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Stockton rocks while Modesto is, err, modest
stockton arena copy

Stockton has warts and so does Modesto.

If one were to judge the two cities purely on the negatives, Modesto’s standing might just surprise you. On the crime rate index as compiled by Neighborhood Scout with 100 being the safest, Modesto barely beats Stockton with a 4 rating versus a 3. (For the record, both Manteca and Turlock rates a 13 while Ripon garners a 43 rating). Both cities have similar economic demographics.

Personally, I prefer Stockton over Modesto although there are parts of both cities that I will avoid like the plague. Both have warts. The problem is Stockton’s are visible from three freeways and Modesto’s are fairly well hidden.

Stockton isn’t as much an acquired taste as it is taking the time to realize that there is a lot there.

Let’s start with the biggie, shopping. Yes, Modesto has Vintage Faire Mall with a good JC Penney’s and even an Apple store. There’s McHenry Village with specialty shops and there’s great antiquating downtown.

But Stockton can easily match and exceed Modesto.

Lincoln Village is larger and more specialty orientated than McHenry Village. Stockton also has an REI and trendy upscale Stonecreek Village not to mention a Dillard’s. Downtown and the waterfront is getting better by the year plus there’s Weber Point events center although Modesto blows Stockton away with the Gallo Center for the Performing Arts.

Stockton also isn’t cookie cutter in its approach to development The Quail’s Lake community with its waterfront access created by Grupe — duplicated at Brookside — offers on-the-water living and dining experiences, quaint shopping areas such as that near the old Hilton Hotel with its quaint one-way street and street cafes and touches such as ducks swimming in the evening as the cool Delta breezes makes an evening even more pleasant.

Dillard’s has to be the best concept in a department store ever to open in California without trying to copy Nordstrom’s. The two malls in Stockton — Sherwood and Weberstown — don’t let the teens take them over as if it’s their turf. 

Yes, downtown Stockton leaves you cold in many locations but then again so does downtown Modesto. Venture away from the Doubletree and the cinema-plex and surrounding businesses and it can be scary. Drive into south Modesto at night can elevate you heart rate just like it can in Stockton.

Modesto can match Stockton’s elegant Fox Theater as a performance venue with the State Theater. Stockton also has the Stockton Arena, the Civic Auditorium and Banner Island with its appealing minor league baseball venue. Those are three things Modesto doesn’t have although, again, Gallo Center goes a long way towards making up for it.

You can head north out of Stockton’s downtown and pass through the Miracle Mile shopping district at the start of the city’s main drag — Pacific Avenue. It takes you into the stately neighborhood near the University of Pacific that offers the fine cultural advantages that only a prestigious university can deliver.

That doesn’t count UOP Tiger volleyball or basketball action in the Spanos Center.

There’s also Delta College which besides having solid programs and a much more together campus than Modesto Junior College, has amenities such as the Atherton Auditorium and the Tillie Lewis Theater that’s home to the Stockton Symphony, ballet companies, children’s theater and top-notch campus arts groups.

Want more?

Stockton Civic Theatre that has a real live theater venue to call its own with quality community productions.

There’s the Stockton Children’s Museum and the Haggin Museum.

uModesto may have its downtown art, but Stockton has it beauty. It’s called “views of the water.” That water also provides Stockton with bicycle and jogging trails along levees that lead to the Delta. Stockton has a yacht club and direct access to the river for water skiing, jet skiing, sail boarding and fishing. The only way downtown Modesto can brag about water ambiance is when an Alhambra truck has to share the street with an incoming freight train.

Speaking of trains, you can catch Amtrak in Stockton as well as the Altamont Commuter Express service. Stockton has trains and Modesto doesn’t unless you count the Amtrak stop to the east near Riverbank.

Pixie Woods, a delightful place in a park on the water where kids can let their imaginations run wild.

Micke Grove Park Zoo. Modesto has a zoo of its own. It’s the streets you have to travel from Highway 99 to reach the city’s main drag on McHenry Avenue.

Direct access to California’s waterway wonderland, the Delta.