Ok, so maybe sc2k isn't the best version of SimCity. Perhaps the third and fourth iterations have improved over this one in different ways, but guess what- I barely played those where as I spent the entire nineties playing 2000. Through the nineties, "sandbox gameplay" was associated with SimCity 2000 the way it's been associated with the Grand Theft Auto series and its clones in recent times.
The game is a city building simulator, the only one really. The object of the game, if you can call it that, is to attract people to your city while keeping citizens happy and the budget balanced. The fact of the matter is that the object of the game is to play around and do whatever you want. It's actually quite revolutionary for a videogame- at least it was when the first one came out. Think about it, how many non-Will Wright created games can you think of that don't have any goals. It becomes like a bunch of army men or a doll house. There's a general theme and from there you make your own fun.
Another great thing about 2000 is its one of (if not the) first games to come out with a development kit of sorts. The SimCity Urban Renewal Kit allowed you to create your own buildings and alter the way your cities looked as a result. It was rudimentary and hard to edit, but it still opened my mind to the possibilities of game design and creation.
SimCity 2000 is possibly the most influential game of my childhood.