When we were looking at a map of California, deciding where we wanted to go up the coast from San Diego, my finger hovered over Sacramento. I had a mental tug-of-war, wondering if it was a destination worth going that far inland for, maybe we should just stay on the rugged coast the whole way up?
Then I remembered that my cousin had just moved to Sacramento not that long ago, and I hadn’t seen her in a long time. I also realized the only other time I’ve seen Sacramento was once for a basketball tournament when I was kid, and that’s about it. I knew it was about time I gave it another go, and it wouldn’t make sense for Kendall to miss the capital of California (and miss Arnold’s smiling portrait in the Capitol building).
There are still politicians everywhere and suits walking the streets, but Sacramento was a lot edgier than I thought it would be. I found street art, places you wouldn’t want to be after dark, and some delectable local craft beer. One aspect I loved about Sacramento was the history found around every corner.
We were only in town for a few days, but my cousin Jenny and her (now!) fiancé, were great hosts and did a thorough job of showing us around. It made me realize, Sacramento is much more than just our state’s capital, there are so many cool parts of the city that I never knew about.
We started off our time at de Vere’s Irish Pub to have a proper Irish breakfast in the realm of bangers and mash. There were already a crowd of patrons watching the “football” on tv when we arrived at 9am. The breakfast was savory and satisfying, a restaurant I would recommend if you’re looking for a unique breakfast experience. Also, I hear they make a mean Bloody Mary for those hungover folks.
One of the first tourist experiences we had was checking out the Old Sacramento Historical District. If you’re looking for Wild West vibes, this is the place to go in town. Most of the store fronts still have that western-movie-shoot-out feel and there is everything from huge joke shops filled with random items, to old fashioned ice cream, milkshakes, and saltwater taffy. Just watch out for the horse poop!
Kendall and I went back a couple of different times, there were so many shops to check out and places to poke our heads into. We stuck to the more affordable activities (such as window shopping) while we were there, but there are a multitude of things to do, from riverboat rides to horse-drawn carriages, and plenty of museums to keep you busy for a week.
Another unique and historical experience was going to Sutter’s Fort, another testament to Sacramento’s pioneering history and a look into a very different time and place.
Sutter’s Fort was in operation from 1839 to 1850, and is the place for school groups to go as we soon found out. There were a few different classes in attendance the day we went, dressed up in pioneer clothes and learning how to live life as the westerners used to back in the 19th century. There was even a cannon demonstration at one point!
Aside from the kids way too hopped up on sugar and field trip excitement, it was a wonderful experience and a well done interactive museum. The exhibits found throughout the fort gave you a real glimpse into the hard life that welcomed pioneers on their way to the California Gold Rush.
John Sutter, the man behind the fort, was originally from Switzerland. His original intention was to have a flourishing agricultural setup in the Sacramento Valley with the land grant he received from the Mexican government at the time.
In 1847, after sending help to the Donner Party that was trapped in the Sierras, he became known for his hospitality. Immigrants from all over began seeking refuge at the fort that was then called “New Helvetia”, and it became a famous pioneering community in California before being overrun by gold diggers a decade later.
The fort has been restored to look like it did at its height in 1847, and it’s an intriguing experience in the middle of Sacramento, especially if you’re into history.
The Mckinley Rose Garden is also a place to go see if you’re in town. Go smell the roses, take a book with you and enjoy the park grounds with abundant squirrels and benches. It’s not the most amazing rose garden I’ve seen, but worth a look if it’s a nice day and you want to spend time outside.
I’ve been saving one of the best aspects about Sacramento for last, the craft beer scene! I was surprised at the tasty beer we found around town. I never thought of Sacramento as a flourishing beer spot, but I found a brewery there that I now consider one of my favorites in California, Track 7.
Track 7 is a little ways outside of town, but worth it if you have the time. By far, they had the best service and quality of beer we tried in Sacramento. Also, the food cart that was hanging outside was delicious!
Besides Track 7, another notable craft brewery to taste-test is the local favorite, Rubicon.
A brewery that’s not quite open but will be soon is Sactown Union Brewery in East Sacramento. I’ve already met the head brewer and my cousin has a share in the business, so if you’re in town make sure to give it some love. I’m already impressed with the small amount of beer I’ve tried from what they’ve been brewing.
And yes, okay, even though Sacramento is much more than just a state capital you should still go check out the impressive Capitol building. It’s a tad embarrassing to admit that I had never actually seen the inside of my State Capitol, so I knew it was about time to see the place where laws are made and representatives from California go to work.
I’ve been to two other state capitols, one in Nevada and one in Texas, and I really loved the one in California. Although the Texas State Rangers roaming around the State Capitol in Austin were pretty sweet.
Inside the California State Capitol there are little exhibits for each county in the state (so many!), as well as historical rooms of famous past governors and senators from long ago. It was a beautiful building that was fun to explore, I kept thinking how my sister might one day work there with her passion for politics.
There are a few other notable attractions around Sacramento that I didn’t get to see, but I’ll let you discover them on your own! Sacramento is a very layered place, just when you think you’ve seen what there is to see, something pops out and draws your attention.
My last recommendation, try an ice cream filled donut at The Parlor. It’s an experience not to miss in Sactown.
What else should I do the next time I’m in Sacramento? Have any of you been to the capital of California?
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