Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Turlock, CA

  • Published 2023/01/18

Turlock is a bustling city in Stanislaus County in northeastern California’s Central Valley Region.

It’s one of the most densely populated cities in the county, making it a hotbed for all sorts of city attractions and things to do.

Turlock has a lot in store if you plan to make an itinerary of free activities.

Turlock is brimming with fun activities, from art galleries to various city parks, offering a great city experience.

Moreover, the park is conveniently right next to the county seat of Modesto, another stellar city to add to your itinerary.

Here’s a list of free things to do in Turlock, California, to get started.

See the Artworks at Carnegie Arts Center

Exterior of Carnegie Arts Center

Saeidb, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Art enthusiasts will be thrilled to visit Turlock, as it’s home to the Carnegie Arts Center, that’s brimming with various local artworks.

Managed by a non-profit organization, Carnegie Arts Center promotes the community of Turlock by showcasing unique exhibits throughout the year involving various mediums.

There are a couple of free events, like movie screenings, that help promote its cultural influence.

Besides the various artworks, the arts center is also a beautiful building.

Located along North Broadway, Carnegie Arts Center is also close to the business district of Turlock along 1st and Main Street.

Spend a Chill Afternoon at Donnelly Park

Donnelly Park is one of the best free attractions in Turlock, known for its scenic appeal that’s best enjoyed during the early morning or late afternoon.

Spanning roughly ten acres, Donnelly Park is full of exciting activities for families and couples.

One of its leading features is its ponds full of geese, ducks, and various fish you can feed while you enjoy the park’s gentle breeze.

The greenery and open fields of Donnelly Park are some of the best in Stanislaus County, making it a fantastic place for family picnics.

There’s also a sizable playground called the Augusta Bates Children’s Playpark that will energize the little ones.

You can find Donnelly Park along Julia Ave at the city’s heart.

Practice Your Tricks at Brandon Koch Memorial Skatepark

Within Donnelly Park is another attraction that deserves recognition, the Brandon Koch Memorial Skatepark.

This skatepark is easily one of the best in the county, offering clean and well-maintained concrete obstacles for all ages and skill levels.

It has bars, ramps, and a sizable flat area where beginners can skate freely.

Overall, the park has good flow and is also viable for longboarding.

Many locals go there, so if you’re an avid skater, the Brandon Koch Memorial Skatepark is also a great place to socialize and share your hobby with others.

Explore 1st Street

One of the best places to visit in Turlock is the area along 1st Street, the city’s commercial hub.

You can drive, cycle, or even walk along this area, as it’s some of the best places to explore the urban area.

Teeming with all sorts of shops, restaurants, art galleries, and government offices, this district is a fun way to immerse yourself in the city’s local economy.

The area around 1st Street is generally clean and safe, with minimal road and foot traffic.

There’s plenty of side street parking here, so bring your car to start your urban exploration.

Visit the Turlock Historical Society Museum

You’ll find the Turlock Historical Society Museum in the 1st Street area.

This free museum is a must-visit during your trip to Turlock, as its exhibits and collections are straight out of the 19th century.

It’s packed full of random artifacts and documents relevant to how Turlock developed as a city.

Its best displays include a vintage automobile from the 1800s and the Colonel Arthur R. Anderson Exhibit.

Mainly found along Main Street, which connects with 1st Street, the Turlock Historical Society Museum is a convenient and free way to round up your itinerary.

Have a Blast at Columbia Park

While Donnelly Park is a scenic place to relax, Columbia Park is the city’s urban park teeming with all sorts of free fun activities.

Also known as the Columbia Waterpark, the main attraction of this recreational space is its sizable splash pad, a hit among children.

Besides the splash pad, the place is teeming with picnic tables for families.

There are also basketball courts and a playground to round up the fun for kids and teenagers.

One of the best city parks in the county, Columbia Park, is conveniently found along High Street, another main thoroughfare in Turlock.

Take a Campus Tour of California State University Stanislaus

Bookstore at California State University Stanislaus

Intothewoods29, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

California State University Stanislaus (CSUS) is a public university in Turlock and the beacon of the county’s educational services.

Located along Monte Vista Avenue, CSUS is one of the major areas in Turlock that covers a considerable portion of the city, a testament to its gorgeous university campus.

You can book a one-hour campus tour at this beautiful school, taking you to various facilities and offerings around student life.

Pond at California State University Stanislaus

Cameron11598, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some headliners include their university library, art gallery, and sports amenities.

This is an excellent addition if you plan to enroll your children in California State University Stanislaus.

See the Festive Homes along Christmas Tree Lane

If you’re visiting the city during the holiday season, you may want to pay a visit to Christmas Tree Lane, found in the neighborhoods along Michael Way.

Christmas Tree Lane is a remarkable sight during Christmas, as you’ll see various houses and the surrounding streets full of Christmas decor and illumination.

There are dioramas and inflatables in some of the houses’ yards, elevating the experience for younger children.

You’ll see well-known characters from different houses, each offering a unique Christmas aesthetic.

As a hallmark of the city’s Christmas festivities, this neighborhood is one of the best free things to see during December.

Check Out the Paintings at Stan State Art Space

Stan State Art Space is another 1st Street gallery managed by California State University, Stanislaus.

Here, you can find student artworks as well as those from seasoned professionals.

Requiring no admission fees, this art gallery is managed by volunteer student staff that you can engage if you’re in the mood to discuss art.

Exhibits vary throughout the year, so feel free to converse with the student staff to learn more about the gallery and its artists.

If you’re lucky, Stan State Art Space may also hold free seminars and art discussions during your visit.

Stan Art Space is a quick but meaningful stop in Turlock.

Spend Downtime at Turlock Public Library

Turlock Public Library is an excellent respite during your stay in the city, offering a quiet environment to get some work out of the way.

This is also a fun environment for kids, as there’s a wide selection of children’s books, including a few games that keep them occupied for an hour or two.

The library also has a dedicated quiet room if you want absolute silence during your stay.

Computers are also abundant if you need to do some light work or send some emails.

Turlock Public Library is located along North Minaret Avenue.

Ride a Bike at Turlock BMX Park

If you’re an avid cycling and BMX fan, visit the Turlock BMX Park, accessible along Panorama Avenue.

It’s a vast space full of jump obstacles dedicated to BMX hobbyists of all levels, making the place a popular spot for kids and adults.

The city government manages Turlock BMX Park, so it doesn’t charge entrance fees.

Just bring proper gear, particularly a helmet and knee and elbow pads.

Turlock BMX Park is a must-visit for biking enthusiasts, whether you mean to watch the locals or try the field for yourself.

Bring Your Dog to Quaile Rand Norton Dog Park

Are you visiting with your dog?

You’re in luck, as the Quaile Rand Norton Dog Park will be vital in helping your puppy get some much-needed exercise.

This dog park lets your pet run in a fenced area for free, offering lavish greenery and plenty of shade.

Two areas are dedicated to small and large breeds to keep things organized and safe for all pet owners.

Quaile Rand Norton Dog Park is a great all-rounder for all family types, with many benches and other facilities like walking trails and playgrounds.

You can access this park along South Berkeley Avenue.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Pass the Modesto Arch

Cars under the Modesto Arch

Matt Gush /

Just 18 minutes away from Turlock lies the Modesto Arch, a historical symbol of the city located in its cultural and business district.

Modesto is the seat and largest city of Stanislaus County, so this city is highly recommended.

Taking a photo of the Modesto Arch is an excellent souvenir during your trip.

Still, it gets better as you explore the surrounding area, a historic neighborhood dating to the 1910s.

Now a bustling business and cultural district, there are plenty of attractions to see here, headed by the Gallo Center for the Arts.

There’s also an abundance of street art and murals in the city, along with various shops and restaurants.

Visit Modesto—the city’s tourist information center—within the area, so visit them to learn more about what the city has in store for you.

Explore the Great Valley Grasslands State Park

Great Valley Grasslands State Park is located in the southern community of Stevinson, California, 24 minutes from Turlock.

It is one of the best free things to do near the city if you’re seeking an adventure.

Known for its fresh waters and wetlands, Great Valley Grasslands State Park is an excellent place to do some fishing.

The hike here is fun but short, which is a plus if you want to visit with younger children or the elderly.

Walking along its trails can lead you to various wildlife, such as deer, coyotes, and migratory birds.

If you’re raring for an outdoor excursion, this state park is a no-brainer to add to your travel plans.

Ride a Bike along the Tuolumne River Bike Trail

Another outdoor fun you can do near the city is cycling along the scenic Tuolumne River Bike Trail in Modesto, just 15 minutes away by car.

The Tuolumne River Bike Trail is a well-maintained public trail with sweeping views of the eponymous river.

Comprising a long stretch of biking trails, this is an excellent spot for bikers of all levels, including beginners.

You’ll find some beautiful areas where parts of the river are covered in trees and greenery, making it an ideal place for photography.

Moreover, biking along this area leads you to other nearby attractions, primarily the Tuolumne River Regional Park.

Give this place a shot if you’re already planning to bring your bike.

Final Thoughts

Turlock is brimming with all sorts of parks and a few fascinating free museums and galleries.

As icing on the cake, it’s only a few minutes from the attractions of Modesto and the outdoor spots in the counties’ census-designated communities.

Enjoy these free things to do in Turlock, California!

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