Time Travellers: 24 Hours in Old Sacramento, California
“Study the past if you would define the future.” ― Confucius
There are many places in the world that have such a wonderfully rich history to share but it's so often concealed by 21st Century life that there's ordinarily no real cohesion between the stories we hear and what's in front of us. For a lot of the world, it seems we have to dig deep through the layers of Topshops and Zaras and H&Ms and Gaps and Nordstroms before we find any inkling of the past. But there's one city that has fought tooth and nail to be true to its heritage - and that's Sacramento, California.
While travelling from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, CA earlier this year, one of our dedicated stop-offs was to be Sacramento. Now before I started researching for our trip, Sacramento was completely off my radar; I knew absolutely nothing of it but it fitted in with our itinerary and meant we wouldn't be driving for hours before our next stop, Oakland. Because couples + foreign lands + driving directions + time has the potential to cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
After a little bit of research, I stumbled across images of Old Sacramento. Having never seen a place quite like it, I knew we had to visit if only to have a drink in a real-life saloon. So for a whole 24hrs, we embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the capital of California - and here's a snapshot of some of our best bits and why Old Sacramento is so unique.
We checked in to The Delta King Hotel
Floating gracefully on the Sacramento River, you will find The Delta King Hotel, an authentic 285ft riverboat that now serves as a 44-room land side hotel. In 1927, The Delta King began its life sailing between Sacramento and San Fransisco until the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge changed its course and led to it becoming a war vessel, then used for its spare parts and finally - abandoned. After being acquired by a new family who saw it through a complete historical renovation, The Delta King reopened in 1989 as a hotel, restaurant and entertainment venue.
With over 7 types of room to choose from, including the Captain's Quarters, there's one to suit every budget. We opted for a Riverview State Room on the 3rd floor, overlooking the Sacramento River with a non-private veranda. As expected from a riverboat room, it's smaller than most modern hotel rooms (I honestly have no idea how the porter got my suitcase through the door) but offers a comfortable and truly unique stay. The decor is traditional and in keeping with the boat, while the room contains everything you need: a queen sized bed with soft linen, a wardrobe and drawer space, a TV, a writing desk and a small bathroom with a shower.
On board, there are also two restaurants for when you're feeling peckish: the Pilothouse Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant and the Delta Bar and Grill for a more casual experience. With only one night in Old Sacramento, we decided to push the boat out and dine in the Pilothouse Restaurant. The restaurant is an immaculate reflection of the Delta King's original beauty with gleaming wooden architecture, crisp, white table clothes and simple flower decorations. The menu is varied and includes tasty meat, fish and vegetarian options, while the wine list offers a vast selection of local wines from the Sonoma and Napa regions. With so much character and endless stories to tell, there's nowhere like The Delta King Hotel and it makes for the perfect stay while visiting Old Sacramento.
We pottered around Old Sacramento's Historical District
With over 50 historic buildings set in a unique 28 acre district along the Sacramento River, Old Sacramento lives in homage to the Californian Gold Rush of 1849 and offers a very special glimpse into 19th Century American life. Raised wooden sidewalks line the cobbled streets, while horse-drawn carriages and living history characters breathe life in and around the restored Western structures. Alive with activity and bursting with quirky shops, restaurants, historical attractions and buzzing nightlife, the Historical District of Old Sacramento is sure to leave you pining for the past.
We lived life in the fast lane at the California State Railroad Museum
Whether you're an avid train enthusiast or someone who doesn't often navigate themselves through the railroad realms, the California State Railroad Museum is a great place to see the history of the Californian railways come to life. Dedicated to protecting California's railway heritage and inspiring all generations to learn about the history of the innovative railroad, the California State Railroad Museum is home to an impressive collection of steam locomotives dating from 1862 to 1944, an interesting rolling stock collection including the prosaic caboose, a high speed train simulator and an award-winning collection of railroad photography - all from which you're bound to come away from with a newfound sense of appreciation for the railroad.
We took a peak at the past at the Sacramento History Museum
Sacramento has much more to offer, historically speaking, than the Gold Rush and right in the heart of the Old Sacramento Historical District, you will find the Sacramento History Museum. With exhibits depicting the rise of Sacramento during the Gold Rush and the discovery of gold, Nisenan Indian culture, agricultural revolutions and a working 19th Century print shop where you can print your very own 'WANTED' poster, you'll come to fully understand the past, the present and the future of California's capital.
We went wild at Sacramento Zoo
Located just outside of Old Sacramento, Sacramento Zoo is a great place to visit if you want to get up, close and personal with over 120 native, rare and endangered species from around the world. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Sacramento Zoo is dedicated to providing uncompromising care for the animals and works to conserve species and habitats in the wild. So if you find yourself in Sacramento and you're partial to spending more time with animals than with humans, pop along to the zoo - and don't forget to say hello to the flamingoes for me.
Have you been anywhere with a really unique history?