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Stockton beats Modesto as the place to go

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POSTED August 26, 2009 2:46 a.m.
Stockton is the Rodney Dangerfield of California cities.

It gets no respect.

Well, maybe a little bit more respect than Bakersfield, but that’s about it.

Then there’s Modesto. It’s W.C. Field’s kind of place according to “Men’s Health” magazine that a few years back dubbed the place just south of Salida as the most out-of-shape city in the United States.

And we’re stuck in the middle in a place that translates into English as Lard. To the folks from self-described utopias such as San Francisco where droves of homeless populate the streets and the populace disdains the world of Wal-Mart and Home Depot for being consumer havens for the crass opulence consumption of places like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, this is about as close to hell on earth that you can get.


Manteca is mid-way between two teeming urban centers of 250,000 residents each.
Drive through them at high speed on the freeway and you’re left with the impression that if you opened Webster’s to the word “ugly” there would be a picture of either the Modesto or Stockton skyline.

Actually, Stockton takes the bigger hit thanks to those door-locking views as you speed along the Cross-town Freeway or Highway 99.

But judging a book — or a city — by its cover means you can easily reach the wrong conclusion.

I confess. I prefer Stockton over Modesto. Some people may think that’s nuts but take away Vintage Faire Mall, The State Theater, McHenry Mansion, McHenry Village, plus Modesto’s downtown restaurants with sidewalk dining, outdoor concerts, and clubs (if you’re into that) — that’s about it.

Yes, there is McHenry Avenue. If it wasn’t the birthplace of American cruising, it certainly personified it. But that’s the problem with Modesto. To get to any place you have to drive. And drive. And drive. And drive.

When the God of California was handing out freeways and expressways, Modesto was sound asleep. The end result is mile after mile of subdivisions, broken up by shopping centers as you head from Highway 99 to the east. In the end, Modesto looks like a Steven Spielberg creation of suburbia.

Stockton, by comparison, has made a conscious effort to take advantage of being on the Delta.

There is Brookside on the water at the end of March Lane on the way to the Stockton Yacht Club. Where in Modesto is there a European-on-the-water feel as Stockton has a Venetian Bridges by the Hilton Hotel complete with apartments, the Stockton Civic Theater, dining spots and shops?

Modesto has culture, but Stockton has a double dose of it thanks in large part to the University of Pacific and Delta College with its Atherton Auditorium that is conducive to symphonic and operatic performances.

Lincoln Village can match McHenry Village any day of the week for quaint specialty shops. Stockton also has the Miracle Mile on Pacific Avenue that takes on a distinctive college air at times thanks to its proximity to UOP.

Then there are things you just won’t find in Modesto such as Pixie Woods at the end of Mt. Diablo Avenue and Micke Grove Park (just a bit north of town complete with a zoo and rides). There is the Bob Hope Theatre and the Children’s Museum.

Stockton has its share of run-of-the-mill subdivisions. But it also has stately areas near UOP. The problem with Stockton is you see its warts right at the front door. Modesto is able to hide most of its bad side thanks to freeway routing.
Modesto can’t match the dazzling waterfront development at Weber’s Point plus a rebirth going on downtown.

The Stockton Ports stadium and Stockton Arena are two fairly new downtown additions along the Delta inlet. The old Stockton Hotel with swimming pool on the roof top - once the classiest hotel on the Pacific Coast nearly a century ago — was being restored for senior housing.

Manteca residents can access a lot of things by driving 15 miles to the north or 15 miles to the south.

I’ll take Stockton over Modesto unless, of course, I’m making a run to Valley Sports in McHenry Village.
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