Sacramento’s riverfront revival is a top priority for the mayor and community alike. Other cities in the nation have shown that riverfront investment can invigorate communities and turn water-adjacent districts into thriving destinations.
And Sacramento’s riverfront revival has begun.
Old Sacramento Rebrands and Refreshes
Old Sacramento has put on a fresh and rebranded its waterfront district. With a new name and logo that’s clean and modern, Old Sacramento has become the Old Sacramento Waterfront.
Changing its old-timey look and feel, Sacramento’s “Old Sacramento – Yesterday Today” to “Old Sacramento Waterfront – Come Find It”, the new branding aims to shift perceptions of this historic district.
Think Old Sacramento is just for tourists? Think again.
The Old Sacramento Waterfront is a historical treasure, dining, shopping, cultural and entertainment destination, and a great place to spend a day on the waterfront.
If you haven’t been down to the river lately, here are some perfect ways to spend a day along the Sacramento Waterfront.
Enjoy the Attractions
The Old Sacramento Waterfront is home to some of the Sacramento’s greatest attractions, including museums, landmarks, and entertainment venues.
Sacramento History Museum
A reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building that was located at their current site, the Sacramento History Museum is dedicated to Sacramento’s rich and diverse history.
The collection of permanent exhibits includes an exhibit outlining Sacramento’s beginnings as a Gold Rush town, a historic print shop, and an ever-changing array of temporary and traveling exhibits.
Year round, they offer programs, events, and tours designed to educate and entertain those seeking knowledge about Sacramento’s storied past.
California Automobile Museum
Love classic cars? The California Auto Museum will take you on a road trip through the automobile revolution. Daily tours bring visitors up close and personal to over 130 vintage vehicles.
Explore a diverse collection including 1900s Ford Roadsters, Cadillac Coupes from the 1920s, elegant 1940s Lincoln Town Cars, a 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1966 Shelby Cobra 427, a Ferrari GTS and Lamborghini … the cars at the CA Auto Museum will leave you dreaming of the open road.
California Railroad Museum
Home to the most comprehensive collection of restored trains in the world – and welcoming over 600,000 paying visitors per year – the California Railroad Museum is one of Sacramento’s most popular tourist attractions.
19 steam locomotives kept in immaculate condition illustrate the history of steam technology, from its early development in the 1860s to its climax in the 1940’s.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum is host to rotating exhibits that are curated to highlight life along California’s historic railways.
Coming Soon: The Railroad Technology Museum
The Railroad Technology Museum, the much-anticipated extension to the CA Railroad Museum is coming soon to the Sacramento Railyards - just a short distance from the Old Sacramento Waterfront district.
The Railroad Technology Museum will combine the high-tech, interactive exhibits of a science museum with the behind-the-scenes setting of a historical industrial tour at the birthplace of CA rail travel.
Located the Central Shop District – which was an integral part of operations for the Southern Pacific Railroad in California – the main galleries will feature dynamic, hands-on exhibits that highlight the past, showcase the present, and explore the future.
The Restoration Shop will be publicly accessible, continuing the work of artisans and craftspersons alike, while supporting Vocational Education training programs.
Crocker Art Museum
A short one block walk off of the waterfront and home to a vast permanent collection of art, as well as rotating exhibits, the Crocker Art Museum has an abundance to offer for young and old, alike.
Order a cheeseburger with fries or beet salad at the Crocker Cafe by Supper Club, dining on the first floor of the museum or, taking your food ‘to go’, you can head out to the beautiful courtyard.
Central to culture and art in Sacramento since 1885, the museum is housed within two buildings at three levels each and features a gift shop, courtyard, and kids play area. One could easily spend a whole day exploring.
Powerhouse Science Center Ignites Sacramento Riverfront Revival
Under construction, the Powerhouse Science Center will be the first project to be completed north of Old Sacramento and is sparking the riverfront revival.
Coming Soon: The Powerhouse Science Museum
With construction underway, the Powerhouse Science Museum is slated to be the first completed among the many riverfront projects that are in the works.
As the Powerhouse Science Center describes:
“The new center will serve as a model for 21st-century experiential education centers in science, technology, engineering, math, and space, helping to prepare the next generation workforce.”
Construction will include historical renovation of the existing Power Station Building, located on the banks of the Sacramento River, as well as a two-story addition off of the building’s east side which will house a lobby, offices, classrooms, and a cafe, as well as a state-of-the-art full-dome digital planetarium.
The completed 50,000 square foot structure – designed by Sacramento-based architect firm Dreyfuss + Blackford – and surrounding grounds will incorporate the Robert T. Matsui Waterfront Park and Sacramento Tree Foundation's Hanami Line to create a dynamic new campus right on the Sacramento River.
Delta King Riverboat
The Delta King Riverboat is an iconic Sacramento landmark.
The 285-foot riverboat - along with her identical twin sister, the Delta Queen - began her daily river voyages between San Francisco and Sacramento in 1927, providing prohibition-era drinking, jazz bands, gambling, and fine dining. In 1940, both boats were recruited into service with the U.S. Navy during the war.
In 1989, the Delta King returned to the Sacramento riverfront.
This historical landmark offers 44 hotel rooms, award-winning Pilothouse restaurant, Delta Bar and Grill, live music on the weekends, Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, and a full calendar of events including film festivals, live performances, banquets, weddings, and more.
Be it breakfast, coffee, lunch, appetizers, cocktails, dinner or dessert, the riverfront is the perfect place to find adventurous eats in Sacramento.
From boardwalk hot dogs to 5-star restaurants, there’s something for every taste and palate at the Old Sacramento Waterfront restaurants, cafes, and bars.
In the morning, step up to the counter Steamers and order yourself a breakfast taco or fried chicken with biscuits and gravy. If you’re in the mood for table service and want to enjoy dining on the water, The Pilothouse – on board the historic Delta King – is the place to get your Cabin Boy Omelet or Crab Cake Eggs Benedict.
The evening is a perfect time to stroll the Embarcadero, overlooking the historic Delta King and golden Tower Bridge, before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the many cafes, pubs, restaurants or fine-dining establishments peppered throughout Old Sacramento.
In the mood for casual dinner of crab, shrimp, and steampots? Stop into Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner on overlooking the tower bridge.
If your evening calls for fine dining, head next door to the Rio City Cafe where you can enjoy filet mignon wellington or pacific sea bass served on a white linen-clothed table that overlooks the water.
Shop in Old Sacramento
Discover a wild collection of one-of-a-kind goods in the waterfront district’s shops and stores.
From novelty and souvenir stores to art galleries and jewelry shops, there are limitless options for shopping along the wood plank sidewalks of Old Sacramento.
Spend a Day on the Waterfront
For history buffs, art connoisseurs, foodies, and train enthusiasts, alike, there is something for everyone on the Sacramento waterfront. The 28-acre historic district is the home of California’s first thriving business district. Today, with a newly renovated Front Street Embarcadero, a new name, and fresh brand, the Old Sacramento Waterfront is giving Sacramento residents new reasons to come spend the day - or night - in the historic district.
How will you spend your day along the river?
Photo courtesy of Rick Galer.