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11 Unique Things To Do In Modesto

11 Unique Things To Do In Modesto

A little over a two-hour drive from Yosemite National Park, Modesto is all about that small-town charm you so desperately crave.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

August 10, 2021

A trip across the Central Valley is incomplete without stopping in Modesto. A little over a two-hour drive from Yosemite National Park, this place is all about that small-town charm you so desperately crave—if you’ve seen George Lucas’ American Graffiti, you know what we mean. From historic museums and family-friendly fun to hiking trails and scenic drives, now’s the time to take a break from big cities and head to Stanislaus County. Without further ado, are you ready for all the fun things to do in Modesto

Fun Things To Do In Modesto This Weekend

Whether you want to spend the day berry picking or finding the perfect apricot, VanderHelm Farms stands above the rest.

1. Pick Your Fruits at VanderHelm Farms

We all know that the Central Valley is the Golden State’s fruit basket. The produce here is so fresh and juicy that it’s hard to get enough. Therefore, handpicking your very own fresh batch of fruits is a must when you’re in Modesto. 

VanderHelm Farms, one of the best u-pick farms in the Central Valley, has been offering locals and visitors the chance to pick their own produce since 2009. Depending on the season, you can be picking anything from blueberries and strawberries to peaches and nectarines. If you’re visiting the farm with your kids, this could turn into a cute, family-friendly thing to do in Modesto.

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2. Buy Fresh Produce at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market

Let’s assume you don’t really feel like getting your hands dirty but still want fresh fruits and veggies. You’ll find the juiciest all-organic produce at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market. But the best part about this farmers market isn’t just the fruits and veggies; it’s the variety of jams, artisanal cheese, and freshly baked goods that lure you in instantaneously. The Modesto Certified Farmers Market is open every Thursday and Saturday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.; you might even catch live music here. 

Blanket, basket, and good company. That’s all you need for a day spent in the great outdoors. Shall we have a picnic?

3. Relax at East La Loma Park 

An afternoon spent at a park is always a good idea, and East La Loma is the local favorite. Whether you want to go for a walk, jog in the morning, bike in the shade, plan a picnic, or hike the scenic trail, this is the place for you. Take advantage of the well-maintained trail and let your dog tag along too. You’ll also find basketball and tennis courts in the park if you’re up for a match. Whatever your activity of choice is, East La Loma Park has you covered. 

Take a quick tour of the area and feel the wind through you hair. Good vibes and great bikes will get you anywhere.

4. Bike along the Virginia Corridor Trailway

What better way to check out all of Modesto’s attractions at once than cycling along the Virginia Corridor Trailway? It doesn’t matter if you're trying to squeeze in a workout, taking the scenic route is the way to go. This 4.2-mile-long trail takes you through Modesto’s old Tidewater Southern Railway line—there are also several picnic areas, shade structures, barbecues, and gardens along the way. The best part about the Virginia Corridor Trailway is that it’s rarely too crowded, so you can enjoy the city and have your own space.

5. Hike the Tuolumne River Trail

Looking to be enchanted by the beauty of Modesto? The Tuolumne River Trail is one easy way to do that—with an emphasis on the word “easy.” The 2.3-mile hike is one of those places in the Central Valley you’d like to see with your family.

This scenic trail is beautiful from beginning to end, but the views only keep getting better as you advance further. But, the most rewarding part isn’t just the journey—at the end of the trail, the Tuolumne River greets you with its breathtaking cascading waterfalls. The views here are so spectacular that you won’t want to leave. 

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, the Stanislaus River will make all your white-water rafting dreams come true.

6. Go Rafting on the Stanislaus River

We don’t know about you, but we’ve had enough of admiring rivers from a distance and we’re ready to tackle the wild waters. Knights Ferry, Modesto’s neighboring town, is where you’ll find Sunshine Rafting Adventures that’ll take you down Stanislaus River. This river-rafting experience can last anywhere between three to five hours, where you’ll be exposed to scenic views and rolling hills. Get ready to have the time of your life—this is absolutely one of the best things you can do in the Central Valley.

7. Stroll through Downtown Modesto

No trip to Modesto is complete without a stroll through the streets of the downtown area. This is where you feel the vibes of the city—historic buildings and modern establishments create the perfect blend of old and new. 

A few of the must-see landmarks here include the iconic Modesto Arch and the State Theater. You’ll also find the best restaurants, coffee shops, and stores lining the streets of this charming downtown—this thing to do in Modesto belongs on the top of every itinerary.     

The spirit of “American Graffiti” is alive on 10th and 11th Streets in Downtown Modesto on the Historic Cruise Route that inspired George Lucas’ film.

8. Cruise along the Modesto Historic Cruise Route Walk of Fame 

Did you know that one of history's most financially successful filmmakers is from Modesto? That’s right, George Lucas, the legendary director of the epic space opera Star Wars, was born in Modesto and filmed the movie American Graffiti, which was inspired by his youth in the town. While the movie is set in Modesto, the filming mostly took place in San Rafael. But, the fact that Modesto was in the spotlight for once, the movie became a big deal in the town—and who can blame them?

So why are we telling this story? Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, visitors should be aware of Modesto’s pride and joy. That’s why you must cruise down 10th and 11th Streets and soak in the 60s vibes you see in the movie—now that’s something you can’t do anywhere else.  

9. Learn About the Past at the McHenry Museum

Whichever town or city you’re visiting, one should always check out the museums to learn about the place. When in Modesto, make sure to visit the McHenry Museum. The building used to be a library in 1912, and it wasn’t until 1971 that it turned into a museum. Each exhibit here represents the area’s two-century-old history—it’s part fascinating and part educational. You’ll walk out of here with a better understanding of Modesto and its interesting history.

Before leaving, make sure you check out the gift shop and purchase memorabilia that’ll remind you of your trip as well as the town’s past.

The Great Valley Museum opens minds, touches hearts, and inspires action towards discovering, appreciating, and preserving natural heritage.

10. Familiarize yourself with Nature at Great Valley Museum

Nature lovers will adore the Great Valley Museum. Located on the campus of Modesto Junior College, this is a must-visit spot with your kids. Here, visitors get the chance to view taxidermy as well as interactive exhibits such as the water fountain show and astronomy movie in the planetarium dome. Get acquainted with local wildlife and engage in different activities as you broaden your horizons. Make sure to reserve a spot beforehand to take full advantage of all the activities and shows.  

11. Catch a Flick at The State Theater

The State Theater has been entertaining residents of Modesto since the 1930s and hasn’t stopped since. This iconic landmark showcases old, independent, foreign, and low-budget films and serves as an art gallery as well. Many concerts and events take place at this venue. No matter what kind of entertainment you prefer, you know where you’ll be spending your evenings in Modesto. 

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