This 4-block historic district founded in 1848 was a major commercial and agricultural center during the Gold Rush. Now it's Sacramento's most popular tourist destination. Old Sacramento sits along the Sacramento River and is filled with dozens of restaurants, shops, and saloons. Visitors experience everything from wagon trains to stagecoaches, riverboats to the first transcontinental railroad. It's kitschy but fun, and a good way to get into the Gold Rush spirit.
California State Capitol Building
Forty acres of gardens surround this awe-inspiring building where legislators have assembled since 1869. The California State Capitol was restored in the 1970s to its original turn-of-the-century magnificence. Free tour tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis or you can pay a small fee to catch an overview of the legislative process. The Capitol gardens feature California's Vietnam Veterans' Memorial and other public art.
Crocker Art Museum
The Crocker Art Museum (est. 1885) is one of Northern California's largest and best museums of regional artists. The collection spans from the 10th century to contemporary periods, and includes a stunning collection of European master drawings and a notable selection of contemporary California art. Museum programs include touring exhibitions, educational programs, public tours, and concerts. Part of the museum is housed in the Crocker Mansion, once home to one of California's "Big Four," and designed by the same architects who designed the Sacramento Hostel.
California State Railroad Museum
This world-class tribute to the role of the "iron horse" includes 21 lavishly restored locomotives and cars from the 1860s to the 1960s. The California State Railroad Museum tells the story of how rail travel transformed American society, starting in the West. It include a full-scale diorama of an 1860s construction site set high in the Sierra Nevada, as well as a bridge elevated 24 feet above the museum floor.
Sutter's Fort / California State Indian Museum
Step back in time at Sutter's Fort -- estblished in 1839, it was the first non-Indian settlement in California's Central Valley. John Sutter developed a 48,000-acre patch of wilderness into a European-style, self-contained settlement that included Sutter's Mill, site of the 1848 gold discovery sparked the Gold Rush. The fort now houses exhibits and costumed docents, as well as the California State Indian Museum, which includes artifacts from more than 100 California tribes.
The California Museum
The California Museum opened in 1998 and was initially designed to showcase materials from the State Archives. Over the last 15 years, it 's evolved into a destination that educates and inspires visitors about California's rich history. The museum is home to the California Hall of Fame and California Legacy Trails, and features exhibits that showcase the state's unique contributions to the world through innovation, arts, and culture.
History, science, space, and technology converge at the Discovery Museum, a replica of the city's 1854 City Hall and Waterworks Building. The museum provides a hands-on exploration of Sacramento's past, present, and future, as experts demystify the skies in the Planetarium and elevate the habits and habitats of native wildlife in the Nature Discovery Room.
Two major rivers run through the city of Sacramento: the Sacramento River and the American River. Whether you're seeking a lazy afternoon float or a true adrenaline rush, these rivers are popular for swimming, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and "tubing."
Sacramento is also the start of the American River Parkway, an impressive 23-mile stretch of tree-lined trail where pedestrians and cyclists can follow the sparkling river from Old Sacramento all the way to the town of Folsom. (Public transit via light rail is available for the return journey.)