Modesto, Calif., a charming San Joaquin Valley town, boasts a vibrant downtown, great local restaurants, and a glimpse into the past.
Area code is 209 unless noted
To Do and See
Gallo Center for the Arts See top-notch performers in a state-of-the-art venue. The December holiday shows include The Nutcracker, Irish Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and Posada Navidena. 1000 I St., (877) 488-3380, 338-2100, www.galloarts.org . McHenry Mansion Browse 19th-century antiques in this massive Italianate-style Victorian wonder. 906 15th St., 577-5366, mchenrymansion.org . McHenry Museum Sprawling displays with everything from American Indian baskets to kitschy 1950s advertising posters. 1402 I St., 577-5366, mchenrymuseum.org . Mistlin Gallery Cutting-edge art shows and classes for the public. 1015 J St., 529-3369, ccartassn.org .
Eats & Drinks
Bacchus Food & Spirits Sip swanky cocktails such as the spicy ahi tuna-tini. 1200 I St., 576-8994, bacchusmodesto.com . Barkin' Dog Grill Listen to live music or poetry and chow down on an organic burger. 940 11th St., 572-2341, barkindoggrill.org . Dewz In elegant yet comfortable surroundings, savor French- and Asian-influenced cuisine including blackened Chilean sea bass and a spectacular banana flambe. 1505 J St., 549-1101, dothedewz.com . Harvest Moon Enjoy delicious fare created with local ingredients, like the ever popular sweet potato fries. 1213 I St., 523-9723. J Street Cafe Dine on specialty crepes with fillings such as Nutella, fresh fruit, and pesto, served amid local artwork. 1030 J St., 577-8007. Tresetti's World Caffe Offers fine dining with a New Orleans flair. Beef up on the grilled Black Angus tenderloin and a sautéed seafood risotto. 927 11th St., 572-2990, tresetti.com .
Antique Emporium A bounty of items such as Civil War swords and Greek sailor hats occupy a two-story wonderland. 1511 J St., 579-9730 Crow Trading Co. Peruse antique Chinese furniture and vintage advertising. 1208 J St., 579-2173, crowtrading.com . Fleur De Lis Shop for French items like lavender soaps and unique purses. 920 16th St., 577-0299.
Best Western Town House Lodge From $70 for AAA members. Located a short walk from McHenry Mansion and McHenry Museum. 909 16th St., 524-7261, Doubletree Hotel From $89 for AAA members. Adjacent to the Civic Center and the visitor's bureau. 1150 9th St., 526-6000. Knights Inn From $40 for AAA members. 115 Downey Ave., 529-4370.
Request the Northern California & Nevada TourBook and local map at AAA.com or any AAA branch office. For more information, contact the Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau: 1150 Ninth St., Ste. C, 526-5588, visitmodesto.com 
Photography courtesy Bill Wood Photography
This article was first published in November 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.