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Reasons to cruise on into Modesto
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 It’s not exactly a destination that people from around the country and the world are flocking to on vacation.
But for those who are drawn in to the allure of California have learned, on an extended trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles you’re going to run through some places you didn’t think were on your list.
And that’s where places like Modesto sneak up on you.
While it might not have the shiny allure of Hollywood or the unique beauty of “The City,” to an out-of-towner Modesto offers the quaint slice of Americana that they’re searching for without the crowds that you’ll find in the other, more popular places.
Here are some things worth showing guests who have never had the pleasure of spending time in this mid-sized American city:
uThe Downtown Cruise Route – In an unfortunate twist, George Lucas – who had already gone to film school at USC and was becoming established in the Bay Area – opted to film the majority of his classic “American Graffiti” in Petaluma. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t get the idea from the classic drag of 9th and 10th Streets in Downtown Modesto, where he attended Beyer High School before going on to become one of the most iconic and famous filmmakers in the world. There’s a small park in the five-corners area – located at the end of McHenry Avenue where the road bends into Downtown Modesto – that’s named after him and includes some of the 50s era characters that drove the nearby streets to give inspiration to the vehicle that helped launch his career. It might not have been the basis for Tatooine, but it’s hard to think about that happening if it wasn’t for those crazy kids in Modesto.
uTuolumne River Regional Park – If you have somebody coming into town in the next month, it’s probably best to avoid this area – the Tuolumne River is swollen to the point of nearly flooding, and it’s a safe bet that anything that you would be able to enjoy here in under many feet of cold, fast-moving water. But if it’s a summertime trip, there aren’t very many more places in Modesto more beautiful than this. With the unique topography of the area that includes old growth oak trees and extensive riparian habitat, bike rides and walks along the paths that have been provided are a favorite pastime of residents and visitors alike. While parts of this river have been known to attract a large amount of trash, efforts have been underway to clean them up – focusing on the section between the 9th Street Bridge and Highway 99 – for some time now. It’s worth a trip.
uDowntown Modesto Restaurants – They might not be names that you see popping up on The Food Network on a daily basis, but there has been somewhat of a renaissance of fine dining in the Downtown Modesto area over the last decade or so. And it’s every bit as delicious and mouth-watering as something you’d get at a tourist haven in Las Vegas with a flashy name. Whether you’re in the mood for steak or fish at Dewz, taps at Concetta or sushi at Raw, there’s a little bit of something for everybody who appreciates a good meal – especially those that don’t believe a culinary revival is possible in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.