Not only are almonds a tasty and nutritious snack, they can be beautiful too. That’s because from late February through mid-March, the almond orchards in and around Modesto put on a spectacular show as the trees burst into bloom with brilliant pink and white blossoms.
The best way to see the display is to head out on Modesto’s Almond Blossom Cruise, a self-guided driving tour with two different routes and side trips that take you into the heart of the local almond country. (Fun fact: 75 percent of the world’s almonds are grown in the Central Valley.) Just minutes from downtown Modesto, you can cruise along country roads through miles of orchards that envelop you in a floral cloud.
If you’re looking for the perfect Instagram selfie, stop at Rodin Farms and Roberts Ferry Nut Company, two popular spots where the blooming almond trees come right down to the parking lot. They’re also the perfect places to pick up an array of snacks, everything from dark chocolate almond caramel popcorn and pumpkin pie almonds to fiery sriracha almonds.
While almonds and their blossoms are the big draws, the cruise is also a chance to discover and taste the local bounty at farm stands and gourmet shops mapped out on the drive. At Sciabica Family California Olive Oil & Gourmet Foods, which started cold pressings in 1936, you’ll find sustainably farmed, small-batch single varietal olive oils and blends. Cheese lovers can look for favorites at Fiscalini Farmstead, famous for its Old-World Aged Cheddar, and stock up on the signature Goudas made by Oakdale Cheese & Specialties. For a hearty meal, stop at Louie’s Place Saloon & Grill in La Grange, a lively local classic in a landmark building that dates to 1897.
A couple of reminders: As tempting as it is to see the blossoms up close, please don’t walk in the orchards. And if you want to stop and take pictures, be sure to pull off the road at a safe spot and far away from traffic.