My entire reason for visiting Sacramento was to make up for skipping it on my “Ameritrip” last year in which I traveled by rail from Chicago back home to San Francisco, stopping in a few cities along the way — Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno.
Originally I’d planned to make Sacramento a stop on the trip, but when I started planning it all out there was no way to squeeze another stop into the time I’d allocated.
To get to Sacramento and back I booked tickets on the Capitol Corridor, a train service run by a local joint powers authority, CalTrans, and operated by Amtrak. It’s part of the “Amtrak California” umbrella which also includes the San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner routes.
From San Francisco there’s the option of taking an Amtrak bus to Emeryville and boarding the train from there, but I decided to take BART to Lake Merritt and walk a few blocks to Jack London Square instead, repeating this process on the way back. Unfortunately the only true transfer point between Amtrak and BART is at Richmond, which is a very long BART ride away for many of us.
On the return trip the conductor announced Richmond as “your transfer point to BART, Bay Area we wish we were Rapid Transit.” Harsh but true.
The train station in Sacramento is a beautiful building from the 1920’s. It serves Amtrak as well as the local light rail and bus lines. Thankfully the station features modern bathrooms, and there’s a Starbucks next door if you need it.
As usual the boarding procedure varies wildly from one Amtrak station to another. Amtrak service is always polite but confusing, and their trains tend to be comfortable but worn out. I guess that’s just modern day America in a nutshell though.
My very first stop after leaving the train station was Temple Coffee Roasters, a chain local to Sacramento though their beans can be found elsewhere.
The line was almost out the door. It’s not the fastest place, though the employees are very friendly. I had an oat milk cappuccino. On a warmer afternoon I went to a different location for an iced latte. Both were excellent. That said, good coffee is not at all hard to find in Sacramento.
Right in the middle of downtown Sacramento near the capitol building is the brand new Downtown Commons, or “DoCo” complex. This fuses an existing shopping center with the new Sacramento Kings coliseum as well as a fancy hotel.
There’s quite a few places to eat and drink in the DoCo complex, presumably aimed at attendees of the basketball games and concerts held there.
The entire reason I chose this particular weekend to visit Sacramento was to see Neil Hamburger perform again, this time at the Sacramento Comedy Spot. It’s not a big venue but it was packed; I was lucky to get in early enough to grab a seat.
Neil’s opening act was Major Entertainer, a musical comedian who sang songs about his wife’s former best friend as well as a song asking the audience to buy his t-shirts.
Neil Hamburger somehow got all the green dye out of his hair a few days after playing the Joker as his alter ego. He went through about an hour of material focused mostly on Aerosmith and KISS, the latter of which he claims is a band everyone has heard of, yet nobody knows their music (I think he might be on to something there.)
His longest and most rambling joke detailed how he was forced to spend 13 hours in LAX Terminal One when Southwest cancelled flights due to the 737 MAX disaster. He blamed it on the planes relying on defective computers that were returned to Best Buy. But the worst indignity was that he had to eat at the only restaurant open in the airport terminal, Rock & Brews, which is owned by KISS front-man Gene Simmons.
He ended the show singing his original song Little Love Cup.
There were a few things I didn’t get to do on this trip. Perhaps next time? In no particular order:
- Tower Cafe: This oddball cafe is best known for brunch, and I’m told the wait list can get pretty long.
- California State Railroad Museum: I vaguely remember visiting here as a kid, and would have definitely returned if I’d had the time on this trip.
- Dive Bar: I’m told this isn’t a great bar, the only reason to go is to see the hourly mermaid performances in the giant fish tank above the bar. Performers dress up as mermaids and swim around with actual fish.
- Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament: A beautiful old cathedral located across from the capitol building that offers tours, but was somehow never open when I was in the area.
- The Bank: A modern food hall, but located inside of a classic old bank building.