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Escape to a historic Central Valley town filled with landmark buildings

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Located just 20 miles from Sacramento, Woodland lets you slow down, immerse yourself in history, and experience a classic Central Valley town. This Yolo County community grew with the arrival of the railroad in the 1860s, and the entire Downtown Woodland Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are multiple ways to connect with the past: At city hall or the Woodland Chamber of Commerce, pick up Explore Historic Woodland ($15), a booklet that features ten different walking tours with details about the wide range of architectural styles found in town. During Woodland’s annual Stroll Through History, tour beautifully preserved city landmarks, as well as a number of private residences that open their doors to visitors.

Among the city’s most notable buildings is the 1905 Mission Revival Woodland Public Library, home to an internationally acclaimed rose garden with 250 cultivars and rare 19th-century varieties. These gardens are a true haven for bees—but then again so is the whole town. In 2019, Woodland earned national recognition as a Bee City USA, thanks to such initiatives as Main Street’s pollinator-friendly landscaping and the annual California Honey Festival.

The brick 1896 Woodland Opera House, which in its heyday hosted renowned stars of stage and screen, is where to catch concerts and theater productions. Five blocks west on Main Street, the art deco State Theatre and Multiplex has been the place to go for movies in Woodland since 1936, and a major renovation brought back historic features and added new screens.

Before or after a show, you’ll find a very forward-looking culinary scene. The casual and popular House of Shah Afghan Urban Eats serves up authentic dishes from Afghanistan in a stylish contemporary setting. In the 1891 Jackson Building, Kitchen 428 and Mojo’s Lounge & Bar is known for its seasonal, farm-to-table favorites, including a delectable ribeye with a bleu cheese–jalapeño butter. Just steps from the opera house, Woodland’s landmark Dead Cat Alley may not sound like the most appetizing destination; that is, until you stop into the alley’s Blue Note Brewing Company and take your first sip of such small-batch craft beers as the unfiltered 9 Lives IPA.

You can still ride the rails to Woodland from West Sacramento on the River Fox Train, which offers a variety of experiences, including trips that spotlight regional wines and beers. As in most Central Valley communities, agriculture played a major role in Woodland’s history, and the California Agriculture Museum tells the story of Golden State farming and displays a remarkable collection of antique tractors. Forage for the local bounty at Saturday morning’s Woodland Farmers Market and at such farm stands as Pacific Star Gardens, where the family can get in on the action by picking strawberries and blackberries.

Children also love quirky Reiff’s Gas Station Museum, Woodland’s retro reliquary that celebrates car culture with vintage gas pumps and a 1956 Chevy tow truck. Just about 15 minutes from downtown, the 130-acre Cache Creek Nature Preserve has family-friendly trails that explore riparian forest and wetland habitats. And on a hot Central Valley summer afternoon, hit the water for wakeboarding and paddleboarding, then chill out along the swim beach at Velocity Island Park.

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