Sacramento; touring our Capital City, Old Sacramento and downtown


New entertainment and sports complex, future home to Sacramento Kings, is under construction on K Street, due to open in October, 2016.

The State of California Capital is always a fun visit for both young and old!
The light rail line, run by the Regional Transit District, runs through downtown Sacramento. A trolley to connect West Sacramento to Midtown is in the plan stages.
The old Governor’s Mansion is open daily for tours, located on north edge of downtown Sacramento.
Western Pacific locomotive loads passengers for trip down the Sacramento River, from the CA Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.
Tail fins reached their zenith in the late 1950s, here a tailfin on a beautiful 1959 Cadillac at the California Automobile Museum, just south of Old Sacramento!

Sacramento, capital city of California, has undergone a tremendous transformation in the last 20 years, steadily becoming a slick, cosmopolitan and thoroughly visitor-friendly city – and, it’s just 50 miles north of Stockton!

Gold was discovered in January, 1848 (in Coloma, 47 miles away) and the world rushed to get rich, coursing through Sacramento to get provisioned.  Others came and set up shop to provide food and equipment to the miners and the city boomed!

Old Sacramento, on the Sacramento River, was the world’s seaport to the gold mines and would soon anchor the Pony Express, the Transcontinental Telegraph and the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad.  By 1860 Sacramento had grown to be the second largest city in the west, eclipsed only by San Francisco.

Within a few blocks are the California Military Museum, the California State Railroad Museum, the Delta King Riverboat (built in Stockton in 1927), the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, and the Wells Fargo History Museum. Just a mile south is the California Auto Museum at 2200 Front Street with a stunning variety of classic and novelty autos, dating back more than a century.

If you haven’t visited downtown Sacramento in a while, consider some of its newer attributes. Old Sacramento retains its charm, and many recent additions to the city’s entertainment scene make it a destination for live theater, upscale and/or unique dining, trendy shopping and night life. Add in the town’s richly preserved history – it’s a delightful destination!

The State Capital retains its grandeur and remains the center of state governance.  Over the last 20 years, state office buildings have proliferated just east of the Capital, along the south edge of the area known as “Midtown”. The nearby Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street, founded in 1885, is the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi.  A major expansion a few years ago keeps this institution in the top pantheon of art palaces in the United States.

“Old Sac”, notes Lisa Martinez of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, “offers the highest concentration of local businesses in the city, with a wide variety of crafts, mercantile and antique shops, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants along the Old Sac boardwalks”. 

She added that “Old Sac and downtown are building a big following from both coffee fans and foodies, with a wealth of new faces added to the scene”.  A recent visit found coffee houses like Temple Coffee, Insight Coffee Roasters and Chicory Coffee and Tea, all drawing fans of the bean!

The trend of farm-to-fork restaurants, using locally-sourced, fresh ingredients, has taken a strong hold in the downtown area, with new restaurants like Mother (vegetarian), Ella, The Grange and Café Bernardo all getting high marks from epicureans.

In the downtown area, K Street is currently the “big dig”, with the new entertainment and sports complex, better known as the new Kings Arena, going up on a six square block chunk of downtown.

Martinez noted “the new entertainment and sports complex will seat 17,500 and open in October, 2016, offering King’s games and many traveling shows and artists.  The spin-off benefit of those many thousands of visitors will fuel downtown restaurants and hotels”.  She added that the 700 block of K Street is already undergoing a total transformation, and interest in new development and downtown housing is at a high point.

K Street retains much of its old charm, with the old Crest Theater, 1013 K St., currently running Oscar-nominated short films among its ongoing fair. Across the street, Assembly offers live music shows. Nearby, the new Esquire Theater opened several years ago, complete with IMAX screen; the nearby Esquire Grill is an excellent lunch or dinner option.  Just east is the Sacramento Convention Center and Community Theater complex, both attracting visitors in large numbers.

Reminders of Sacramento’s history can be found throughout Old Sacramento and the adjoining downtown. The old Governor’s Mansion, 1526 H Street, is now a museum with tours offered daily.  The area surrounding the old mansion and downtown offers a wealth of historic homes, many dating back more than 100 years and elevated to avoid the flooding that once plagued the river-bound city.

Several venues make the area a lively theater destination. The Wells Fargo Pavilion hosts Music Circus and the B Street Theater offers ongoing live performances, as does the Community Center Theater.  Starting the last Friday in May through July, 5-9 PM, a huge, free Friday concert fills Cesar Chavez Plaza.  Check the web site or pick up a copy of Sacramento News and Review, a lively guide to what’s going on (

The downtown area bounded by the Sacramento River on the west, the American River to the north, 16th Street on the east and Hwy. 50 on the south is compact, running about 20 blocks by 20 blocks. Getting around can be done by car, to some degree by light rail, on foot or by bicycle. The city is quite bike-friendly, and along the north side of downtown, the American River Bike Trail offers a placid tour just beyond the city confines.

Calendar a visit, better, a weekend trip, to our unique capital city – bustling shops and eateries, live theater, living history amid world-renowned museums, kids and family activities – all just an hour away! Coming next week, more Sacramento insight; a tour of the Midtown area!

How to get there: From Stockton, take I-5 north 45 miles to Sacramento, exit on J Street and follow signs to Old Sacramento or downtown parking.

What’s nearby:  To the north, the Jedidiah Smith Recreation/Bike Trail; to the west, Raley Field (home of the Sacramento Rivercats baseball team) just across the Tower Bridge.

What to take: Good walking shoes and your camera!

Where to stay: Overnight lodging is available in Old Sac on the Delta King and the nearby Embassy Suites (beside the historic Tower Bridge).  Other nearby motels and hotels can be found in downtown Sacramento.

For more info: Downtown Sacramento Partnership, 980 9th Street, (916) 442-8575,; Old Sacramento Business Association, 980 9th Street, Suite 400, (916) 442-8575,

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: travel; to contact me, 

Happy travels in the west!

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