By Aaron Feigenbaum.
While our state’s capital might be better known as a political battleground, Sacramento is actually a booming metropolis with a rich history and plenty of fascinating attractions for the whole family.
Originally populated by the Nisenan Native Americans and later conquered by the Spanish, the Sacramento Valley area fell into the hands of John Sutter Jr in 1839. Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, established Sutter’s Fort (also known as New Helvetia) in 1840. After the discovery of gold in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill, the once sleepy fort town began to thrive and Sacramento became California’s very first incorporated city in 1849.
Sacramento became the state’s permanent capital in 1879. Despite problems such as floods and ethnic tensions in the early part of the city’s history, Sacramento developed into a major commercial and agricultural hub and is now California’s sixth largest city and the 35th largest in the nation.
What to Do and See:
California State Capitol: Completed in the late 1800‘s and modeled on the Capitol building in Washington D.C., this beautiful Neoclassical structure houses the California State Legislature and the governor’s office. Free tours run 8-5 on weekdays and 9-5 on weekends. Be sure to take a stroll through the pleasant World Peace Rose Garden surrounding the Capitol.
Sutter’s Fort: The birthplace of Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort was built by settler John Sutter in 1839. It was abandoned after the discovery of gold and only the main building remains. The fort houses a number of artifacts relating to the fort’s pioneering history. You can also witness cannon and musket demonstrations throughout the day. The current special exhibit focuses on social diversity at the fort and features scavenger hunts and doll-making. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for ages 5-17, and free for children under 5.
State Indian Museum: Right next to Sutter’s Fort is this tribute to one of the nation’s largest and most diverse indigenous populations. You can see great examples of traditional baskets, hunting and fishing tools, a canoe and more. The gift shop has Native American jewelry, dolls, and books among other things. The museum is open 10-5 daily and entry prices are the same as the fort.
Crocker Art Museum: Dating back to 1869, Crocker is the oldest continuously operating museum in the West. It has an impressive range of paintings from all over the world along with one of America’s largest ceramics collections. You’ll see art from such renowned figures as Renoir, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Rembrandt. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, $5 for youth 7-17, and free for children 6 and under. Be sure to check their website to see the latest exhibitions.
California Auto Museum: Whether you’re a car buff or not, you’ll almost certainly appreciate the over 160 beautifully restored cars housed here representing the whole range of automobile history. From the earliest cars of the 1890‘s to the Model T to contemporary alternative energy vehicles, this fascinating museum shows you the evolution of the automobile from a science project to being a staple of modern society. Hours are 10-7 every day. General admission is $8 ($4 for students, and no charge for children under 5).
Old Sacramento: One of Sacramento’s main highlights, Old Town is chock full of sights and activities. The California State Railroad Museum features 21 restored trains and cars, as well as a general history on the railroad system and its impact on American society. ($10 for adults, $3 ages 6-17, free for children 5 and under) If you happen to be in Sacramento April-September, hop on a steam train for a fun 40 minute ride through Sacramento’s levees. Admission prices are the same as the Railroad Museum. Finally, the Sacramento History Museum in Old Town lies in picturesque spot just feet away from the Sacramento River and takes you through the history of Sacramento from its founding to the present. Be sure to drop by the B.F. Hastings Building which served as the endpoint for the Pony Express as well as the location for the first California Supreme Court. Adults get in for $6, ages 6-17 for $4, and children under 6 for free.
Underground Tours: For a walk on the wild side, take an hour-long guided tour through Sacramento’s nearly 150 year old underground past. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17, and free, but not recommended, for children under 6. Check historicoldsac.org or call (916) 808-7059 for available times.
Raging Waters: If history isn’t your thing, take the whole family to one of America’s premier water parks and have a blast on the wave pool, half-pipe, and numerous slides. At $31.99 for adults and $21.99 for kids, prices are a bit steep but your ticket will also gain you access to the State Fair.
Eat and Daven:
There are two frum shuls to choose from in Sacramento:
1. Chabad of Sacramento – 945 Evelyn Lane, (916) 455-1400
2. Knesset Israel Torah Center (Modern Orthodox) – 1165 Morse Avenue, (916) 481-1159
Unfortunately, there are no kosher restaurants per se, but you can contact Chef Yair Luria at Kosher Gourmet Catering ((916) 396-9123/koshergourmetcatering.com) or visit Chef Luria for dinner at the dining room of the Albert Einstein Residence Center (1935 Wright St, (916) 972-9555. There’s also an extensive kosher selection at the SaveMart at 2501 Fair Oaks Blvd (916) 484-7994.
Driving from L.A. to Sacramento is a pretty straightforward 5 and a half hour drive along the
I-5N. Alternatively, the cheapest flights cost between $200 and $300. Greyhound can also take you there for around $70 and Amtrak can also do it for $60 and up.
-The Pony Express, the precursor to the U.S. Postal Service, stretched from Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri 2,000 miles away.
-Blue Diamond in Sacramento is the world’s largest almond processing plant. During the harvest period, over 12 million pounds of almonds are processed every day.
-Mark Twain was a reporter for the Sacramento Union newspaper in the 1860’s and reported on the city’s happenings.