Sam’s beautiful room at HI Sacramento. Image by Sam Wu.
It was a pretty common question I was posed when I told people about my trip: Why are you going to Sacramento?
To finally, truly take an entire trip on my own, to truly challenge myself, I had booked a cross-country train trip (Might as well as knock off multiple bucket list items, right?), and Sacramento was one of my stops.
But that still doesn’t answer the question, does it? Why Sacramento? Well, I’ll tell you why:
- Because it was a good halfway point on the Coast Starlight Amtrak line
- Because it was close enough to other places, if there really wasn’t anything to do there
- Because it’s the capital of the state of California
- Because I’d never been there before
Still, now that I’ve actually been there…here are five answers for the question, Why Sacramento?
Here’s a handy neighborhood map from the City of Sacramento!
Sacramento isn’t a large, sprawling city that you need a car to explore. I walked the entire time I was there and never used public transit — though it’s there if you need it! From where I was staying in the Mansion Flats neighborhood down to Richmond Grove was a solid but nice walk of about 30 minutes. It was the same heading out to Old Sacramento, and that’s with me leaving some room for wandering, sightseeing, etc.
Sacramento was quite literally colorful. In Southside Park, across the street from the farmer’s market (which was colorful all on its own), is an amphitheater. This amphitheater had been painted by members of the Royal Chicano Air Force.
And the underpass from K Street to Old Sacramento also featured gorgeous, vibrant artwork. I don’t know if my eyes were blinded because I came from wintery New York City, but I doubt it. The artwork was beautiful, appropriate for the space, comforting, random, and completely unprotected.
I know, I know, what a silly answer. Still, on this trip, Sacramento is home to my favorite breakfast and lunch.
Look at the goodness of this lunch special. Image by Sam Wu.
The best way to wake up. Image by Sam Wu.
Even with the amount of meat and cheese and everything else that was in these dishes, they were what I had been dreaming of. Coming from cold NYC, it was nice to enjoy hearty, delicious food that reminded me of my childhood in San Antonio.
What if I told you that you could stay in an old mansion and get free Wi-fi and continental breakfast? You might imagine that this place is out of the way and far from central Sacramento. You might imagine that it’s only accessible at an outrageous price and comes with snobby staff. You’d be wrong on both counts.
I’ve stayed in hostels in Europe before, and I will never be able to judge them in the same way again. Not after staying at Hostelling International Sacramento. The bar has definitely been raised.
While my private room wasn’t exactly like a hotel because I had to use a communal bathroom, it was seriously awesome and certainly not like any hostel I stayed in while in Europe. They didn’t have skylights over their grand staircases. Or beautiful tile work outside of their front doors.
Image by Sam Wu.
As if the beauty of the building were not enough, the staff was friendly and helpful. Without them, I would never have known about the Sunday farmer’s market near Southside Park, which means I wouldn’t have seen that amphitheater. Nor would I have felt so comfortable coming back after a day of exploring.
Speaking of the staff, the people of the city are my final answer to the question, Why Sacramento? The people here are just nicer than at home. I got a break from the pressure and bustle and intensity of big-city people. And, yes, this is something that you can find in other cities, but the people I met in Sacramento were friendly and helpful.
Those I talked to the most were the volunteers at the California State Railroad Museum. From the minute I walked in the door, they were eager to share their information on the history of trains — from California or Sacramento, in particular, to the national scale.
And since this trip was all by train, I joyously learned the history of the contraption that had gotten me this far across the country and would eventually take me home. The amount of time I spent in the museum might have been embarrassing if it weren’t for the fact that I came away with great stories from great conversations with interesting people.