Nestled in the Sacramento Valley in California, Davis is a charming city which is known for its astounding natural beauty, diverse wildlife, University of California Davis campus, remarkable museums, impressive art galleries, vibrant festivals, amazing farmer’s market, and numerous scenic parks. It is the ideal destination to plan your next vacation without burning a hole in your pocket. It offers countless fun things to do and incredible places to explore which are majorly free for everyone.

Also known to be a ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’, you can explore this picturesque city and enjoy spectacular views by riding a bike on the trails that meander through the numerous greenbelts and parks. Whether you are traveling solo or with your loved ones, Davis is the perfect place to book your holiday and escape the mundane and monotonous life. Here’s a list of the best things to do while vacationing in Davis:

Appreciate nature’s beauty at UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery

UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery
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Located on the banks of Putah Creek, this 100-acre arboretum dates back to 1936 and is  affiliated to the University of California Davis Campus. It is renowned for its picturesque manicured gardens that feature brilliantly coloured flowers, over 22,000 diverse plants and trees, and the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. The arboretum encompasses 17 gardens that used by the students and staff of the university for research purposes. Hike on the miles of pathways and explore the gardens. You can fish, swim, and boat in the tranquil waters of the Putah Creek. The site is also home to a large number of diverse wildlife including fish, amphibians, butterflies, reptiles, birds, ants, and more.

You can view goose, swans, ducks, turtles, frogs, salamanders, mallards, teals, herons, larks, kingfisher, snakes, lizards, bats, sparrows, peafowls, turkey, woodpeckers, humming birds, coyotes, squirrels, jackrabbits, hawks, and plenty more. The plants and trees here include oaks, pines, conifers, cypresses, vines, cacti, eucalyptus, gooseberries, and several others. Additionally, it features ancient wagon trails, a 19th century reservoir, and picnic areas. Enjoy a lovely picnic against the spectacular backdrops.  This arboretum is  a must-visit in Davis. It is open 24 hours, every day through all four seasons and admission is absolutely FREE.

Explore cycling history at U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame

This renowned museum aims to highlight the history of American cycling and displays a multitude of historical artifacts, such as medals, champion sashes, photographs, numerous historic bicycles, posters, and more dating back to the 19th century and beyond. Established in 1986, it was formerly located in New Jersey. In 2009, it moved to Davis which is known to be a bicycle friendly community.

The organisation’s objective is to promote the sport of cycling and encourage participation by future generations. U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame has inducted many renowned cyclists who have made significant contributions to the sport, including Frank Kramer, Greg LeMond, Juliana Furtado, and several others. Tour the museum and learn about the history of this sport. It is open on Wednesdays from 4pm to 8pm and on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm. Admission fee ranges from USD 3 to USD 5. Children below the age of 6 can enter for free.

Shop fresh and organic at Davis Farmer’s Market

Davis Farmer’s Market
"Davis Farmers Market" (CC BY 2.0) by eekim

Being one of the top tourist attractions of Davis, thousands of people flock to this market every week. Located in Central Park, it offers fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, bakery goods, poultry items, plants, cheese, eggs, honey, olive oil, juices, seafood, desserts, and plenty more. All products are sourced from local farmers and producers.

Don’t forget to try out the mouth-watering tamales at this market. Additionally, it features live musical performances by regional artists and bands. It is open on Saturdays from 8 am to 1 pm throughout the year. During winter months, the market is also organised on Wednesday evenings from 2 pm to 6 pm in addition to the Saturday regular market. The mid-week winter market features delicious beer and wine and is a popular spot for enjoying a lovely picnic and grooving to music.

Appreciate art at Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
AlessandraRC / Shutterstock.com

Established in 2016, this renowned museum is a contemporary visual arts gallery affiliated to the University of California Davis campus. Its permanent collection features outstanding artistic works by various highly successful artists associated with the university, including Wayne Thiebaud, Roland Peterson, Roy De Forest, and several others. The museum is also highly appreciated for its remarkable architecture featuring a ‘Grand Canopy’ made of aluminium beams. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays and admission is absolutely free for all. Visit this museum to appreciate the thought-provoking and inspiring art.

Watch bees and explore colourful gardens at Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven

This picturesque bee garden features a broad array of plants, flowers, and bee species. It is an outdoor museum that aims to conserve bees by growing plants that support them. The haven is a gift to UC Davis from the ice-cream company Häagen-Dazs. You can observe the bees and learn interesting and lesser-known facts about them at this garden.

Hike on the pathway and feast your eyes to gorgeous views of outrageously coloured flowers that are spread throughout the site. The various plants and trees growing here include, sunflower, strawberry, apple, plum, peach, pomegranate, licorice mint, cornflower, maiden pink, chocolate cosmos, wallflower, California fuchsia, Douglas iris, beeplant, hummingbird sage, and plenty more. Explore the enchanting gardens and watch the bees. It is open every day of the year from dawn to dusk and admission is FREE.

Watch a movie at Varsity Theatre

Varsity Theatre
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This popular theatre dates back to 1950 and forms a significant part of the local culture of Davis. It has two screens that present a broad array of independent and foreign films. It is also known for its beautiful 20th century streamline moderne architecture. Get tickets to a show at this theatre and have an amazing time.

Get close to majestic birds at California Raptor Centre

The aim of this facility is to take good care of injured and abandoned raptors. They take in around 350 such birds annually and treat them at their rehabilitation centre. Approximately 60% of these raptors are released back into the wild after they recover.

The remaining birds that couldn’t be set free owing to permanent injuries or disabilities reside at the centre and are looked after by the staff. You can view these birds and learn interesting facts about them at the museum. This place also provides hands-on training in taking care and treating injured birds to the public. Take a tour of the raptor centre and watch rescued owls, eagles, hawks, kestrels being treated. Located in UC Davis campus, it is affiliated to its School of Veterinary Medicine.  It is open to public from Monday to Saturday and admission to the site is absolutely FREE.

Spend a fun-filled day at Explorit Science Center

This is an amazing place to visit if you’re travelling with kids. It features a broad array of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits that help children learn important foundational skills and encourage curiosity among them. Kids can learn about the human body, planets, stars, animals, geography, and plenty more while solving quizzes and challenges and performing fun experiments.

The motive of this organisation is to make learning fun and more interesting while helping the kids develop skills such as critical thinking, decision making, observation, and more. Admission fee is USD 5 per person. Children below the age of 2 can enter for free. Learn about science, have fun, and spend quality time with your loved ones here.

Wildlife viewing at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
Quyen Tat / Shutterstock.com

Encompassing over 16,000 acres, this site is home to a multitude of diverse birds, snakes, turtles, frogs, grasshoppers, invertebrates, and plenty more. It features wetlands that are ideal for wildlife viewing, birding, and nature exploration. You can find mallards, jackrabbits, desert cottontails, marsh wrens, egrets, muskrats, American coots, hawks, meadowlarks, white-faced ibis, coyotes, beavers, yellow-billed magpie, river otters, herons, and several others.

Explore the riparian forests and enchanting ponds, enjoy watching the birds and wildlife, and appreciate nature’s heavenly beauty. This also happens to be a great place to watch the sunset.  It is open to public throughout the year from dawn to dusk. Admission is FREE for all.

Groove to the beats on Make Music Day

This vibrant annual festival takes place on 21st June at UC Davis Wyatt Deck and is a recent tradition of this city that began in the year 2017. The Make Music Day festival is celebrated internationally across 120 countries. It is open to everyone and admission is free. It features musical performances by anyone who is willing to participate.

There is no age bar and one need not be a professional musician or artist. The festival aims to celebrate music from all over the world and includes piano, drums, singing, orchestra, violin, and plenty more performances.  It starts at 8 am and continues till 7 pm in the evening. In addition to the celebrations at the university campus, several free events take place at various street corners and plazas of Davis. Be a part of the festivities and experience the amazing local culture.

Wine tour at Great Bear Vineyards

This award-winning winery dates back to 1860 and is renowned for its fine quality, delicious wines. Tour the picturesque vineyard and taste their exquisite wines. Enjoy the surreal views of the captivating sunset from the vineyard while relaxing and sipping on your drink.

You can spot owls, coyotes, jackrabbits, squirrels, and more at this animal friendly site. Colourful and pretty wildflowers are spread throughout the place. The vineyard is also very popular for picnics, photoshoots and lavender picking. A variety of entertaining events are organised here throughout the year, including musical performances, Halloween parties, birthday parties, and more.

Located in downtown Davis, this gallery highlights artistic works by regional and local talent. Established in 1975, it consists of three gallery spaces and presents 12 exhibitions annually. It also offers various educational programs catering to all age groups and hosts numerous workshops throughout the year. It is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 11.30 am to 5 pm. Attend the free receptions that are organised on second Fridays of every month from 6-9 pm and enjoy delicious wine and food while exploring outstanding works of art.

Check out diverse and exotic insects at Bohart Museum of Entomology

Affiliated to the UC Davis campus, this museum dates back to 1946. Its aim is to educate its patrons about diverse insects and facilitate research in the field of entomology. Its collection  of over 7 million insect specimens attracts 12,000 patrons every year and numerous researchers. You can also get close to and hold some of the live insects at this place.

The museum’s collection is one of the largest in North America and features specimens from all over the world.  Tour the museum, check out the fascinating exhibits, and learn interesting facts about various insects. It is open from Mondays to Thursdays from 9 am to 12 pm and 1pm to 5pm. Admission is absolutely FREE.

Build bikes at Davis Bike Collective

Bike Forth is a DIY shop that lets you build or repair bikes under the guidance of their trained volunteers. All required parts, tools, and equipment are provided to you by them. Bring along your friends, share tools, and enjoy this unique experience of building bikes together. They aim to educate patrons about the various tools and help them develop the skills required to fix or build bikes. It is an amazing group activity and learning experience which is fun for all age groups.

Hiking in Davis Greenbelt

Davis has over 10 interconnected greenbelts spread throughout the city that feature verdant hiking trails, dense foliage, street art and sculptures, sprawling greenery, picnic areas, bike bridges and tunnels, sports fields, and plenty more. It encompasses Covell greenbelt, Rose Creek greenbelt, Mace Ranch greenbelt, Aspen greenbelt, Wildhorse greenbelt, Willowcreek greenbelt, and several others. Enjoy an invigorating hike here or explore the greenery on a bike. Bring along a lovely picnic to enjoy while appreciating nature. It is also a great place for a refreshing morning workout or walking your pet.

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