Thanks to its year-round mild climate, Modesto was also known as the Rose City or the Garden City within 25 years or so of its incorporation in 1884. It is the 16th largest city in California, with a population of over 210,000. Nut crops, orchards and dairy farms thrive in the rich soil of the valley.
Modesto is the culture hub of Central Valley, with easy access to many of the major tourist attractions of the state, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Cruz Beach, the Gold Country Mother Lode, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park.
The Stanislaus River is nearby and the Tuolumne River runs through the city, but these are not deep enough for a port. In addition, there is no public access to the water for water sports. However, there are biking trails, skateboarding or in-line skating at Modesto's state park and the city has a total of 75 parks.
Many rail towns from the frantic 19th century settlement times are named after the railroad director. William C. Ralston, the Central Pacific Railroad's manager in 1884, modestly declined this honour and the municipal city was named Modesto which is the Spanish word for modest, a sly tribute to Ralston's modest nature.
The Modesto Arch was built in 1912 at the junction of 9th and 1st streets. It is still a tourist attraction today, with its 668 light sign, and an arch which stands 25 ft. high and spans 75 ft. Another Modesto feature with its humble beginnings in this era is the Gallo winery which began as a wine store in 1933. On the same day that prohibition ended, Ernest and Julio Gallo opened for business and their ensuing success has made them the largest winery in the world.
- McHenry Museum, McHenry Mansion
- Great Valley Museum of Natural History, featuring indigenous flora and fauna
- rafting on Stanislaus River
- Mistlin Gallery
- Chartreuse Muse
- Castle Air Museum
- Anderson Gallery with work of local artists
- seven golf courses
- Gallo Centre for the Arts, housing the orchestra, opera and ballet
- Flower Clock
- Modesto Arch
- El Viejo Post Office, from the Great Depression era, features murals of Modesto's agricultural life
- McClatchy Square
- American Graffiti Cruising Loop, with views taken from George Lucas' American Graffiti film
- George Lucas Plaza