Break for Modesto, California

Stop in Modesto, half way between Yosemite and San Francisco, for a much-needed break from the car and grab a bite to eat, visit a farm stand or see a show.
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A classic car show and cruise in Modesto, California. Courtesy photo

A classic car show and cruise in Modesto, California. Courtesy photo

Halfway between Yosemite and San Francisco, park your car and stretch your legs in Modesto.

You’ll find some great local restaurants like Chefs of New York for New York-style pizza and gnocchi, Skewers Kabob House for Middle Eastern cuisine, Concetta for tapas and wine, Monsoon Restaurant for incredible Indian food and Redwood Cafe for new American cuisine in a modern, romantic setting. Rib lovers should definitely dine at The Divine Swine for ribs, brisket and a fantastic whiskey and Scotch bar.

Gastropubs and Farmstands in Modesto

And then there are the gastropubs. In fact, the seventh microbrewery in the United States is here —St. Stan’s founded in 1984. Enjoy local beer and brick oven pizza here. Other great breweries where you can grab a bite to eat are Commonwealth with 24 rotating beers on tap, and Churchkey, which serves cocktails concocted with house-made mixers and fresh pressed juices.

Because Modesto is in the heart of the Central Valley where an abundance of fresh produce, fruit and almost 75 percent of the world’s almonds are grown here, it’s worth stopping at a farm stand for fresh produce and fruit. For more than 100 years, Smith Ranch peaches have had a strong following from locals and even chefs as far away as San Francisco and Napa. Other great farm stands include Rodin Ranch, which sells dried fruit, raw and flavored nuts, nut better and artisan goods, and Loretelli Farms that sells plums, pluots, white peaches, strawberries and more.

For traditional shopping, there’s the Vintage Faire Mall, which is home to Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Apple Store and more. It actually attracts double the number of people annually who visit Yosemite National Park.

See a Show at The Gallo Center for the Arts

And if you’re spending the night, check out a performance. The Gallo Center for the Arts has two theaters where you can see comedy, Broadway touring groups and Modesto Symphony Orchestra. Yes, the center is named after the city’s most famous family. The E.&J. Gallo Winery, the largest family winery in the United States, is based here.

“Modesto is warm and friendly — a place where you'll find kind people, incredible hospitality, varied lodging for every budget, and just that right mix of comfort and culture,” says Todd Aronson, CEO of Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There are so few places you can go today and enjoy a live show (be it a play, a blues band or the symphony) and enjoy local cuisine yet still be in bed by 9 or midnight, if you choose.”

Seasonally, Modesto offers some interesting sights. In November, you can actually watch the salmon spawn from one of the city’s bridges. In early spring white almond blossoms cover the trees and form gorgeous white carpets on the ground. At the end of March, the Modesto Marathon takes place— it’s a Boston and New York City marathon qualifier. With high temperatures averaging 69 degrees that month (and lows averaging 46), Modesto makes for a fantastic course.

Modesto as George Lucas' Birthplace

Want a little trivia? American filmmaker George Lucas was born in Modesto. 

Lucas based his breakout film American Graffiti on his teenage years cruising the streets of Modesto in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Take a spin back in time and cruise the streets that inspired his 1973 film on 9th and 10th Streets downtown between G and K Streets.

Afterwards, park your car and walk to the pedestrian-only stretch of 10th Street Plaza where you’ll find restaurants, an 18-plex movie theater and perhaps live music in the summer. If you have an antique fanatic with you, it’s worth strolling J Street where most of the city’s 20 antique shops are clustered. 

For more information:
Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau
(888) 640-8467
1008 12th St in downtown