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Visiting Old Sacramento, Old Town Sacramento

Take the Kids Back in Time to Old Sacramento

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Just a short drive from Hilton Sacramento Arden West is an eight-block section of town that will have you believing that time travel is a real possibility.

Old Sacramento, now a National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park, took root during the California Gold Rush. All of it has been so beautifully preserved it’s easy to imagine early residents walking the boardwalk pathways stocking up on provisions, visiting the hardware store, and stopping to gossip with other residents.

Gold was discovered nearby back in 1848 and as the word spread, more people ventured into the area hoping to strike it rich. Thus the city of Sacramento, California’s eventual state capital, was born.

Today, the once busy trading center for miners draws visitors who are more interested in shopping, dining, and entertainment. Ice cream and candy stores, souvenir shops, galleries, and eateries now occupy the historic structures, but don’t think for a minute that history has been forgotten. Attractions like the Old Schoolhouse Museum, a living replica of a one-room schoolhouse and the California State Railroad Museum, a complex housing 21 historic and beautifully restored locomotives and railroad cars, some dating back to 1862, provide a peek at daily life during those early years.

Visiting Old Sacramento, Old Town Sacramento

Old Sacramento, now a National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park, took root during the California Gold Rush.

One of the most haunting points of Old Sacramento though is one that many easily miss. Pioneer Park, slightly sunken compared to the rest of Old Town’s layout, was home to the City Market back in 1849. As building in the city transitioned from wood to brick and construction began to go upward in stories, the park fell into disrepair. As the historic district was redeveloped, it was eventually demolished.

Today Pioneer Park not only reveals clues about Sacramento’s early architecture but also its subterranean nature. Seasonal flooding made it necessary to raise the streets to protect the city. Pioneer Park still sits at the original street level. Today it is home to a grouping of pillars and other historic architectural markers that look as if a team of archaeologists may have recently dug them up and dusted them off for the pure amusement of visitors.

It is a miracle that any of this area of Old Sacramento exists at all. Over the years Old Town, as it is now called, repeatedly fell victim to devastating fires, severe floods, and eventually to disrepair until a plan was set forth to save it in the mid-1960s. Now consisting of 53 buildings sitting on 28 acres, Old Sacramento became the first historic district in the west and once again a bustling commercial center.

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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…

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