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Skyline Photo of Modesto, CA.

11 Things to Know About Living in Modesto

Thinking about living in Modesto? Located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, this agriculturally rooted city offers a rich history, affordable living, sunny weather, and fun things to do. Here are 11 things you need to know before moving to Modesto, CA!

Enjoy Affordable California Living

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Want the amenities the Golden State has to offer without the expensive California cost of living? While Modesto’s cost of living is still 11% higher than the national average, it’s 30% lower than the California average—with savings on goods and services, healthcare, and housing! In fact, the cost of housing is as much as 84% lower than the state average. And despite the city’s unemployment rate being slightly higher than the national average, there are still great opportunities for residents to build a career. Some of the top employers in Modesto include companies like Save Mart Supermarkets, G3 Enterprises, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Sutter Health, and Modesto City Schools. Plus, Modesto’s agricultural history is still a major part of the city’s identity, with nearby farms and fruit stands like Ott Farms, Rodin Farms, and Dutch Hollow Farms providing a variety of fresh produce to enjoy.

Get Around with Modesto Transportation

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Because of the city’s convenient access to major roadways like CA-132, CA-99, and CA-108, residents have easy commutes around the metro and to outside cities like Sacramento and San Francisco. While most Modesto residents use their cars to get around the city, there are also several public transportation options that make it easier to travel to nearby cities for work or weekend trips. Go to nearby cities like Turlock, Patterson, and Dublin via the Modesto BART Commuter Train. Catch a ride on an Amtrak train at the Modesto Train Station to avoid traffic on your way to Sacramento and other major cities. Utilize the Greyhound Modesto Bus Stop if you need a ride to Tracy, Merced, and more. And for those who can’t drive to their doctor’s appointments, the Medivan is a non-emergency vehicle service providing transportation to Bay Area medical professionals!

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Study at Nearby Universities

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There are several colleges and universities in the Modesto area for anyone looking to further their education. Go the community college route and earn an associate degree in nursing, accounting, or biological sciences at Modesto Junior College. Dive into programs like criminal justice, social sciences, and creative media at California State University, Stanislaus. Prepare for a career as an emergency medical technician, medical assistant, or paralegal at Abrams College. Looking for a private college environment? Check out SJVC Modesto, where you can enroll in programs like pharmacy technology, medical office administration, and electrical technology. Stay in town at the Modesto Campus or head out to the main campus in Stockton to study early childhood education, court reporting, legal studies, and more at Humphreys University. Obtain an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics, or pursue a graduate degree in behavioral psychology, business analytics, or computer science at the University of the Pacific‘s Stockton Campus, located about 40 minutes outside of Modesto.

Explore Modesto-Area Parks & Trails

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Some of the most fun places to go in Modesto are just outside the door! Modesto offers a Mediterranean climate with around 260 sunny days per year, and average temperatures that range from 39 to 94 degrees. The city’s 75 public parks offer a variety of amenities—including splash pads, playgrounds, pickleball courts, and more. Take your family to one of the best parks in Modesto to compete in a game of horseshoes, spike the ball on the volleyball court, and skate your heart out at Graceada Community Park. Try your hand at disc golf, shoot some hoops, pass the time with baseball, and let your kids on the playground at family favorites like East La Loma Community Park, Downey Community Park, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Oregon Park. Smell the roses at McClatchy Square Rose Garden. Get some exercise and immerse yourself in nature at Modesto trails like Dry Creek Trail, Virginia Corridor Trailway, or one of several bikeways. Camp by the water, go boating or fishing, shoot at the archery range, and explore more than 3,200 acres of land and 2,800 acres of reservoir at the Modesto Reservoir. Or head just outside of Modesto to float down the Stanislaus River on a self-guided rafting tour at Sunshine Rafting Adventures.

Visit National Parks in California

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While there are plenty of things to do in Modesto, one of the biggest advantages to living in the city is its proximity to several West Coast national parks and forests! Pack your outdoor gear for a hike, take in stunning views, and reel in your next big fish at Yosemite National Park. Camp out, explore nature on horseback, or go for a scenic drive at Sierra National Forest. Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty with overnight backpacking, take a look at the General Sherman Tree, and watch local wildlife at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Explore the 78 lakes, go for a swim, and set up for a relaxing picnic at Stanislaus National Forest. Cozy up at the campfire, try your hand at rock climbing, and experience the popular winter sport of skiing at Inyo National Forest. Or enjoy a day out on the water with boating, skiing, and windsurfing at Eldorado National Forest.

Experience Fun with the Entire Family

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No matter your age, there are plenty of fun things to do in Modesto! Root for the home team, the Modesto Nuts (MiLB), as they strike out the competition at John Thurman Field. Have fun with the entire family with putt-putt golf, batting cages, and bowling at Funworks Modesto. Flex your puzzle-solving skills and escape from themed rooms like Project Nexus and CSI: Modesto at ESCAPE Modesto. Feel the adrenaline as you compete alone or with a group at Extreme Paintball Park. Have fun with bumper cars, hop on rides like the Flamethrower, and go for the high score in the arcade at Boomers Modesto. Channel your inner child by painting your choice of ceramics or enrolling in a class at Pottery Magic Modesto. Unwind after a long day by competing against family and friends on 52 bowling lanes, host your kid’s next birthday party, or sign up for a bowling league at McHenry Bowl.

Stop by Modesto Museums

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If you love learning about art, culture, and history, check out the unique museums in Modesto! Explore the history of Stanislaus County, attend special events, and see a recreated blacksmith shop at McHenry Museum & Historical Society. Dive into classic car culture, grab a bite at a classic diner, and go on a tour at the Graffiti USA Museum. See plant and animal specimens from the Central Valley region, gaze at the stars on a 40-foot suspended dome ceiling at the Planetarium, and check out rotating exhibits at the Great Valley Museum. Foster a love of learning with your kids with interactive exhibits like the Color Story Train, Tall Tales Stage, and the Light Lab at the Modesto Children’s Museum. Check out Cowboy Rodeo memorabilia, touch authentic leather saddles, and attend fun events like Cowboy Christmas at The Cowboy Museum nearby. Or dive in to the cultural history, community life, and growth of the nearby city of Turlock at the Turlock History Museum (sponsored by the Turlock Historical Society).

Dive In to the Modesto Performing Arts Scene

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One of the more popular activities in Modesto is supporting local performing arts. You can find anything from live music venues to classic film showings at high-quality Modesto venues. Watch live Broadway performances like Mean Girls, tickle your funny bone at comedy shows, and appreciate productions from the Central West Ballet at Gallo Center for the Arts. Watch theatrical performances like Taco Jesus, The Lifespan of a Fact, and Proof at the Prospect Theater Project. Catch a foreign film screening, live musical performances, and gut-busting comedy shows at the State Theatre of Modesto. Dress up for a Modesto date night at the opera with shows like Tosca, Die Fledermaus, and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Falling Giant at Opera Modesto. Grab a lawn chair to enjoy outdoor concerts at The Fruit Yard Amphitheater. Or explore the city’s visual arts, with Art Walks on the third Thursday of each month and more than 100 public murals in Downtown Modesto—some of which are Star Wars-themed, since Modesto is the hometown of famed film director George Lucas!

Have Fun at Modesto Festivals & Events

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You’ll find a variety of festivals and events in Modesto throughout the year that cater to almost any interest! Support local by grab fresh produce, yummy treats, and uniquely crafted artisan goods at the year-round Modesto Certified Farmers Market. Enjoy free concerts, a rodeo or tractor pull at Foodmaxx Arena, and thrilling carnival rides at the Stanislaus County Fair in nearby Turlock. Embrace Modesto culture during Graffiti Summer, a multi-day event featuring live music and up to 1,400 classic cars at the American Graffiti Festival. Celebrate the Modesto LGBTQ community and embrace inclusion with MoPride events like The Gays Read, Teen Tuesdays, and MoPride In the Park. Get in the holiday spirit with themed parade floats, Christmas lights, and music at the Celebration of Lights Holiday Parade. Explore the vendor fair, see the Miss Almond Blossom/Miss Ripon competition, and enjoy the Almond Blossom Parade at the Almond Blossom Festival in Ripon. Channel your inner Jedi, grab pictures of life-sized R2-D2 and C-3PO droids, dress up as your favorite Star Wars characters, and rock out to live music for Star Wars Day in Modesto—the first city to make “May the Fourth Be With You” an official holiday.

Dine Out at Modesto Restaurants

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Residents have plenty of choices when it comes to finding places to eat in Modesto! Feast on breakfast classics like Blueberry Pancakes, Eggs Benedict, and the Crab Omelette at Harvest Moon. Get your caffeine fix with a Chai Tea Latte or Americano, and snack on Creamy Potato Soup at Mocha Magic Cafe & Bakeshop. Feel the warmth of the fireplace as you enjoy outdoor dining with dishes like Steamed Mussels, Scampi Pasta, and Fungo Pizza at Galletto Ristorante. Get some fresh air walking alongside more than 90 acres of fruit orchards, pick up fresh baked goods, munch on freshly sliced deli meat, and fill up on dishes like fried pickles, Hot Wings, and Tri-Tip Sandwich at The Fruit Yard. Enjoy the Border Line Nachos, The Derby Burger, and Upton Sinclair Pizza at Churchkey. Or experience fine dining in Modesto with unique items like the Baked Brie, Prawn Bacon Pasta, and Prime Tomahawk at Dewz.

Experience Modesto Bars, Wineries, & Nightlife

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Those looking for fun when the sun goes down will find plenty of great bars and nightclubs in the city—especially in Downtown Modesto (DoMo)! Enjoy Modesto nightlife by dancing the night away to live music at Palladium Night Club. Hit the bullseye with throwing axes and fill up on great food at The Smart Axe. Take salsa dancing lessons, learn line dancing, and have fun with themed weekend dance parties at Crocodiles Nightclub. Get together for happy hour and go for the strike under neon lights during Extreme Bowling at Yosemite Lanes. Head over to an LGBTQ-friendly space at Splash Bar Modesto for Drag Shows, dancing, and drinks. Make a stop at one of the best bars in Modesto to eat the Triple Play Pasta and sip more than 16 different beers on tap at Fox Pub Modesto. Or embrace the California wine country vibes and schedule wine tastings at local wineries like E. & J. Gallo Winery and Barefoot Cellars.

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Moving to Modesto? With accessible storage facilities throughout the Central Valley area, Extra Space Storage can help with your transition. Find Modesto storage near you!

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.