While San Francisco and L.A. often steal the limelight from Sacramento, I often remind myself that Sacramento has long been the center of much of California's history. The Leland Stanford Mansion is one place where that history is reflected. The mansion, located in Downtown Sacramento just blocks from the Capitol, is worth visiting not only because of its historical value but also for its beautifully restored interior and exterior. The mansion was built in the Renaissance Revival style soon after Sacramento was founded in the mid-1800s. Seeing the architectural details up close is impressive. In 1861, it was bought by Leland Stanford, Governor of California, a U.S. senator, and founder of Stanford University. One interesting fact is that after Stanford's death, his wife donated the mansion to be used for the children of California, and in 1900, it became an orphanage. After a $20-million renovation, the mansion opened for tours in 2005. It has also been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Tours are offered here Wednesday through Sunday every hour beginning at 10:00 a.m. (the last tour begins at 4:00 p.m.). The tour allows visitors to see what such a residence would have looked like in the 1860s and 1870s. You can also walk through the Victorian gardens. The tour can accommodate groups, but groups of more than 10 must make reservations two weeks in advance.