32 Best & Fun Things to Do in Modesto (CA)

Modesto, officially known as the City of Modesto, is the largest city in Southern California, United States.

It is situated in the Central Valley and is at about 68 miles to the south of Sacramento which is the state’s Capital.

The name of the city “Modesto” means ‘Modest’ in Spanish and from what you can see in this city, it is a fitting name for this wonderful city.

It is the hometown of the filmmaker George Lucas, it is also the city that inspired one of the most famous films themed around high school emotional turmoil named “American Graffiti” which was set in the 1960s and thankfully the film legend still lives here till date.

An event named Graffiti Summer is held yearly to honor the movie, you can choose to partake in this wonderful event during your visit to Modesto.

Blessed with the best of everything, the city radiates a naturally beauty which can be seen in iconic locations like the Yosemite National Park.

For tourist and adventure seekers, Modesto has lots of fun to offer.

A of the fun time will be experienced as you move from museums to galleries, galleries to theatres and concert venues located round the city.

To help you plan your trip, here are the best things to do in Modesto.

Things to Do in Modesto, CA.

1. McHenry Museum

McHenry Museum
Source: jason shultz/Flickr
McHenry Museum

The regional history museum called The McHenry Museum tells you the story of the heritage and history of Modesto and that of it’s surrounding regions.

It is situated in a former library building that was built in 1912, the Museum is just a block away from the McHenry Mansion.

The McHenry Museum was established in 1972 and has been collecting and preserving all that reflects the culture and early life of the Stanislaus County and Modesto.

Some of the features you will see when you get to the Museum includes interactive exhibits and displays that highlight the historical significance of the Modesto area.

Among the interactive exhibit, you will find a recreated blacksmith shop, a general store, a dentist’s office and hallmark items like gold mining equipment, fire-fighting equipment and lots more. You will also find a collection of cattle brands from the Stanislaus County in this museum.

Address: 1402 I St, Modesto, CA 95354.

2. Modesto Arch

Modesto Arch
Source: Mayor Ted Brandvold/Facebook
Modesto Arch

One of the fun things to do in Modesto is to go visit the Modesto Arch, It is a centennial slogan arch which you will find at the intersection of 9th and 10th Streets.

It was built by Modesto Businessmen’s Association to welcome automobile drivers in the year 1912.

At the Arch, you will see the slogan of the city which reads “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health”, this motto is brightly illuminated by more than 700 incandescent light bulbs.

In previous times, the arch was held up by two flagpoles on each of its columns, these flagpoles were later removed due to rot and was replaced by two Mediterranean cypress trees.

3. The Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route

Historic Graffiti Cruise Route
Source: Historic Graffiti Cruise Route/Facebook
Historic Graffiti Cruise Route

The Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route is another wonderful activity to participate during your stay in Modesto, the Graffiti Cruise Route celebrates the cruise route which took place in the American Graffiti movie.

The movie was the first big film produce by George Lucas who was a native of Modesto

The movie was about what school leavers do during the first big weekend of cruising after school has ended.

This first big weekend is what has become the traditionally celebrated “Graffiti Night” in Modesto, although it was banned in 1993 but was later reintroduced.

When it is on, crowds troop into the town to show their vintage cars and to celebrate the spirit of cruising.

You don’t have to wait till its that time of the year, you and friends can do a replica of the Graffiti Cruise, all you need to do is to start the Cruise Route Tour at the Modesto Historic Cruise Route Walk of Fame in the 10th street Plaza, round the city and then back to where you began.

Address: Modesto Historic Cruise Walk of Fame.

4. Escape Modesto

Escape Modesto
Source: ESCAPE Modesto/Facebook
Escape Modesto

Escape Modesto is a company in Modesto which offers hours of fun through their escape rooms which is my favorite and if you love puzzles, riddle and brain based games then this is a perfect place for you.

The Escape room game is a fun and adventurous game whereby players solve a series of riddles by using the hints and clues given to them to complete the objective on time.

Most times this objective is to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the room and also to get out of the room within a given time duration.

The whole game time limit is about 1 hour, and up to 10 participants are allowed into the room at a time.

This is a very wonderful game to engage in during your stay in Modesto, so have all the fun you can have and enjoy your stay.

Address: 912 11th St, Modesto, CA 95354.

5. Mistlin Gallery

Mistlin Gallery
Source: Central California Art Association & The Mistlin Gallery/Facebook
Mistlin Gallery

Located in downtown Modesto is The Mistlin Gallery, it is an art gallery which was established to be a place where regional artists could display and also sell their artworks.

Another reason was to create an avenue that will teach the community to better appreciate art and to get involved in the local art scene.

The Mistlin Gallery features a lot of permanent and rotating exhibitions of artwork, It also host educational programs and workshops which will interest any artistic lover regardless of the person’s age.

The gallery is managed by the Central California Art Association which is an organization of volunteers and artists who work together to promote arts and also provide art education and opportunities to the people of Modesto.

Address: 1015 J St, Modesto, CA 95354.

6. Tuolumne River Trail

Tuolumne River Trail
Source: Angela Sevin/Flickr
Tuolumne River Trail

A very spectacular trails in the area is The Tuolumne River Trail, it is a 3.4-mile hiking trail that crosses the Tuolumne River in Modesto, the trail which got its name from the river is very suitable for hiking and cycling.

You can take a hike, jog or maybe cycle through this trail, the trail loops through dense riverside woodlands.

Along this trail, you will find places with spectacular views, I advise you come along with your camera if you wish to capture the lovely views of the surrounding region’s gorgeous landscape.

Another fun place the trail passes through is the Toulumne River Regional Park, the trail is also very close to the Modesto City County Airport.

Note that its best to use the trail between May and October.

Address: Tioga Dr. and Legion Park Dr. and Tuolumne River Regional Park.

7. FUNWORKS! Modesto

FUNWORKS! Modesto
Source: FUNWORKS! Family Fun Company / Facebook
FUNWORKS! Modesto

Bringing you another amazing center is The FUNWORKS! Modesto amusement center that sits on an 18-acre land, is an amusement center that offers fun filled entertainment to families and their children.

It is quite an amazing destination and it is a nice spot where the whole family can go to have fun.

Some of the fun features adventures and activities the center offers to children of all ages include miniature golf, bowling, Teddy Bear Factory, an XD Theatre and a Splashworks Pirate Ride.

There is also a restaurant on-site where you can get pizza and any favorite American food, snacks and drinks of your choice.

FUNWORKS! Modesto also hosts summer camps for kids, any holiday spent with your kids there is a holiday they will never forget.

Address: 4307 Coffee Rd, Modesto, CA 95357.

8. McHenry Mansion

Mchenry Mansion
Source: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 4.0],via Wikimedia Commons
Mchenry Mansion
McHenry Mansion is a historic house museum that was once a home to Robert McHenry, He was a prominent man in Modesto, it was built in the year 1883 using the Victorian Italianate style of architecture, it is an attractive building which you should check out.

The purpose of this house museum is to give visitors to the house a glimpse into the lifestyle of Robert McHenry and his family during the early years of the 1900s.

Due to environmental factors, the mansion was deteriorated, It wasn’t until 1983 that it was restored to its past glory and then opened to the public as a house museum. Today, the McHenry Mansion is a registered historical landmark.

Tour in this museum are not self-guided, you will be led by a tour guide. The tour begins at the visitor’s center where there will be a short movie presentation on the history of the Mansion before proceeding into the building.

Address: Corner of 15th & I Streets., Modesto, CA.

9. Gallo Center for the Arts

Gallo Center for the Arts
Source: msabcmom/Flickr
Gallo Center for the Arts

Gallo Center for the Arts is a performing arts center that acts as a host to many variety of artistic performances all through the year.

At this performing arts center, you will find two modern theatres, they are the Foster Family Theatre which has a seating capacity of 400 and the larger Rogers Theatre 1,200.

The center is also home to many artistic companies in the city like the Townsend Opera Players, the Central West Ballet, Modesto Symphony Orchestra and also the Modesto Community Concerts Association.

Check out the centre’s website to know when they will be performing next so as to plan your visit to this lovely city.

Address: 1000 I St, Modesto, CA 95354.

10. The State Theatre

The State Theatre
Source: Tom Hilton/Flickr
The State Theatre

On your list of things to do in Modesto is visit to the State Theatre this is a classic theatre which shows independent, old and foreign films it also serves as host to so many concerts and various events all through the year.

The Theatre was opened and dedicated to the people of Modesto by the state in the year 1934 to provide the community with different kinds of entertainment in form of cultural events, films and live theatre.

The 560-dear auditorium theatre was designed by Charles Lee who was a notable architect, he used gold-leafed embellishments, painted murals, towering sconces etc in designing the theatre thanks to his wonderful art the building is a wonder.

You will find a state-of-the-art technologies like digital projection, theatrical lighting, and a public address sound system, all of which were installed in the theatre to make it technology advanced.

Even though the theatre keeps upgrading with times, it still maintains a classic elegant feeling which still brings to the mind a bygone era.

Address: 1307 J St, Modesto, CA 95354.

11. John Thurman Field

John Thurman Field
Source: Douglas LeMoine/Flickr
John Thurman Field

Visiting the John Thurman Field can be another wonderful tour, it is a baseball stadium whose seating capacity is about 4,000 people, it was built in the year 1995.

This spectacular stadium is named after John E. Thurman a Californian State Assemblyman who was born in Modesto.

The stadium is home to the Modesto Nuts, a minor league baseball team that participates in the California League, the stadium host quite several games throughout the season.

Some of the facilities in the stadium which you may wish to check out include The Nuts Merchandise Store that sells Modesto Nuts merchandise etc.

There is also a game area in the stadium called the fun Zone which offers varieties of games such as the Inflatable Slide, Prize Wheel and Speed Pitch. Your kids will have a great time in this area.

Address: 601 Neece Dr, Modesto, CA 95351

12. Great Valley Museum

Great Valley Museum
Source: Great Valley Museum/Facebook
Great Valley Museum

Dedicated to appreciate and preserve the natural heritage and environment of the community and also to inspire the community for taking a great interest in the subject of science, The Great Valley Museum also known as GVM was built, it is one of the best museums in Modesto.

The Museum is located on the first floor of the Science Community Center which is by the West Campus of Modesto Junior College.

It carry out a variety of biological and science-based exhibition such as the various habitats of wildlife in the area, it also features the natural history of the Central Valley of California.

The museum also has a discovery Room where the visitors are allowed to explore the realm of science through interactive activities, live animal shows and displays, it is a place you will love to visit.

Another reason why a visit to the Great Valley Museum is wonderful experience is the fact that it is home to a planetarium, which is equipped with a world-class star projector and projecting system which can provide spectacular displays of the night sky and planetarium films.

Address: 2201 Blue Gum Ave, Modesto, CA 95358.

13. Dewz Restaurant

Dewz Restaurant
Source: Dewz Restaurant/Facebook
Dewz Restaurant

Your can’t enjoy your tour on an empty stomach so if you are looking for a place to eat and drink The Dewz Restaurant is the best option.

It is a family owned restaurant in Modesto which have been in operation for the past 20 years, It is place of high reputation and is frequently visited by the locals and foreigners.

You will love the decoration used in beautifying the restaurant and also how well organized it and its workers are and all the meals served by the restaurant are always freshly prepared using locally sourced ingredients.

Some of the dishes they serve include New Zealand Rack of Lamb with grilled oyster mushrooms and hazelnut ricotta tortellini and the Crispy Skinned Maple Leaf farms duck breast with sauteed rainbow chard and almond, try them both am sure you will love them.

While you enjoy your meal, don’t forget to make a selection from their extensive list of fine wines from around the world, handcrafted cocktails, imported spirits and craft beers.

You can ask them to choose for you based on your meal, for they are skilled in pairing cuisines with wine, You can have a romantic dinner and a night date here.

Address: 1505 J St, Modesto, CA 95354.

14. Mike’s Grillhouse

Mike's Grillhouse
Source: Mike’s Grillhouse/Facebook
Mike’s Grillhouse

Mike’s Grillhouse is a well known restaurant which is situated at Penlandale Avenue.

This restaurant serves casual cuisine and drinks in a relaxed and comfortable environment, it is truly a nice place to go on a date and its workers are very friendly.

All meals served by this restaurant are freshly prepared from scratch using fresh locally sourced ingredients.

Some of the dishes you will find in the restaurant menu are fried calamari, hearty burgers, grilled chicken salads and prime cuts of steak, the restaurant also has a menu that is filled with delectable desserts.

You can also try out some of the drinks served such as wines, soft drinks, cocktails and craft beers, you can ask any of the staff to help you select one that will go perfectly with your meal.

Mike’s Grillhouse is opened for lunch and dinner all the time, they also offer catering services for special events and functions.

Address: 3801 Penlandale Ave, Modesto, CA 95356.

15. Galletto Ristorante

Galletto Ristorante
Source: Galletto Ristorante/Facebook
Galletto Ristorante

At the heart of the city, you will find an elegant restaurant which serves traditional seasonal Northern Italian Cuisine, which is called  Galletto Ristorante.

It is beautifully decorated and Its surrounding is white and calm, Apart from the numerous dishes they serve, the restaurant has an extensive globally inspired wine list.

All the ingredients used in preparing the delicious dishes they serve are all sourced locally, some of these ingredients include cheeses, homegrown herbs, fresh seafood, prime meat cut, ginger etc.

The restaurant has private dining rooms that can be rented for special events and functions.

Address: 1101 J St, Modesto, CA 95354.

16. Downtown Modesto

Downtown Modesto
Source: jason shultz/Flickr
Downtown Modesto

One of the best things to do in Modesto, California is to visit the downtown district of Modesto.

Thanks to revitalization efforts, downtown Modesto has evolved into a central place filled with both historic flair and modern storefronts, some of the top attractions spots in the city are located here.

In this section of the city, you will find great historic places like the McHenry Mansion, McHenry Museum, and the State Theatre.

When it comes to Modern attractions, you will find here the Gallo Center for the Arts, and the Pedestrian only Tenth Street Plaza which contains an 18-screen movie theatre, shops and restaurants.

You will also find boutiques and shops where you can buy some of the things you need.

Another interesting thing about this area of the city is the Arts which can be seen on the streets, you will find lots of buildings with very tasteful murals. Take a picture of them if you like.

It is also the central area for big city events like The Modesto Certified Farmers Market and the annual Summer Graffiti cultural celebration.

Other events which hold here include First Friday Celebrations, annual Mural Festivals and so on.

17. Graffiti Summer

Graffiti Summer
Source: hharryus/Flickr
Graffiti Summer

Graffiti Summer is a long month event that holds every year in the month of June  in Modesto, this event is to celebrates the classic car culture of the Central Valley.

During this event, lots of people do come down to Modesto in their vintage automobiles and there are also live performances and other festival-related stuff.

During this celebration homage is paid to the hometown director George Lucas, for it was he who wrote and produce the award-winning movie called American Graffiti based on the experiences he had during his teenage years in Modesto in the early 1960s.

In the course of this event, the State Theatre screen this classic Modesto based movie.

Other central attractions that will catch your interest in this long weekend Graffiti Festival include the annual Graffiti Classic Car Parade which Features thousands of automobiles of models built before the year 1979 cruising downtown Modesto.

18. Graceada Park

Graceada Park
Source: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr
Graceada Park

Graceada Park was established in the year 1907 and it is the oldest city park in Modesto.

This lovely park was designed by a great designer, the very same designer that designed the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

You will find the Park on the outskirts of downtown, very close to the McHenry Mansion and McHenry Museum.

At the Park you will find a splash pad, lawn areas, tennis courts and playgrounds. It is a place where you and the whole family can spend a day.

If you plan on going on movie nights or watching some special musical performance, you can do that in The Mancini Bowl which is situated inside the park.

The Mancini Bowl in Graceada Park is available to rent for special events like Birthdays and corporate meetings.

Address: 401 Needham Street in Modesto, California.

19. Modesto Certified Farmers Market

Modesto Certified Farmers Market
Source: Modesto Certified Farmers Market/Facebook
Modesto Certified Farmers Market

Modesto Certified Farmers Market is a market event in the market that holds every Thursday and Saturdays between March and December in the downtown area of the city.

In the course of this market, you will be able to purchase home baked goods, produce and fresh vegetables.

Also you can find a hot and ready to eat food items, as well as handmade artisan crafts on sale at the market, most times, you will get to hear live music playing as you shop in this market.

Address: 1522 H Street, Modesto, California.

20. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Source: Ken Lund/Flickr
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is situated at about two hours east of Modesto, it can easily be seen for it has iconic granite mountains and tumbling waterfalls.

It is one of the most visited parks in the world. Year-round, it attracts adventure seekers, you will be impressed by the weather condition in this park.

If you plan to camp on these grounds you are free to, for Yosemite National Park has lots of space and spots for camping. So come along in an RV or come with your tents, it’s better to call ahead to make reservations for the park cause it gets filled up with campers.

Some popular fun activities you can engage in while in this park includes rock climbing, fishing, day hiking, jogging etc. The park has a cable line, but you must have a permit to be able to use it.

Some of the trails in the park which you may wish to explore include the Mist Trail, Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake more.

There is also the “Hiking up Half Dome” which is one of the most popular hikes in the park and the Pacific Crest Trail which passes through the Park.

21. Toulumne River Regional Park

Toulumne River Regional Park
Source: Ken Lund/Flickr
Toulumne River Regional Park

Toulumne River Regional Park covers more than seven miles of the Toulumne River (the park is on the south side of the river), This lovely park which sits on a 500-acre space is divided into five different areas.

On the eastern end of the parkway, you will find the Legion and Mancini Parks, both of which features recreational outlets like fishing spots and playground, they also have picnic areas and to the west of the park, you will find the Bellenita Park which has lots of outdoor attractions.

22. Virginia Corridor Trailway

Virginia Corridor Trailway has the beautiful parts of California along its paths, if you want to take in the beauty of California and you do have a camera, I suggest you try out Virginia Corridor Trailway.

This trail is about 4.2 miles long and it passes some of the historic landmarks in the area like the old Tidewater Southern Railway.

One lovely thing about the trail is that it has a range of amenities along its way. For instance, there are roadside benches for resting and when you get hungry you can eat in one of the restaurants which you will meet on the way.

If you plan on hiking this trail with some drinks and snacks you will find shaded areas as well as picnic spots where you can relax and eat.

Do well to take a picture of the lush gardens filled with local flora which you will find along this trail.

23. Dry Creek Regional Park

Dry Creek Park
Source: Kathleen Ennis/Facebook
Dry Creek Park

Located in the city of Modesto is the Dry Creek Regional Park, it is one of the most loved parks in the city.

Frequently visited by tourists and locals, the park is known for its stunning vistas and local flora and fauna.

Some other attractions in the parks which are worth your time include a museum that is dedicated to showcasing and explaining the history of agriculture in the City of Modesto and the surrounding area.

Check out also the lovely garden which is situated in this park which is perfect for a stroll with the one that you love.

You will find some of the best of California’s wildlife and plant in this park.

24. Sunshine Rafting

If you wish to get out on the water or maybe try rafting, then check out Sunshine Rafting Company, it has been around for a while and it is known as one of the best rafting company in the region.

This rafting company aims to showcase the best of the river while at the same time making sure that the visitors are both safe and comfortable.

Sunshine Rafting takes its visitors out to explore the Stanislaus River.

You don’t need to be experienced to partake in this fun, for the company will assign someone to each group who will help you enjoy your day on the water, this makes what to do in Modesto CA fun for adventure seekers.

Windsor presents lots of historical landmarks, take time in checking them out during a visit to Ontario, Canada, make a checklist of things to do in Windsor with this guide.

25. George Lucas Plaza

George Lucas Plaza
Source: Keiichi YOSHIHARA/Flickr
George Lucas Plaza

George Lucas, the famous movie director and producer of the 1960s award-winning “American Graffiti” is from Modesto.

With this in mind, it should not surprise you that the city chose to erect a memorial in his honor.

At George Lucas Plaza, you will not only find a plaza named after this great man but will also find a bronze statue of him in the City.

The George Lucas statue is strategically situated at a place called Five Points which is also where the five key intersections of the city meets.

26. Hillier Air Museum

Also in Modesto is the Hillier Air Museum, this an interesting place to visit during your stay.

At this Museum you will get the chance to pilot a realistic flight simulator and also build structures using foam blocks.

The museum also has an Invention lab which is aimed at exploring aviation designs during the weekends. I assure you that your kids are going to love this place.

Among other things in the museum you will find are gliders, helicopters and other aircraft on displays.

The museum do hold a special program once in a while, which your kids can partake in, they include the drone-building and flying workshops set up by the museum.

27. Freedom Park

Freedom Park
Source: City of Modesto – City Hall/Facebook
Freedom Park

One of the reasons why Freedom Park looks so appealing and out of this world must be because of its surface that is paved, it is a carefully designed park.

Some of the features of this park include picnic areas, a bike path, photography area and a basketball court.

This park is a place where the whole family can spend lots of time together. You are free to come with some food and drink to host a picnic here.

28. East La Loma Park

East La Loma Park is a park filled with so many sporting opportunities is a place to go if you wish to shoot hoops or play volleyball and all kind of sporting activities.

Other sport features of the park which you could enjoy include a disc golf course, table tennis and lawn tennis courts.

The park also has a lot of walking trails which you may decide to take a hike in or you can go fishing inside in the water body in the park.

There are also many good spots in the park which are suitable for picnicking.

29. Rockin Jump

Rockin Jump
Source: Rockin’ Jump Trampoline Park – Modesto/Facebook
Rockin Jump

Rockin Jump has a slam dunk zone, a dodgeball arena and a climbing wall, but that’s not its major attraction.

The main attraction in Rockin Jump is the open jump area which can be perfectly described by saying that it is “trampoline on steroids”.

If your kids love Ninja shows and do set for themselves Ninja type obstacles, then they will love Wipe Out.

In the Wipe Out game, the kids are to climb a structure while avoiding the rotating sweeper bars.

30. Divine Swine

Divine Swine
Source: Divine Swine/Facebook
Divine Swine

Divine Swine is a restaurant in Modesto which only serve meat, mostly very tasty pork. So, if you don’t like pork meat, this is not a place for you.

There is nothing served in this restaurant without pork, even though it may be mixed with ground beef as a burger or as a meat sauce on top of spaghetti, you are sure to taste pork.

You can rarely find other dishes but dishes you will find in the restaurant’s menu includes jambalaya and shrimp pasta, all of which you will enjoy with the rare selection of wine the restaurant offers.

A Divine Swine kid’s menu is also available, so you can come along with your kids and have a wonderful family time together.

31. Skewers Kabob House

Skewers Kabob House
Source: Skewers/Facebook
Skewers Kabob House

Skewers Kabob House is a restaurant which serves Persian Inspired Mediterranean cuisines.

You can choose from any “skewered” food which is on the menu, like salmon, chicken, veggies and shrimp included meals.

The restaurant also has non-skewered food options such as salads and dips which you can eat along with a cool drink served by the restaurant.

32. Extreme Paintball Park

Extreme Paintball Park
Source: Extreme Paintball Park/Facebook
Extreme Paintball Park

If you which to experience a paintball game at least once, then you need to head down to Extreme Paintball Park.

At this park, you will find realistic looking weapons and various battlegrounds, you and your friends can have fun in this battleground.

If you are coming along with your kids, those above the age of ten can be part of the game.

Extreme Paintball Park is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

If you want a spot on this battleground, then you need to make reservations 24 hours before the game time to enable the organizers to create space for you, This would make your stay in Modesto a memorable one.

Try exploring other parts of California during your trip, check out this guide on fun things to do in Ventura as well as fun things to do in Riverside

Plan Your Trip to Modesto

It deserves the title “Small but Mighty”, Modesto looks so small and quiet from afar but as you step closer, you get to see it is filled with wonders.

Though a small city, it is packed with so many fun attractions spots and activities. It’s quite obvious that the people of Modesto can’t exhaust all the fun this city has in stalled.

For this reason, this friendly city invites you to a banquet, a banquet of fun. You are truly welcomed to this great feast.