Must-See, Must-Do

As with every major city in northern California, Sacramento has a handful of must-see, must-do landmarks and institutions. Walking through the Old Town and checking out the Capitol goings-on are on the list. For now, consider these options, which are some of the premier draws for tourists from all over the world.

Sutter's Fort

Now that you know the history of the Sacramento area, paying homage to Mr. Sutter himself is as good a way as any to begin your tour around the city. His compound isn't quite as big as it was back in the mid-1800s, but the main adobe house on the property has been restored and deemed a California State Historic Park. The only original building on the site, it is the place where James Marshall brought those first precious few pieces of gold to show his boss.

Today, there are guided tours as well as exhibits and special programs that explain details of the gold rush and the Overland Trail, an old pioneer route that a quarter-million immigrants traversed on stagecoaches and in wagon trains.

The park is open daily from 10 A.M. until 5 P.M. and is closed on major holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. For information about upcoming events or to inquire about tours, check out www.parks.ca.gov.

California State Railroad Museum

The railroad played such an integral part in flooding the Sacramento area with citizens, it seems only fitting that you and your family should pay homage to it at the California State Railroad Museum. It's located in Old Town Sacramento, and you'll find restored trains, rotating exhibits, and special events such as Halloween's “Spooko-motive” train rides. Exhibits cover everything from the people who built and worked on the railroad to the exciting fascination that modern-day collectors have with model trains of the tiniest sizes. From April through September, restored steam-power trains depart on the hour, offering rides for the whole family.

FAST FACT

There are twenty-one restored locomotives and train cars at the California State Railroad Museum. You can see everything from 1800s Pullman sleeping cars to dining cars to a Railroad Post Office that you can actually step aboard. Some, like the diesel locomotive called Southern Pacific 8799, are the world's only surviving examples of their particular design.

The museum is open every day from 10 A.M. until 5 P.M., excluding major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Adults pay $8 to enter, children ages six through seventeen pay $3, and kids five and younger can enter for free. Additional information is available online at www.csrmf.org.

Sports for the Whole Family

One of the great things about Sacramento is that you have terrific options for athletic entertainment whether you want to spend beaucoup bucks on top-notch sporting events or go the inexpensive route of a minor-league game. Since the big-brand team plays during the colder months while the smaller-budget roster takes the field from spring through fall, you have options for taking your family to a game year-round in this city.

Sacramento Kings

The NBA's Sacramento Kings have called Sacramento home since 1985. The team's first ten years in the city were inauspicious; they made the playoffs just once. New owners took over in 1997, and soon the Kings were winning division championships and playoff series. Up until 2007, the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs every single year for eight years straight.

They play at Arco Arena. It holds a little more than 17,000 people and hosts everything from ice shows to concert tours when the Kings are off-season or playing out of town. There's a seating chart diagram online at www.arcoarena.com, where you can also view upcoming game schedules and purchase tickets.

TRAVEL TRIP

You can save a few dollars when traveling with infants by bringing your own baby food into Arco Arena during game days. It's the only kind of outside food that's allowed inside. You and your older children will have to eat at the concession stands or at the upscale buffet served before games at the fourth-floor Skyline Restaurant.

You can get to the Sacramento Kings' official Web site through www.nba.com. It has a lot of nifty features, including download- able videos of players practicing and talking, as well as podcasts for audio-only uses such as your iPod or MP3 player.

Sacramento Monarchs

The Sacramento Monarchs came into existence on October 20, 1996, when the WNBA was formed as the women's league counterpart to the NBA. The Monarchs play in the WNBA's Western Conference, competing against teams from Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Seattle. Since the league's inception, the Monarchs have won the overall title once, in 2005. The Monarchs were the runner-up as the best team in the nation in 2006.

Like the Sacramento Kings, the Monarchs play their games at Arco Arena. You can learn more about the team, view upcoming schedules, and buy tickets (which cost less than Kings' tickets) at the Monarchs' official Web site, which is accessible through www.wnba.com.

Sacramento River Cats

Even if you're a baseball fan, you may never have heard of the Sacramento River Cats. But you're likely to know who the Oakland A's are — and the River Cats are their Triple-A League affiliated team. You can pay big bucks for an Oakland A's game during your vacation or you can do less damage to your pocketbook at a River Cats game and get a glimpse of the A's future stars.

TRAVEL TRIP

Forget about trying to jostle for a good parking spot at the Sacramento River Cats' Raley Field. The team offers a shuttle that runs around the city collecting fans for every home game. Seats are just fifty cents per person, and the shuttle runs every five minutes. A map of downtown Sacramento, including each shuttle stop, is online at www.rivercats.com.

The River Cats have been in Sacramento since 2000. Year after year, the team leads its league in fan attendance numbers. That's in part because of its extremely high level of play, which in just eight seasons has garnered four division titles and two overall league championships. Some sixty River Cats players have gone on to compete for Major League Baseball teams.

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