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90 miles E of San Francisco; 383 miles N of Los Angeles

Sacramento, with a metro-area population of nearly 1.8 million, is one of the state's fastest-growing areas. Visitors and locals alike enjoy a day spent walking through Old Sacramento, floating down the American River, or biking the shady paths along the Sacramento and American rivers. In addition to being the state capital, it's a thriving shipping and processing center for the fruit, vegetables, rice, wheat, and dairy goods produced in the Central Valley. It's also become a receptacle of spillover from Silicon Valley, and a suburb for Bay Area workers seeking affordable homes. As such, the quantity and quality of downtown restaurants, such as the Esquire Grill and the Waterboy, have greatly improved.

Visitors are often surprised by how pretty the River City's downtown area is, with its tree-shaded streets lined with some impressive Victorians and well-crafted bungalows. And at its heart sits the majestic capitol building -- Sacramento's most visible attraction -- situated within a large park, replete with flower gardens, memorial statuary, and curious squirrels. Inside the capitol, visitors strain to get a glimpse of California's reborn Governor Jerry Brown and his unpaid Chief of Staff, Anne Gust Brown, as they walk their corgi, Sutter.