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Sacramento/Gold Rush country, California

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Did You Know … ?

  • The world’s largest almond plant, Sacramento’s Blue Diamond, processes 12 million pounds of nuts daily in peak season.
  • The Sacramento-St. Joseph, Mo., Pony Express required 200 relay stations, 500 horses and 80 riders for the 10-day service.
  • The Mexican government literally gave away a goldmine in an 1839 land grant to John Sutter.
  • Japan consumes more sushi rice from the Sacramento area than its own rice.
  • Nearly $20 million in gold was recovered from Angels Camp’s five mines from 1886 to 1910.

Gold metal, black earth

Sacramento is a Gold Rush city, California’s state capital and the self-described farm-to-fork capital of America. It’s also a good base for outdoor recreation.

The city originated with a trading post established by John Sutter. After gold was found on Sutter lands, Sacramento flourished as the supply depot for prospectors during the Gold Rush starting in 1849. By 1854, Sacramento was the capital of the young California.

Tourists, with some imagination, peer into the past when they walk, shop and dine in the restored Old Sacramento district. In addition, the Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park houses reconstructed versions of Sutter’s fort and trading post. To pursue the Gold Rush theme further, itineraries outside Sacramento may include mining towns, goldmine tours, panning for gold, plus Old West-themed activities and attractions.

Sacramento is part of California’s 400-mile Central Valley, a rich agricultural region and the state’s breadbasket. With the benefit of hindsight, today’s observers say the real wealth of the region came from the fertile soil rather than the mines. Building on its advantageous location, the city identifies strongly with the farm-to-fork movement and brands itself a culinary travel destination.

It also has special appeal for railroad buffs. Plans for the world’s first transcontinental railroad were hatched in Sacramento (1860). The California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento recalls the history and offers seasonal train rides, pulled by vintage diesel locomotives. Other operators and museums in the area offer train rides with themes varying from murder mysteries to wine.

Sacramento’s mild Mediterranean climate combines with a fortuitous location at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers to make outdoorsy types happy.

The American is the livelier river, offering options for whitewater rafting as well as kayaking. The American River Parkway is a top choice for cycling, but bike trails crisscross the city and its 30 parks. The Sacramento River has the marina where various floating vessels — houseboats, pleasure cruisers, ski boats — are available for rent.

Visitors may head farther afield to wildlife refuges, to the coast for bird-watching or whale spotting, to the mountains for skiing or to Folsom Lake for boating and fishing.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Rent a frog and enter the frog jumping competition at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, held in spring near Angels Camp.
  • Hike or bike the 32-mile trail that lines the banks of the American River between Sacramento and Folsom. Cycle anywhere, for transportation and for the fun of it.
  • When the water is high and swift, beginning in April, sign on for a full-day or longer whitewater rafting trip on the American River.
  • Make the Sacramento Music Festival, originally a jazz event, your reason for a visit to California’s capital. Nowadays, in May, you’ll hear your choice of bluegrass, blues, Latin beats, rock, swing, zydeco and others, as well as the jazz.
  • Sample foods from any of the city’s roving food trucks. Choices range widely from Mexican to Asian, burgers to Mediterranean.
  • Go snowboarding at Boreal Mountain Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe or Sugar Bowl, all within two hours of Sacramento. Or head to the Olympic facility at Squaw Valley.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Plan a self-drive wine tasting outing to the Sierra Nevada foothills to the east of Sacramento or to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the south. Or, taste sake at Gekkeikan Sake in Folsom.
  • Take a walking tour of the Gold Rush towns of Sutter Creek or Jackson. Or, see the Angels Museum in Angels Camp.
  • Go underground. Tour the Gold Bug Mine in Placerville (known as Hangtown when the gold mines were bustling).
  • Ride the Sacramento River Train on one of many themed excursions, usually involving about three hours’ time. Themes include meals with wine or beer tasting, murder mysteries and mock train robberies.
  • Look for the birds — migrating waterfowl — as well as deer and river otters in the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge, 79 miles north of town. Several refuges and preserves in the area offer special events plus guided or self-guided options for spotting birds.
  • Be a crew member, working on a simulated space flight at the Challenger Space Center in the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Visit the past (after a fashion) during Living History Days at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, the spot where Sacramento was born.
  • Drop in on Sacramento’s Sunday farmers’ market, the largest certified farmers’ market in the state. Then, choose a restaurant known for its farm-to-fork policies.
  • At Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, visit the very spot where James Marshall found the gold that triggered the 1849 rush for the glittery stuff. See an operational replica of Sutter’s Mill there and pan for gold in the park.
  • Educate yourself with the exhibits at the California State Railroad Museum, and join one of the museum’s 40-minute excursions along the Sacramento River, using the museum’s diesel locomotives.
  • Enjoy a contrived Western adventure, involving wagon trains, gunfighters or other props and players, at JB Ranch in nearby Elverta. The ranch specializes in Old West adventures for the movie business.
  • Explore the museums and shops among and inside the more than 100 historic buildings in Old Sacramento State Historic Park. Get a map for a walking tour. Or, take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Lunch in one of the restaurants or cafes.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitsacramento.com