent company, that includes the following text: “Men Wanted! The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men familiar with horses’ management as hostlers or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages, $50 per month and found. I may be found at the St. George Hotel during Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.”
Why St. George Hotel? In the end, the ad worked, and the company was able to hire 21 people who came to this hotel to apply. That is why today, there is a marker near this building, marking the role that the hotel played in the history of the Pony Express company.
9.Johnny Cash Mural
Downtown Sacramento has a residence hotel not far from where you can find a 15-story mural of Johnny Cash that towers over the surrounding area. It was created in 2018 by Shepard Fairey, known for his Hope poster created for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Cash’s gaze is directed toward the Folsom prison, with which she was closely associated with the life and career of a musician. Cash often gave concerts in prisons and drew public and congressional attention to the terrible state of American prisons. In addition, he openly advocated for prison reform.
The mural in Sacramento was created in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Folson prison and to once again raise the issue of prison reform in the state of California and in the United States as a whole.
The mural is viewable from the Westbound approach on L Street, so in order to see it, you need to cross 16th Street going toward downtown. By the way, it’s located just across the street from an outdoor beer garden, and you can sip a mug of sparkling beer while pondering the meaning of contemporary art.
10. I Street Bridge
This bridge, which is more than 363 feet long and weighs more than 7 million pounds, was built in Sacramento in 1911. It has decks for road and rail traffic, and it has swing-span bridge pivots 90 degrees clockwise to allow ships access to the Sacramento River. Today, this bridge carries approximately 10,000 cars and 40 railroad trains per day.
By the way, not far from this I Street Bridge, you can find a sign called “Prisoner of the river,” installed in honor of the floating prison LaGrange, which sank here in 1859.