Stockton/San Joaquin County’s “must see” list, Part I

The Stockton Children's Museum has long been a favorite destination for kids and families, just off the downtown Stockton south channel waterfront.

Huge wind art is visible on Stockton’s Deepwater Channel, behind the Stockton Ports Ballpark.
A small piece of the San Joaquin River Delta, with Mt. Diable in background, is visible from a sunset dinner at the Garlic Bros. deck in Stockton.
Giant clamshell dredge bucket dwarfs kids at the San Joaquin Historical Museum!


The Stockton Empire Theater anchors a resurgent portion of the Miracle Mile, complete with great restaurants and walkable shops.

Perhaps you have seen my Sunday travel articles in the Record or travel blogs over the last six months; in retirement, my spouse and I have worked to take our travels seriously.

In our working career, we have lived in five interesting cities (Spokane, WA, my wife’s hometown, San Mateo, Sacramento, Toledo, OH, and Stockton).  We lived in each of those cities for 2.5 years or longer, and upon departure from the first four, realized that, of their great sights and scene-stealers, we had probably only seen 50 to 75%.  What a shame, we now reflect – and have vowed not to let that happen again. 

Hence, for Stockton and San Joaquin County, as well as Northern California, we have resolved not to miss those stellar attractions – those places you would take guests to show off your hometown.  Why not start your own list, and check them off as you visit them?  Along the way, you’ll come to appreciate and understand our fine community all the better! 

Here is the start of our list of “Stockton/San Joaquin County’s hidden gems”:

Haggin Museum and Victory Park: The stately Haggin is one of the west coast’s prime museums and art collections and has anchored Victory Park for 82 years.  First Saturdays offer free admission, and Second Saturdays offer up special programming targeting families with kids.  Sunset Magazine has called it one of “California’s undersung gems”; it’s museum role focuses on the city’s history from founder Captain Weber, to more modern leaders like Benjamin Holt (inventor of the Caterpiller-type tractor), Tillie Lewis (the “Tomato Queen”), and Stephens Brothers wood boat builders.

Among its art collections are scores of paintings by 19th and 20th century American and European artists, and breathtaking panoramas of the Yosemite Valley.  Ongoing special showings of art make the Haggin experience one that varies by the month  For insight,

Kid’s activities: Put both the Children’s Museum, downtown Stockton and Pixie Woods at Lewis Park on your list for fun for kids of all ages.  The Childern’s Museum ( lets the kids play on a fire engine, fly a helicopter, prowl in a police car and discover so much about the world they reside in.  At Pixie Woods (, take a boat ride on the Pixie Queen Paddle wheel steamer, ride the rails on the Pixie Express Train or join scores of families on the carousel.  Lots of animals, too!  The special Christmas in July event, Saturday, July 19 makes for a special opportunity to visit!

Downtown Stockton waterfront from the Ports Ballpark and Stockton Arena on the north side to  Weber Point, the Cineplex/Hotel Stockton at the head of the Channel out to the Children’s Museum and Morelli Park on south channel, this is the heart and soul of Stockton.  Once the Gold Rush port to the Mother Lode, it brought miners, merchants and helped build an agricultural empire second to no other in the US.  Take in the view with a walk or bike ride, rent a kayak out of the new Stockton Marina, and take in a Ports or Thunder game or an event at Stockton Arena or historic Bob Hope Theatre (just two blocks from the Hotel Stockton).  For more info,

San Joaquin Delta: A great place to start a tour of the some of the 1000 mile waterways of our vast  Delta is with a sunset dinner on Garlic Bros. deck.  The San Joaquin Delta stretches all along the west side of the city (and many waterways stretching into our city).  Other places to gather Delta inspiration are to take Highway 12 west out of Lodi, and tour the Delta Loop, just past Bouldin Island, or Hwy. 4 west (extension of Charter Way in south Stockton).  Explore some Delta back roads, count how many historic draw bridges you cross, and watch the varied agricultural bounty, as well as boats or big ships all along they way.

Micke Grove Park/Zoo/San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum: This is one of our county’s relatively undiscovered gems, a huge park set amidst towering Valley Oaks, that contains the Zoo, and the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum.  History comes alive at the San Joaquin Historical Museum. With eight large exhibit buildings packed with Native American, pioneer, Gold Rush and agricultural history, and four historic buildings including the Charles Weber Cottage dating to 1847 and the Calaveras School, 1866, it’s one of the state’s best historical museums; info:

Within the large park you’ll also find the stunning Japanese Gardens, the Fun Town Amusement Park and the Micke Grove Zoo (, surrounded by lots of picnic areas placed amongst the oaks. The zoo features a special Lorikeets exhibit through Sept. 21. The park offers so many options in addition to the zoo and museum, you’ll spend a long day, or return, time-and-again.

Our next installment will complete our short list. Yet to come are these “must sees”:

Miracle Mile, shops and restaurants

Lodi/Woodbridge wine country and downtown Lodi

University of Pacific campus.

Ethnic dining throughout the city and county.

Cultural celebrations and festivals.

I hope you will offer up your “don’t miss short list” and send them on to me (; I’ll  visit many of those “musts” and include some in a future article or blog.  For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog:  Happy travels in the west!

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