Its location at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers gives it a rich natural backdrop to go with its important cultural, economic, and political influence.
|State Capitol Tour|
|Historic River Cruise|
|Museum of science|
|Dining in Sacramento|
Sacramento is also the fourth-largest metropolitan area in California with a population of 2,680,831.
As I was entering this fabulous city in June 2023, I was wondering why did it take me so long to finally visit?
Well, I am just glad that I made it here, and I was ready to enjoy all its rich history, its vibrant arts and culture scene, and its many outdoor activities.
Interesting Facts: Sacramento was founded in 1848, during the California gold rush. The city quickly grew as a major center for gold mining and commerce.
The city is home to several museums, including the California State Railroad Museum, the California State Capitol Museum, and the Crocker Art Museum.
Sacramento is also home to many theaters, including the Sacramento Theatre Company and the Sacramento Music Circus.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Sacramento is home to many parks, including the American River Parkway, William Land Park, and the Sacramento Zoo.
Sacramento is also home to many golf courses, and is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and hiking.
Sacramento is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. The city has a low cost of living, a mild climate, and a strong economy. Sacramento is also a diverse city, with a population that is made up of people from all over the world.
This score means that you can get around to most destinations in the city on foot.
You can start by exploring the State Capitol Building and its park, walk through K street – which is a main pedestrian only street, follow Capitol Mall Street to the Golden Tower Bridge and visit Old Town Sacramento along the river.
Other places you can reach on foot include the Stanford Mansion, Sutter’s Fort State Park, the Railroad Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Golden 1 Center, River Cruises, and the Sacramento River Bike Trail.
State Capitol Tour and Museum
My priority was to visit the State Capitol and witness our democracy at work. Anyone can visit the Capitol and walk around the first floor, but to really experience the whole building, join a docent led tour on weekdays, every hour on the hour 10 am to 4 pm.
I arrived at 9:30 and signed up for the tour at the information desk. While waiting for the tour to start, I peeked at the original governor’s rooms, Secretary of State, and treasurer's offices.
Interesting Facts: The initial architectural plan was to have visitors enter through a “doorway to democracy”—outside, a classical portico was meant to have a grand staircase and function as a doorway filled with statues. However, the staircase was never built due to construction costs.
The three Governor's rooms served as the Governor's offices from 1869 to 1951. I especially liked the anteroom, which is decorated in a Victorian style, with dark wood paneling and ornate chandeliers.
The tour started in the Rotunda, which is the central hall of the Capitol, with a large dome ceiling and a marble floor. Our guide explained that there are two domes on top of each other.
We then visited the Governor's Rooms, which were once the offices of the Governor of California.
Interesting Facts: Sacramento was hit by two earthquakes within days of one another in 1892, and the California State Capitol building damaged. Renovations took place between 1975 and 1982 to fix the damage, and it was recorded as the largest restoration project in U.S. history at that time.
We then ascended the ornate stairs to the Senate and Assembly chambers, where the California Legislature meets.
The chambers are beautifully decorated and designed like a theater with the floor as the “stage” with the public overseeing the workings of government from the gallery (balcony). Everywhere you look, you see symbols that reflect the democratic process.
The tour ends with a visit to the Capitol Museum, which is located on the first floor of the Capitol.
Interesting Facts: Sacramento is a very diverse city. The city's population represents over 100 different countries. This diversity makes Sacramento a great place to learn about different cultures and to meet people from all over the world.
During my visit, a large demonstration was happening outside the Capitol, with drums beating and loud music and songs. The protest was led by the Childcare Providers Union, and the protestors were asking for better pay and conditions for childcare workers.
This unexpected event added a special tone to my visit because it demonstrated an important tenant of our democracy: The right to free speech and assembly.
State Capitol Park
The California State Capitol Park is a 40-acre park that surrounds the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The park is home to a variety of trees, plants, and flowers, as well as several monuments and memorials.
A daily free tour is offered at 11 am during the summer and at 1 pm in winter.
Some of the most notable features of Capitol Park include:
The park is a great place for a walk to enjoy the trees and flowers or to visit the memorials.
Whether you take the tour or explore on your own, make sure to visit the California Vietnam War Memorial, the Peace Garden, World War II Memorial, Peace Officers Memorial, and the Native American Heritage Plaza.
The park is open to the public from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, seven days a week. Admission is free.
Downtown Sacramento Historical Food Tour
During my June 2023 visit, I went with Local Roots Food Tours on the Downtown Sacramento Historical Food tour with our guide Dawnie.
Interesting Fact: Sacramento is considered the Farm to fork capital because of its extensive farmland and a year-round growing season. The city also hosts the annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, where big name chefs compete for the best recipes.
Interesting Facts: Sacramento is known for its farm-to-fork food culture. The city is home to several farmers markets, and many restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.
Dawnie was very knowledgeable about Sacramento, the local murals and the food scene. The tour had a delightful selection of food and drinks, and I discovered new places I wouldn't usually find on my own.
For example, if it weren't for the tour, I wouldn't know about K street and its history.
Interesting fact: Due to the regular flooding in the Sacramento area, the city was raised around 10 feet (ca. 3 m) from its original level. With this great effort in 1864, what used to be the first floor of many buildings became the basement.
We started our delightful journey at Mayahuel where we tried their watermelon mocktail.
Interesting Fact: Sacramento is known as the “City of Trees”, a distinction dating back to 1855. You can find trees in the city parks, and along the two rivers. Many of those trees were lost in 2023 due to the heavy rains and high winds.
We then visited Lit deli and had a tasty Samoa with mango lacy. After our taste of India, we visited a unique place called There & Back. It is a restaurant where you ditch your devices and play board games with family and friends. We didn’t have time for a game, but we tried their avocado toast.
Our next stop was at Temple Coffee, where we enjoyed the smells and tastes of freshly brewed coffee.
Our final stop was at Whired Wine Window, a unique concept in wine service in Sacramento. WHIRED stands for white + red wine. You get your wine from a window and sit outside to sip your wine while enjoying the California sunshine.
Historic River Cruise
I went on the Historic River Cruise with City Cruises, and it was a delightful experience.
I grabbed a beer from the onboard bar and found a seat in the shade on the upper deck of our boat, the Capitol Hornblower.
As we were departing the cruise terminal in Old Town Sacramento, we saw the floating hotel “Delta King” which used to run between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Along the way we saw some historic landmarks and bridges and passed a large building shaped like a ship that turned out to be a river water intake facility.
We passed by a large park called Discovery Park and a huge expanse of marshland. This whole section is a good example of how the area was before development.
Both Sacramento and American Rivers are used for recreation and fishing. We saw many jet skiers, speed boats, and fishing boats.
This marshland and the Discovery Park were totally flooded after the heavy rains of 2023.
On the way back, we passed under the Tower Bridge (AKA M street bridge) with its golden color and its vertical lift gate. The captain informed us that until recently, the gate had to be lifted for his boat to pass. The river waters subsided in late May to allow passage without interrupting street traffic.
After the cruise, I paid a visit to Discovery Park, where I enjoyed a short hike along the river.
Discovery Park and the American River Parkway
The American River Parkway is a 23-mile-long park designated a National Wild and Scenic River and is a popular spot for hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and fishing.
Things to do in this park system:
Boating and fishing: Discovery Park has a boat launch ramp and two fishing piers. The park is a popular spot for fishing for bass, catfish, and striped bass.
Picnicking: The park has 12 picnic areas with tables, barbecues, and drinking fountains. There is also a group picnic area that can accommodate up to 200 people.
Playground: The park has a playground with a variety of equipment for children of all ages.
Discovery Park is open year-round from 6am to 10pm. There is an entrance fee for vehicles, but pedestrians and cyclists can enter for free.
Museum of science and curiosity
MOSAC is filled with interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, and events for all ages.
Some of my favorites were:
The Body Quest, which explores the human body through interactive exhibits and games.
The Water Cycle, which teaches visitors about the water cycle and how it affects our planet.
The Energy Zone, which explores different forms of energy and how they are used.
The Planetarium was the best exhibit in my opinion. The show was delivered by a guide who had control over what was shown in the 360-degree dome. She provided many details about the solar system and delivered it in a way that was enjoyable for both adults and children.
Another one I enjoyed is Destination Space, where you can pilot a Mars rover or test rockets.
MOSAC also offers a variety of educational programs for children and adults, such as summer camps, after-school programs, and workshops. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
The museum opened in 2005 and has since welcomed over 2 million visitors. It is home to a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as a variety of educational programs and events.
During my visit, I walked through the California Hall of Fame, which honors 230 of the state's most accomplished individuals. the Gold Mountain exhibit, which tells the story of the California Gold Rush, and the California Dream exhibit, which explores the state's diverse cultures and heritage.
The museum also offers a variety of educational programs and events for all ages, including school field trips, teacher workshops, family programs, and adult lectures.
The California Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of California. It is open 10am to 5pm daily and admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $6 for children ages 5-11.
It was founded by Swiss-American John Sutter in 1839, and served as the headquarters of his agricultural empire.
The fort was a major stop for settlers traveling west on the California Trail, and it also played a role in the early days of the California Gold Rush.
Interesting Fact: The fort was the site of the first California state flag raising in 1846.
The fort is made of adobe bricks and has a rectangular shape. It is surrounded by a 12-foot-high (3.7 m) adobe wall, and has four corner towers.
The fort has 21 buildings, including a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop, a bakery, a storehouse, and a barracks.
There is also a museum inside the fort that exhibits artifacts from the fort's history.
The Sacramento Zoo is a zoo in William Land Park in Sacramento, California. It opened on June 2, 1927, with 40 animals. At that time, it occupied 4.2 acres, which remained the case until the early 1960s, when the zoo expanded to its current 14.3 acres.
The zoo is now home to over 400 animals representing over 100 species from around the world, but during my visit in June 2023, many of the cages were empty.
Some of the zoo's most popular animals include elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, and gorillas. The zoo also has several educational exhibits, such as the African Plains exhibit, the California Trail exhibit, and the Rainforest exhibit.
The Sacramento Zoo is open year-round and admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $9 for children ages 2-11.
If you frequent the zoo often, you can get an annual pass for the family.
Also on the William Land Park ground you can find Fairytale Town, a 12-acre park with 26 storybook-themed playsets, a petting zoo, two performing arts stages, and several gardens.
Dining in Sacramento
I mentioned a few as part of my review of the Food Tasting Tour above, but here are more of my favorites:
Vines at Hyatt: I stopped here for a snack of Humus Plate with veggies and pita chips. I fell in love with the service and an ambiance.
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar: A unique experience with delicious food. As the revolving belt items passed in front of me, I grabbed what I liked, but I also ordered specialty items from the touch screen above the belt. A robot brought my special requests to me.
Rio City Café: This riverfront restaurant in Old Town is the perfect place for lunch while admiring river traffic passing by. I ordered the land and sea burger which was stuffed with goodness and their tasty sweet potato fries.
Boxcar East Frozen Yogurt: While waiting for my river cruise in Old Town, I decided to cool off with some frozen treats, and I found the perfect place on Front Street. They had a large selection of yogurts and ice creams, but I settled for my favorite cookies and cream. The indoor seating is a great respite from the heat.