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Tour the historic Sacramento City Cemetery, a rosy resting place

There's no shortage of attractions in Sacramento, and one of the best -- but least obvious -- is the Sacramento City Cemetery which has a rich history, a blossoming rose garden, and a series of seasonally themed (and free) tours for the public.

In 1849, Sacramento's city founder John Augustus Sutter Jr. donated a 10-acre plot of land for the purpose of creating a cemetery (where he and many other early Californians are now buried). The first inhabitants of the cemetery were victims of the 1850 cholera epidemic. Today, some 25,000 individuals are buried there; among them are 49ers, Donner party survivors, railroad tycoons like E.B. Crocker and Mark Hopkins, politicians, and the son of Alexander Hamilton, William Stephen Hamilton.  

Cemetery tours are led by volunteer staff and run on most Saturdays, with themes that change weekly. Some tours explore the graves of specific groups, like Civil War veterans or early California laborers; some examine other aspects of the cemetery, such as the art of stonecutting or rose propagation.

This season, the guided tours are themed around the colors of fall, so visitors can experience autumnal colors in the rose garden while learning about the history of early California. There's also a self-guided tour of the graves of Sacramento's brewmasters, that highlights the city's long history of beer brewing and provides information about the breweries and beers of early California.

The grounds of the Sacramento City Cemetery were designed in the traditional Victorian Garden style with well-manicured lawns and lush rose gardens, which are considered to be among the finest rose gardens in the state.

The roses in the Historic Sacramento Rose Garden are composed of what experts call "found roses," or antique roses collected from various sites across Northern California and re-planted. The antique roses came from other cemeteries, old homes, and roadsides throughout the region, but they were originally planted by early settlers who brought them from their homeland. These antique roses are characteristically fragrant, fluffy, and overblown, unlike the high-centered blossoms of modern roses which have distinct centers and tightly wrapped petals. They also come in many shapes and colors, and there are over 200 varieties in the cemetery's rose garden, emblematic of the diversity of settlers, city-planners, pioneers, and veterans who rest there.

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If You Go 

Stay at the Sacramento Hostel, just one mile from the historic Sacramento City Cemetery.