A Perfect 36 Hours…

You want to get out of town, you don’t want to go far, you want to keep it affordable and you want to be back home tomorrow night. Sounds harder than it needs to be…that’s why we’ve created a Perfect 36 Hours to help you accomplish all those goals. And, we’re giving you options for families, foodies, couples and active travelers. So…here’s your list!

First, book a room at a hotel with a pool. You may find you get time for a glass of wine or frosty beer while watching friends and family relax after a fun afternoon out discovering.


  • Start your Modesto journey in downtown at the Farmers Market (on Thursday or Saturday mornings) or Rodin Ranch Market where you can grab some fresh berry lemonade and local fruits or nuts then go on a Mural Walk. There are dozens of public murals and artworks in downtown and we have a mobile friendly itinerary HERE to use. You’ll find tips on galleries, restaurants and coffee shops there too.
  • Then take the family out to at least two local farm and ag stands. Use our LIST to get started. Right now, it’s the beginning of stone fruit season and that will run through mid-August and the fruits only get better as the days get hotter!
  • Take a nice drive out to Robert’s Ferry Nut Company for an almond milk shake. If you go to the one in Waterford, just east of Modesto, you’ll drive along the river and see some incredible country views. Don’t skip the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge, driving across Crabtree Road (carefully…it’s a narrow road that winds through orchards and creeks and pastures) or stopping a few miles up the road in old La Grange.
  • Now that everyone has their fill of nature and veggies, you can take young and old kids over to Boomers for some fun in the batting cages, go-karts, arcade or mini-golf. Boomers is following very strict protocols in consideration of guest health. Check them out online for more info.
  • If you need to get some shopping in there’s always Vintage Faire Mall with everything from an Apple Store to Aerie to Abercrombie plus plenty of family restaurants for every appetite.
  • Dinner leaves you with options; from Mike’s Grillhouse – with chili you’ll want the recipe for, to Skewer’s Kabab House – try the Shish and Lula kabobs. You’ll find options with our MoCertified list of restaurants and even our Authentic Mexican-TexMex list with taco trucks you’ll yearn to try again!
  • Always leave room for dessert and consider Modesto’s very own Yogurt Mill with three locations around town. It’s the local favorite!


  • Coffee, hot cocoa, pastries (vegan too!) and more can be found at Mocha Magic in downtown or just grab a go-cup anywhere and take a morning walk on the Virginia Corridor Trailway. This 4.2 mile trail has easy access from downtown to the center of Modesto and is just a short walk or drive from most hotels in Modesto. It’s a delightful way to start your morning.
  • Adventurous or in need of some thing exhilarating? You’ve got options on the water! Starting in late May you can raft on the Stanislaus River. Or, you can always go to Lake Don Pedro for everything from fishing to water skiing to wave runners to party boats.
  • If you want something more for a great walk, ride or run head over to Dry Creek Trail and East La Loma Park for a 6-mile jaunt along the creek, through parks, past playgrounds and through the local Children’s Forest. It’s a great way to spend several hours to get your fill of nature, some smiling faces enjoying the trails and even play disc golf at the Modesto Disc Golf Course. Good attitudes are a must here.
  • A special place to spend several hours outside (don’t forget the sunscreen) is at Knight’s Ferry Recreation Area where you’ll find the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi, the gorgeous Stanislaus River with hiking trails, fishing and picnic spots. This is also a parking spot for many local cyclists and runners who will head over to Sonora Road for an awesome workout through orchards, creeks and quaint farms.
  • If you just want some more fun with agriculture you have options; Sciabica Family Olive Oil has a tasting room and Oakdale Cheese also has a tasting room with a shop and pretty grounds for picnics too! Be sure to call in advance for times and directions.
  • For the more active wanderers you have options;
    • The Tuolomne River Trail offers great riding by the river and you can work your way back to Dry Creek and continue a great mountain bike ride.
    • If you’re a runner Modesto has an annual marathon that is a qualifier for the Boston and NYC Marathons…so you can connect with one of the running clubs for longer routes and even some trail running.
    • Love to Fish? There’s plenty of options along the Tuolomne and Stanislaus River for flyfishing, bass fishing and more!
    • Golf? Tennis? Yes…both private and public! Bring the racquets and head over to the Modesto public parks where you’ll find courts all over the city. And for golfers there’s Creekside Golf and Dryden Park along the river.
    • Birds? You bet! The Stanislaus Audubon Society is very active as Modesto is on the flyway with plenty of locations to spot a rare bird or two.
  • And don’t forget to stop on your way home at one of the many farm and ag stands to take home a taste of Modesto, grab some of the finest tomato sauce in the nation made locally by Stanislaus Foods, head over to Dave’s Meat or the Village Butcher for fresh cut meats and even grab some nuts at Stewart & Jasper or the Blue Diamond Gift Shop.

So if you’re not refreshed after that you can always add another day and do the things you missed out on! Remember, Modesto is easy to get to; just mid-way between San Francisco and Yosemite (don’t forget, if you want a day in Yosemite to reserve your pass in advance). You’ll find you had an affordable, pleasant and memorable trip that will leave you wanting to come back.

See you on your next ‘perfect’ 36 hours…and the next one…and the next one!

PS: Before you begin consider using Modesto as a base for a visit to Yosemite National Park. The entrance is just 90 miles from downtown and with the days getting longer it’s not hard to grab coffee, stop at a farm stand for some goodies and be in the park with a full day to adventure (picnics by the river in the valley are a must!). You’ll be able to make it back to Modesto before dark if you leave two hours before sunset and give yourself time for some slow going that may occur as visitors head home. Then you can clean up and hit the town for a great meal. There’s always Camp 4 Wine Cafe in Modesto to relive your day while honoring the climbers of Half Dome!

-Todd Aaronson


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