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Sometimes when you are traveling, you run into someone who lives right next to some fabulous attraction or vital historical landmark and you are amused to find that they have never been there. 

I've written about Costa Rica, Minneapolis and Istanbul, so I thought I should at least take some photos and report on my own city: Sacramento. 

Sacramento is  a medium-sized California city. It has a bunch of tall buildings, theaters, parking lots and a convention center downtown, with vast stretches of suburbia stretching East towards the Mountains. Situated 80 miles inland of San Francisco (the world's greatest tourist attraction), Sacramento is destined to feel like a second-rate tourist city.

It is a city of state government & trees. I think it is great, because not only can you find everything you need, but we are nicely situated near the San Francisco bay area AND real wilderness. The population is listed on highway signs as 369,000 people, but I've always heard the neighborhoods nearby contribute another 600,000 to bring the total up to a million for the greater Sacramento area..

Probably the first thing you will find is the California Capitol Building.  They offer tours.

Back in January of 2001, a loony in a tractor-trailer hauling semi-truck crashed into the south side of this building with a load of canned milk. There was a big explosion.  Sometimes I wonder if this is the attack that gave terrorists the idea for Sept. 11th.

Anyway, I went down to the scene of the crash and salvaged a can of milk. It is bent and charred...quite a gruesome souvenir.

He only killed himself, but the damage has been undergoing repair for more than a year. It should be completed in May 2002.

Inside the capitol there are little display cases highlighting each of California's 58 counties.

Capitol 360 panorama

The Capitol building is in the middle of a smallish park, known as Capitol Park.  There is a nice rose garden and a wide variety of Flora, but no baseball diamond.

There are statues and memorials scattered around the park, most notably the California Vietnam memorial.

California Vietnam Memorial 360 panorama

Downtown Sacramento is set up like a grid.  Streets running east-west are named after the letters of the alphabet, and streets running north-south are numbered from 1-30.  First street is actually called "Front Street" and runs along the Sacramento River.

Here is a photo of the Cesar Chavez memorial, on the north side of his park, at 11th and J Streets. There are outdoor  concerts here on Fridays during the summer, and there are homeless alcoholics there during the rest of the year, lending itself to be called "Jose Cuervo Park" by Mike.

"A" Street is on the north edge of downtown, and it sort-of runs along the American River.  Once you get an idea of how this system works, you can easily navigate to the Spaghetti Factory (at 19th and J), Old Ironsides (10th and S) or the Federal Courthouse (8th and I). Running down the middle of downtown, where there should be an "M Street", is Capitol Avenue.

Many of the streets are one-way, which is annoying for newcomers, but workable.

Here is a photo of the iron arch between Old Sacramento and Downtown Plaza outdoor mall.

Clock tower 360 panorama

Here is a photo of one of the courtyards inside Downtown Plaza's Mall. There are department stores here.

This is where my great sculpture prank took place.

Downtown Plaza 360 panorama

The first four blocks on the west-side of downtown (Front, Second, Third and Fourth) are known as "Old Sacramento", a State historical area.  It has wooden sidewalks, gold-rush era storefronts, cobblestone streets and 12 postcard-shops. If you are a tourist, you should at least walk through one time.

Front Street is on the Sacramento River, where the Delta King paddlewheel riverboat is usually moored. This is a nice place to walk, particularly in the spring.

Caramel Apples in Old Sac, 360 panorama

The most important feature in Old Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum.  It is at 2nd and I Streets, open daily from 10-5pm.  I think it is US$4.

If you only go to one place in Sacramento, go here.

Train tracks in Old Sac 360 panorama

Pony Express Memorial 360 panorama

Speaking of railroads, Sacramento's Amtrak station is 3 blocks away at 4th and I Street.

A train to San Francisco takes about two and a half hours and is US$16 one way.

There are big cats on the east side of the US bank building on 10th and I.

This is my favorite sculpture in Sacramento...maybe the whole world. They are sleek and stylized & you can sit with them.

Iron Cats 360 panorama

This is the high-security post office at 8th and I Street.  I think the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski sent a bomb from this office, so they have metal-detectors and grand security now. There is a beautiful art-deco interior, but it's a real hassle to actually mail stuff from. Oh, and they won't let you take a camera inside.
Speaking of the Unabomber, here is a photo of the Sacramento Federal Courthouse. There are entertaining quotes etched into the black diamond tiles of the courtyard.
Here is a photo of the pedestrian mall terminating at the Sacramento Convention Center. This area is sometimes teeming with people.

Esquire Theatre 360 panorama

Sacramento Convention Center 360 panorama

Why would anyone want to visit Sacramento, part 2

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