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In the TripAdvisor California forums, Sacramento often isn't on the list of places many visitors plan to see. San Diego and its beaches and zoo, Hollywood and Disneyland, San Francisco, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe usually find their way to the top of the visitor list. However, Sacramento has a lot to offer travelers, as well. Not only is it the capital of California with a beautiful capitol building and grounds, but it also has many other things not to be missed.
Old Sacramento is a good first stop, and is a nice snapshot of how California used to look. The Railroad museum there is one of the best. It displays the Golden Spike which also tied the East Coast to the West Coast. For any rail fan, this is a MUST SEE musuem. There is also a small excursion train that departs from Old Sacramento for about an hour ride, fun to do with the family. Old Sac has a large concentration of original Gold Rush buildings and was the western terminus for both the Pony Express and the Transcontinental Railroad. It has a rich history rooted in both the Gold Rush and the building of the railroad. The Big Four, the tycoons of the Central Pacific Railroad whose names you may recognize- Crocker, Stanford, Huntington and Hopkins, were all based here in Old Sac before they made their millions and built their mansions on San Francisco's Nob Hill. The Huntington and Hopkins Hardware store is still standing here in Old Sac.
The Sacramento River runs nearby and provides great views and lots of recreation. If you are into sports, the Sacramento Kings provide pro-level action. The Sacramento River Cats AAA baseball team has lead the leagues in attendance every year since coming to its beautiful ballpark in West Sacramento, along the river. Baseball like it used to be. Family friendly, inexpensive, and a great park with close-up seating.
The Broadway shows at the Convention Center, as well as the Music Circus, offer top flight entertainment throughout the season. For boating or water related activities, not only does the area offer the Sacramento River, but also the 1) American River and its fishing, rafting and 33 miles of preserve with numerous cycling and hiking trails. 2) Folsom Lake, one of the busiest in California for all water sports, and 3) Lake Natomas, a great place for kayaks, canoes and rowing events.
When to visit? Spring and Fall are very popular and the weather is hard to beat. The City of Trees can also be enjoyed in the summer but be warned, it can get very hot, topping out in the low 100s. But it's a dry heat. Early morning and evening touring or water-related activities work best then, unless you like the heat.
Another good time to visit is during the California State Fair which opens in mid July for 2 weeks. It is one of the best fairs that will take over a day to visit. It is a great way to visit California and see much of what the state has to offer with its many fine exhibits. Many shows -- including some top notch music -- take place during the fair, as well. The weather can be warm to hot during the fair, but you can easily cool off at the water park right next door. Horse racing, Clydesdales, many other animals and fireworks make this a truly fun family day. There is also a monorail. To save money, go on line and order the Poppy Pack (includes reduced fair admission, parking, monorail passes.). If in Sacramento in July, do plan to spend some time at the State Fair.
And if it gets too hot, then it's time to enjoy Sacramento's close-to-everything location. In two hours, you can be in Lake Tahoe to cool off or to ski in the winter. Driving ninety miles south will get you to San Francisco for a visit to this tourist mecca. The Napa and Sonoma wine country is only a couple hours away. Ocean? You have many choices. Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Mendocino and many others are but a few hours easy drive from Sacramento. Yosemite is less than four hours drive. This area has a plethora of interesting sidetrips, if you have an extra day or two.
So, when planning a California visit, don't forget to consider all that Sacramento has to offer. You won't regret it.