Get to Know Sacramento: You'll Never Be Bored

Raley Field (photo by Jerry Huddleston)

Sacramento – the City of Trees – is a modern city with roots in the Wild West. It is California's capital and the seat of Sacramento County government. It lies in the heart of the rich agricultural Central Valley, which gives it a personality at once dynamic and laidback.

It lies at the confluence of two rivers: the 380-mile Sacramento, California's longest river; and the American, a popular spot for boating, fishing, rafting, and cooling off in the summer.

In 1848, a sawmill foreman working at the south fork of the American River, northeast of Sacramento, reached into the water to retrieve some sparkly flecks. It was gold. James W. Marshall's discovery triggered the 1849 Gold Rush – and the world literally rushed toward the young city of Sacramento as eager men and women made their way to the gold fields. Many would not find their fortunes, and some returned to Sacramento to start businesses and new lives here.

Sacramento grew into one of the most ethnically diverse and livable cities in the country, with a population of 480,000. More than 1.4 million people live in Sacramento County. The region's mild Mediterranean climate produces hot summer days and cool nighttime Delta breezes. Winters are chilly and sometimes cloaked in the Central Valley's famed tule fog. It's possible to wear shorts and enjoy outdoor activities almost year-round.

There's always something to do in Sacramento. The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau's events calendar can be found at www.sacramento365.com. Here are some ideas for playing, relaxing and learning in and around Sacramento:

Recreation

Sac State Aquatic Center

American River Bike Trail – Also known as Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, this 32-mile paved pathway from Discovery Park near downtown to Folsom (and alongside Sacramento State) has been called "one of the best trails in North America" by trails.com. Popular with cyclists and runners.

Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma – Watercraft classes and clinics, and equipment rentals, including kayaks, canoes, hydro bikes, and beach cruisers. Site of collegiate rowing championships. Open to the public.

Land Park and McKinley Park – Two jewels in the city of Sacramento's vast public parks system. Both are popular destinations for runners and picnickers. McKinley offers tennis and basketball courts, and baseball fields, along with a Sacramento Public Library branch and the McKinley Rose Garden. Land Park is home to the Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town, Funderland, and an amphitheater. It offers an array of sports fields and a public golf course built in 1924. Other city parks have much to offer, as well.

Professional Sports

Sacramento Kings – The local NBA franchise since 1985. Currently plays at Sleep Train Arena. The team broke ground on its new, $477 million downtown arena in November 2014 and expects to have it ready for the start of the 2016-17 season.

Sacramento River Cats – Designated the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants after 15 seasons as an Oakland A's farm team. Home field is Raley Field in West Sacramento.

Sacramento Republic FC – The minor-league soccer club played its inaugural season in spring 2014 at an 8,000-seat stadium, Bonney Field, at Cal Expo. The club hopes to become a Major League Soccer franchise.

Out and About: Music, Theater and Dining

Music

Sacramento has a vibrant live-music scene. Among the city's popular venues:

Ace of Spades, 1417 R St.

Blue Lamp Cocktail Lounge & Concert Hall, 1400 Alhambra Blvd.

Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J St.

Naked Lounge Coffee House Downtown, 1111 H St.

Shine Sacramento – Coffee, Art & Music, 1400 E St.

Starlite Lounge, 1517 21st St.

Theater

B Street Theatre, 2711 B St. – Intimate, two-theater playhouse in midtown Sacramento.

Broadway Sacramento, 1301 L St. – California Musical Theatre introduced the Broadway Series in 1989 as a wintertime alternative to its Music Circus. The series of touring Broadway blockbusters is presented at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.

Music Circus, 1419 H St. – A Sacramento summer tradition performed in the round. Its home is the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

Dining

Sacramento has positioned itself as a leader in the nation's farm-to-fork movement, launching its annual Farm-to-Fork Festival and the Tower Bridge Dinner in 2013. The 2014 celebration stretched into a two-week event that included a tractor parade downtown.

In the last few years, food trucks have become a common sight. SactoMoFo, an annual mobile food event, regularly attracts about 10,000 people. Food trucks often make their way to the Sac State campus at lunchtime.

Sacramento is home to nearly every food franchise imaginable, as well as some of the region's best restaurants.

Museums, Zoo and Historical Attractions

(most are closed on major holidays)

Downtown and Midtown

Photo courtesy Crocker Art MuseumCalifornia Museum, 1020 O St. – Housed in the California State Archives building and home to the California Hall of Fame.

California State Capitol Museum, 10th and L streets – Exhibits and historical items offer a glimpse into California's political past.

California State Indian Museum, 2618 K St. – The museum has told the story of California's Indians since 1940.

Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St. – The oldest continuously operating museum west of the Mississippi River.

Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park, 800 N St. – After a 14-year, $20 million restoration, the onetime home of a California governor is the state's official reception center.

Sacramento Historic City Cemetery, Broadway at 10th Street – The oldest existing cemetery in Sacramento dates to 1849. Beautiful gardens and dramatic grave markers. Free tours.

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L St. – John Sutter's pre-Gold Rush settlement was the center of his agricultural empire and critical in the 1847 rescue of the ill-fated Donner Party.

Old Sacramento

California State Railroad Museum, 111 I St. – Restored locomotives and train cars, interpretive exhibits, one of the finest collections of toy trains in the country, and the 1876 Central Pacific freight depot.

Sacramento History Museum, 101 I St. – Sacramento's past comes to life in a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building.

Elsewhere

Aerospace Museum of California, 3200 Freedom Park Drive, McClellan Park – Restored vintage planes, assorted aviation memorabilia, and an aviation reference library.

California Automobile Museum, 2200 Front St. – Exhibits classic and modern vehicles from around the world.

Discovery Museum Science & Space Center, 3615 Auburn Blvd. – Permanent programs include the Challenger Learning Center, where students take on the roles of astronauts, scientists, and engineers, and launch simulated NASA missions.

Sacramento Zoo, Land Park Drive near Sutterville Road – The largest zoological park in the Central Valley is spread out over 14.3 acres in the city's William Land Park and exhibits more than 400 animals, including endangered or threatened species.