Yeah, before our road trip on the US West coast, we did our homework and learned by heart the list of the 50 US states and their respective capital cities (well, that was more Marijke’s favorite activity). And that is how we remembered that the capital city of California was not San Francisco, nor Los Angeles, but Sacramento of course ! Sure, the fans of the TV show The Mentalist and/or Simon Baker (one going with the other) would not have forgotten this piece of information. It was on the way between Monterey (as the rain stopped us from redoing the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway) and Yosemite, that is how we told ourselves why not and we made a quick stop. Of course, we had no preparation going in, so we really let ourselves be guided by our guts ! Once the van was parked a few blocks away from the city center, we wandered around part of the afternoon.
» Sacramento city center
Giving the fact that we were by foot and that we stayed only for a short day, we limited our visit to the city center, and have not been to any of the surrounding areas. My first analysis is that the city is rather “small” ! (And that is very positive !) Well, everything is relative, but we were in Los Angeles just a few days before and the feeling you get during the visit is totally different. In Sacramento, I felt that, despite the skyscrapers, we were not suffocating – and on the contrary, we are more aware of the space. Actually, if you look at the skyline, you can really see that except some giants, buildings are not that high – which gives the city a human dimension. Apart from that, Sacramento is a quite a green city, which is surprising for an American metropolis. It is true that we will never stop with the cliché, picturing a huge block of concrete… But it is sadly sometimes the case, and some cities cruelly miss some green areas to breathe a bit. Here, I was surprised to observe that there were many parks – well taken care of (we are gonna miss our turn on the questions about pesticides and other such products) – but especially that most of the streets are bordered by trees, even palm trees. Nonchalantly, it makes the walk very nice !
Another thing that surprised me was that the streets were empty… After reflection, I cannot remember correctly what day of the week we were in the city, but I think it was rather at the end of the week, close to the weekend. That is why it was so surprising to see so few people on the streets. They were not swamped by tourists, but it seemed like even the locals were not out on that day. Who knows, maybe it was a holiday period ? But that means that you should be cool during your own trip.
» The California State Capitol
One of the monument you absolutely need to see during your visit in Sacramento is the California State Capitol ! It is located right in the middle of the city, you cannot miss it; and it is the home of the bicameral state legislature and the governor of California (that is to say formerly Schwarzenegger). The building – built between 1861 and 1874 – is exactly as depicted in the news or in movies/series : neoclassical architecture, dazzling white, typical pillars and dome. I have to admit that it is quite impressive, do not hesitate to walk around it to observe all the details ! It is apparently possible to visit the inside for free, you will find all necessary information on the Capitol museum website (opened during the week from 8am to 5pm and on the weekend from 9am to 5pm, entrance is located on L Street).
To complete your visit of this emblematic place, you definitely have to go through the gardens located in the back of the building, in Capitol Park. The grass is especially green over there (no pun intended), the plants are diverse. You can access it freely and take a deep breath of fresh air, feel free to take a break to rest there for a few minutes. We were there in May, the flowers were blooming and the beautiful trees gave the park a botanical garden look. You will also find within the park monument in memory of combatants of the Civil War, the Vietnam war and other conflicts. It will surely bring you back to the historical dimension of the place.
» The Tower Bridge
Going to Sacramento without casting a glance at Tower Bridge, it is like visiting San Francisco without passing by the Golden Gate Bridge… but for minor details. The bridge, crossing the Sacramento river, was opened in 1935 after a 1 year 1/2 construction. Its rather atypical yellow color looks special in its setting, but it is also its functioning that gives the bridge its interest : thus, it is the middle part between the two towers that goes up and down to let the boats go through. We unfortunately have not had the occasion to see it working, but some people actually wait for quite long to enjoy the show. You can also cross it by foot, and have a walk along the quays to have a different angle over the city.
» What about the rest ?
Apart from these must-sees in Sacramento, we have took advantage of this afternoon to walk in the city. More like wandering here and there ! Without a map and with no precise idea of where we wanted/should go, we just went along our desires. That is why I cannot give you a detailed itinerary of our visit, but we went through some points that I recognized later on Google Images (yes, all means are good to write an article) : for example the D.O. Mills Bank Building or even the Sacramento Convention Center (with its weird sculptures at the entrance). You can find some neighborhood maps in the streets (I just thought about it because there is one in front of the Convention Center) helping you through the city !
Do not hesitate to complete this article, indicating here below your favorite places in Sacramento, what you would recommend to a friend ! 🙂