Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Modesto, CA

  • Published 2022/08/06

The city of Modesto, tucked in the Central Valley of California and situated on the Tuolumne River, is a fantastic tourist destination with a vibrant culture to experience.

From one-of-a-kind live music and theater to exuberant car parades and murals, this “modest” yet energetic city should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Modesto has something for everyone: it is a car connoisseur’s paradise, a wine cognoscente’s dream, a bohemian’s sanctuary, an artist’s abode, and so much more.

You’ll never have a dull moment when visiting this city so full of life!

This all sounds exciting and too good to miss, right?

So, here’s a list of the best thing to do in Modesto, California:

Enjoy the Beauty of Modesto’s Public Murals

Modesto has an abundance of beautiful and Instagram-worthy murals.

Murals can be found everywhere in the city, from downtown alleyways to West Modesto walking trails.

Tour the murals celebrating the region’s agricultural heritage and American Graffiti car culture downtown, or see the unique mix of modern masters who participate in the annual DoMo Walls.

Follow the mural route down side streets, behind shops, and even on public pathways all across the city.

Modesto’s murals are a sight to behold and are guaranteed to level up your photography game.

Groove to the City’s Live Music Shows

In Modesto, live music is a frequent occurrence.

With a prospering music scene, Modesto has live music performances nearly every single night of the week.

Music styles ranging from Latin urban to blues and rock to reggaeton can be found around the city, mirroring its diverse population.

From Music in the Plaza on Fridays from May to September to Rockin’ Holidays in December, downtown’s 10th Street Plaza hosts free concerts.

During the early summer, the nation’s longest-running community orchestra performs weekly outdoor free concerts in Graceada Park.

Add a Dramatic Touch to Your Trip with Live Theater

Exterior of Gallo Center for the Arts

OsotedeMonte, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Modesto has even got the options to satiate your inner bard.

You have great options to choose from, whether it’s a Broadway touring show at the Gallo Center for the Arts, SLaM on RyE (a poetry slam competition), or a Tony Award winner at Prospect Theater Project.

Visit The State Theatre of Modesto, which dates back to the 1920s, to watch independent and foreign films as it specializes in them.

An evening date at the theater and witnessing world-class acting seems too good an experience to miss!

Explore Fine Arts in Modesto’s Art Galleries

The modest city also has a lot in store for the Picasso fans and art enthusiasts out there.

Unravel the beauty of the Mistlin Gallery, which features new exhibits on a monthly basis.

You can also check out the Third Thursday Art Walk, which occurs every month of the year and allows you to wine, dine, and tour Downtown Modesto’s eclectic art galleries.

At many of the city’s studios, there are art classes for couples, kids, or groups of friends, where you can also enjoy a cocktail or two.

Watch Modesto Come Alive through Its Many Festivities

When it comes to celebration, Modesto is ever-ready to come together and have a fete.

Celebrate Modesto Porchfest, where dozens of households host local musicians on their porches—all on the same day.

Visit them block by block, street by street, and enjoy all kinds of music.

Alternatively, you might prefer to participate in Modesto’s Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day Lucky Fest events.

Or perhaps you’d be more interested in the autumn Dia de los Muertos celebration in the streets of downtown.

There’s also SantaCon, PatioFest, Picnic at the Pops (every September on the grounds of E&J Gallo), and Modesto Unplugged—a weekend of live music events and much more!

Embark on the Modesto Almond Blossom Cruise

Imagine thousands upon thousands of pink and white blooms stretched over the hills to as far as the eyes can see.

Think of hundreds of thousands of hectares of tiny white orchards.

Every year from mid-February to the middle of March, you will get that when you visit Modesto and take the Almond Blossom Cruise.

You won’t be able to drive for five minutes without seeing an almond orchard near Modesto because over 75 percent of the world’s almonds are harvested in California’s Central Valley.

The Modesto Almond Blossom Cruise is located in the heart of the almond country and leads on routes along rivers, hills, and rural landscapes.

This is all just minutes from Downtown Modesto.

Make sure to stop and pick up a milkshake or an almond brittle.

Take photographs wherever possible, and see West Modesto and the oldest Walnut Tree in California.

Pick up nuts to bring home, take a tour of the Cheese Factory of Oakdale, or relax in one of the many brewpubs or restaurants in Modesto.

Drive through California’s Heart

Modesto is known for its robust car culture.

Imagine 1,400 cars stretching over the main track for a mile along the streets of Modesto’s downtown area.

This has been how the festivities have started on Friday nights in June for more than 20 years.

Every year, the Classic Car Parade witnesses over 10,000 spectators lining Modesto McHenry Ave and J Street, followed by music downtown that brings everyone back to enjoy sock hops, varsity jackets, and root beer floats.

The weekend goes on with the Graffiti Show, with more than 1,000 classic cars on display, beer gardens, games for kids of all age groups, live music, and a craft fair.

The festivities continue for the whole month of June, with classic car shows almost every night, all across from Vintage Faire Mall to McHenry Village and all other places in between.

June is not the only month when car shows and parades are held.

The whole city is all geared up throughout the year, with at least two car shows each month.

Go Nuts over Modesto’s Extensive Culinary Scene

Fresh strawberries sold at roadside

Danita Delimont /

Did you know the Modesto region is the third-largest food distribution area in the United States?

This means there is no shortage of fresh and delicious food in this city.

Most of the restaurants in Modesto are operated by the locals, hence the importance of using farm-fresh ingredients in their dishes.

The region’s cultural diversity only gives it plus points and adds to its chances of having almost every type of cuisine in the world.

There is always something for everyone—from Mexican to Indian, BBQ to Spanish tapas, and Thai to Korean, Modesto has it all.

The cheese here is locally produced and equally tasty, as they are made with utmost care and hygiene.

As the city is just outside the Bay Area, Modesto’s seafood is guaranteed to be fresh.

So, don’t miss the chance to munch on grilled salmon, oysters, and sushi if you find them on the menu.

The veggies and herbs are also a hundred percent fresh and healthy, as they are also locally produced.

Don’t even think about missing the chance to bring home everything from smoked almonds to fiery jalapeno almonds!

There are major chances that you will find absolutely delectable almond dishes in almost all the restaurants.

Treat Yourself to a Night of Cheese and Wine at E. & J. Gallo Winery

If you are above 21, then add some excitement to your trip with a dash of wine.

E. & J. Gallo Winery is the world’s largest wine and spirit company and has its headquarters in Modesto.

This means that the wine bars in the city are some of the best in the world, and the chance to visit at least one of them is too good to miss.

Give your wine tasting a twist with marvelous farm-produced cheese.

Modesto also has gastropubs and brewpubs with excellent food and live entertainment.

The city also boasts out-of-this-world cocktail lounges, where you can try fantastic whiskey selections and craft cocktails.

Get Active with Sports and Recreational Activities

Modesto has a host of activities to keep the fitness freaks busy.

You can sail, jet ski, sunbathe, or rage on a wave runner with several reservoirs and lakes in the area.

Two private tennis clubs and 20 public courts are also available.

You can run or cycle on trails, country roads, metric centuries, and more.

A marathon and cycling event also takes place here.

Moreover, Modesto is home to one of the top private golf courses in Northern California, along with some excellent public courses.

You can fish in the lakes, while you can fly fish in the rivers.

During spring runoff, you can go kayaking or rafting down Tuolomne, stroll in the landscape, and have a nice picnic.

Every November, you can see the salmon spawning from the areas of the bridges, which is a rare occurrence you won’t get to experience in other parts of the world.

Go Back in Time at the McHenry Mansion and McHenry Museum

Exterior of McHenry Mansion

Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go to see the McHenry Mansion and McHenry Museum.

Robert McHenry, a local rancher and banker, built the mansion in the 1880s.

The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The McHenry Museum, just across the street from the mansion, houses many tidbits from Modesto’s history.

Dining room in McHenry Mansion

Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a Leisurely Stroll around Graceada Community Park

The Graceada Community Park neighborhood is a location of old representative houses (around the 1920s and earlier), with streets lined by the city’s big shady trees and a number of parks, a bandshell, and other facilities.

Graceada Community Park is named after two local inhabitants, Grace and Ada, who promoted the idea of a park.

Experience the Marvels of Science at the Great Valley Museum

The Great Valley Museum is a nonprofit and tax-exempted organization that provides science and natural history information to adults and children of all ages through classes, programs, and exhibits.

The museum is a resource for educational institutions that include Modesto Junior College.

Its facilities include native habitat displays of the California Central Valley, a Discovery Room, a Science on a Sphere (SOS) 3-D globe, and an interactive Periodic Table.

Tours, classes, field trips, and planetarium shows also take place in the Great Valley Museum.

Have a Day of Family Fun at the FUNWORKS! Modesto

FUNWORKS! Modesto is a family entertainment center that has been one of the city’s attractions since 1960.

The attractions at FUNWORKS! Modesto include the XD Theater, Teddy Bear Factory, Splashworks Pirate Ride, Spin Zone Bumper Cars, and Lazer Frenzy.

There’s also the Lightning Raceway, Putt-Putt golf, Hologate, Highway 66 Bowling, Freddy’s Treehouse, Funworks! Game Zone, Cage, Beam, and The Pizza Company.

This place is highly recommended for your travel itinerary in Modesto, especially if you are visiting the city with your family and friends.

Have fun, frolic with your friends and family, and bond over a lovely time at FUNWORKS!

Enjoy Various Recreational Outdoor Activities at Beyer Skate Park

Beyer Community Park, a sprawling multi-use park right next to Beyer High School, is a hub of activity in Modesto.

It’s an excellent spot to spend the day with family and friends.

The park’s features include a baseball diamond, horseshoes (bring your own set), pétanque court (bring your own set), and reservable picnic facilities with sold cover pavilions (two sections: red and blue, each with a capacity of 112, 14 tables, two BBQs).

There’s also a toddler playground, another playground for older children, reservable softball fields, six tennis courts, courtside bleachers, and a volleyball court.

Apart from these features, Beyer Skate Park is located just outside the park’s perimeter.

It’s a great place to skate, whether you’re a novice or an expert.

Attend an Event at Gallo Center for the Arts

Various creative events are presented annually at the Gallo Center for the Arts, a performing arts venue.

The Center officially launched on September 27, 2007.

Since its debut, many celebrities, and noteworthy individuals have traveled and stopped by the Center.

The 1,200-seat Rogers and 400-seat Foster Family Theater are two of the Center’s contemporary theaters.

Numerous local companies call it home, including the Modesto Community Concerts Association, the Townsend Opera Players, the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, and the Central West Ballet.

Watch a Baseball Game at John Thurman Field

Baseball is the primary sport played at John Thurman Field, a stadium in Modesto, California.

The Modesto Nuts minor league baseball club plays its home games there.

Around 4,000 people may watch athletic events here in a sizable arena that can be converted into a 7,500-seat stadium for musical performances.

When visiting the city, check the events calendar because various activities are hosted annually.

Visit John Thurman Field if you’re looking for a venue to watch baseball games and have a wonderful time.

Stroll around Yosemite National Park

Calm waters of Yosemite National Park

Daniel Vine Photography /

Yosemite National Park, which was created on October 1st, 1890, is the third-oldest national park in the country.

The park practically doesn’t require an introduction because it’s one of the most well-known national parks on the whole globe.

There are several magnificent geological characteristics in this 1,200-square-mile park, including steep gorges, charming waterfalls, flower meadows, and wide scrub plains.

Welcome sign of Yosemite National Park

Maks Ershov /

Numerous tourists come to this area due to the sheer wildlife, which includes deer, bears, bobcats, and other animals.

Tourists and locals are given a chance to see a wide variety of native flora and fauna.

Find out more about local geology, trees, animals, birds, and other flora and creatures at Yosemite National Park.

Scenic waterfall at Yosemite National Park

Stephen Moehle /

Take a Picture of Modesto Arch

Daytime view of Modesto Arch

Matt Gush /

The Modesto Arch is perhaps the most well-known feature in the city; therefore, it’s worth visiting at night to take in this architectural wonder in all its splendor.

The Modesto Arch is a commemorative arch originally constructed to welcome motorists to Modesto.

The arch was built in 1921 and is inscribed with the municipal motto “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health.”

It has over 700 incandescent light bulbs shining brightly on it.

If you decide to come here, the arch will be difficult to overlook as it is illuminated by spectacular light bulbs every evening.

Buy Fruits and Vegetables at Modesto Certified Farmers Market

Locals shop at the 1979-founded Modesto Certified Farmers Market for farm-fresh vegetables, tasty meals, and distinctive artisan crafts.

You can buy fresh, healthful produce around one convenient business center, support regional farmers, and take it home.

For more than 40 years, they are still around with the same goal: to connect farmers and consumers, eliminating the middleman and enabling the freshest products to move from farm to table.

The freshest and finest fruits and vegetables may be found in this market, along with cheeses and handcrafted items like marmalade, jelly, and artisan honey.

They conduct family events at the market every month, including kid-friendly crafts, freebies, raffles, and special holiday events.

Final Thoughts

Modesto lives a farm-to-table lifestyle amidst rich farmlands, with dairy, poultry, and maize as its main businesses.

You may go rafting here and explore a variety of parks and rivers in the city that will give you the chance to reconnect with nature.

It also has many popular restaurants, art galleries, outdoor attractions, and other tourist sites that you will undoubtedly want to see.

Make a checklist and visit the places above of the best things to do in Modesto!

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