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McManis Family Vineyards visible from River Road offers an up-close glimpse at a working winery right on the banks of the Stanislaus River. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

WHAT: A car tour of Ripon

WHERE: From neighborhoods along the Spring Creek Country Club to the rural drive along River Road

WHEN: Great year-round, but with the fall fast approaching, an afternoon taking in the foliage would be a great way to spend some quality time enjoying something new.

TO GET THERE: Take Highway 99 South to the Main Street exit. To visit the area near the Spring Creek Country Club, turn left at the top on the onramp, left again at the stop sign, and left on Manley. Spring Creek Drive will be on the right. To access River Road take Highway 99 South to Jack Tone Road and turn left at the top of the overpass. Continue straight past the truck stops, and River Road will be on the right.

FOR MORE INFO: Contact the Ripon Chamber of Commerce at (209) 599-7519.

RIPON – Strings of custom built homes. Country Club neighborhoods. Scenic rural drives.

Regardless of what it is that you’re looking for, taking in the Almond Capital of the World from behind the wheel of a car can ultimately be a wonderful way to kill a few weekend hours.

And given the city’s unique blend of new residential properties, tree-lined streets and executive-style layouts fit for CEOs, there’s plenty to look at.

Here are a few routes worth taking for a closer look at some of the more picturesque landscapes:

•River Road – From its start out near the Mistlin Sports Complex to where it intersects with McHenry Avenue in Modesto, River Road affords a nice, slow, meandering drive along the Stanislaus River and all of the magnificent oak trees that line it. The eastbound route will take you right past the rolling rows at McManis Family Vineyards and gorgeous country estates.

•Spring Creek Drive – While it’s not exactly a long route – starting off of Manley Avenue and extending out to Milgeo Avenue near where it intersects with Murphy Road – it’s one of the more picturesque in the community. Since it backs up to the Spring Creek Country Club, no two houses along the route are the same – a massive one-story being positioned next-door to a traditional plantation-style home wouldn’t be uncommon. And homeowners go above and beyond when the Christmas season rolls around.

•The old-town grid – In the neighborhoods south of Main Street, some of Ripon’s oldest and most historic homes sit along tree-lined streets and behind perfectly manicured front yards. Craftsman-style homes that are within walking distance to both downtown and area parks like the Ripon Community Center are popular with buyers, and a quick stroll down any of the streets will make why very apparent.

•New golf estates – When the housing boom was on there wasn’t anything that Ripon’s planners couldn’t have imposed onto developers that would have prevented them from building. Take, for example, the 12-foot sidewalks along the custom homes that border the Jack Tone Golf Course. Whether it’s a sprawling lot that backs up to the Front 9 or a corner lot with massive imported doors, the homes are a testament to when things were at their peak.

•Caswell Memorial State Park – Located just a few miles outside of Downtown Ripon sits an oasis along the Stanislaus River. Accessible by Austin Road, Caswell Memorial State Park offers camping, picnicking and day use and proves to be a perfect destination to take in the diversity that the small, South County community brings to the table. A nominal gate fee doubles over as a day use fee, and the forward portion of the park includes two segments that wind down past the river.

•Stouffer Park – What was once Ripon’s premier sports destination has since been replaced by the Mistlin Sports Complex. But the natural beauty that Stouffer Park – accessible by Manley Road – possesses is unrivaled.  Picnic grounds and grassy areas overlooking the Stanislaus River are plentiful, and taking in the sights from behind the wheel is both easy and free.


209 staff reporter