The agricultural city Modesto in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley has many things to do and places you can visit. The region’s farmlands and orchards add flavor to the city. A classic car culture is also present. Sunny weather in the area provides a forecast for everything the city has.
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Modesto was the birthplace for George Lucas, a world-famous director who inspired his 1973 film American Graffiti. These legacy are celebrated by the Graffiti summer cultural celebration. It features vintage cars, live music, and other events throughout June. However, the festival’s cultural spirit is evident throughout the year.
Modesto’s downtown has been transformed by revitalization efforts in the past decade into a hub of activity. This central area of the city has both historic flair and modern storefronts. There is also more than one colorful mural.
The Gallo Center for the Arts and the pedestrian-only Tenth St Plaza are two modern downtown attractions. These include shopping, restaurants and an 18-screen movie theatre. There are many local shopping and dining options available in the area. Additionally, there are several galleries that showcase regional and local art. You can also find art on the streets, with tasteful murals decorating many downtown buildings.
You can also catch major city events such as the Modesto Certified Farmer’s Market. Many of the activities that go with the Summer Graffiti culture celebration are also found in downtown. The downtown area also hosts the Mural Festival and First Friday celebrations. There is also a Downtown Extravaganza with a high-decorated holiday. Mural in Downtown Modesto | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
You can find more Modesto history at downtown locations like the McHenry House or The State Theatre. Downtown Modesto, buzzing with activity long after sunset, is the best place to find night activities in Modesto.
Official site: https://www.domopartnership.org/
Gallo Center for the Arts
Since 2007, the Gallo Center of the Arts has been Modesto’s premier performing space. It features local, regional and touring talent from all over the country. It’s a central feature of downtown with many restaurants near it for dinner or a show.
Two performance venues are located in the center, including the 1,248-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater. This state-of the-art theater hosts a variety of performances including Broadway blockbusters and nationally touring speaker series.
The Gallo Center for Arts offers a variety of productions, as well as educational opportunities. This includes a K-12 Performance Series.
Address: 1000 I Street Modesto, California
Official site: https://www.galloarts.org/
Graffiti Summer, a month-long celebration of classic cars in the Central Valley, is called Graffiti Summer. The month of June is taken over by vintage cars, live performances, and festival activities in Modesto.
This event pays tribute to George Lucas, the hometown director. His breakthrough movie American Graffiti was inspired by his youth in Modesto in early 1960s. This classic Modesto-based film will be shown at The State Theatre downtown Modesto during Graffiti Summer.
Graffiti Summer’s main attraction is the Graffiti Summer Fest. It includes the annual Graffiti Vintage Car Parade. The parade features pre-1979 cars cruising through Modesto, as well as the Modesto Historic Cruise Route. The family-friendly parade features food vendors, live entertainment, and a car show contest. Each year, it attracts tens to thousands of visitors.
Official site: https://www.modestogov.com/1350/Graffiti-Summer
The State Theatre
The State Theatre in Modesto is a wonderful place to see a show. It has been lighting up the streets with a large marquee for more than 80 years. The 550-plus seat auditorium provides a great setting to enjoy a live performance or movie. The historic atmosphere that radiates throughout the theater is part of the enjoyment of any show.
The State Theatre screens a variety of movies, including indie films and classics. Many of these films are not available in traditional cinemas. There are also speaker series, comedians and touring musicians on the stage.
Official site: https://thestate.org/
Graceada Park, Modesto’s oldest park, is located in the heart of downtown. It was created by the same architect who designed Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. This historic space attracts people with its playgrounds, tennis courts and splash pad.
The Mancini Bowl is available for rent and can be used to host special performances or movie nights. It is located just outside downtown, near the McHenry Mansion, Museum and offers a pleasant tag-along experience after visiting the mansion.
Modesto also has other parks that are family-friendly, such as the Enslen Park. This park is home to additional playground equipment, softball and baseball diamonds, and a Boy Scout Club house.
Davis Community Park, located north of downtown, is another popular green area, featuring picnic areas, tennis courts and horseshoe pits.
Tuolumne River Regional Park
This tranquil regional park covers 500 acres with five distinct park areas. It is located on the south bank of the Tuolumne River and spans seven miles. This is a great place to get out of the city with plenty of trails and open space. It takes less than 10 minutes to reach this area from downtown.
Legion is one of the most popular spots in the park. Both parks offer picnic areas as well as recreational opportunities like fishing and playgrounds. To the east, Ceres River Bluff Regional Park offers similar outdoor attractions. It is connected to the Tuolumne River by a paved bike trail.
The Modesto Arch is the city’s symbol and welcome sign. Since over 100 years, it has welcomed residents and guests to Modesto. The illuminated sign on the building displays Modesto’s slogan, “Water, Wealth Contentment, Health.”
The arch is located at the intersection of the Gallo Center for the Arts. The sign is sure to catch your attention if you spend a lot of time downtown. The arch is not only a great sight to drive by, but it’s also a beautiful historical landmark that you can photograph from street corners.
Yosemite National Park
Two hours from Modesto are the iconic Yosemite National Park granite mountains and tumbling falls. These inspiring lands draw adventure seekers from all over the globe, and Bakersfield residents as well as visitors flock to Yosemite during the summer months.
Yosemite is a great alternative to the heat of Central California’s summer heat. It boasts higher elevations and alpine lakes. Most people make a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park from Modesto. Many of the most popular campgrounds in Yosemite National Park have ample space for RVs and tents. Reservations are highly recommended during summer.
Fishing, rock climbing and day hiking are some of the most popular activities in Yosemite. Yosemite Falls and the Mist Trail are just a few of the top hiking trails in Yosemite National Park . The most popular hike in the park is the Half Dome. Visitors must have a permit for the cable-lined route. Yosemite National Park is also home to the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail.
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
Jacob Meyer Park
Jacob Meyer is a large park located on the Stanislaus River bank, north of Bakersfield. It’s also near Riverbank. The 10-mile drive to this outdoor space is well worth it, as there are many park facilities that offer entertainment for a whole day.
At the entrance to the park is the Rotary Picnic Area. Here, families can enjoy a picnic table and a playground throughout the week. The picnic area and play area extend into an open green space along the riverbank that is dotted with large shade trees. This is Jacob Meyer Park’s front half, marked by railroad tracks that span a bridge over the river.
Jacob Meyer’s back half consists of a paved, long-distance walking loop that circles various amenities such as a dog park or private picnic area. This area is great for stretching your legs and is popular for dog-walking.
Great Valley Museum
The museum is located on Modesto Junior College’s west campus. Interactive displays, preserved artifacts and a collection with two dozen live animals are some of the highlights. The Great Valley Museum is adjacent to the facility. It also has a Planetarium that hosts regularly scheduled celestial screenings.
The museum’s permanent exhibit on Native Californians is very popular. The exhibit features artifacts and information from the Native Californian cultures. Popular is the Science on a Sphere display, which features a floating globe that displays real-time weather data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Associations (NOAA).
The Great Valley Museum also offers other events, such as Science Saturday celebrations and summer camps. There are also programs for children, such as a Storytime series. Docent-led and group tours are also available. These include a live animal show in the Discovery Room.
Address: 2201 Blue Gum Avenue, Modesto, California
Official site: https://www.mjc.edu/instruction/sme/gvm/
East La Loma Park & Dry Creek Trail
These two beautiful parks can be found east of downtown on Scenic Drive. These two parks are connected by the Dry Creek Trail, a popular walking and cycling route. These parks also host Modesto’s most renowned frisbee course and other park amenities.
East La Loma Park has picnic tables, playground equipment and tennis and basketball courts. The area is popular among families, and there are plenty of parking spaces to accommodate them. The Dry Creek Trail runs west through Thousand Oaks Park.
The Dry Creek Trail is a pleasant path that you can follow through an oak grove. This is where disc golfers can play the 18-hole, flat course. There are also other pedestrians along the route. Thousand Oaks Park is located at the end of the bike path. It has some picnic tables, but no other amenities.
Sno-White Drive In
You can still enjoy Modesto’s classic car culture by visiting one of the few remaining drive-in burger places from that era. Bakersfield has a lot of fast food options today, but there are still some local places to enjoy the Americana and old-fashioned burger shops.
Sno-White Drive In is the best place to go for a local meal. Since 1952, this burger joint has been serving made-to-order food. Counter service is available with a variety of sandwich and side choices. You can also choose from indoor or outdoor seating.
Scenic Drive In, which is also on Scenic Drive, is another worth stopping at. The burger is a knockout, with avocado and jalapenos. For sweet tooth desires, there is a large milkshake menu and a malt menu.