The California State Capitol is a must-see stop on any Sacramento itinerary. Take a docent-led tour or a self-guided tour to experience California’s rich history and witness the making of history through the modern lawmaking process. It's a living museum dedicated to sharing California's past and working to build California's future. The grounds and building are open seven days a week for the public to explore.
The Capitol building
Entering on the north side of the building (L Street side) you walk into the state's county exhibits. Each of the 58 counties has a display case showcasing its best of the best. As you continue through the hallways, you will enter the Capitol Rotunda, one of the most amazing architectural features of the building. The rotunda divides and unifies the Senate and the Assembly, the two houses of the California State Legislature, which occupy the south and north wings of the Capitol, respectively. This circular room is 53 feet in diameter and rises 128 feet from the basement of the building to the oculus at the apex of the inner dome. We like to count how many light bulbs are out, if any, and imagine the daunting task of replacing those!
As you roam the building, keep an eye out for the portraits of every California governor. Some stand out more than others, make sure not to miss governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown (his first term) and Ronald Reagan, California's only governor to go on to become President of the United States.
Many people do not realize that you can visit both the Senate and the Assembly galleries, even when houses are in session. The architecture of both galleries reflects an open form of government, inviting visitors to sit and observe the Legislature in action. The red of the Senate and green of the Assembly are borrowed from our centuries-old British parliamentary heritage. If you look carefully on the ceiling of both galleries you'll notice an artist "signature," a tiny gargoyle sticking his tongue out -- just one of many artists' marks throughout the building.
Be sure to make your way down to the Governor's office to take a picture with the giant bronze bear, gifted by Schwarzenegger. On the first floor you can also peruse historic rooms restored to reflect various architectural and legislative eras representing the evolution of California's history and philosophies through the legacy of its leadership. Some historic rooms that served former governors, secretaries of state, and treasurers are now preserved to show visitors what the offices looked like at the turn of the 20th century.
The Capitol Grounds
Capitol Park is 40 acres spanning 12 city blocks. The park is filled with trees, plants and shrubs that have been gathered from all over the world. And it features some incredible memorials dedicated to different facets of California history. Capitol Park includes memorials for the Mexican-American War, Father Junipero Serra, firefighters, peace officers, the Spanish-American War, the USS California Bell, the Vietnam War and more. For detailed information about each monument, click here.
One of the most popular spots in the park is the World Peace Rose Garden. It was created as a sanctuary of peace, love and inspiration for people of all nations, cultures and religions. Fun fact, the southeast section serves as a test garden for the All-American Rose Selections. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to see new rose varieties before they are available to the public.
Don’t worry if you can’t see all of these attractions on your first visit to the California State Capitol. With each visit to the Capitol, you are likely to see something new or find yourself on a completely different track, from history to current events to other hidden gems. Adding a visit to the Capitol into your itinerary allows you to see a very important part of Sacramento and the state of California.
For more information on visit the Capitol, click here.