Downtown Sacramento

Welcome to Old Sacramento

Experience a one of a kind visit to Old Sacramento. The unique 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park is located along the beautiful Sacramento River. Bustling with activity, the district is alive with shopping, dining, entertainment, historical attractions and world-renowned museums set within the time of the California Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad.

History of Old Sacramento

In 1839 John Sutter arrived on the shore of the American River near its confluence with the Sacramento River. With the promise of a Mexican land grant, Sutter and his landing party established Sutter's Fort. As the settlement grew and became permanent, it attracted other businessmen looking for opportunities. Sutter and the people he attracted created a commercial center in the area, but it was the Gold Rush in 1848 that created the City of Sacramento.

When gold was discovered in the nearby foothills by James Marshall, local merchant Sam Brannan rushed to open a store near the Sacramento River to take advantage of the convenient waterfront location. What was then called Sutter's Embarcadero was soon known as the City of Sacramento. The city rapidly grew into a trading center for miners outfitting themselves for the gold fields.

Early Sacramento's waterfront location was prime for commercial success, but was prone to severe flooding. The city also fell victim to repeated fires engulfing its hastily constructed buildings composed mainly of wood and canvas. In 1850 the new city experienced its first devastating flood and in 1852 the city was again wiped out by high water. It was apparent that drastic measures would have to be taken if it was to be saved.

In 1853 a mammoth project was proposed to raise the city above the flood level. The ambitious and expensive proposal was not fully accepted until another devastating flood swept through the city in 1862. Within a few years, thousands of cubic yards of earth were brought in on wagons and the daring scheme to raise the street level began. The original street level can be seen throughout Old Sacramento under the boardwalks and in basements.

The center of the commercial district gradually moved east and the original part of the city on Sutter's Embarcadero became known as the worst skid row west of Chicago. Reformers, ministers, politicians and others spoke out against conditions in this part of the city, but little was done to change the basic conditions.

In the mid-1960's, a plan was set forth to redevelop the area and through it, the first historic district in the West was created. Today, with 53 historic buildings, Old Sacramento has more buildings of historic value condensed into its 28 acres than most areas of similar size in the west. Registered as a National and California Historic Landmark, the properties in the district are primarily owned by private owners, with individual businesses leasing shops and offices. The area has flourished and is once again a thriving commercial trade center.

Learn more about Old Sacramento by clicking on the articles below!

(Courtesy of the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation ).

Visit the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation website for more information.

Featured Events Old Sacramento

  • 10.15.10

  • Ghost Tours
    Journey Back In Time: Old Sacramento Ghost Tours More Info...

  • 10.16.10
    Come ride the scariest train in Sacramento! More Info...

  • 10.30.10

    Safely Trick-or-Treat in Old Sacramento More Info...

  • 11.24.10

    Tree Lighting & Theatre of Lights

  • 11.26.10

    Polar Express
    Relive the magic of the Polar Express on an hour-long train ride to the North Pole. More Info...

Whether you have a lunch hour or a long weekend, Old Sacramento has plenty of historical landmarks, museums and entertainment options to pique your interest.

Points of Interest


  • Classic Coach
    1002 Second Street
    (916) 371-0598
  • Laughs Unlimited
    1207 Front Street
    (916) 446-8128
  • Palm Reading & Fortune Teller
    117 J Street
    (916) 444-5318
  • River City Shooting Gallery
    131 K Street
  • Tango by the River
    128 J Street
    (916) 443-7008
  • Top Hand Ranch
    1002 Second Street
    (916) 655-3444
  • Wolverton Carriage Co.
    1002 Second Street
    (916) 718-9806



Museums Nearby


Sightseeing & Tours


Visitor Information

  • Old Sacramento Visitor Center
    1002 Second Street
    (916) 442-7644

Driving Directions:

Coming from any direction in the state, take Interstate 5 to the J Street exit and follow the signs into the district. PDFClick here for a map .


The Sacramento Amtrak Station is located at 401 I Street, adjacent to Old Sacramento and within walking distance to museums, shops, restaurants and more! Visit the Amtrak website for more information.

Boat Docks

The Old Sacramento Boat Docks are available for daily and overnight use. For more information, please contact the City of Sacramento at (916) 808-7031


Abundant covered parking is available in two parking structures located at either end of Old Sacramento. Many Old Sacramento businesses will validate parking for these parking garages, so be sure to ask the waitperson or store clerk about parking validations at the end of your transaction.

In addition, a surface parking lot is located at Front & L streets (enter from L Street at Firehouse Alley).

There are also a limited number of metered, 90-minute on-street parking spaces throughout Old Sacramento. These parking spaces are monitored 7 days a week.

Main Highlights