Birth­place of the Cal­i­for­nia Gold Rush, Sacra­mento keeps on boom­ing, with help from gov­ern­ment busi­ness and a lively arts and en­ter­tain­ment scene

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - by Lucy Hys­lop

True to its Gold Rush roots, Cal­i­for­nia cap­i­tal Sacra­mento keeps draw­ing prospec­tors

On this warm Satur­day night in Sacra­mento, it feels like the Gold Rush never ended. Not only is it the week­end af­ter pay­day for state work­ers (our Uber driver says he al­ways sees a sig­nif­i­cant uptick on th­ese evenings), but there's a much-touted new player in this gov­ern­ment town: the Sacra­mento Kings' US$560mil­lion Golden 1 Cen­ter. Chris­tened by for­mer Bea­tle Paul Mc­cart­ney late last year, North­ern Cal­i­for­nia's first new ma­jor in­door sports cen­tre in more than two decades is host­ing the Na­tional Basketball As­so­ci­a­tion's Toronto Rap­tors. The 19,000-ca­pac­ity joint is so high-tech—use your phone to find the wash­room with the short­est line or or­der food to your seat—it's of­ten de­scribed as a com­puter dis­guised as an arena.

Out­side the sta­dium, artist Jeff Koons's whim­si­cal Pigletin­spired sculp­ture stands guard, and the rest of the 500,000-strong town rocks with art open­ings. Along with the pres­ti­gious Crocker Art Mu­seum—stacked with Al­lan Houser and Dale Chi­huly sculp­tures and Wayne Thiebaud paint­ings—there's a more di­alled-down art walk ev­ery sec­ond Satur­day through­out the city.

Sacra­mento may not have the élan of its coastal cousins San Fran­cisco and Los Angeles, but it's a me­trop­o­lis be­fit­ting the birth­place of 19th-cen­tury gold fever. Af­ter sour­doughs struck those first nuggets nearby in 1848, the city boomed with the largest mi­gra­tion in Amer­ica (300,000 flocked to Cal­i­for­nia from 1848 to 1855), be­com­ing the state's cap­i­tal in just a few years. But un­like other towns, which dried up as quickly as the pre­cious metal, it cap­i­tal­ized on its trad­ing­post role at the con­flu­ence of the Amer­i­can and Sacra­mento rivers and keeps draw­ing mod­ern-day prospec­tors. Now myr­iad cranes, the barom­e­ter of a city's fi­nan­cial health, are build­ing new shop­ping malls and res­i­den­tial tow­ers, draw­ing fam­i­lies out of the burbs to live down­town.

Gov­ern­ment and agri­cul­ture re­main key in­dus­tries in Sacra­mento, which is lit­tered with el­e­gant trim­mings of power. Take the back­lit-domed Neo­clas­si­cal Leg­is­la­ture build­ings, in­clud­ing the gover­nor's of­fice, with its gi­ant bronze sculp­ture of a griz­zly bear (thanks to pre­vi­ous in­cum­bent Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger's fond­ness for the state's of­fi­cial an­i­mal). Or leg­is­la­tor-friendly lunch haunts such as Frank Fat's Chi­nese restau­rant, where leg­endary deals done on nap­kins are framed.

Cour­tesy of a lush 7,000 acres of farm­land, the city's din­ing spots over­flow with lo­cal pro­duce. While many tourism mar­keters claw at the lo­ca­vore la­bel to pro­mote their food scene, only Sacra­mento has trade­marked the slo­gan “Amer­ica's Farm-to-fork Cap­i­tal,” with­out hy­per­bole— not bad for a state with a de­clared drought of five years. (There are an av­er­age of 320 days of sun yearly here.)

Old Sacra­mento—a sliver of his­toric sites saved be­fore the I-5 free­way sliced part of the city—rev­els in Wild West nos­tal­gia with the Cal­i­for­nia State Rail­road Mu­seum and un­der­ground tours run by the Sacra­mento His­tory Mu­seum (left be­hind as build­ings and streets were raised up on jacks to avoid floods in the late 1800s). Tonight, in Mid­town, we're also at Sacra­mento's ground zero: Sut­ter's Fort, named for the city's founder, John Sut­ter, and home to the early pioneers. Walk­ing around the his­tor­i­cal at­trac­tion by can­dle­light, we lis­ten in on Gold Rush–era con­ver­sa­tions re-en­acted by peo­ple in pe­riod cos­tumes liv­ing the golden dream that still reigns to­day.

CAR­RIAGE TRADE Old Sacra­mento has kept a sense of Wild West nos­tal­gia

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