I was born in California and never made it to the state capital, until now. One crucial part of that oversight is missing out on the Historic Gold Rush Town of Old Sacramento. For those interested in avoiding the same mistake, it’s a good idea to invest some time exploring this spectacularly preserved piece of California History. A good way to start is by moving right in, with a stay aboard the Delta King Riverboat Hotel. This gracefully refurbished paddleboat floats on the Sacramento River adjacent to Old Sacramento State Historic Park and is the ideal home base to immerse oneself in the slower pace of mid 1800’s California.
First and foremost, don’t rush. Give yourself some time to explore because there’s a lot to see and do. Two days would be the minimum and try to include a weekend which preserves the opportunity to experience the underground tour.
Established in 1849, Old Sacramento is alive and well with the spirit and fervor of the gold rush. Handsome turn of the century buildings are well tended and house a variety of businesses you can explore. Traipsing through the streets and shops is a full day excursion in itself.
Rest assured if you need to revive anytime during your wanderings, they offer the illusive pineapple soft serve frozen treat, Dole whip, also available in mango. Unlike Disneyland, it’s self-serve here, so you can crank out as much of the icy concoction as you can handle, baring a serious case of brain freeze.
And of course no self-respecting gold rush town would be complete without an assortment of saloons. The River City Saloon claims to craft the best bloody Mary’s in Sacramento, but you need be the judge of that.
But the absolute highlight of Old Sacramento, is the California State Railroad Museum. This is a must see appropriate for the entire family.
Start you visit with the informative movie which explains the back breaking labor and dedication that went into building the North American transcontinental railroad system. If you time it right, call first to be sure, the movie will be followed by a free half hour tour of the museum. No matter how you feel about trains, the amazing dioramas, restored trains, exhibits, dining car, heavy china display and simulation of a nighttime traveling sleeping car, are truly momentous experiences.
Recognition is paid to the workers who slaved through bone-chilling winters and blistering summers from 1863 to 1869 in order to make the dream of connecting the east and west coasts a reality.
Guest can pass through glistening trains of the era that look ready to hit the rails, reminding us of the romance and ease the railway system brought to U.S. travel.
Many cars are manned by costumed docents eager to share how their particular train was instrumental in facilitating everything from delivering mail to providing fine dining for guests.
Mannequin run kitchens and period china recreate the rigors and necessitates of a continually operational system of public transportation.
Be sure to search out the night train sleeping car simulation which is rigged to feel precisely like the real thing.
You can also hone your skills driving the same simulator used to train bullet train drivers. See how well you do manning the helm, followed by the challenging maneuvering of a speeding trains glide into the station.
The California State Railroad Museum is at the top of its game, being both technologically advanced, while also preserving their unique vantage point in the history of railroad travel and California’s involvement in its evolution.
We have to say that Old Sacramento offers such an inspiring glimpse into the past that we wouldn’t mind falling back in time over and over again.