Discover the Adventure
Old Sacramento

Sacramento City in 1849

What's known today as Old Sacramento was once called Sacramento City, thanks to John Sutter, Jr.!

Although John Sutter founded Sutter's Fort, it was actually his son, John Sutter, Jr., who built the new city on the banks of the Sacramento River, much to his father's chagrin.

John, Sr. wanted people to come to his fort where he could schmooze them more easily.

Today the City of Sacramento is the modern and bustling California State Capitol, but it hasn't forgotten its roots.

Given both the status of Historic Landmark, and State Historic Park in the 1960s, Old Sacramento is the hub of Sacramento's fascinating history.

It's been redeveloped, restored to its former glory, and protected for the enjoyment and edification of all.

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Old Sacramento is the Real Deal!

Restored Buildings and Wooden Sidewalk by Suzi RosenbergRestored Buildings and Wooden Sidewalk by Suzi Rosenberg

What you'll see in Old Sac is not someone's
imaginary re-creation of an Old West town - it's the lovingly restored and replicated original town that existed in the mid-1800s.

In their day, these buildings have seen the likes of such infamous historical personages as Leland Stanford, Mark Twain, and Sam Brannan.

Lotta Crabtree, E. B. Crocker, and
survivors of the Donner Party crossed these cobbled streets and strolled these woodplank walkways in days of old.

Discover 53 historic buildings in this 28 acre Historic Landmark, and explore the shops and galleries that make the area - as it was in the 1800s - a thriving commercial trade center.

To visit Old Sacramento is to take a step back in time to the days of the California Gold Rush! Visit during Gold Rush Days - over the Labor Day weekend - and you may actually believe you've stepped off a paddle wheel boat, newly arrived from San Francisco in 1849, to start your own Gold Rush adventure!

For more pictures of Old Sacramento's Gold Rush Days, visit our Facebook Album, Gold Rush Days.

Old Sacramento during the California Gold Rush

The original merchants of Sacramento City operated out of canvas tents set up right on the mudflat shores of the Sacramento River, later replacing the tents with wood, brick, or masonry buildings.

But the Sacramento was a typical river - it had a tendency to overflow its banks during the heavy winter rains and the shopkeepers and home owners found themselves inundated for months at a time in winter, then cleaning up tons of mud and debris after the floodwaters receded.

The town leaders finally wised up and decided that something had to be done. They didn't want to move inland from the banks of the river because the river provided easy access to the riverboats that brought adventurers and supplies to the city.

The creative founding fathers came up with a unique solution to those early days of flooding: "Let's raise the city!" Which is exactly what they did.

It took almost ten years - and another massive flood in 1862 - to finally get the ambitious and expensive plan approved, but they then hauled in thousands of cubic yards of dirt and they raised the street level, burying what was then the first floor of homes and buildings along the river, and using the second floor as the main floor.

Until recently you could only get a glimpse of the lower level here and there, but today you can take a guided tour of the underground areas and tunnels of Old Sacramento that were hidden beneath the city for nearly 150 years, and uncover the tales and legends of Sacramento City in its heyday!

Things to do in Old Sacramento

Delta King Floating Hotel by Suzi RosenbergDelta King Floating Hotel by Suzi Rosenberg

Stay on a Riverboat

The Delta King is an authentic Paddle-wheeled riverboat which operated between San Francisco and Sacramento in the 1920s and 1930s.

Today, it's been renovated and serves as a hotel, restaurant, and bar for those with a hankering for history.

My husband and I stayed on the Delta King recently and it was an excellent experience! The rooms are small (as you would expect), but completely renovated and very clean.

They even have WiFi, so I was able to work on my website while Hubby Wolf was attending meetings. The staff were cheery and helpful, and the food, prepared by their restaurant, was wonderful! We can highly recommend the Delta King for a unique sort of lodging!

Take a Guided Tour

See Old Sacramento through the eyes of an historical character thanks to the Living History Program. As mentioned above, tour Old Sac's underground. Take the Architectural History tour, or a Ghost Tour where you'll meet victims of the Great Flood of 1950; book an Hysterical History Tour for Sacramento history with a chuckle; or pick up a self-guided walking tour at the Visitors' Center and explore Old Sac's history on your own.

Go 1840s

Take a ride in a horse-drawn buggy, ride a steam-powered excursion train, or dress up in 1840s garb and have an old-fashioned picture taken.

Shop, Eat, Be

are over 100 unique shops, eateries, and attractions in Old Sacramento and no two are the same!

Visit Old City Kites, Crystal Moon Gifts, Evangeline's Costume Mansion, or Stage Nine Entertainment Store.

Dine at The Firehouse Restaurant, California Fats, or the Pilothouse Restaurant aboard the Delta King - some of the best Sacramento restaurants.

Check out the Old Fashioned Easter in April, The Pony Express Re-Ride in June, and the Living History Days throughout the year.

Visit Any or All of the Museums

California Railroad Museum; Photo by Suzi RosenbergCalifornia Railroad Museum; Photo by Suzi Rosenberg

The Military Museum for militia and military heritage;

the Railroad Museum for authentic 19th century trains and Gold Rush-era structures;

the Discovery Museum and its History Center for interactive historical exhibits;

Old Sac Interpretive Center for the story of early Sacramento;

Schoolhouse Museum for how schooling was done back in the day;

And the Wells Fargo History Museum for interpretive exhibits of stage-coaching, gold mining, telegraphing, banking, and mail delivery in the 19th century.

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Gold Rush Days

If you really want to experience the Sacramento City of 1849, time your visit for Labor Day weekend and Old Sac's annual celebration of Gold Rush Days.

You'll find the streets closed to automobile traffic and covered with 200 tons of dirt to lend an authentic air to the event.

Enjoy the costumed portrayals of life in the 1800s. Experience the musicians; the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural activities representing the varied groups that passed through the city; and the dancers.

Listen to the storytelling, and watch the Embarcadero Tent City come to life, complete with Union soldiers - all designed to bring back the Good ol' Days and give us the chance to witness the life of the Gold Rush 49ers, at least for a little while.

Old Sacramento is only one of the ways that you can step back in time to the California Gold Rush glory days. For more ideas, see the Related Pages over in the Right-hand Column.

And for more to do while you're in Sacramento:

  • Sutter's Fort
    Want more of what life would have been back in the day? Check out Sutter's Fort!
  • Discover Sacramento California
    Having served as the up-river jumping-off site for the California Gold Rush, Sacramento is now the cosmopolitan Capital City of California.

Please continue your exploration of what Northern California has to offer by using the Nav Bars in the left and right columns or by using the links at the bottom of the page.

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