Clad in sandstone tiles and with a lobby that looks out across surrounding agricultural lands through a wall of glass, the Mondavi Center, an eye-catching multi-story structure on the U.C. Davis campus, is a grand, modern arts venue for the region. Formally known as the Robert and Magrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts (the winemaking Mondavis were lead donors for the project, completed in 2002), the venue presents a full calendar of events. Though music is central to the programming—artists ranging from cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Elvis Costello to the San Francisco Symphony have performed here—one can also attend a symposium or a reading, or see a ballet performance or a stand-up comic.
The main venue, the 1,801-seat Jackson Hall, is a visual stunner, paneled from floor-to-ceiling in virgin Douglas fir originally logged in the 1800s. (The wood was reclaimed from the bottom of a lake in Canada, and some of the sections may actually be 500 years old.) The 250-seat Vanderhoef Studio Theatre is the center’s smaller performance space, and the Corin Courtyard hosts outdoor events. Guided tours shed light on the Mondavi Center’s advanced design features, including an orchestra shell that elevates on air casters. Tours are free but require advance reservations; parking can be reserved ahead of time online.
While you’re in the area, visit the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, located just a stone’s throw away, and part of the U.C. Davis campus. This forward-looking institution is housed in a sprawling, indoor/outdoor structure partially enclosed by a perforated aluminum and steel roof known as the Grand Canopy; there are separate pavilions for galleries, art-making, and educational programs. Its collection of artists from the 1960s–1970s Funk art movement is considered one of the most extensive in the country.