When Your Hometown Becomes a Destination


Before Sactown was the Farm to Fork Capitol we were (and still are) the City of Trees. The trees lend elegance to our neighborhoods and lower the temperatures by at least 10 degrees.

I’ve lived in Sacramento most of my life. For the first 25 years everyone was content with being the Capitol and a rapidly growing suburban county. As Sacramento-native Joan Didion called it, people had a more mid-western sensibility about their wealth and well-being. Our problems were hidden. The community was segregated with waves of white flight out of South Sacramento to the burgeoning suburbs.

Our claim to fame was that we were “close to everything.” It was a great place to stop if you were on your way to Tahoe, or Napa, or San Francisco or Yosemite. Sacramento is at the confluence of two great rivers–the Sacramento and American–and a gateway to the Delta, but it’s attraction for the longest time was it was at the confluence of two great highways–Interstate Highways 5 and 80.

People in the community liked that it was a less expensive, quieter place to raise children. People would complain about “the traffic” that wouldn’t register on the Los Angeles traffic meter. We also don’t have to worry about earthquakes and our floods appear to be managed for now.


Local artists Suzanne Adan and Michael Stevens created Kit & Kaboodle, an exhibit for kids at the Crocker Art Museum. The Crocker is very kid friendly, and has a great cafe for adults.

The developers who ran local politics began to beat the drum for putting Sacramento on the map and making it a world class city. In the mid-eighties they had a lot of new houses to sell in Natomas, so land speculators and builders began the dubious proposition of making Sacramento famous by bringing a professional sports team to town. The Kansas City Kings basketball team arrived in 1985 to great fanfare and a new stadium in Natomas. It did raise Sacramento’s profile but it also gave other cities opportunity to mock us for being a Cowtown.

Periodically ever since, someone–a mayor or other city booster–declares Sacramento a destination. Self-declaration doesn’t count. In the travel world you have to be anointed a destination by the Conde Nast magazines. Or the New York Times travel editor. Preferably both.

At last, thanks in large part to the spotlight that Sacramento-native Greta Gerwig shone on our fair city, Sacramento is getting the attention that some would say is long overdue. The New York Times just released “36 Hours in Sacramento“!  It is so weird to read about the places you eat or shop regularly as destinations. Lovely too.

Once in my first professional job after grad school, the National Geographic hired our little think tank at UC Davis to review an article they were doing on the Great Central Valley. We looked at their map and shook our heads. They had Gilroy on the west side of the Valley. There were other errors as well and they didn’t correct all of the mistakes we identified for them. It made me skeptically at National Geographic maps ever since.

I love the 36 Hours series, but now having read the writer’s suggestions that would have you crisscrossing all over Sactown, I am going to refer to the 36 Hour recommendations but take the schedules with a grain of salt.  Thanks for the shout outs for local favorite restaurants and shopping destinations. We have always had a vibrant arts community and now more people are taking notice.

Sacramento has also been in the news lately because of the police shooting of an unarmed black man. Stephon Clark’s death has tested our community and revealed some problems many would rather ignore. Hopefully we will all learn from and begin to reform the inequities so we can truly achieve “great” status.



Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley


Big Break Visitors' Center

Big Break Visitors’ Center

The Big Break Regional Shoreline has a beautiful visitors center that offers exhibits, meeting space and space for an science education program. A short walk from the visitor center is a 1,200 square foot interactive map of the Delta (on the ground) that demonstrates water flow through the region.

It is part of the East Bay Regional Park District (most impressive park system in the state!).  The park has the facilities to enjoy a picnic, fish from the pier, launch a kayak or canoe, or birdwatch.

Next to the town of Oakley on the shores of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, on Highway 4 near 160, near Antioch and Rio Vista.

New Years Day at Brannan State Park

Brannan Island SRA sign

The California State Parks are celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2014.  They are kicking off the celebratory year with 40 different hikes on New Years Day (January 1, 2014).  I went on the website to see if any of them were at a state park in the Delta. The only Delta county with a hike is Sacramento, but both hikes were in Folsom.  My curiosity was peaked: how many state parks are there in the Delta? Two. Brannan Island State Recreation Area offers day use and camping. The other park is Delta Shores and appears to be closed due to the state budget cuts.

There are 26 reviews of Brannan Island SRA on Yelp. Brannan Island is in Rio Vista in Solano County (about 30 minutes from Fairfield). Although there will not be an organized hike, the weather forecast suggests New Years Day is a good day to enjoy the park.

Brannan Island Marina

Boating on Cache Slough

On a perfect day in October we met our boat at the Bridge to Nowhere at Liberty Island. There was no wind and it was warm not hot. The migratory birds were just starting to return.  The tide was about at its high water mark for the day. We headed out into “the stairstep” on our way to look at cow pasture that will be returned to tidal wetlands and then on to Cache Slough.

Lower Yolo Ranch: future restored tidal wetlands

Lower Yolo Ranch: future restored tidal wetlands

The Cache Slough complex is a mix of hunting areas, and agriculture. Unlike the southern Delta there is still lots of vegetation, even along “project levees” (built to Army Corp standards).  It is a beautiful place for boating. It was a weekday so we did not see many fishermen. The Cache Slough also has potential for restored tidal wetlands–something the Delta has lost more than 95%. Tidal wetlands play an important role in providing habitat for Delta Smelt and other native fish and for producing food for the rest of the estuary.

Great place to canoe or kayak!

Great place to canoe or kayak!

By the time we got to Cache Slough (with many stops along the way to look at natural and man made features), the tide was receding. The sun was rising high in the sky and there was still no wind. Fantastic.

I will return to kayak or canoe here someday.



Boating in the South Delta

Somewhere in the South Delta

We launched at B&W Marina on Brannan Island Road about 10 a.m. on a beautiful weekday. There were few other boaters on the river and the sun was shining and slight breeze kept us from getting too hot.

I have to confess that I am not a boater. However, I love spending the day outdoors and anytime that you can be out in the Delta (and call it work!) is a good day. We saw other boaters stopping at a beach to swim and jet ski, others were fishing, and my fellow boaters say that sometimes they stop and swim.

Stopping to eat and drink is also a big part of the boating experience. There are a number of marinas along the way.  Take a GPS, though. The monotony of the rip-rapped levees make it so you are never sure where you are.

OMG, a tree!

OMG, a tree!


Dining outdoors at Union Point Marina Bar & Grill

Union Point Bar & Grill

If you are boating in the South Delta, then Union Point Marina Bar & Grill is a pleasant spot for lunch or drinks.  Recently I was in a group of 10 boating on a weekday. We stopped for lunch about 1:00 p.m. The deserted deck made us wonder if the restaurant was open. It was open and we ordered at the bar, which allowed us to pay individually. In a short time we were sitting under the awning on the deck enjoying a variety of good food.

Fish, chips and slaw

Everyone was very satisfied with my food, except me. I ordered the special ceasar salad and while the chicken was perfect, the lettuce was a little wilted and the dressing too heavy.  My friends liked the fish and chips, hamburgers, and everything else. In fact, we tried most of the menu and we enjoyed it all.

The Union Point Marina is at the southern end of Bacon Island. If you are travelling by car, it is on Highway 4 between Stockton and Discovery Bay.

Wimpy’s Marina near Staten Island

Wimpy's Marina near Staten Island

If you like onions then you’ll enjoy Wimpy’s new Brewhouse Onion Burger. I stopped for dinner the other night and enjoyed the 1/4 lb sirloin beef patty with sweet raw red onion, sauteed yellow onion and deep fried brewhouse onion rings on a toasted onion roll. No other produce fits in this big burger. The menu said “american cheese” but mine came with swiss cheese. An improvement no doubt; however, the substitution was made without warning. The fries were hot and plentiful. My view of the river Moukolumne River was lovely (sit by the window if you can). This marina restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the entrance to The Nature Conservancy’s Staten Island and a convenient place to grab a bite to eat if you are bird watching. Sandhill Cranes are in residence September-February.

Here’s my review on the Urban Spoon. http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/36/1214830/restaurant/Sacramento/Wimpys-Walnut-Grove