Situated at the confluence of the
Today, within the sprawling metropolis, the influence of these original settlements can be seen throughout the city. Just a few minutes southeast of Sacramento International Airport along Interstate 5, Sacramento visitors are rewarded with sweeping views of the river meandering down to the Delta. Sacramento's tiny settlement grew explosively with the discovery of gold. Disappointed gold-seekers returned from the gold fields and founded the surrounding towns. Today, the Sacramento region extends west from Davis and Woodland to the lovingly preserved frontier town of Auburn, northeast along Interstate 80, and to vacation spots in the Sacramento River Delta. Sacramento has grown from a tent city to the capital of California and has never forgotten its colorful Gold Rush roots.
Since its humble beginnings as a tent city, Sacramento's fate has been intertwined with its namesake, the Sacramento River. Today,
Beyond the plaza is the
The trees grab the attention of the first-time visitor to the Midtown district. Throughout the city, there are more than 250,000 varieties of fruit, flowering and palm trees. Many of the trees are huge elms and oaks planted by homesick settlers. In the summers, when temperatures average in the high 90s, the cool shade of the trees is welcome. Along the shaded streets are several cutting-edge off-Broadway theaters, a diversity of art galleries, fine and down-home dining establishments, as well as nightspots catering to every taste.
Across the American River, this old neighborhood centered on Del Paso Boulevard has more than a dozen galleries and, as a result, is a popular area during
East of downtown Sacramento, the town of Folsom traces its history directly to the Gold Rush. Along a four-block stretch of Sutter Street, now designated a historic district, are restaurants, coffeehouses and boutiques. Also, here, you will find the
Unfortunately, the Sacramento River that did so much to put the city on the map also had the alarming habit of flooding on a regular basis. The early town was practically erased several times before levees and the Yolo Bypass were built. The Causeway, a section of Interstate 80 on stilts, crosses the Yolo Bypass and connects downtown Sacramento with Davis. The University of California, Davis, attracts thousands of students and faculty with a taste for non-mainstream entertainment. Most evenings, the downtown streets overflow with townsfolk seeking unique events such as poetry readings, live theater, gallery openings and music concerts.
Regardless of which part of Sacramento you plan to visit, rest assured that here along the banks of the river with its Gold Rush past you will find a city with a promising future. It is, after all, the location of bustling and productive new enterprises, home to a major university and the seat of government for the great state of California.
California's capital city still has essentially a hometown feel despite its phenomenal growth during the past decade. For most of its 150-year history, Sacramento's culinary scene has featured Middle American fare served in fine dining rooms, steakhouses and grills. Its growth has resulted in an explosion of culinary choices. Sacramento has seen a staggering influx of quality ethnic dining venues. Throughout the metropolitan area a variety of sleek, sophisticated and elegant restaurants have opened, while venerable institutions underwent renovation. On the breezy banks of the Sacramento and American Rivers, patio dining includes spectacular views. Under the leafy canopy of the Midtown district, the view from patio tables beside Victorian mansions is pleasantly intimate. Throughout the capital region are a variety of distinct districts with eclectic and exciting dining experiences to satisfy both the gourmet and the aficionado of traditional American favorites.
Along the banks of the Sacramento River, a few blocks west of the Capitol Building, is where it all began 150 years ago. Merchants who built their shops in the Gold Rush town to serve the 49ers got rich. Today, this neighborhood sports roofed plank sidewalks and fine examples of 19th-century architecture and is a state historic park with some excellent dining choices. You can stroll through the pedestrian tunnel covered with colorful murals beginning beside the Plaza and emerge on Second Street bustling with horse-drawn carriages, characters dressed in period costume and plenty of dining experiences. A few doors to your left is Fanny Anne's Saloon, a loud, funky four-story nightspot where a cross-section of society comes to have a good time.
Walk a block to the west and perched on pilings above the Sacramento River is the Rio City Cafe, a restaurant that offers a spectacular view of the Tower Bridge and serves eclectic Southwest and seafood cuisine. Located across First Street from the historic Central Pacific Railroad depot, California Fats presents California cuisine and stir-fried dishes in a modern electric-green dining room. On board the Delta King riverboat, the Pilothouse Restaurant dishes up fresh seafood, its signature clam chowder, and steaks. Along the brick streets are funky boutiques, a few jewelry stores, sports memorabilia shops, candy stores and a farmers market.
This neighborhood has two districts of more than 60-square-blocks and features dozens of restaurants, bars and trendy nightspots. After a brief stroll through the “rabbit hole” (the pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 5), you arrive at the threshold of the Westfield Downtown Plaza. This shopper's paradise is an open-air mall featuring a variety of department stores and specialty shops. At the far eastern entrance, the Hard Rock Cafe offers wall-to-wall rock memorabilia, a great sound system and American fare. Further down J Street is Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, a popular restaurant offering creative sushi rolls and a trendy, bustling atmosphere.
On the L Street side of Downtown Plaza, Morton's of Chicago is the place to go for prime rib that melts in your mouth. Over the past two decades, the Mexican culture has enjoyed a spectacular renaissance in Sacramento. This means there is an incredible array of authentic Mexican dining experiences. Downtown/midtown Sacramento is replete with Hispanic eateries from the typical mom-and-pop taqueria offering generous portions for a reasonable price, to the latest trend-setting interpretation of traditional recipes. Ernesto's, located in midtown, offers al fresco dining, an Art Deco interior and authentic Mexican cuisine. The chefs of Centro Cocina Mexicana experiment with the traditional to create unique and flavorful Mexican dishes.
East of downtown, among its tree-lined streets and solid Victorian houses, there is an abundance of unique dining treats. The Broiler Steakhouse in the K Street Mall is a time-honored restaurant that has been in business since 1950, and serves aged steaks, unique pasta dishes and fresh seafood. Harlow's offers modern Italian/California cuisine in a sumptuous setting, as well as an upscale nightclub. Biba is arguably the best Italian restaurant in the city. The eatery is named for its chef, a native of Bologna, who extensively researches and constantly refines the Northern Italian dishes on her menu. Zelda's Original Gourmet Pizza takes the Italian specialty, filters it through Chicago, and serves you crispy, hot pan pizzas that are uniquely Sacramento.
The sweeping river vistas along the aptly named Garden Highway, which borders the American River Parkway preserve, offer an intriguing mix of dining experiences. The quaintly ramshackle Rusty Duck, with its wide verandas, has been a landmark on the American River for two decades and emphasizes fresh fish and steaks, prime rib and pastas. Enotria Cafe & Wine Bar, in the heart of Uptown, offers award-winning California/Mediterranean cuisine complemented by an intriguing wine list.
Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Folsom
While experiencing explosive growth, these suburbs to the east of the metro region somehow seem to maintain their rural small-town feel. Zinfandell Grill, located in Folsom, features wood-fired ovens, a mesquite grill and the latest gourmet Southwest-style dishes. For Vietnamese, try Andy Nguyen's located in a strip mall in Rancho Cordova. Its exterior is definitely not a representation of the quality of its Vietnamese cuisine.
California's capital is a city of contrast, with the older neighborhoods reflecting their homesick builders' origins in the Midwest and East. Since the mid-1800s, politicians and their associates have traditionally lodged in luxury hotels near the State Capitol building. A wide spectrum of lodgings for everybody from the working class to the well to do can be found in this district known as Downtown/Midtown. Construction of the Sacramento Convention Center and restoration of Old Sacramento has brought a number of good hotels that draw both tourists and business travelers.
Sacramento International Airport has fueled hotel building along the Interstate 5 corridor north of downtown by adding more international and domestic flights to its hub. To the east, tourists traveling to the historic towns of Folsom and Auburn find both quaint and modern accommodations available. Both towns are great for window-shopping and have a variety of antique shops and boutiques. Beautifully restored and picturesque buildings can be found in Old Town Folsom and Old Town Auburn, and make good backdrops for family photos.
Davis, a college town 11 miles west of downtown Sacramento, is a family-friendly town. Within a few square blocks there are toy stores, a couple of candy shops, live theater, art galleries, two multiplex movie houses, bookstores and sidewalk cafes. Bed-and-breakfast accommodations and several upscale hotels are within walking distance of the University of California. To the south, the Sacramento River Delta is a wonderful natural preserve and recreation area. Unique lodgings in the Delta area have interesting histories and can be found in the small towns built on levees.
The most unique lodgings have to be aboard the Delta King Riverboat, permanently moored alongside the Embarcadero at the Central Pacific depot in Old Sacramento. Mark Twain would recognize the brass fittings and rich wood paneling throughout the completely gutted and rebuilt old twin-chimney paddle wheel riverboat. This is a popular lodging place and many guests keep coming back to enjoy the novelty of eating breakfast on the deck, with sweeping views of the Tower bridge and river beyond.
The Sterling Hotel is a white Victorian mansion built in the 1890s and located six blocks from the Capitol. Completely renovated in 1995, the Sterling is authentically tasteful in every detail, down to the flowers bordering the carefully clipped front lawn. Inside, the most obvious modern intrusion is the Jacuzzis found in every room. The Sacramento Convention Center, the Amtrak railway station and Old Sacramento are within walking distance. Across L Street from Capitol Park, The Hyatt Regency is probably the only lodging that, once one is under the portico, has that indefinable feel of a big-city hotel. Enjoy the light-filled atrium lounge and a top-of-the-line restaurant off the lobby. The eatery, Dawson's, is a meat-lover's paradise. Many of the hotel's 500 rooms, spread over 15 floors, offer sweeping views of the swaying palms along Capitol Park. The Vagabond Inn, a few blocks east of the Capitol is a reliable, reasonably priced lodging.
Sacramento International Airport Area
A few minutes north of downtown, Sacramento International Airport lies in the middle of the rural Central Valley. There are plenty of short and long-term parking and free shuttle buses that run to the terminals. The newest terminal (for international flights) features sculpture donated by local artists and a food court that offers local cuisine. Next door, the Host Airport Hotel offers convenient lodgings. Five miles west, on the north side of Woodland, and within a few hundred feet of the freeway, are the Shadow Inn and Valley Oaks Inn. Both are pleasant and quiet places to stay.
East of downtown Sacramento, these two towns were both founded in the throes of the 1849 Gold Rush. Along Sutter Street in Folsom, you will find plenty of window-shopping and photo opportunities among the restored antique buildings. Many tourists also enjoy the Folsom Zoo, affectionately nicknamed the “Misfit Zoo,” which provides a haven for abandoned animals. Larkspur Landing Folsom is an interesting place with Jacuzzis, a swimming pool, and spa for relaxation. The Folsom Hilton has in-room data ports and amenities for the business traveler. Further northeast is Auburn, another original mining town where visitors can browse the shops and see the sites in the historic downtown. Further uphill, Old Town Auburn features many fine examples of 19th-century architecture.
Downtown, a few blocks from Interstate 80, is a quaint bed-and-breakfast and several comfortable hotels and motels. Palm Court Hotel provides upscale lodging, and has a soaring atrium off the elegant wood-paneled lobby and a cafe on the premises that offers California cuisine.
Taking its name literally, the Art Foundry Gallery includes a working bronze foundry, as well as gallery space featuring the artistic works of local artisans.
A diverse array of museums and galleries in the Old Sacramento, Downtown and Midtown districts feature everything from treasures of the Old Masters to cutting-edge examples of post-modernism. Occupying a Victorian mansion in Downtown, the Crocker Art Museum is the oldest public art museum west of the Mississippi. Several galleries display contemporary art by Californian Wayne Thiebaud alongside works by Pieter Brueghel, Rembrandt and Jacques-Louis David.
Sacramento Community Center Theater, at the eastern end of the K Street Mall, highlights traveling Broadway song-and-dance extravaganzas with dozens of high-stepping dancers. The Sacramento Ballet, a few blocks east on K Street, is dedicated to bringing classical and contemporary ballet to the locals. The award-winning California State University, Sacramento Department of Dance hosts diverse, cutting-edge interpretations of contemporary dance works.
You can always view Hollywood's latest blockbuster at the huge megaplexes scattered around town. Century has four locations: the Century Downtown Plaza 7, the Century 16 Laguna megaplex, the Century Stadium 14 on Arden Way and the Century Cinedome 9 off of Interstate 80 at Greenback. The Regal Natomas Marketplace 16 megaplex is huge with 16 screens. The Esquire IMAX Theatre on the K Street Mall shows adventure extravaganzas on its six-story tall screen. For viewers interested in more eclectic cinematic fare, the Crest Theatre, a lovingly restored 1920s movie palace on K Street and the Tower Theatre on Broadway offer classics, art and foreign films, as well as live events.
For those new to the River City, the sheer variety of museums is staggering. In Old Sacramento is the Railroad Museum, in which restored locomotives and railroad cars are featured along with all sorts of railroad artifacts. Over in Midtown, the California State Indian Museum feature exhibits that details the history and culture of Native Americans in this state. The Aerospace Museum of California features 30 aircraft dating to World War II. In addition, for those interested in a tour along memory lane, the Historic City Cemetery established in 1849, is the resting-place for more than 20,000 settlers who shaped Sacramento's early history. Guided and self-guided tours of the cemetery are available.
Classical music aficionados will find many venues in which to enjoy fine performances in Sacramento. Camellia Symphony Orchestra (The) is nationally recognized for its unusual performances of traditional repertoire works. For popular music fans, California Musical Theater offers musicals and a Broadway Series featuring classics of the musical theater. Based in West Sacramento, the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society sponsors the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee on Memorial Day Weekend. The Jubilee features dozens of Jazz bands from around the world. Among the many concert venues in Sacramento, ARCO Arena is one of the largest and usually hosts the biggest acts coming to the area.
If you love sports, Sacramento is the city for you. It is the home of the AAA minor league baseball team the Sacramento River Cats, the NBA Sacramento Kings and the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs. Of interest to golf enthusiasts is the Bing Maloney Golf Course in the Greenhaven area of Sacramento. It is one of the longest-running golf courses in the area. The fishing around the Sacramento area draws aficionados from across Northern California. The Sacramento River Delta, a complex network of sloughs and wetlands extending to San Francisco Bay, brims with salmon, bass and giant sturgeon. Weekend bikers and hikers appreciate the trails on The American River Parkway, a two-mile wide preserve that meanders through the center of town.
Sacramento is home to a diverse and growing theatre scene offering drama and comedy from full-blown Broadway productions to cutting-edge independent productions. The 2,500 seat Sacramento Community Center Theater is Sacramento's largest and most prestigious theatrical venue, offering Broadway productions, opera, dance and more. The Thistle Dew Dessert Theater and the B Street Theater offer intimate settings for viewing plays. Don't forget about the Sacramento Theater Company located in the lovely Wells Fargo Pavilion. On board the Delta King, diners enjoy "whodunits" at the Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, where costumed characters are planted in their midst.
Whether you prefer exciting urbane amenities, humble historic activities, or action-packed sports, there is always something to do in Sacramento, the capital of the Golden State.