Fodor's Expert Review Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
In 1856, this structure's original owner built a modest two-story row house purchased a few years later by Leland Stanford, a railroad baron, California governor, and U.S. senator who expanded it into a 19,000-square-foot mansion. The opulent space is open for touring except on days when California's governor hosts official events. Before Stanford's wife and heir, Jane, died, she donated the mansion to Sacramento's Roman Catholic diocese, whose nuns ran it first as an orphanage and later a home for teenage girls. Luckily for the restoration efforts, which began in 1986 after the state acquired the property, the nuns had stashed many original furnishings and fixtures in the attic, and the renowned photographer Eadweard Muybridge had shot images in the 1870s that made clear what rooms looked like and where things belonged. Guided tours of small groups depart hourly from 10 to 4.