Visiting Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park- a Piece of Sacramento’s History

Sitting at the grounds of a 19th-century fort, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is an open-air museum that tells an interesting part of Sacramento’s history and is a must-visit destination for everyone interested in the Gold Rush Era history of California. Visiting the state park feels like traveling back in time and getting a glimpse of the lives of California’s first non-indigenous settlers. Here, you can admire the beautiful two-story fort that dates back to 1841, hear the stories of the first immigrants of the Gold Rush era, and hear the cannons that go off every day at noon amid the reenactments. In this post, we’ll share a brief history about Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, showcase a few interesting facts about it, and of course teach you everything you have to know before visiting Sutter’s Fort.

Brief History

sutter's fort state historic park
by chris krylov CC by SA 3.0

Johann Sutter was a German who left everything behind to seek a better future in the US in the mid-1830s. He was exploring the unknown western territories before getting to Sacramento in the late 1830s where he was given a Mexican citizenship and a piece of land in exchange for maintaining order with the local indigenous people. Here, with the help of locals, he built a fortress that comprised of sleeping rooms, barracks, gunsmith quarters, blacksmith quarters, and a small textile factory. He also funded the creation of Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery.

With the beginnings of the Gold Rush era, the fort became a stop for people moving West. At one point was even a hub for the pioneers of the Donner Party. After the Gold Rush era, the fort was largely abandoned and it started falling into ruins. Fortunately, the Native Sons of the Golden West bought the property and rehabilitated the old fort even though the city of Sacramento thought of demolishing it. The landmark was rebuilt and in 1947, Sutter’s Fort was turned into a state historic park. 

Location and Details

sutter's fort state historic park
by howcheng CC by SA 4.0

Sutter’s Fort is a part of the Midtown Sacramento Area, approximately one mile southeast of downtown. The museum lies between 26th and 28th Street and the exact address is 2701, L Street, Sacramento, California, 95816. The museum is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. If you’re coming with your vehicle/rented car, head north and take Business-80/Highway 50 East to the turnoff at N Street. Keep going straight on 30th Street and turn left at L Street under the freeway. Drive until you see the historic park on your right. 

If you plan to visit, keep in mind that tickets are sold only until 4:30 PM. The entrance fee is as follows: 

  • $5 for adults
  • $3 for kids ages 6 to 17
  • Free for kids that are 5 or under. 

Also, note that for special interpretive program days, the fees are $7 for adults and $5 for youth.

The property has a street parking with enough capacity having in mind the size of the museum. 

Visiting Sutter’s Fort

After finding a parking spot and getting your ticket, you can enter the grounds and explore the old fort. The entrance fee includes free maps and brochures for all visitors at the entrance. There’s also an audio narrative that plays as you enter different parts of the property which is much better than the standard audio guides that just keeps on going regardless of which part of the fort you’re in. And if that’s not enough, the museum has a lot of knowledgeable people working on the property who are always happy to share their knowledge with visitors and answer all of their questions. 

The museum also hosts many educational programs during the school year that gives students the chance to get some hands-on learning activities through some of the engaging activities the museum prepares for them. And on days, such programs are not in session, you may encounter some of the museum’s docent volunteers guiding visitors around the fort and sharing the complete history of Sutter’s Fort with the visitors. 

sutterforth gunsmith
by EPP CC by SA 3.0

One of the most popular activities the museum organizes is the scavenger hunt that gives visitors the unique opportunity to search for historical artifacts and information in order to answer the questions. The scavenger hunt is available at the museum’s kiosk and is appropriate for all ages. 

As for the other activities, you can also visit the museum’s bakery, the remnants of the old textile factory, the blacksmith and the gunsmith rooms, the carpentry shop, dozens of other rooms, and perhaps the most interesting part of the museum, the Immigrants Quarters and the central building. This is the only part of the building that remains in its original form. Here, you can also find a few rooms where Sutter used to spend most of his time.

Recommendations

sacramento landmarks
by howcheng CC by SA 3.0

The ideal time to cover all of Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park is between 45 minutes and 1 hour. That, is if you want to learn about the history of this old fort. If not, you can probably cover the open-air museum a lot faster.

When visiting, keep in mind that Sutter’s Fort is an open-air museum. Summers can get very hot (this is California, after all) and the winters in this part of the Golden State get quite chilly, and layered clothing is advised.

Photography is permitted at the grounds of Sutter’s Fort but only for personal use. Flashlights, tripods are not allowed and commercial photography is agreed upon a case-to-case basis.

Finally, if you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss the chance to visit some other nearby attractions. Some of them include the California State Capitol Museum, James Marshal Park, the California State Indian Museum, and McKinley Park. 

Hotels Near Sutter’s Fort

If you’re looking for a great budget hotel near Sutter’s Fort, Roy Inn & Suites is one of the best options. It’s located 0.5 miles away from the fort, it’s cheap, and the price includes breakfast. Some other affordable alternatives are Amber House Inn (0.7 miles away) and Econo Lodge Sacramento Convention Center (1 mile away). Alternatively, if you’re looking for some more luxurious alternatives, you can also check out the local Sterling Hotel. The Kimpton Sawyer Hotel (2 miles away) is another great luxury accommodation option.

Nearby Restaurants

Sutter’s Fort is located in the central part of Midtown. The area is also known as Sutter District and is home to dozens of great restaurants, cafes, and shops. Here are some of the best eateries in the neighborhood.

All Mexican food lovers will surely love the exquisite food at Centro Cocina Mexicana. If you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned American dinner, The Red Rabbit Kitchen Bar is a nice option and if you want to get a nice juicy burger, check out Barwest. For a drink, head to Jungle Bird, a tiki bar located on J Street, and for some tea/coffee, Tea Bar & Fusion on Matsui Alley is a very nice and cozy spot.

Finally, it’s your turn- did you ever visit Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park? Is this place on your Sacramento bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!

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