About This Place
Gateway to Gold Country, the capital of California sits in the Central Valley at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers. Here, this city of 460,000 people still strikes it rich on the riverbanks as a glittering modern metropolis laced with lovely tree-lined avenues.
Gold shaped Sacramento’s development, beginning in 1848 when James Marshall spied the precious metal in the tailrace of Sutter’s Mill. However, his discovery did not stay secret for long. By the following year, thousands of prospectors were pouring into the area, and Sacramento grew up around them.
Sutter’s Fort, the adobe trading post built by Swiss-German immigrant John Sutter in 1839, was the city’s earliest settlement. At Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, Sutter’s outpost illustrates 1840s frontier life. Spend an hour or two strolling through the restored living quarters, watching demonstrations in the blacksmith’s shop, and touring the jail where Gold Rush-era law-breakers were kept.
Flanking the Sacramento River, Old Sacramento preserves another piece of Gold Rush history: the National Historic Landmark District where the city took shape. Canopied wooden boardwalks and Victorian-era architecture retain the feel of the Old West, though the historic structures now house shops, restaurants and museums. Among the attractions in Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum recounts the region’s railroading history and displays an impressive collection of vintage railroad cars. To experience train travel back in the day, take one of the regularly scheduled trips aboard a vintage steam locomotive.
Walk a couple of blocks south from Old Sacramento to another of the Sacramento’s attractions, the Crocker Art Museum, where some of the city’s modern-day riches reside. The grand Italianate mansion completed in 1872 for Judge Edwin B. Crocker and his wife, Margaret, now displays an important collection of art. Margaret donated the couple’s core collection to the city, along with the mansion, in 1885. The Crocker Art Museum also holds California art from the Gold Rush to the present, as well as early master drawings, European paintings, and pieces from Asia, Africa and Oceania. A new contemporary wing recently tripled the museum’s size, adding an event space and an interactive gallery for children.
No visit to Sacramento is complete without seeing downtown’s centerpiece, the California State Capitol. Surrounded by a 40-acre landscaped park, the Capitol is crowned by a massive white dome. Step inside the Rotunda to get a good look at this awe-inspiring piece of architecture and to admire the Carrara marble statue depicting Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella, which has stood at the center of the Rotunda since 1883. Look around to spot some of the California symbols, such as the cast-iron grizzly bears and the Great State Seal. From the second floor, visitors have a detailed view of the interior of the dome, which is pierced, 100 feet up, by an oculus window.
If time permits, take an excursion out to some of the surrounding counties, where liquid gold flows through the Sierra Nevada foothills at some of the area’s more than 200 wineries.