Take a stroll around downtown to see many of the 100 colorful street murals painted by international artists invited to Modesto as part of the annual DoMo Walls festival. Nationally known musicians and touring Broadway musicals come to town for performances at the impressive Gallo Center for the Arts, which is notable for its light-filled atrium and as the home for such resident arts organizations as the Modesto Symphony Orchestra and Central West Ballet.
There’s also plenty of history to experience. The art deco State Theatre dates to 1934 and boasts a landmark neon marquee and vintage interior murals. Two blocks away, the McHenry Mansion, a grand 1883 Victorian, offers free guided tours, while the nearby McHenry Museum & Historical Society brings alive Modesto’s past in a stately library building constructed in 1912.
Summer is definitely a special time of year in Modesto. Famed Star Wars director and producer George Lucas based the 1973 classic American Graffiti on his experiences growing up in Modesto. The movie was set here, and Modesto commemorates its starring role with June’s Graffiti Summer, a monthlong celebration of cars and cruising. For a different kind of local tradition, enjoy summer outdoor concerts by the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County (better known as MoBand) at the Mancini Bowl amphitheater in Graceada Park. The park was designed by John McLaren, the horticulturist who also created San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Throughout spring and summer you can stock up on the freshest of produce—including sweet and juicy nectarines, peaches, and melons—at popular farm stands like Loretelli Farms, Rodin Farms, and J&J Ramos Farms (don’t miss the peach cobbler). Modesto is also almond country and from mid-February to mid-March you can follow the Almond Blossom Cruise to see the orchards around town in spectacular flower. Along the route, stop into the Blue Diamond Almonds Nut & Gift Shop to pick up gift baskets and treats such as dark chocolate-covered almonds.
And speaking of nuts, the Modesto Nuts, a minor-league baseball team affiliated with the Seattle Mariners, plays at John Thurman Field, an intimate, historic ballpark that opened in 1955.