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 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.
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.
In 1808, Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga found the Maidu Indians living peacefully in the Northern California valley formed by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the Pacific Coast Mountains to the west. Warm summers, mild winters, a dependable yearly rainy season and water from the confluence of two great rivers resulted in a landscape so verdant and abundant that Gabriel Moraga named the valley after the Holy Sacrament—Sacramento.
Word of Moraga's lush western valley spread slowly. By the 1830s and 1840s, only a handful of Anglo-American settlers were living in coexistence with the native Maidu and other Native American tribes. While their numbers were few, these first settlers had learned the secret of the Sacramento Valley: if you plant it, it will grow. Sacramento has continued to flourish since then, both agriculturally and economically.
In 1834, Johann Augustus Sutter, a 19-year-old clock merchant's clerk, sailed from Switzerland, hoping to find success in America. Sutter's dream of founding a great new city for his fellow European immigrants led him to California. He was sent by the Governor of Mexico to California to establish an outpost on any 26-square-mile area he chose. Sutter and his party established Sutter's Fort on August 12, 1839, near the American and Sacramento Rivers. Sutter then made a decision that would forever change the history of California and the westward expansion of America.
Realizing that more large trees would be needed to build homes for future settlers, Sutter wandered about 40 miles up the American River east of Sacramento and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Here, he found plenty of tall evergreen trees and fast-flowing water. It was a perfect spot for a sawmill, which, when completed in 1847, became Sutter's Mill.
On January 24, 1848, James Marshall was conducting a routine inspection of the millrace from Sutter's sawmill when a glitter caught his eye. This time, all that glittered was gold. By May of 1848, the news of gold in Northern California had reached San Francisco and by early 1849, the whole nation had gold fever. The 49ers were coming. People wanting to find gold arrived in San Francisco and made their way to the gold fields by way of Sacramento. The history of the Gold Rush is preserved today not only in Sacramento, but also at the nearby Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma where it all started.
Shortly after gold was found, Sacramento became a city. The presence of gold and thousands of gold miners also brought the railroad to Sacramento. The railroad not only transported people, it also moved the gold ore from the mountain mines to bays and ports on the Pacific coast. The railroad and its historical contribution is commemorated today at the California State Railroad Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Old Sacramento.
In its early years, Sacramento benefited from its role in transportation. It was chosen as the western terminus for both the Pony Express and Wells Fargo, and as the headquarters of the transcontinental railroad. As late as the 1930s, riverboats like the Delta King glided along the Sacramento River carrying passengers along the only water pathway to San Francisco. Today, the beautifully restored Delta King, anchored in Old Sacramento, serves as a floating luxury hotel and restaurant.
In spite of being almost completely wiped out by devastating floods in 1850 and 1852, Sacramento was selected as the location for the capitol of California in 1854. Today, visitors can learn more about the state's history at the California State Capitol Museum. After yet another massive flood in 1862, an ambitious project to actually raise the city above flood level was undertaken. Evidence of the tens of thousands of cubic yards of earth and miles of masonry work used to raise the streets can still be seen today in Old Sacramento.
Through the ensuing years, the Sacramento Valley flourished both agriculturally and economically. A gradual shift of commercial and residential growth to the east left Old Sacramento a virtual slum. Recognizing the area's historical importance and related potential as a tourist attraction, a plan to re-develop Old Sacramento started in the mid-1960s. Today, its 53 historic buildings are designated as both National Landmarks and as a State Historic Park. Its shops, fine restaurants, historic landmarks and museums attract more than five million people a year. In addition, the cobblestone streets and boardwalks of Old Sacramento host a variety of events, including the largest jazz festival on the West Coast.
The "new" Sacramento Valley, while maintaining its ties to the Gold Rush, also serves as the political hub of the world's eighth largest economy and as home to the second generation of "Silicon Valley" and its related high-tech industrial growth. From quaint shops on downtown arterials, to upscale shopping malls and renowned cultural attractions like the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento has all the elements of a diverse and vibrant urban environment. Sacramento is also the home of the successful NBA Kings, WNBA Monarchs and River Cats a AAA Baseball team.
Want to talk about location? Lake Tahoe, Reno, the wine country of the Napa Valley, San Francisco and the Pacific Coast are all within a two-hour drive of Sacramento. Great location along with a respect for history and a handle on the future makes Sacramento a highly desired location for spending a day, or a lifetime.