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.

WHERE TO EAT: The Esquire Grill (1213 K St.) is one of several Sacramento restaurants favored by the new governor. American-style food is served indoors or on an outdoor patio. Steaks with blue cheese butter were grilled to perfection. Entrees begin at $13.75 (steaks at $22.50).

Other restaurants frequented by Arnold include Lucca Restaurant and Bar (1615 J St.), specializing in California Mediterranean, with entrees beginning at $8.95; and Biba (2801 Capitol Ave.), a classy Italian restaurant operated by TV chef and cookbook author Biba Caggiano, with entrees beginning at $18.50.

An eclectic international mix of foods is offered at the Tower Cafe (1518 Broadway), the birthplace of Tower Records. Entrees begin at about $8.

THINGS TO DO:

* Try horseback riding at Gibson Ranch Park Equestrian Services, a 365-acre county park and ranch. Details: 916-991-7592, www.gibson-ranch.com

* Cruise and dine in a Victorian setting on the riverboat, Spirit of Sacramento (110 L St., 800-433-0263, www.spiritofsacramento.com).

* Hit the whitewater on rafts or kayaks with W.E.T. River Trips (888-723-8938, www.raftwet.com) in Sacramento or several outfitters just outside of town. Check the visitors bureau's Web site (see below).

* Rent a bike for guided or self-guided tours at Bike Sacramento (1050 Front St., 916-444-0200).

INFORMATION: For details on 15 museums and other activities: Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-292-2334, www.discovergold.org.

-- Cindy Loose