For those that are interested in California history, or just like old buildings, a visit to the California State Capitol Museum is something you should not miss. Home to the California State Legislature since 1869, it is perhaps one of the best free things one can do in Sacramento.
From the portraits of former governors to the dioramas created by each county on the lower level, this historic building, along with its extensive collection of important historical California artifacts, artwork, and antique furnishings, provides a glimpse into the variety of communities in California today.
The architecture is grand and ornate, and the signature dome is magnificent, reminding visitors of our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.
Visitors start at the dome, surrounded by marble floors, sculpture, and murals, swirling foliage motifs, stylized urns, grizzly bears, and mythical animals. Further exploration will unearth former governors’ portraiture and lots of state troopers.
There are plenty of exhibits on display, including restored historic offices of the Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Governor, and you can view both chambers of the legislature from the balcony area.
From the main hall, before you start any of the available free tours, guests will want to stop by the auditorium on the bottom floor to watch one of the various videos that are shown continually including one about the design and building of the Capitol, and a 12-minute film called “Capitol Visions” that is primarily for kids.
After learning a little about the building, guests are invited to roam freely or can join in on one of the free tours that begin every hour on the hour. The visits are suggested as they will get you access to both the Assembly and Senate halls, sometimes they will are in session.
After you have seen everything inside the California State Capitol Museum, you will want to continue your adventure with a picnic lunch or a stroll through the gorgeous gardens of Capitol Park on the east side of the building. There are plenty of shady spots under one of the many trees from around the world gifted to governors long ago, and a variety of statues and monuments to significant events involving California.
First, there is the Civil War Memorial Grove planted in 1897 with saplings from famous Civil War battlefields and the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with bronze statues of servicemen and women depicting military life in Vietnam.
There is also a life-sized statue of Father Junípero Serra, a Roman Catholic missionary sent by Spain to help colonize California, and the California Veterans Memorial, a granite obelisk honoring California Veterans from the Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.
With mostly moderate California temperatures, visiting the California State Capitol Museum can be done year-round.
However, if you are planning your trip during December, you will find that the Capitol is adorned with holiday decor, while carolers and musicians fill the building with the sounds of Christmas. Also, if you’re downtown in the evening, the outdoor Christmas tree is lit with hundreds of lights and bright ornaments.
The California State Capitol is not only a historical museum, but it’s also a living museum, and part of the fun is watching the inner workings of officials and visitors as they go about their daily business.
If you check out the Governor’s office, you might be able to catch a glimpse of him as he steps out to attend a meeting or chat with house members or essential visitors. The museum is open daily from 9-5 but is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Day.
Guided tours are given on the hour 9 am to 4 pm, and parking is available in the parking garage on L Street.
The California State Capitol Museum and Park are located in downtown Sacramento on 10th Street between L and N Streets. For information, call (916) 324-0333.
After your visit to the Capitol building, check out nearby Old Town Sacramento.