City of Modesto, the original American Graffiti

The City of Modesto (pop. 201,165 2010) in located in the Central Valley of Northern California, 92 miles east of San Francisco, 68 miles south of Sacramento, and a little over an hour away from winter ski resorts.

Modesto was immortalized in the 1973  film “American Graffiti”, the award winning film captured the spirit of ‘cruising’ downtown Modesto in 1962 and led to the revival of a nation-wide 1950’s nostalgia that included the TV show Happy Days and other spin-offs. Director George Lucas is a native of Modesto, graduating from Downey High School in 1962. Annually Modesto celebrates Graffiti Summer with car shows and concerts.

Modesto was originally a stop on the railroad connection Sacramento to Los Angeles and was founded in 1870 and incorporated in 1884. With fields of grain, close proximity to the river and railroad traffic the town grew, and by 1900 the population was over 4,500.

Located in Stanislaus County and surrounded by rich farmland, the Modesto area is know for farm production; milk, almonds, chickens, cattle and walnuts.

Modesto usually has cool winters and very hot, dry summers with temperatures ranging from 40°F in January to 95°F in July. Onshore breezes, locally known as the ‘delta breeze’ moderate the higher temperatures, with cooler air coming in during the evening.

Modesto offers more that 200 restaurants, cafes, coffee houses and nightlife clubs. Vintage Faire Mall, the Vintage Commons, Plaza Parkway, and McHenry Avenue are home to numerous local businesses and nationally known chain stores.

The top employers in Modesto include; Stanislaus County, E & J Gallo Winery, Modesto City Schools, Memorial Medical Center, Seneca Foods, Doctors Hospital, Foster Farms, Modesto Junior College, Del Monte Foods, Stanislaus Food Products and Kaiser Permanente.

Modesto encompasses various cultural and social diverse schools. Among the oldest is Modesto Junior College (MJC), Thomas Downey High School, Modesto High School and Grace M. Davis High School.

Local attractions include;

  • McHenry Mansion – built by hand in the early 1880’s by Robert McHenry, this mansion is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
  • McHenry Museum – filled with tidbits from Modesto’s history.
  • George Lucas Plaza – an inspired bronze statue located at the intersections of McHenry Avenue, “J” Street, 17th Street, Downey and Needham
  • Gallo Center for the Arts – located in downtown Modesto, this is a center for performing arts.
  • The State Theatre – built in the 1920’s and recently renovated, it serves as a local performance arts center and also specializes in independent and foreign films.
  • John Thurman Field – home of the Modesto Nuts baseball team, this stadium was renovated a few years ago.
  • Graceada Park Neighborhood – an area representative of early 1900s homes with tree lined streets, several parks, and Mancini Bowl, host to the very popular Modesto Band Summer Concerts in the Park.

Modesto is served by the Modesto City-County Airport, Interstate 5, California State Routes 132 & 108 and California State Route 99 which runs through the center of the city.

Public transportation is available not only for the City of Modesto but also for Stanislaus County.

Modesto, California is a great place to live in if you are looking for a place to put down roots.  With easy access to arts, theatre and cultural events, lots of shopping, sporting events, concerts, and more, Modesto is a big city with a small town heart. For more information contact a Century 21 M&M Realtor at (800)479-7900.


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