Davis Labor Day Trip

Over Labor Day weekend, Jie and I had the pleasure of heading up to Davis with our friend Alan and his buddy John, two Davis natives, who were able to give us the inside scoop on this college town less than two hours from San Francisco.

The trip began auspiciously with a stopover in Fairfield to visit the Jelly Belly Factory. For a jelly bean lover like me, this free factory tour is worth it for all of the free samples that we had at the end. Yes, I overdid it, but when else will I get the chance to sample such diverse flavors as tabasco, draft beer and vomit (yes, they have a line of Harry-Potter inspired disgusting flavors that actually taste disgusting)?

The tour itself was schmaltzy, and the tributes across the factory to Ronald Reagan were a bit puzzling, but this was a cool off-beat tourist activity. If you have kids I would definitely recommend it.

Jelly Belly headquarters

Jelly Belly headquarters

 

look at the those hats, required for our Jelly Belly tour!

look at the those hats, required for our Jelly Belly tour!

yes, these are actual Jelly Belly flavors...I can confirm that vomit actually tastes like vomit

yes, these are actual Jelly Belly flavors…I can confirm that vomit actually tastes like vomit

Jie and I quickly dropped off our stuff at our Airbnb in Davis before heading to Sacramento for a taste of its culture, both old and new. Tourist attractions in California’s state capital are surprisingly sparse and we hit the main highlights with the State Capitol and Old Sacramento, a small section along the river that houses shops and museums styled in 19th Century style. It has a Wild West feel to it and, while kitschy, where else can you find something similar in a large US downtown?

CA State Capitol Building

Old Sacramento

Old Sacramento

All that walking through Old Sacramento made us hungry so we headed to a chic restaurant downtown that came highly recommended from my former colleague Dan called Blackbird Kitchen. For a city with a somewhat sleepy reputation, this place would have right in in San Francisco or New York. It had an expansive beer and wine menu with small plates that were very tasty (I especially liked their fish tacos and risotto burger). Ironically, at the end of the meal, we ran into Dan, who was having dinner there with his friends.

After dinner, we headed to K Street, which from appearances seems to be the main social strip in Sacramento. At Dan’s suggestion, we headed to Dive Bar, whose claim to fame is a live mermaid swimming in a gigantic fish tank hanging overhead above the bar. We didn’t spend much time on K Street as we had plans to meet up with Alan and John, but my impressions weren’t great. The city seems very empty at night and the small concentration of bars and clubs gives it an eery feeling.

Mermaid at Dive Bar

Mermaid at Dive Bar

After returning from Sacramento, we spent the rest of our trip in Davis under the generous guidance of Alan and John. They showed us all of their old stomping grounds, including their high school, John’s alma mater UC Davis, downtown Davis and of course favorite food spots Redrum Burger (formerly Murder Burger) and Fuji Sushi.

I found Davis to be a very cool and tranquil mid-sized town. The downtown is big enough and has enough things to do to make you feel like your in a city yet there is a sense of safety there that is comforting. Going out to eat or drink is much cheaper than San Francisco, which I think is a nice byproduct of living in a college town.

Jie digging into her burger

Jie digging into her burger

UC Davis Egghead

UC Davis Egghead

It struck me as a great place to grow up, especially considering its weather and the surrounding green space. In fact, Alan’s parents house is adjacent to a greenbelt which runs for miles. With house prices far cheaper than the Bay Area yet only about 75 minutes away, it’s a pretty good option for someone who wants to raise their family in more comfort than the Bay Area allows.

Our trip, lasting for slightly longer than a day, was definitely too short. I would love to come, probably in the fall or spring, to catch a Kings basketball game, explore more of Sacramento and return to UC Davis when school is in session. I also wouldn’t mind checking out some of the local wineries. And if I have a sweet tooth I will be sure to start my trip again at the Jelly Belly Factory.

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