Sacramento

Destination Location

  • 38.581572, -121.494400:primary
  • 38.6955555556, -121.5908333333:secondary

Overview

Discover Gold! Sacramento, California was one of the busiest and largest towns during the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800’s. It was a major distribution point, commercial and agricultural centre and landing point for wagon trains, riverboats and the First Transcontinental Railroad. With the influx of people who joined the rush, it soon became a city and was incorporated in February of 1850.

Today, you can leave your mining equipment and pans at home because the kind of gold you’ll discover now is in the family-friendly attractions, museums, parks and gardens. Here, your options for entertainment include Broadway musicals, local plays and festivals. Sacramento is a truly affordable destination as the hotels are generally well-priced and many tours and attractions are free to the public. Check out the California State Capitol building or sight-see in Old Sacramento. Even the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park – home to 13 of California’s governors until Ronald Reagan in 1967 – has a very reasonable US$5 entry fee.

Step back to a time and see what California was like for a prospector during the Gold Rush between 1848 and 1855, in Old Sacramento. While you’re there, stroll though any of the over 100 stores selling souvenirs, art, gifts, jewellery and home decor – all set in buildings from the Gold Rush era. Restaurants and museums are scattered between shops and a lovely walking path runs beside the Sacramento River.

One way to beat the heat in the summer is to head half an hour east to the American River for an adventure in white water rafting. Many well-established guides have full-day outings that include packed meals. If you choose to do a longer run with overnight stops along the way, you may find that every comfort of home is available in the camps, from chefs and happy-hour beverages to flush toilets and warm showers! The rafting season starts mid-May and runs through September.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Destination basics

Situated in the central part of the state, Sacramento is inland from the Pacific Ocean. However it’s shielded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, California ranges to the west and Siskiyou Mountains to the north. These natural barriers keep the humidity level low and bring gentle breezes to make the heat more bearable.

Summers in Sacramento are HOT! Typically the average high temperatures are around 34 C and drop to a balmy 16 C at night. Don’t forget you will need light, breathable clothing, sunscreen, a hat and plenty of fluids while you are sight-seeing.

In winter, there isn’t much difference between the average high and low temperatures. You may see daytime highs around 13 C and lows of 5 C, so you may find jeans and a light jacket work for both day and night clothing.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Sacramento

California's capital city still has essentially a hometown feel despite its phenomenal growth during the past decade. For most of its 150-year history, Sacramento's culinary scene has featured Middle American fare served in fine dining rooms, steakhouses and grills. Its growth has resulted in an explosion of culinary choices. Sacramento has seen a staggering influx of quality ethnic dining venues. Throughout the metropolitan area a variety of sleek, sophisticated and elegant restaurants have opened, while venerable institutions underwent renovation. On the breezy banks of the Sacramento and American Rivers, patio dining includes spectacular views. Under the leafy canopy of the Midtown district, the view from patio tables beside Victorian mansions is pleasantly intimate. Throughout the capital region are a variety of distinct districts with eclectic and exciting dining experiences to satisfy both the gourmet and the aficionado of traditional American favorites.

Old Sacramento
Along the banks of the Sacramento River, a few blocks west of the Capitol Building, is where it all began 150 years ago. Merchants who built their shops in the Gold Rush town to serve the 49ers got rich. Today, this neighborhood sports roofed plank sidewalks and fine examples of 19th-century architecture and is a state historic park with some excellent dining choices. You can stroll through the pedestrian tunnel covered with colorful murals beginning beside the Plaza and emerge on Second Street bustling with horse-drawn carriages, characters dressed in period costume and plenty of dining experiences. A few doors to your left is Fanny Anne's Saloon, a loud, funky four-story nightspot where a cross-section of society comes to have a good time.

Walk a block to the west and perched on pilings above the Sacramento River is the Rio City Cafe, a restaurant that offers a spectacular view of the Tower Bridge and serves eclectic Southwest and seafood cuisine. On board the Delta King riverboat, the Pilothouse Restaurant dishes up fresh seafood, its signature clam chowder, and steaks. Along the brick streets are funky boutiques, a few jewelry stores, sports memorabilia shops, candy stores and a farmers market.

Downtown/Midtown
This neighborhood has two districts of more than 60-square-blocks and features dozens of restaurants, bars and trendy nightspots. After a brief stroll through the “rabbit hole” (the pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 5), you arrive at the threshold of the Westfield Downtown Plaza. This shopper's paradise is an open-air mall featuring a variety of department stores and specialty shops. Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar is a popular restaurant offering creative sushi rolls and a trendy, bustling atmosphere.

On the L Street side of Downtown Plaza, Morton's of Chicago is the place to go for prime rib that melts in your mouth. Over the past two decades, the Mexican culture has enjoyed a spectacular renaissance in Sacramento. This means there is an incredible array of authentic Mexican dining experiences. Downtown/midtown Sacramento is replete with Hispanic eateries from the typical mom-and-pop taqueria offering generous portions for a reasonable price, to the latest trend-setting interpretation of traditional recipes. Ernesto's, located in midtown, offers al fresco dining, an Art Deco interior and authentic Mexican cuisine. The chefs of Centro Cocina Mexicana experiment with the traditional to create unique and flavorful Mexican dishes.

East of downtown, among its tree-lined streets and solid Victorian houses, there is an abundance of unique dining treats. Harlow's offers modern Italian/California cuisine in a sumptuous setting, as well as an upscale nightclub. Biba is arguably the best Italian restaurant in the city. The eatery is named for its chef, a native of Bologna, who extensively researches and constantly refines the Northern Italian dishes on her menu. Zelda's Original Gourmet Pizza takes the Italian specialty, filters it through Chicago, and serves you crispy, hot pan pizzas that are uniquely Sacramento.

North Sacramento/Natomas
The sweeping river vistas along the aptly named Garden Highway, which borders the American River Parkway preserve, offer an intriguing mix of dining experiences. The quaintly ramshackle Rusty Duck, with its wide verandas, has been a landmark on the American River for two decades and emphasizes fresh fish and steaks, prime rib and pastas.

Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Folsom
While experiencing explosive growth, these suburbs to the east of the metro region somehow seem to maintain their rural small-town feel. 

Situated at the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River, Sacramento is a city of contrast, defying expectations that the capital of a state must be a bustling metropolis studded with sleek steel and glass towers. There are buildings fitting that description clustered downtown, but the heart of California's capital city has tree-shaded streets lined with elegant Victorian homes. Unlike most major metropolitan areas that grew from a civic center, Sacramento started from several small communities that grew together.

Today, within the sprawling metropolis, the influence of these original settlements can be seen throughout the city. Just a few minutes southeast of Sacramento International Airport along Interstate 5, Sacramento visitors are rewarded with sweeping views of the river meandering down to the Delta. Sacramento's tiny settlement grew explosively with the discovery of gold. Disappointed gold-seekers returned from the gold fields and founded the surrounding towns. Today, the Sacramento region extends west from Davis and Woodland to the lovingly preserved frontier town of Auburn, northeast along Interstate 80, and to vacation spots in the Sacramento River Delta. Sacramento has grown from a tent city to the capital of California and has never forgotten its colorful Gold Rush roots.

Old Sacramento/Downtown/Midtown
Since its humble beginnings as a tent city, Sacramento's fate has been intertwined with its namesake, the Sacramento River. Today, Old Sacramento is a 12-block restored neighborhood between the river and Interstate 5 and is a state historic district with interesting old stone and brick buildings. There is a world-class comedy club, a live theatre, elegant restaurants with sweeping views of the river, candy stores, costume shops, pubs and bookstores to be found along the canopied plank sidewalks. The focal point of downtown is the Downtown Plaza, reached from Old Sacramento through a pedestrian tunnel covered with colorful murals. This open-air mall (cooled with suspended “misters” during the summer) features a megaplex movie theater, department stores, a bookstore, specialty clothing stores and much more. Plaza shoppers are entertained by strolling musicians, jugglers, acrobats and mimes.

Crest Theatre is an Art Deco venue was a vaudeville theater that has been restored and is now a repertory cinema featuring art and foreign titles. Further down K Street is the Esquire IMAX Theatre with its six-story tall screen, several vintage record stores, novelty shops, a blues club and several splashy psychedelic murals painted on the dignified walls.

The trees grab the attention of the first-time visitor to the Midtown district. Throughout the city, there are more than 250,000 varieties of fruit, flowering and palm trees. Many of the trees are huge elms and oaks planted by homesick settlers. In the summers, when temperatures average in the high 90s, the cool shade of the trees is welcome. Along the shaded streets are several cutting-edge off-Broadway theaters, a diversity of art galleries, fine and down-home dining establishments, as well as nightspots catering to every taste.

North Sacramento
Across the American River, this old neighborhood centered on Del Paso Boulevard has more than a dozen galleries and, as a result, is a popular area during Second Saturday, an event that happens on the second Saturday of each month and showcases free entrance (and often free food and drinks) into many art galleries around Sacramento. Today, spiffed up and known as Uptown, the area has also attracted interesting restaurants and cafes, and other businesses busily renovating the old neighborhood. To the east is Arden Fair Mall, with theaters, restaurants and a multitude of shopping opportunities.

Folsom
East of downtown Sacramento, the town of Folsom traces its history directly to the Gold Rush. Along a four-block stretch of Sutter Street, now designated a historic district, are restaurants, coffeehouses and boutiques. Also, here, you will find the Folsom Zoo, affectionately nicknamed the "Misfit Zoo," which provides a haven for injured animals such as bears, bobcats, wolves, dogs and domestic cats.

Davis
Unfortunately, the Sacramento River that did so much to put the city on the map also had the alarming habit of flooding on a regular basis. The early town was practically erased several times before levees and the Yolo Bypass were built. The Causeway, a section of Interstate 80 on stilts, crosses the Yolo Bypass and connects downtown Sacramento with Davis. The University of California, Davis, attracts thousands of students and faculty with a taste for non-mainstream entertainment. Most evenings, the downtown streets overflow with townsfolk seeking unique events such as poetry readings, live theater, gallery openings and music concerts.

Regardless of which part of Sacramento you plan to visit, rest assured that here along the banks of the river with its Gold Rush past you will find a city with a promising future. It is, after all, the location of bustling and productive new enterprises, home to a major university and the seat of government for the great state of California.

Taking its name literally, the Art Foundry Gallery includes a working bronze foundry, as well as gallery space featuring the artistic works of local artisans.

Art
A diverse array of museums and galleries in the Old Sacramento, Downtown and Midtown districts feature everything from treasures of the Old Masters to cutting-edge examples of post-modernism. Occupying a Victorian mansion in Downtown, the Crocker Art Museum is the oldest public art museum west of the Mississippi. Several galleries display contemporary art by Californian Wayne Thiebaud alongside works by Pieter Brueghel, Rembrandt and Jacques-Louis David.

Dance
Sacramento Community Center Theater highlights traveling Broadway song-and-dance extravaganzas with dozens of high-stepping dancers. The Sacramento Ballet, a few blocks east on K Street, is dedicated to bringing classical and contemporary ballet to the locals. The award-winning California State University, Sacramento Department of Dance hosts diverse, cutting-edge interpretations of contemporary dance works.

Film
You can always view Hollywood's latest blockbuster at the huge megaplexes scattered around town. Century has four locations: the Century Downtown Plaza 7, the Century 16 Laguna megaplex and the Century Cinedome 9 off of Interstate 80 at Greenback. The Regal Natomas Marketplace 16 megaplex is huge with 16 screens. The Esquire IMAX Theatre shows adventure extravaganzas on its six-story tall screen. For viewers interested in more eclectic cinematic fare, the Crest Theatre, a lovingly restored 1920s movie palace on K Street and the Tower Theatre on Broadway offer classics, art and foreign films, as well as live events.

Museums
For those new to the River City, the sheer variety of museums is staggering. In Old Sacramento is the Railroad Museum, in which restored locomotives and railroad cars are featured along with all sorts of railroad artifacts. Over in Midtown, the California State Indian Museum feature exhibits that details the history and culture of Native Americans in this state. The Aerospace Museum of California features 30 aircraft dating to World War II. In addition, for those interested in a tour along memory lane, the Historic City Cemetery established in 1849, is the resting-place for more than 20,000 settlers who shaped Sacramento's early history. Guided and self-guided tours of the cemetery are available.

Music
Classical music aficionados will find many venues in which to enjoy fine performances in Sacramento. Camellia Symphony Orchestra (The) is nationally recognized for its unusual performances of traditional repertoire works. For popular music fans, California Musical Theater offers musicals and a Broadway Series featuring classics of the musical theater. Based in West Sacramento, the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society sponsors the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee on Memorial Day Weekend. The Jubilee features dozens of Jazz bands from around the world. Among the many concert venues in Sacramento, ARCO Arena is one of the largest and usually hosts the biggest acts coming to the area.

Sports
If you love sports, Sacramento is the city for you. It is the home of the AAA minor league baseball team the Sacramento River Cats, the NBA Sacramento Kings and the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs. Of interest to golf enthusiasts is the Bing Maloney Golf Course in the Greenhaven area of Sacramento. It is one of the longest-running golf courses in the area. The fishing around the Sacramento area draws aficionados from across Northern California. The Sacramento River Delta, a complex network of sloughs and wetlands extending to San Francisco Bay, brims with salmon, bass and giant sturgeon. Weekend bikers and hikers appreciate the trails on The American River Parkway, a two-mile wide preserve that meanders through the center of town.

Theatre
Sacramento is home to a diverse and growing theatre scene offering drama and comedy from full-blown Broadway productions to cutting-edge independent productions. The 2,500 seat Sacramento Community Center Theater is Sacramento's largest and most prestigious theatrical venue, offering Broadway productions, opera, dance and more. The Thistle Dew Dessert Theater and the B Street Theater offer intimate settings for viewing plays. Don't forget about the Sacramento Theater Company located in the lovely Wells Fargo Pavilion. On board the Delta King, diners enjoy "whodunits" at the Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, where costumed characters are planted in their midst.

Whether you prefer exciting urbane amenities, humble historic activities, or action-packed sports, there is always something to do in Sacramento, the capital of the Golden State.

Sacramento

State: California

Country: United States

Sacramento by the Numbers
Population: 466,500 (city); 2,414,800 (metropolitan) 
Elevation: 30 feet / 9 meters
Average Annual Rainfall: 18.5 inches / 47 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 47°F / 8°C
Average July Temperature: 75°F / 24°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-8; Pacific Standard Time (PST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 916 

Did You Know?

When gold was discovered in 1848, the rush of people to Sacramento and its surrounding areas was recorded as the largest human migration in history.

Orientation

Sacramento is the capital of California and is located 85 miles (137 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, 383 miles (616 kilometers) north of Los Angeles and 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Lake Tahoe.

In 1808, Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga found the Maidu Indians living peacefully in the Northern California valley formed by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the Pacific Coast Mountains to the west. Warm summers, mild winters, a dependable yearly rainy season and water from the confluence of two great rivers resulted in a landscape so verdant and abundant that Gabriel Moraga named the valley after the Holy Sacrament—Sacramento.

Word of Moraga's lush western valley spread slowly. By the 1830s and 1840s, only a handful of Anglo-American settlers were living in coexistence with the native Maidu and other Native American tribes. While their numbers were few, these first settlers had learned the secret of the Sacramento Valley: if you plant it, it will grow. Sacramento has continued to flourish since then, both agriculturally and economically.

In 1834, Johann Augustus Sutter, a 19-year-old clock merchant's clerk, sailed from Switzerland, hoping to find success in America. Sutter's dream of founding a great new city for his fellow European immigrants led him to California. He was sent by the Governor of Mexico to California to establish an outpost on any 26-square-mile area he chose. Sutter and his party established Sutter's Fort on August 12, 1839, near the American and Sacramento Rivers. Sutter then made a decision that would forever change the history of California and the westward expansion of America.

Realizing that more large trees would be needed to build homes for future settlers, Sutter wandered about 40 miles up the American River east of Sacramento and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Here, he found plenty of tall evergreen trees and fast-flowing water. It was a perfect spot for a sawmill, which, when completed in 1847, became Sutter's Mill.

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall was conducting a routine inspection of the millrace from Sutter's sawmill when a glitter caught his eye. This time, all that glittered was gold. By May of 1848, the news of gold in Northern California had reached San Francisco and by early 1849, the whole nation had gold fever. The 49ers were coming. People wanting to find gold arrived in San Francisco and made their way to the gold fields by way of Sacramento. The history of the Gold Rush is preserved today not only in Sacramento, but also at the nearby Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma where it all started.

Shortly after gold was found, Sacramento became a city. The presence of gold and thousands of gold miners also brought the railroad to Sacramento. The railroad not only transported people, it also moved the gold ore from the mountain mines to bays and ports on the Pacific coast. The railroad and its historical contribution is commemorated today at the California State Railroad Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Old Sacramento.

In its early years, Sacramento benefited from its role in transportation. It was chosen as the western terminus for both the Pony Express and Wells Fargo, and as the headquarters of the transcontinental railroad. As late as the 1930s, riverboats like the Delta King glided along the Sacramento River carrying passengers along the only water pathway to San Francisco. Today, the beautifully restored Delta King, anchored in Old Sacramento, serves as a floating luxury hotel and restaurant.

In spite of being almost completely wiped out by devastating floods in 1850 and 1852, Sacramento was selected as the location for the capitol of California in 1854. Today, visitors can learn more about the state's history at the California State Capitol Museum. After yet another massive flood in 1862, an ambitious project to actually raise the city above flood level was undertaken. Evidence of the tens of thousands of cubic yards of earth and miles of masonry work used to raise the streets can still be seen today in Old Sacramento.

Through the ensuing years, the Sacramento Valley flourished both agriculturally and economically. A gradual shift of commercial and residential growth to the east left Old Sacramento a virtual slum. Recognizing the area's historical importance and related potential as a tourist attraction, a plan to re-develop Old Sacramento started in the mid-1960s. Today, its 53 historic buildings are designated as both National Landmarks and as a State Historic Park. Its shops, fine restaurants, historic landmarks and museums attract more than five million people a year. In addition, the cobblestone streets and boardwalks of Old Sacramento host a variety of events, including the largest jazz festival on the West Coast.

The "new" Sacramento Valley, while maintaining its ties to the Gold Rush, also serves as the political hub of the world's eighth largest economy and as home to the second generation of "Silicon Valley" and its related high-tech industrial growth. From quaint shops on downtown arterials, to upscale shopping malls and renowned cultural attractions like the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento has all the elements of a diverse and vibrant urban environment. Sacramento is also the home of the successful NBA Kings, WNBA Monarchs and River Cats a AAA Baseball team.

Want to talk about location? Lake Tahoe, Reno, the wine country of the Napa Valley, San Francisco and the Pacific Coast are all within a two-hour drive of Sacramento. Great location along with a respect for history and a handle on the future makes Sacramento a highly desired location for spending a day, or a lifetime.

Points of interest in Sacramento

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