Jenny Elia Pfeiffer
The State Capitol, birthplace of pioneering green laws, is a perfect starting point for an eco-friendly day of exploring Sacramento.
A low-environmental-impact train ride delivers you within blocks of the State Capitol and compact, walkable downtown. Pedicabs and plentiful bike parking mean going farther afield is easy too.
Although parts of downtown are still a bit gritty, its restaurant scene and State Capitol Park are both blossoming, making now the perfect time to explore.
Sacramento's downtown is near the junction of I-5 and the Capital City Fwy./Business I-80. If driving, exit I-5 at J St. and follow signs to attractions. By rail, take Amtrak's Capitol Corridor train (from $7 one-way; 877/974-3322) to the Sacramento station; downtown's core is an easy five-block walk to the southwest.
Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park After serving as an orphanage for decades, the Stanfords' lavish downtown mansion has been meticulously restored to gilded Victorian-era splendor. INFO: Hourly tours 10-4; $8; 800 N St.; 916/324-0575.State Capitol Museum and Park Take a free hourly tour, or wander on your own. Grab a guide to historic plantings in the surrounding park, a refreshing green space that employs water-saving methods (check out the demonstration garden in the southwest corner). INFO: 10th St. at L St.; 916/324-0333.
Temple Fine Coffee and Tea Temple is serious about coffee, offering rare beans and roasts to order, and hosting tastings and classes. INFO: Tastings from $5; 1014 10th St.; 916/443-4960.
Ambrosia Café This relaxed spot (which composts kitchen waste and uses local products) serves from-scratch sandwiches and treats. Pick a seat overlooking Cathedral Square - it's about as European as Sacramento gets. INFO: $; 1030 K St.; 916/444-8129.
Ella Dining Room and Bar Ella aims to revive the downtown dining scene with communal tables and dishes like ceviche mixto or roasted salmon. INFO: $$$$; closed Sun; 1131 K St.; 916/443-3772.
MAKE IT AN OVERNIGHT
Sheraton rescued the historic Public Market Building, designed by Julia Morgan, from boarded-up obscurity. The Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel (from $139; 800/325-3535) boasts high style and the comfiest beds in town. From its location at 12th and J Streets, downtown's
attractions and midtown's shopping district are just a quick walk away.