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Sacramento by train ... for the day.

AFTER A 30-YEAR hiatus, daily round trip train service between the Bay Area and Sacramento is back. Amtrak's Capitol is the first new intercity train service funded by California's 1990 rail bond issue (Proposition 116).

For commuters fighting the tedious, traffic-laden drive on Interstate 80, its appeal is obvious (though the fare $23 each way between San Jose and Sacramento--may be too steep for regular use).

But the Capitol also makes a relaxing, scenic day trip to Sacramento's key sights. Now through April 9, you can take advantage of a $24 round-trip fare good for same-day travel. Ages 2 through 15 always ride half-price.

Once you get off the train in Sacramento, the roughly 2mile walking tour outlined on the map below takes you past the restored 1874 capitol and its surrounding park awash in spring blooms, to Old Sacramento and the remarkable state railroad museum.

RIDING THE RAILS

The Capitol's main route runs from San Jose to Sacramento in 3 hours and 20 minutes, edging San Francisco Bay and then traveling past green hills and valley orchards. Stops include Amtrak's main Oakland station (at 16th and Wood streets), Berkeley (Third Street and University Avenue), Richmond (BART connects here), Martinez, Suisun-Fairfield, and Davis. The last train continues to Roseville.

The train features newish (1989) single-level cars with wide windows. Trips run through mealtimes, so plan on buying Amtrak's standard sandwiches, snacks, and drinks in the cafe car, or bring a train picnic--permitted as long as you eat at your seat. Before boarding the train in Sacramento for your return trip, you can stock up at K Tomatoes Deli, 316 K Street, on the mall not far from the station.

Eastbound trains depart San Jose at 6:35 A.M. and 12:10 and 5:10 PM. Westbound trains depart Sacramento at 7:15 A.M. and 11:40 and 5:05 PM.; for details on stops between, call (800) 872-7245. Buses at Oakland connect to San Francisco's Transbay Transit Terminal.

You can buy tickets on the train. Segments are less than full-route fare; for example, the regular price from Oakland to Sacramento is $16.

OFF THE TRAIN, WALK FROM ROTUNDA TO RIVER

Downtown Sacramento is ideal for walking--it's flat, and it's laid out on a grid so it's difficult to get lost. In the recent past, developers bypassed downtown, leaving untouched a legacy of massive old trees and graceful offices and houses.

Four years ago, wary of the dowdy office buildings Sacramento was saddled with in the 1950s, city planners unveiled a Central Business District Urban Design Plan to save the best old buildings and make sure new ones would boast some style. Today, the city's downtown is growing again.

From the station, head up Fifth Street to K Street and walk toward the capitol. Plan to wind up in Old Sacramento for a late lunch; the map shows a short route. Highlights are listed here.

K Street Mall. At its west end, you'll dodge construction for Downtown Plaza, due to open in 1993. It was designed by planners of San Diego's Horton Plaza and will include restaurants, galleries, and a waterfall.

The mall is dotted with benches, shade trees, and a hodgepodge of high-end stores and small family-run shops. Midway is the dark, looming Renaissance Tower, called by some the Darth Vader building; it was under way before the Urban Design Plan was approved.

State capitol and Capitol Park. The 40-acre Capitol Park boasts some magnificent old trees--some date to 1870--including deodars, magnolias, and a row of 100-foot-tall palms. This month, abundant fruit trees and camellias should be bursting with colorful blooms.

In 1982, a $70-million restoration of the Renaissance revival style capitol building was completed. At the time the restoration was approved, the state budget had a surplus, so the job was done right, bringing the building back to its 1900-era splendor. Detailing is impressive; you'll see elaborate plaster ceiling frescoes, floor-tile mosaics, and carved newel posts. The capitol is open 9 to 5 daily. Free tours run hourly.

Capitol Mall. This area is lined with state office buildings whose main attribute is that they don't block streetside views of the capitol. Two attractive towers, whose designs were influenced by the Urban Design Plan, glimmer at the west end near Third Street. One, the Capitol Bank Center of Commerce Building, with its green glass front, is called the Jukebox by some but admired by others.

Old Sacramento. This part of the city is packed with shops and restaurants. The restored stern-wheeler Delta King at the river's edge has a restaurant, the Pilothouse (open 11:30 to 2 Mondays through Saturdays, 10 to 2 Sundays and 5 to 10 PM. daily); for lunch, we recommend the clam chowder.

A fitting way to wind up your walk is with a stop at the California State Railroad Museum. Allow at least an hour to clamber onto some locomotives, watch a great video, and walk through an old Pullman. The museum, open 10 to 5 daily, is at Second and I streets. Admission costs $5, $2 ages 6 through 12.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Travel; California
Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Words:848
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