When most people begin to plan a California vacation, Sacramento is not the first place that pops into their fantasies. More likely it would be Southern California beaches, or San Francisco's skyline; Yosemite National Park, or California's famous Wine Country; Disneyland, or San Diego; Hollywood or the Big Sur coastline.
But there are three very good reasons for you to serious consider making Sacramento, California your home base.
Not only is Sacramento the capital of our nation's 31st state, but it was intimately involved in the historical beginnings of California as it made it's rapid-fire leap toward statehood.
Sitting, as it does, at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers, it was the perfect spot for John Sutter to build his famous fort. Planning to create an empire for himself by being the first in the area able to provide food, shelter, and provisions to new settlers, his many enterprises (besides what we've come to call Sutter's Fort, where he offered generous hospitality to anyone who showed up) included wheat farming, cattle and horse ranching, a launch running to and from San Francisco Bay, hides, tallow, furs, milling, and building the lumber mill along the American River that ultimately led to the discovery of gold and the California Gold Rush.
Between Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the California State Railroad Museum, Sutter's Fort, and the California Indian Museum, there are many ways to explore and learn about the history of the state of California and the California Gold Rush beginnings.
But don't forget that Sacramento is also the state capital and as such, it has grown from its former cow-town and rustic frontier status to a sophisticated and beautiful small city filled with tree-shaded streets where Victorians and modern highrise buildings coexist with charm and grace; and vibrant downtown areas that offer a culture of fine dining, entertainment venues, and an active nightlife in safe and desirable neighborhoods.
Stroll through the grounds of Capitol Park to enjoy the lovely gardens, memorials, and groves before entering the Capitol building to join a free guided tour, led by docents from the California State Capitol Museum.
Explore the streets of Downtown and Midtown Sacramento to admire the many beautiful neighborhoods of historic Victorian homes with their almost ancient camellia, azalea, and rhododendron gardens, visit art galleries and museums, the old Governor's Mansion, or take in a show at the California Musical Theatre or Sacramento Theatre Company. Stop in at The Mix for a drink and some small plates, Sushi Paradiso Sacramento for innovative sushi, or Mulvaney's Building & Loan, which is actually a fine dining restaurant that changes its menu daily, but always includes farm-to-fork, locally grown and produced ingredients.
Last but not least, Sacramento is in perfect proximity to four of California's famous regions:
- Visit California's Gold Country for a jaunt through Gold Rush-era towns, mines, and historic sites. California is proud of its Gold Rush heritage and loves to show it off.
- Or take a run over to the California Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma Counties to discover vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms galore, along with charming towns and villages.
- Follow State Highway 50 into the High Sierras until you reach South Lake Tahoe and Stateline for gorgeous beaches, spectacular mountains views, and giving your own personal Lady Luck a workout at the Stateline casinos.
- Or drive about an hour and a half over to the San Francisco Bay Area to explore hippie-fied Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, the new foodie world emerging in Oakland, and The City of the Golden Gate Bridge just across the bay.
Sacramento, California is not only worthy of an extended stay in its own right, it's also a gateway to other California regions that might otherwise require a separate trip.
Fly into Sacramento International Airport, take the train into the Amtrak station, or drive the California state highway system from the Bay Area or from Southern California (about a six to eight hour drive).
To learn more about Sacramento and it's history, visit my website, DiscoverNorthernCaliforia.com.