Sacramento Vacation Guide | Day 1 | Gayot
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Sacramento City Trip

The Sacramento Skyline
The Sacramento Skyline

72 Hours in Sacramento

by Elizabeth Penney


The economy may be heading slightly upward, but travelers are still hesitant to dole out the big bucks for spendy vacation destinations. Enter California's own city of trees, Sacramento. Sure, the capital can't compete with its larger neighbors to the south, but it truly has something for everyone: a burgeoning restaurant scene, outdoor adventures and a diverse cultural past.

Sacramento is a cosmopolitan oasis rich with fine dining, high-end shopping, world-class museums and performing arts. Best of all, its central location means the ocean and mountains are only a short car ride away. Once a sleepy commuter town centered on state politics and agriculture, Sacramento has quickly blossomed into a bustling metropolis.

But Sacramento can't escape its past, and remnants of its golden era are found on every corner. Having begun as a base for miners on their way to the nearby Sierra Nevada during the Gold Rush era, the city is rich with nineteenth-century history.

The Riverboat Delta King, a 1920s paddle-wheeler permanently moored in Old Sacramento
Delta King

Sacramento's central core — composed of its downtown and midtown areas, where most attractions are located — is relatively compact and easy to navigate by a lettered and numbered grid system. Most hotels are located within walking distance of major sites, and taxis are readily available. To reach outlying areas of town, rent a car. Parking is inexpensive and easy to find, and public transportation is often unreliable.

Guests of participating hotels can save a buck or two by picking up a complimentary Sacramento Gold Card. The card offers savings — many two-for-one deals — at dozens of restaurants, attractions and merchants throughout town. The Sacramento Convention and Visitor's Bureau, at 1608 I St., can help with room reservations at participating merchants or provide any other information you may need. Call 916-808-7777 or visit

Sacramento enjoys its share of high-end lodgings, boutique hotels and mid-range options. By far the best choices are the Hyatt Regency and Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, located in the heart of downtown, or the Embassy Suites on the riverfront. Also downtown, the boutique hotel, The Citizen, retains its past with historic charm.

For a unique experience, book a room on the Riverboat Delta King, a 1920s paddle wheeler permanently moored in Old Sacramento. For cozy, residential hospitality, book a room at the Amber House Bed & Breakfast. Or, to surround yourself in turn-of-the-century romantic opulence, stay at The Sterling Hotel.

SACRAMENTO DAY 1: Old Town, Walking Tours, California State Railroad Museum

Follow in the footsteps of the forty-niners and begin your tour of the River City in Old Sacramento. Plan your itinerary over breakfast at the Rio City Café, where you can enjoy Frangelico French toast or Cajun beef hash while gazing at the Sacramento River on the outdoor patio. Get acquainted by strolling along the raised wooden sidewalks and admire the nineteenth-century architecture.

Old Sacramento
Old Sacramento

As you look past the modern souvenir shops and restaurants, it's easy to imagine their former glory as general stores, saloons and bathhouses. Of particular interest is the B.F. Hastings building, which served as the Western terminus for the Pony Express; the Eagle Theatre, a replica of the first theater in California; and the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse, a reproduction of a one-room schoolhouse typical of the Old West. Many of these buildings now house shops and boutiques; besides souvenir T-shirts and fake gold nuggets, you'll also find unique — sometimes wacky — gifts at Evangeline, Hollywood memorabilia at Stage Nine Entertainment Store, eco-friendly home goods at the Solar Syndicate and nostalgic collectibles at Brooks Novelty Antiques and Records.

For a more in-depth perspective of Old Town, visit the Old Sacramento Visitors Center and take an hour-long Historical Walking Tour through the Old Sacramento Living History Program, led by a costumed docent. For a lighthearted take on the city's sordid history, take the Hysterical Walk comedic tour led by prospectors and riverboat gamblers, or a Ghost Tour hosted by the spirits of the dead. Or, go below the surface of the city's history with an underground tour, and see what the streets looked like before the city was raised to avoid annual floodwaters. A scenic, one-hour historic river cruise with Hornblower Cruises provides yet another unique perspective.

After a morning of sightseeing, it's time for lunch at Fat City. Housed in the Brannan Building, one of the first general merchandise stores in Old Town, the restaurant is decorated in Victorian artifacts, Tiffany-style lamps and beveled glass windows. The varied menu offers something for everyone, from satisfying entrée salads to burgers, sandwiches and pasta.

The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento
The California State Railroad Museum

After lunch, continue your trip back in time with a visit to one of the most popular attractions in Old Sacramento. The California State Railroad Museum, which traces the history of railroading and its impact on California, features restored nineteenth-century traincars, a steam locomotive and a reconstructed train depot. During the summer you can hop aboard a steam train for a six-mile excursion atop the levees of the Sacramento River.

Other nearby museums include the California Military Museum, featuring artifacts, documents and memorabilia of California's rich military history; and the Wells Fargo History Museum, which depicts the early days of commerce through gold, stagecoaches and telegraph.

For dinner, there are plenty of options in Old Sacramento. Get a taste of what the region has to offer at Ten22. This casual yet sophisticated American eatery features creative dishes designed around local, organic and seasonal ingredients. Enjoy a showcase of local food with the six-course chef's table discovery menu, a one-of-a kind tasting menu designed especially for two.

Continue to Day 2



Sacramento Hotels
Sacramento Restaurants
Sacramento Attractions
Sacramento Business Travel Guide
California Travel Guide
Sacramento Tourism Board

* Images courtesy of Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. Skyline by Tom Myers

PLH030707 (Updated: 08/08/13 NW)

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