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Long before Hollywood, California, was the land of golden dreams. When James Marshall discovered gold in a little town named Coloma in 1848, as author J.S. Holliday stated, the world rushed in. By the next year, many of these gold-seekers, or 49ers as they were called, sailed into San Francisco and took boats up the American River to a bustling town named Sacramento.
Today, as the capital of the world’s fifth-largest economy, Sacramento has come a long way from its days as a supply town for the goldfields. At the hub of the California nation-state, Sacramento is a gateway to a wealth of scenic beauty as well as a town that has learned the valuable lessons of history and awaits your visit.
Things To Do In Sacramento
Old Sacramento is a National Landmark and State Historic Park consisting of 28 acres of shops, theatres, restaurants, and museums housed in 58 historic buildings from the early days of California. Some 5 million visitors walk the wooden sidewalks and cobblestone streets that remind people of the days when gold fever gripped the world. Tours up the American and Sacramento Rivers are available as well as train and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Water taxis can also whisk you off to a number of eating venues further up the American River. The Wells Fargo History Museum, one of several historical museums in Old Sacramento, was originally the western terminus of the Pony Express. It is only fitting that Old Sacramento also houses the California State Railroad Museum, the largest railroad museum in the country. It is a tribute to the importance of railroads in the development of California and to the remarkable people whose vision created the transcontinental railroad whose maiden trip began on November 11, 1863, in Sacramento.
Every Memorial Day, Old Sacramento also plays host to the Sacramento Jazz Festival, the largest pure jazz festival in the world.
Crocker Art Museum
A short walk from Old Sacramento, the Crocker Art Museum houses the collections of former Supreme Court Justice and influential attorney Edwin Bryant Crocker, whose brother Charles was one of the historic Big Four with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and C.P. Huntington. Edwin Crocker died in 1875, less than two years after their home and gallery were completed. His widow, Margaret, became an active philanthropist and in 1885 presented the gallery and the bulk of its collections to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association.
The Crocker Art Museum continues the tradition started by its founders of acquiring and displaying important works of California artists alongside its extensive European collections. Special programs are held there throughout the year. The art collection and the imposing architecture of the Crocker home combine for a memorable experience.
California Musical Theater
In 1951, Broadway producers Russell Lewis and Howard Young came to Sacramento to duplicate the latest theatrical craze on the East Coast the music circus. Performed in the round under a huge canvas tent, the informality of the setting combined with first-rate productions was an immediate success. Over the decades, many stars of the stage performed under the tent in what became a Sacramento institution.
The Music Circus lowered the big top for the last time. Now productions are held in the new Wells Fargo Pavilion, a state-of-the-art facility with a high-tech fibreglass cover that even allows for air conditioning an absolute necessity for Sacramento’s hot summer nights. Still in the round, and still in its same location in the Midtown area, the Music Circus retains the casual environment of its past while welcoming a new generation of musical theatre fans.
Sacramento is home to three professional sports franchises, the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association hold a court at the Arco Arena just north of town and are one of the elite teams in the NBA. Arco is also one of the noisiest venues in the league, a testimony to the devotion of the Kings’ fans. The Sacramento Monarchs of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) call Arco their home as well. Just across from Old Sacramento in the brand new Raley Field, the Sacramento Rivercats play AAA League baseball. Future stars of the Oakland Athletics are on the field playing the national pastime and waiting for that call that will send them to the big leagues.
Surrounded by 40 acres of gardens and memorials honouring the contributions of Californians of the past, the State Capitol has been the centre of the California government since 1869. The original part of the structure has been completely restored and houses the former offices of the Governor and other statewide officers. The new wing houses legislative offices and the offices of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. The public can also view the Senate and Assembly when in session.
The California Exposition and State Fair hold concerts and shows throughout the year. Events include harness racing and a variety of trade and consumer expositions. For three weeks in August and September, Cal Expo is host to the California State Fair, a celebration of the cultural and economic diversity of the Golden State.
Along with the historic Music Circus, Sacramento supports a vibrant performing arts scene. Community theatres perform both classic and original works, and the performing arts programs at California State University Sacramento and City College of Sacramento offer professionally staged productions featuring the next generation of performing artists. Ballet, symphony, and opera performances are also staged at the Sacramento Community Center Theater downtown.
Shopping And Dining
There is plenty to do in Sacramento, with a variety of modern and upscale shopping venues including Arden Fair Mall, the Downtown Mall, and Pavilions, upscale shopping and restaurant development near California State University Sacramento. In addition, the midtown area near Old Sacramento offers an eclectic mix of unique boutique shops. Lunch and dinner in Sacramento is a blend of all the various cultures that over the decades have called Sacramento home, as well as a new wave of trendy bars and restaurants befitting the state capital.
Zoos And Parks
With river access and an abundance of trees, Sacramento is home to many parks for a day of relaxation or recreation. Running and bike trails follow the Sacramento and American Rivers. William Land Park, an expansive park south of downtown, is also where you will find the Sacramento Zoo.
John Sutter’s original encampment built-in 1839, nine years before the Gold Rush, is now a well-preserved State Park. Sutter’s Fort will take you back to that time with many interactive displays and demonstrations of life in early Sacramento. The Fort is just east of the downtown area and is open daily for visitors.
The Gold Rush spawned a number of quaint communities a short day trip away from Sacramento. Then as now, Sacramento is the gateway to the Gold Country. Whether it is to hunt antiques, enjoy the excellent wines of El Dorado and Amador Counties, or simply enjoy the scenic beauty and historic locales, Sacramento is a great place to launch thoroughly enjoyable day trips through this rustic area.