In the mid-1800s, people flocked to the Sacramento region to seek their fortunes in the California Gold Rush. Next February, members of the Religious Conference Management Association will head west to Sacramento for Emerge 2014, where they will discover a wealth of activities and amenities—and maybe even some gold.
Sacramento’s s rich history is a big part of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau’s new brand identity. Its new tagline, “California Begins Here,” speaks to Sacramento’s role in achieving California’s statehood, as well as its standing as the state capital and a hub for arts, culture, and culinary trends.
Meetings on the Rise
Sacramento is located about 90 minutes northeast of San Francisco and two hours west of Lake Tahoe. There’s been a rush of activity here in recent years, including renovated hotels and an expanded airport. In 2012, the number of meetings were up 24 percent from the previous year, according to the CVB.
Emerge will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center on February 4–6, 2014. The 384,359-square-foot convention center boasts 134,000 square feet of exhibition space. It also features a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, which can be split into 10 meeting rooms and opens into a 9,000-square-foot lobby and an outdoor terrace for receptions or breaks. The center also has a total of 31 meeting rooms, including 12 in the 11,200-square-foot Activity Building, which is connected by concourse to the exhibit halls. There is also a 9,500-square-foot junior ballroom that can be broken into three meeting rooms.
Across the street from the convention center is the 3,800-seat Memorial Auditorium, which can be used for special events, lectures, performances, or entertainment.
Farm to Fork Capital
Sacramento has a booming restaurant scene and is often called the Farm-to-Fork Capital of the U.S. “We’ve been walking this walk for decades,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. “It is part of who we are.”
In fact, Sacramento is home of the largest farmers’ market in California. The region includes 8,000 acres of boutique farms, which sell to more than 50 regional farmers’ markets, which then supply local restaurants.
“We buy blueberries from Stockton, lamb from Dixon, lavender from Placerville, fresh fish from Sloughhouse, and broccoli and cauliflower from Sacramento,” said Randall Selland, owner of The Kitchen, Ella, and Selland’s Market. “There is no other place in the United States that grows and distributes more food for consumers than the Sacramento region does.” The region is also home to some 50 wineries.
In September 2013, the CVB launched the inaugural Farm-to-Fork Week which included special events at farms and restaurants and an all-day Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall where the local fare was showcased.
Through the CVBs badge program, RCMA meeting attendees can receive discounts at nearly 40 restaurants and nightspots around the city by simply showing their meeting badge.
Renovations All Around
There are 15,600 hotel rooms in Sacramento, including the 503-room Hyatt Regency, adjacent to the convention center. All guest rooms, including 18 suites, have been recently renovated with new Hyatt Grand Beds, 42-inch flat-screen televisions, and workstations. The lobby and public spaces were also updated. The hotel features two restaurants, Dawson’s Chop House and The Vines Café.
Located in the heart of downtown, right across from the convention center, the 503-room Sheraton Grand Sacramento has also been renovated. The hotel, which has 27,000 square feet of meeting space, underwent a $5 million transformation that included updates to all of the guest rooms.
The Citizen Hotel, also near the convention center, is a stylish boutique property, built in 1925, with 198 guest rooms and 11,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel features the Park Plaza Ballroom and the Metropolitan Terrace, with views of the Sacramento skyline.
Other downtown properties include the 235-room Residence Inn Downtown at Capital Park and the all-suite Embassy Suites, right across the river from Old Town Sacramento. The 101-room European-style Le Rivage Hotel, located on the Sacramento River, has been purchased by a new ownership group that has converted it to a Westin Sacramento, which opened in April 2013.
Getting to Sacramento should be more convenient with the $1 billion expansion of the Sacramento International Airport. Just 12 miles from downtown, the airport opened a new Central Terminal B in October 2011.
The new terminal is 670,000 square feet in area, three times the size of the one it replaced. It has free wireless Internet service throughout its two concourses and is home to American, JetBlue, Southwest, Frontier, Hawaiian, Alaska/Horizon, and Aeromexico. Cabs, shuttles, and public transportation (Yolo Bus) can connect air travelers from the airport to the downtown hotels. Those who arrive via Amtrak can take light rail to the convention center.
What to Do
The California State Railroad Museum is one of the must-see stops in Old Sacramento—the most comprehensive collection of trains and related artifacts in North America. Visitors can board restored train cars, view exhibits, and even take a ride on a steam train. This is the site of the opening reception for Emerge on February 4.
The Sacramento History Museum has artifacts and exhibits related to the Gold Rush and other aspects of the city’s past. You can also purchase tickets at the museum to the Sacramento Underground Tour, an hour-long guided tour through the tunnels beneath the city. You can even pan for gold, for free, in front of the museum.
Or, you can drive about a half hour to Coloma and pan for gold in the American River at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.
Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park, right in the center of midtown Sacramento, is named after Johann Sutter, the first man to settle in Sacramento in 1839. He built a large adobe fort that served as a trading post. Today, Sutter’s Fort gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like during the Gold Rush.
Other museums in Sacramento include The Big Four, commemorating the four founders of the transcontinental railroad; The California State Capitol Museum, The Disovery Museum Science and Space Center; and the The Crocker Art Museum—the first art museum in the western United States.
Did You Know?
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was an NBA star. The point guard played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns from 1987-2000 and was a three-time all-star. He was elected to his second term as mayor in 2012.
The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacramento, seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, is an architectural marvel. It features a 217-foot tower and recently underwent a $20 million renovation. It is two blocks from convention center and is open for tours. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the first church in Sacramento, is adjacent to the convention center.
Mark Twain was a special news correspondent with the Sacramento Union Newspaper in 1866.
On a busy day during harvest season, over 12 million pounds of almonds are delivered for processing at the Blue Diamond plant in Sacramento.
Sacramento was the terminus for the Pony Express mail delivery service in the mid 1860s. The 1,980-mile journey from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento required 200 relay stations, 500 horses, and 80 riders to complete the ten-day service. There is a statue commemorating the Pony Express in Old Sacramento.
Movie star Mollie Ringwald was born in Sacramento.