Completed in 1911, the Woodland Branch is a 16-mile stretch of railway that connects West Sacramento with Woodland, California. At the branch's peak, passenger trains were running eight times a day, nine times on leap-days, but it all came to an end in 1940 with the start of World War II. The tracks were still used for freight, but it would be more than 60 years before passengers began using the railway again with any frequency. When the scenic stretch of rail was absorbed by the Sierra Railroad Company in 2003, it wasn't long before it took the name Sacramento RiverTrain and began running luxury coaches complete with rattan furniture, wood paneling, and state-of-the-art sound systems. Today, passengers board these trains to savor Sunday brunch, murder-mystery dinners, and other events while train tracks softly clack in the background.
Since 1981, Sacramento State Aquatic Center has rented fun and educational water vessels to local aquaphiles looking to skitter along the surface of Lake Natoma. Choose from several options for your hour of water-top fun: enjoy the natural landscape at a leisurely pace by cruising out onto the lake in a person-powered canoe, or opt for a tandem or cabo kayak rental for a slightly more X-treme canoe-like experience. If a missed morning spinning class has your legs feeling underworked and lazy, launch onto the lake in a hydro bike and ride over the waves on the pedal-powered pond skimmer.
Donna Hunter started whitewater rafting as a hobby, but after spending 15 years as a social worker in San Diego, she was drawn back to the river as a career. With a few friends for support and a goal to start a rafting-adventure company, she went to night school and honed her business skills. Today, with some of her staff boasting more than 20 years experience leading tours, Donna orchestrates trips down various forks of the American, Merced, Kings, and Tuolumne Rivers to pit participants against rapids as high as Class V. Certified guides lead these tours in Hyside self-bailing rafts and inflatable kayaks, with some rafts holding up to eight people.
Wilderness guides also connect their guests with civilization, often combining rafting excursions with wine tastings and trips to local vineyards. On these overnight trips and other multi-day rafting excursions such as family gold-panning trips, they build relationships with their guests, garnering a clear idea of their paddling skills and the amount of time they've spent practicing in their washing machine.
The company’s camp boasts tent cabins—with names like Eagle's Nest and Falcon's Nest—which populate riverside clearings between picnic tables, swimming holes, and volleyball courts. A camp shop prepares guests with river gear, and hot-water showers let them wash off river water. When not seeking action on the river, staffers organize camp entertainment, such as live music, games, and visits from a local gold panner who demonstrates his craft.
Andy Siebert floated in the water, weightless—almost as if in outer space—and watched as all 40 feet of a Galapagos Island whale shark drifted past him. It’s moments like that one that Andy lives for, having devoted his life to scuba diving. He took his first dive as a teenager, but didn’t take the sport seriously until he turned 42, at which point he began his journey to log more than 3,000 dives.
Now, as owner of Scuba World, Andy works to help others discover their love of the underwater sport. One part retail shop and one part scuba-diving school, the PADI five-star IDC dive center is chock-full of gear for purchase and rental, as well as expert instructors who teach classes for divers of all levels, including instructor-level classes. Their classes range from beginner discovery sessions to open-water-certification courses to rescue-diver classes for the more advanced diver who is worried about all those fish in the ocean who need help getting out. Andy’s wife and partner, Lynn Siebert, plans trips that take divers to waters all over the world, including the nearby Monterey Bay and more far-flung expeditions in Micronesia.
Goalgetters' seasoned, kid-minded coaches lead tots 3–9 in age-specific clinics, introducing them to the worldwide phenomenon of soccer and instilling life lessons such as sharing, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Classes, comprising 8–12 students, allow younger groups to get a feel for the most basic of skills and older pupils to run, kick, and electric boogaloo to the more advanced stylings of European and Brazilian small-sided soccer. In addition to imparting the fundamental concepts, the coaches ensure pint-size Beckhams receive a high percentage of contact with the polygonal orb as they buzz about the 3,200-square-foot indoor facility that offers protection from ball-snatching pterodactyls.
Wake Island has decided to do away with the most cumbersome part of waterskiing and wakeboarding: the boat. Instead of a speeding vessel hooked to a towline, the park has a five-tower cable system on a 9-acre lake. Boarders hold on to a rope that's connected to the motorized cable, which pulls them across the water at the ideal speed for thrilling straightaways and tricks. Though the cable mimics the feeling of being behind a boat, it has advantages of its own. For example, its 37-foot height provides more lift, leading to impressive airtime for tricks such as switching your board out for a shocked swan. Another advantage: multiple riders can use the cable at the same time.
In addition to its main cable course, Wake Island has a two tower cable system ideal for lessons and private parties. A cable pass includes all of the rental gear necessary to skim over the lake, from a life vest to the board itself. Advanced boarders can even slide and flip on obstacles from Rad Rails, however, they need to either provide their own board or rent a pro model board from Wake Island.
The park specializes in cable wakeboarding, but has several other attractions within its 80-acre expanse. There's a large lake for traditional, boat-driven waterskiing, available to members, as well as a smaller lagoon for paddle boarding and having quiet dates with your reflection. Observation decks line these areas for those who'd rather spectate or browse the internet on free WiFi.