History class. Like most people in school, I spent time memorizing names, dates, and important historical events. I didn’t hate history but it wasn’t my favorite subject. I even took two college classes on US and European history when I was in high school and did well in both classes.
So what better way to get people excited about travel and the Explore Sacramento! series than to talk about the history of Sacramento right? After all, tourists come from miles around to visit Old Sacramento, attend lectures on Sacramento’s history, and spend every minute of their visit pouring over books about the city’s history.
OK, so maybe that is stretching the truth a little. However, Sacramento’s history matters – for the city and the state of California.
Sacramento history and California tourism
Millions of people come to California every year to visit places like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, enjoy San Diego vacation rentals on the beach or the sunny California coast, explore the mighty Redwoods, or hike and play in Yosemite. With places like this, why does history matter?
I didn’t care much for history until I started to travel. That’s when I realized it made places come alive. History helps you understand and appreciate what you are seeing. While the sites and attractions may be the masterpiece, history is the paint brush which adds strokes of color with vibrant splashes of green, blue, red, and yellow to make the masterpiece come alive. Without history, you can’t appreciate this masterpiece with all of your senses. As a young child, I didn’t appreciate the full beauty of art – or history.
Sacramento’s history is California’s history. For it is the history that has laid the foundation for all the other places in the state. To appreciate Sacramento is to appreciate its history because it is such a vital part of exploring and seeing the sights, sounds, and beauty of this city.
Last week, I featured some photos and the wonders of the California State Capitol where you could learn and explore much of California’s beauty and history outdoors. Now the real history lesson begins.
A Sacramento history lesson in Old Sacramento
In this day and age of the internet and the desire for quick, easy, summaried guidebook information, a true appreciation for a place’s history may be lost. Rather than study and learn, it’s so easy to look things up and get a cliff notes version of what you need to know about where you are going.
One thing Sacramento has done well is to combine one of its most popular tourist sites with a Sacramento history lesson aimed at people of all types – locals, tourists, those on the go (Sacramento for dummies), and those with ADD.
Old Sacramento is rich in living history going back to the Gold Rush and Old West days with its waterfront and wild west look and feel. Whether spending time in Old Sacramento or making your way to the more modern Westfield Plaza and K Street Mall, an underground pedestrian crosswalk passing under I-5 leads you from one side to the other. And it’s here that locals and tourists alike can take the time to learn what this city is all about.
Call it genius, luck, or coincidence but a historical timeline of Sacramento mural covers the the length of the wall as you walk through the pedestrian crosswalk. Names, dates, events – all those things you are familiar with in your history class in a 15 minute, abridged version of Sacramento history filled with photos and faces. Whether you are a local who passes by this timeline every day or you are a first time visitor to Sacramento, this mural is a perfect history lesson for our overstimulated, internet age, fast-paced, technology consumed brains.
Learn about people like Sam Brannan, James Marshall, and Leland Stanford. Explore the history of the railroad and waterway and what a vital role they played. Explore the inner workings of a community that came together to make this city happen. Leave the capital with a greater appreciation of all the people, the sacrifices, and the pioneers that set the wheels in motion for the California and Sacramento history we know today.
Explore Sacramento! is a series that seeks to discover and explore the sites, sounds, communities, and things to do in Sacramento and northern California.