It's a modest, somewhat dusty little place, but the exhibits are worth a look. You come away knowing that there were an estimated 150,000 Indians in the area on Jan. 24, 1848, when James Marshall stuck his hand in the American River and pulled out a shiny nugget of gold. Ten years later, only 20,000 natives survived.
It was legal to kill Native Americans in California until 1866, according to the exhibit, which also details how survivors were marched to a reservation in Mendocino.
For Schwarzenegger sightings, head to Sacramento's Capitol.
(Sacramento Convention And Visitors Bureau)
The displays killed my appetite for seeing the fort, so I headed instead to a downtown Imax theater that shows about a half-dozen different movies each day. I chose one about the Lewis and Clark expedition and the amazing Indian woman, Sacajawea,who not only helped lead the men and translate for them, but just happened to have a baby along on the journey, as well. She was no girlie-girl.
For dinner, I hit the Esquire Grill, one of the several restaurants said to be frequented by the new governor, who lives in the Hyatt Regency when he's in town to legislate. He didn't show up, but I can say one thing for him: The man has good taste in food.
Cindy Loose will be online to discuss this article Monday at 2 p.m. during the Travel section's regular weekly chat on www.washingtonpost.com.
GETTING THERE: A fierce fare war that erupted when JetBlue began flying to Sacramento nonstop from Dulles has severely depressed prices. Fares for nonstop round-trip flights on United and JetBlue have gone as low as $198 (although JetBlue offers only a red-eye return). Fare at press time was about $245.
WHERE TO STAY: The Delta King Hotel (1000 Front St., 800-825-5464, www.deltaking.com) offers rooms in a 1927 paddlewheel boat moored on the Sacramento River in the midst of Old Sacramento. Doubles start at $109.
Gov. Schwarzenegger's choice when he's in town for legislative business is the Hyatt Regency (1209 L St., 888-591-1234 , www.sacramento.hyatt.com/property/index.jhtml). Since it's a business hotel, rates are lower on weekends -- I paid $129 per night on a Friday and Saturday night. Weekdays are more typically $189 and up.
A good B&B option: the Amber House (1315 22nd St., 800-755-6526, www.amberhouse.com), where breakfast is served in your room. Rates begin at about $149.
The Radisson (500 Leisure Lane, 888-201-1718, www.radisson.com) is a few miles out of town, but has spacious rooms and upscale facilities at good prices. Standard rates begin at $109, although I found Internet rates for as low as $79.