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Yuba City

Visit this Central Valley agricultural hub and you’ll discover its unique cultural legacy

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Considering its prime location in California’s agricultural heartland, it’s no surprise that Yuba City is an important center for farming in the Central Valley. Rice is a major crop on the outskirts of this Sutter County town 45 minutes north of Sacramento along Highway 99, and with nearby orchards, Yuba City is the headquarters for Sunsweet Growers, the world’s best-known brand for dried tree fruits.

But Yuba City has a unique distinction that does surprise many visitors. Drawn to the area for its farming opportunities, Sikhs from Punjab, a state and region in northern India, began arriving during the early 20th century. Now, thanks to one of the largest populations of Punjabi Sikhs outside of India, Yuba City is sometimes referred to as “Little Punjab.” The domed, blue-and-white Sikh Temple of Yuba City is a prominent local landmark and each November the community celebrates its heritage with a festival and colorful 4.5-mile parade that draws as many as 100,000 people. For an authentic taste of India, try the chicken tandoori and dal makhani (a lentil dish) at the Punjab Tandoori Grill. Or for a culinary mash-up, Dhillon’s Pizza bakes up such Punjabi-inspired variations as tandoori ranch and spinach paneer pizzas.

You’ll find the local agricultural bounty at Yuba City’s seasonal Yuba City Certified Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at a host of local businesses. South of town, Stephens Farmhouse sells homemade jams and jellies, as well as irresistible fruit pies baked from scratch. Sutter Buttes Natural and Artisan Foods gets its name from the peaks near Yuba City that have been dubbed “the world’s smallest mountain range” and is the place to go for tasty treats, including tapenades and balsamic vinegars. Sicilia Vineyards grows grapes near the base of the buttes and you can discover its warm-weather Italian varietals at the winery’s tasting room. And if you’re looking for dried fruits and nuts, stop by the Sunsweet Gift Outlet.

Still hungry? The menu at Fernando’s Cali Kitchen, in a historic downtown building with a brick interior, is as diverse as California itself thanks to such choices as tempura prawns, fish tacos, and a chipotle pasta. Of course, if you have a sweet tooth, no Yuba City visit is complete without a stop at the classic Brock’s Ice Cream Palace, which since 1966 has been the place to cool down in town—especially on a hot Central Valley night.

The Sutter County seat since 1854, Yuba City has a long history and a number of landmark buildings survive on the city’s Second Street. The Sutter County Museum traces the city’s past with exhibits that tell the area’s story from the pre-Columbian era of the Nisenan and Maidu peoples, through the Gold Rush period, to the present day with a look at the cultural contributions of its diverse contemporary communities.

To discover the more natural side of Yuba City, the Sutter Commuter Bikeway is a flat and easy 10-mile roundtrip that follows an old railroad line through farmland, with views of the Sutter Buttes and the chance to spot migrating waterfowl along the way. Speaking of waterfowl, the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge is the place to see more than 200,000 ducks and 100,000 geese during winter. The Bobelaine Audubon Sanctuary protects a surviving riparian forest along the Feather River and its five miles of trails draw hikers and birders looking to spot some of the 190 species observed here.