Part number 2 of my USA series goes out to one of my hidden gems, the Californian capital
of Sacramento. When I first booked my West Coast summer trip I included Sacramento purely because I didn’t want to spend too much time in any one place and I knew it was a state Capitol. However, when I mentioned stopping here to my Californian friends a lot of them suggested that I spend the three days I had set aside for Sacramento extending my trip to San Francisco as I would like it better there. I’m a little glad now that I stuck to my guns (and my pre-booked hostel and greyhound).
As a young (read financially challenged) solo traveler I generally stay in hostels everywhere I visit. Sacramento was no exception and I opted to stay in the Hostelling International Sacramento Hostel. This hostel was certainly one of the most visually stunning out of all my west coast choices. The Sacramento hostel is actually a Victorian Mansion built in 1885 by a gold rush millionaire. This historical setting is the perfect accommodation for Sacramento, which is a city certainly built upon impressive historical roots. The rooms in the hostel are spacious and clean and the staff, as at every hostel I’ve stayed in so far, are friendly and helpful. Breakfast is provided free every morning and there’s also a well stock kitchen open to all hostel residents.
These boots were made for walking…
One of the most important things to me while traveling is having a suitable way to get around, and there is honestly no better way than being able to walk to attractions right from your hostel door. Sacramento is definitely one of the most walking-friendly cities I have stayed in so far. This is the place where, after almost a year of living in the states, I finally got a hang of the grid system. Seriously, there is nothing better than google maps telling you to simply “walk in a straight line for 40 minutes and your destination is on right”. From the hostel on H Street you can walk to any of the attractions I’ll talk about below.
I’m putting this in the post because it’s very pretty and I’m sure when it’s not under construction it would be a great place to visit. They run multiple tours of this house every day and it is only a 5 minute walk from the hostel front door.
State Capitol Park
Upon finding that the above-mentioned Governors Mansion was closed when I was in Sacramento I happily stumbled upon the State Capitol Park. The parks actually turned out to be one of my favourite things about Sacramento. There are several parks spread around the city with a variety of entertainment from duck ponds to rose gardens and weddings to be accidentally crashed (it only happened twice to me okay?)
State Capitol and State Capitol Museum
Sacramento is of course most well known as the Capitol of California and so the beautiful state Capitol is obviously one of the key tourist draws. It is certainly well worth a visit as entrance is free and they run several guided tours throughout the day. I’d definitely recommend taking one of these tours as, especialy when it comes to the assembly halls etc, there isn’t a lot of written information available. The museum is very much dedicated to California as a whole, with each county putting together a display and the history of California being remembered through film and photographs. Once you’re done wandering the halls and learning history be sure to stop by the current governors office and say hi to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s huge bronze bear!
State Indian Museum
Following the historical trend that obviously runs through the whole city, Sacramento is home to the California State Indian Museum which for only $5 gains you access to history and artefacts written and donated by the natives of the state. It’s not a particularly interactive museum so maybe not perfect for kids, but for anyone who is interested in historical and modern traditional Indian lifestyle the museum is very informative and shows a side not often associated with California.
Sutter’s Fort is a really well preserved historical “Go West” fort. For a $5 entry fee, it illustrates the story of America as ‘the land of opportunity’ and the Gold Rush of 1849 that made California what it is today. This is a really cleverly done attraction with a motion-sensor audio tour that activates whenever you step into a room. This feature is obviously better on quieter days and times but I found that if you can be patient with it, it is actually worth listening to the cleverly recorded audio extracts of John Sutters diary and other dramatised historical inhabitants of the fort.
California State Railroad Museum
I found the State Railroad Museum on TripAdvisor as the number one thing to do in Sacramento. Despite its reviews though I wasn’t certain it was something I wanted to spend my time on. I’m very glad I decided to though and would 100% back all the positive trip advisor reviews. Entrance to the museum is $10 which won’t seem expensive once you’re inside the exhibits (especially as it is an all-day ticket). There are guided tours every 45 minutes or so and, again, I would definitely recommend you take one. Once the guided tour is over you are free to walk around the museum and revisit whatever interested you during the tour. The exhibit is very interactive, with ‘moving’ dining and sleeping cars, imitation snow sheds and genuine trains on display from every era of railroad history. Upstairs in the museum there is also an exhibit dedicated to the model train industry and an area where kids can build their own toy train circuit.
When I saw ‘Old Sacramento’ printed on the map I just figured it was an older part of the main city. When I got there however (the Railroad Museum is in Old Sacramento) I was amazed to find that it’s actually a preserved classic ‘western’ town. All the stores here are based in genuine old west buildings but are modern businesses. If you’re looking for a relaxed and surreal place to ship, Old Sacramento is it for sure! The businesses are very varied, from Native American souvenirs to saloons and Practical Cylce Bike Rentals, which I will talk about next.
The American River Bike Trail
Another trip advisor find, The American River Bike Trail is unmissable when visiting Sacramento. One of the reasons for Sacramento’s location is the confluence of two rivers right on the city’s edge. These rivers are easy to get to and the American River Trail is less than a 5 minute bike ride from Practicel Cycle Bike Rental in Old Sacramento. Here you can hire a bike for only $5 an hour, with a minimum of two hours rental. I ended up being out for more than 4 hours and cycling almost 30 miles, and I still didn’t want to come back at the end of it! Despite the California drought the river bank is still very beautiful, so take a packed lunch and enjoy the views and the friendly smiles of the other cyclists on a sunny California afternoon.