Less than 30 miles from Sacramento, in the heart of the agricultural land, is the town of Locke. This small community is Sacramento County’s oldest—Chinatown. In fact, it’s the oldest rural Chinatown in America.
Chinese immigrants settled in Sacramento County to find work during a time of mass migration to America. During the early 20th century, levee construction was the bulk of immigrant work in rural areas like Locke. These groups of immigrants took residence here, building their own Chinese community in the already established town of Walnut Grove. After fires spread throughout the area in 1915, the Asian community decidedly moved on and build their own town.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Displaced by the fires, a community was curated to oversee the arduous task of establishing a whole new place to live. The committee was compiled of respected Chinese businessmen—Lee Bing, Ng So Hat, Tom Wai, Chan Hing Sai, Suen Dat Suin, Chan Wai Lum, Chan Dai Kee, and Chow Hou Bun. Together, the newly formed organization negotiated with local landowner George Locke in hopes of building their new town on his property.
California’s Alien Land Law of 1913 prevented anyone who wasn’t US-born from owning land, which led the Chinese committee to negotiate with George Locke, allowing them to own any buildings constructed, but not the land itself. After reaching an agreement—one that also promised George Locke the town’s namesake—construction of Chinatown commenced.
Chinese architects and builders from the same displaced Walnut Grove community worked tirelessly to construct their town of Lockeport. Finally, in 1920, their new community was complete. By this time, surrounding farmland demanded more land labor than anything else. Lockeport, by now shortened to “Locke,” thrived due to the amount of agriculture-related jobs it supplied to its residents, the majority of them being in the surrounding asparagus fields. It was the last of the Sacramento River Chinatowns to be built.
The town eventually expanded to 14 acres of one- and two-story wooden buildings. During Prohibition, from 1920-1933, Locke’s “secret” alcohol-serving speakeasies were frequented by the local farmers and laborers; even out-of-towners, Chinese or otherwise, sought booze-y refuge in this rural Chinatown. Locke hosted as many as 1,500 people during its heyday—all going to work or to school, contributing to Locke in one way or another.
Like many other American towns in the ’30s, the Great Depression brought hardship to Locke, marking the beginning of the town’s slow decline. The end of the Prohibition meant people didn’t have to hide out in rural Chinatowns—or any other city for that matter—to get their alcohol fix. The economic crash did result in job losses for local farmers, and many merchants closed down their businesses. This pitfall eventually drove residents out of Locke and on to more lucrative possibilities in bigger towns.
Despite enduring hardships, World War II brought just enough momentary luck to local business owners to keep Locke and its community operating. More businesses began to line the streets of Locke in the 1940s, in spite of the steady decrease in population. At this point, the town operated fish markets, grocers, restaurants, hotels, brothels, and even a school and theater. In the following decade, the same law that previously prohibited Chinese immigrants from purchasing the land of Locke was ruled as unconstitutional. However, the change in land-owning regulations didn’t inspire the residents to buy the property from George Locke and his family.
For decades, Locke settled in as just another farming town in Sacramento County. The historic district was registered as a National Historic Place on August 2, 1970 by the Sacramento County Historical Society—recognized for being the only town in the United States built by Chinese settlers for its own community. Land rights remained within the Locke family until 1977, when they sold to a development company from Hong Kong. Locke’s Chinese community continued to stake ownership of the town’s buildings, just as they did with the Locke family, though the international ownership did please most residents.
Rural terrain proved challenging for the Hong Kong developers, who sought to further the town’s expansion. Much of the population dwindled in numbers, creating a melting pot that surpassed the previously exclusive Chinese. The remainder of Locke residents continued to preserve their town’s businesses, well-being, and overall culture. In 1990, Locke—now also referred to as Locke Historic District—was named a National Historic Landmark. This cemented the town and the Chinese community’s place among some of the most remarkable hubs across the country. As the U.S.’s last remaining rural town built exclusively for Chinese immigrants by Chinese immigrants, Locke’s namesake became synonymous with historic preservation.
Twelve years later, in 2002, the district was sold to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. While the land’s ownership changing hands once again may not sound substantial, the results proved quite the contrary—the Sacramento-owned agency and Locke’s residents joined forces to rebuild and preserve much of the town’s decaying homes and structures. In 2004, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency signed over Locke’s ownership to the town’s business owners, finally granting the generations of settlers in the historic town of Locke actual ownership of the land. The historic district and the surrounding Sacramento County, along with the California State Historic Preservation Office and The Locke Foundation, continue today to preserve the culture of Chinatown.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.