What do you get when you combine the American River and the Sacramento River? You get the city of Sacramento and the capital of California.
“Sacramento” gets its name from the Sacramento River (duh!), but the river got its name from the Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga. When his men first drank the from the river, the water was so clear that they compared it to the Blessed Sacrament, hence “Sacramento.”
The city really took off during the time of the 1849 Gold Rush. In fact, John Sutter (of Sutter’s Mill fame) built a fort here, which helped establish the city. And boy did it grow fast. During the Gold Rush, it was the destination for wagon trains, stagecoaches, riverboats, the telegraph, the Pony Express, and even the first Transcontinental Railroad!
So much of that history is on display today. There’s a state historic park at Sutter’s Fort. There’s an awesome railroad museum. Not to mention boating, swimming, and some of the best farm-to-fork dining anywhere in the country!
The centerpiece of Sacramento is, of course, the State Capitol Building. And you can tour it! Here’s some nerdy stuff you shouldn’t miss: Look for the stained-glass Great Seal of California in the hallway off the rotunda. Who’s that lady on it? Why she’s the Roman goddess Minerva! Huh? Why a Roman goddess? Well, mythology has it that she was born as an adult, and never went through childhood. California became a state, without being a territory. Same thing… sort of.
Look for the clever mosaics of golden poppy flowers on the second-floor wings. And don’t miss the giant gold-plated ball atop the Capitol dome: it’s a tribute to the state’s Gold Rush heritage.