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When it was built in 1877, the GOVERNOR'S MANSION at H and 16th streets was considered the grandest house in all of Sacramento. Originally a private residence, it was home to 13 governors from 1903 until 1967, when Nancy Reagan declared it a firetrap and moved her family out. Last year, the historic 12,000-square-foot mansion (which is open for tours) landed on California's State Parks closure list, a victim of the state's budget woes. But happy days are here again for the stately Italianate Victorian. Thanks to a $75,000 gift from Raley's and $25,000 from Sacramento's Church of Scientology, the manse was taken off the closure list in June. Sometime later this year or early next, the Historic Governor's Mansion Foundation will unveil the longawaited restoration of the third floor's ballroom, billiard room and ladies' sitting room. During the update, walls have been repaired and repainted, murals restored and carpets replaced with historically accurate reproductions. And the mansion's transformation is not just an inside job: The all-volunteer Mansion Gardeners are restoring the gardens back to their glory days.
BEST WAY TO GET YOUR FILL OF CRAB
Every weekend from January through March, hundreds of people indulge in the peculiarly Sacramento ritual known as the CRAB FEED. A popular fundraiser for schools, churches and nonprofits, the crab feed follows a formula that rarely deviates. People pay $35 or $40 a head to sit at long tables in a hall or gymnasium and eat course after course of classic Italian American fare: soup, salad, antipasto, spaghetti, garlic bread and, of course, big bowls of fresh Dungeness crab. Crab feeds are all-you-can-eat affairs, which is a large part of their allure. Die-hard crab feeders are easy to recognize. They're the ones who come armed with their own crab cracking utensils and butter warmers. Put your bib on: The 2013 crab feed lineup includes Junior League of Sacramento (Feb. 2), Sacramento State Athletics Hornet Club (Feb. 9) and Firefighters Burn Institute (March 2).
BEST NEW PARK
At first glance, it looks like your average city park: benches, a picnic area, some exercise equipment. When you get closer, you realize that ELK GROVE RAIN GARDEN, just across from Colton Park on Laguna Springs Drive, is smarter than your average park. Designed by Cosumnes Community Services District in partnership with the city of Elk Grove, the rain garden was conceived as a way to educate the public about low-impact development practices, according to engineering services manager Darren Wilson. "We realized we had a great opportunity to make something beautiful as well as educational," says Wilson. The garden includes several features that make the most of rainwater: Concrete and granite pathways absorb rainfall, a dry well helps groundwater recharge, and rain chains trickle down openly for optimal water absorption. Native plants and trees plus educational signage also are prominent.
BEST ALTERNATIVE TO SECOND SATURDAY
Sure, you've heard of Sacramento's Second Saturday art walk. But did you know Davis holds an art walk, too? Coordinated by the Davis Downtown Business Association, 2ND FRIDAY ARTABOUT is more low-key and familyfriendly than the midtown version. A couple dozen galleries, stores, spas and restaurants serve up music, art and free refreshments from 5 to 9 p.m. on the second Friday of every month. For a downloadable guide and map, go to davisdowntown.com.