Why should you visit Sacramento? Let me convince you right here, right now. Sacramento, the capital of California, is also perhaps the least talked city in the state. Almost everyone thinks that glory belongs to either San Francisco or Los Angeles and then there are those who wonder what is really over there to see, judging by the reactions of folks everywhere when we announced our plan of spending the Thanksgiving Break in the capital. You cannot be a true Californian unless you get a glimpse of the Capitol building, plus the 2 hr drive is a huge bonus for our family with a driver of one. Last, but definitely not the least, Sacramento is pretty pooch friendly and so we wanted to give Babu a break from SF’s din and bustle and give him some other sites to pee and sniff his heart out. So with our curiosity getting better of us for the capital of which no one seems to know or care much, we decided to chug upwards and explore Governor Brown’s territory over Thanksgiving, i.e. visit Sacramento.
VISIT SACRAMENTO: THE DRIVE UP
Once you leave the bustle of San Francisco and the elegance of wine country behind, a major change in scenery awaits you as you pass through California’s heartland, aka farmland. Dixon is the major city followed by Davis (of Birkenstock and UC Davis fame) and then you hit Sacramento. The city is way bigger than our tiny 49 square miles and very sprawled out. There is a stoic silence about it with the Sacramento river meandering through and providing a very scenic, leafy walkway along it. We stayed at a very budgeted, pet friendly hotel chain (La Quinta-a step above Motel 6 and pets stay for free), with the one redeeming factor being its location, i.e. close to the river. We had a wonderful evening stroll there and Babu barked his heart out at the one drone hovering above and the occasional steamer passing by. We saw some lovely fall colors and walked along the bridge for some time till the sun set. Its pretty chilly in the capital around this time of the year, so if you do visit Sacramento, remember to bundle up.
The evening ended with dinner at Mother, a Sacramento favorite for vegetarians and vegans (the menu is completely meat free). It was very cold outside and so we sat inside with Babu (in his blankie, bed, food and water) in the car a block away. One cannot and should not leave their pets in the hotel room and so this was the best compromise that we made. We had a lovely, tad hurried meal (I get very anxious when Babu is not with us in a new place) and enjoyed the home tap Kombucha, salad, Pasta, chilaquiles and truffles thoroughly. Some portions, such as my pasta, can be on the smaller side so please order a few things off the menu to share. We got back to our car, took Babu out on a stroll to the Capital Mall and I managed to get a few night time photos of our beautiful Capitol building, looking regal with the night lights. We retired to bed tired, still brimming with curiosity as to what the city had to offer.
VISIT SACRAMENTO: DAY 2
Morning shows the day and a great breakfast makes everything OK, I say:-) A flexitarian (not big on meat any more but will eat if need be) with a vegetarian by my side, I always try to look for vegetarian or vegan friendly places during travel so that we stay light and agile and are not bogged down by excessive meat eating. It is a personal preference, i.e, trying to eat healthy while traveling and so we scouted out this amazing breakfast place named “Orphan Breakfast House” (no heart breaking story involved in the naming here here, just their nod to the Orphan business venture which is not part of the mega retail chains) which is a local favorite, has a heated patio, is pet friendly and open 7 days a week! If you are looking for some great drinking holes in the city, here is a guide to 10 places to drink in Sacramento by a local.
Post breakfast, we headed out to explore Sacramento old Town, which is perhaps the most touristy part of the city. Old Town Sacramento has several of attractions, horse drawn carriages, restaurants and shops and we got a glimpse of the old railroads and train carriages as we strolled by and walked along the tracks.
Old Town Sacramento definitely had the settings of a Spaghetti western with some New Orleans nostalgia thrown in. The wooden walkways, the quirky boutiques (all locally and independently owned) selling antiques, costumes and souveniors plus the small cafes and eateries scattered all over reminded be of NOLA and San Diego Old Town in bits and pieces. As per the website, this stretch also doubles as a 28-acre National Historic Landmark District with a State Historic Park along the beautiful Sacramento River. What made it even more charming was the river flowing nearby and so we decided to descend to the banks where quite a few ferry ships/boats had laid anchor. But before that, we ventured out to the tracks adjacent to the The California State Railroad Museum Foundation, the star attraction of Old Town.
The railroad stations were built during the 1920s and although one of the structures in no longer operational, the Southern Pacific station continues to be in service and is still a popular mode of transportation within the state of California. For more information on the train stations of Sacramento and their evolution, read here. We walked along the tracks like many others but did not visit the museum because we were traveling with Babu. We finally walked down the ramp leading to the river, with the Ziggurat looming over us. As per Wikipedia, “the Ziggurat is a ten-story, stepped pyramidal office building and adjacent 5 story concrete parking structure located at 707 3rd Street in West Sacramento, California on the shore of the Sacramento River. Designed to resemble the ancient Mesopotamian ziggurats, the building was built by The Money Store in 1997 and is currently leased by the California Department of General Services (DGS). It is the headquarters to DGS.” The two canary yellow structures of the bridge, kind of resembling the Golden Gate Bridges arches, but standing in the middle of the bridge, were visible from way afar and are another familiar sight in the Sacramento skyline.
After old town, we drove towards the Riverside boulevard and stopped by to spend some time walking on a bike road along the river.It was the perfect fall afternoon, crisp air,foliage burnished in different hues and mounds of dry leaves to play in and get the perfect “fall shot”. A nice tranquil contrast to the crowds of old Town, we really enjoyed our afternoon stroll. Post walking, which left us pretty hungry, we stopped by Nobel vegetarian, an outlet of the famous Vegetarian House of san Jose, that serves vegan /vegetarian food to Sacramentians in a tiny strip mall.
Lunch was followed by extreme food induced coma/slump and the only cure for it was to spend some quality time doing nothing in our hotel room with a worn out Babu snoring away to glory. We decided to take things slow and got some food to go from the famous Chando’s Tacos by which everyone in Sacramento swears by! And, day two, thus was a wrap!
VISIT SACRAMENTO: DAY 3
Day three was time to head home and so we decided to finish up what was left to see of our “visit Sacramento” trip, i.e. the most important of all, the Capitol building and bid goodbye. Breakfast started off on a delicious note at Capitol Garage, a funky cafe in downtown and then we headed off to the Capitol Mall to see our legislative building in daylight.
The Capitol building stood tall and proud, beautifully adorned by holiday decorations with a Christmas tree in front. Although S was of the opinion that the Vermont Capitol looked more fetching with its golden dome, I defended the beauty of ours like a rabid Californian. The garden surrounding the capital was bursting with yellow roses and there were sombre statues of those who have sacrificed their lives to keep the citizens of this nation safe. Babu and S were pretty nonchalant in their own ways, but I felt a wave of poignancy rushing over me looking at the building which symbolizes what California stands for because within its wombs are policies made that shape our beautiful, progressive state. I looked at the street ad banners which proudly proclaimed “We are all Californians”; truer words were never more spoken. California embraces everyone, as it did me. I am so lucky to have found my home here.
After numerous photos from all possible angles, and Babu having peed in every corner, we decided to bid Sacramento adieu. We skipped the California Museum because of our pooch but decided to stop by Chinatown after we spotted it’s entrance gate. China town did not seem very enticing (plus we have our very own in San Francisco which is the largest in North America) and so we headed south to get home before it got crazy on the road. We stopped by Sonoma for lunch (read my dog-friendly dining post here) and then reached San Francisco by early evening. Overall, a thanksgiving break well spent and although Sacramento has a very different temperament than its more popular counterparts, it is well worth visiting once to know more about our beautiful state and its origins. It is dog friendly and has several parks and many dining spots with outdoor seating and therefore enjoyable for your four legged friend too. Here are some other resources for a dog-friendly vacation in Sacramento: