In the heart of Sacramento, California’s State Capitol embodies the best of California’s past and present. Forty acres of lawns, flower gardens and memorials to California history surround the building. Stately trees in Capitol Park, including many exotic species planted over 100 years ago, thrive in Sacramento’s climate.
The Capitol is a hub of activity— visitors might be inspired to join a rally for a favorite cause, attend a legislative session, visit lawmakers in their Capitol offices, or relax on the lawn for a shady picnic. During the holiday season, visitors might discover a festive musical concert in the first floor Rotunda. Informative exhibits on California’s 58 counties highlight the first floor of the East Annex.
The Capitol has gone through many changes. Electricity first augmented, then replaced gaslight between 1892 and 1895. In 1906 a remodeling of the area now called the West Wing created more office space. The East Annex, completed in 1952, added even more offices. When a 1972 study of the building showed it to be unsafe in the event of an earthquake, the “Old Capitol” was scheduled for renovation. By 1982 the building was restored to its original early twentieth-century elegance. Today it is a working museum. Period displays include the 1906- era Governor’s office suite; the Treasurer’s Office circa 1906 and 1933; and the 1902 office of the Secretary of State. For a special treat, visit the Rotunda, which begins on the first floor and rises 120 feet to the inner dome.
California's State Capitols
Californians wrote the first California State Constitution in Monterey in 1849, and on September 9, 1850, California became the thirty-first state. Between 1849 and 1854, four cities served as state capitals—San Jose, Vallejo, Benicia and finally, Sacramento. Construction on the new Capitol began in 1860 and concluded in 1874. However, eager lawmakers moved into the unfinished building in 1869. Today the Capitol is home to 40 Senators, 80 Assembly Members, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
During the winter of 1870,the original four square blocks of the Capitol grounds were planted with 800 trees and flowering shrubs of nearly 200 varieties from all parts of the world. Today there are more than 450 varieties represented. Capitol Park features memorials to significant events involving California:
- A Civil War Memorial Grove planted in 1897 with saplings from famous Civil War battlefields.
- A life-sized statue of Father Junípero Serra, a Roman Catholic missionary sent by Spain to help colonize California. At its base is a map of California’s 21 missions, from San Diego to Sonoma.
- The California Vietnam Veterans Memorial,with life-size bronze figures of servicemen and women, depicting military life in Vietnam and featuring engravings of names of Californians killed or missing in action.
- The California Veterans Memorial, a granite obelisk honoring California Veterans from the Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.
Legislative Sessions and Committee Meetings
Visit the restored Legislative Chambers and watch today’s lawmakers at work in surroundings that echo the past. Seated at desks built in the 1860s, representatives propose, discuss and vote on new laws, helping to create the world of tomorrow. Legislative sessions are held on Monday and Thursday from early January through late August. First come, first served gallery seating is available to the public during sessions, and committee meetings take place during every day of the business week.
Free guided school and group tours are by reservation only. Groups are limited to 35 persons. We recommend a ratio of ten students to one adult chaperone. For tour reservations, call (866) 240-4655. To receive educational materials and school group rules, visit our Web site at www.capitolmuseum.ca.gov, or call the Tour Office at (916) 324-0333.
The State Capitol Museum conducts tours daily, on the hour, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- The Tour Office (located in basement Room B-27) is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- The Museum Theater features films on the history of the Capitol from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Cafeteria-style restaurants are open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the basement and on the 6th floor. Coffee service is also available in the basement Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- A gift shop, located in the basement, in open Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: weekends, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.