Staycations: exploring Stockton and San Joaquin County from a tourist’s viewpoint

Exploring Stockton and SJ County from a tourist’s perspective; enjoy a staycation!

Stockton’s Ava Simpson runs her own graphics/marketing business; between work, family, volunteering for organizations like the Peace and Justice Network, she does not have time for a traditional vacation this summer. But, in a recent chat, I realized she is planning several “staycations”, a term popular in recessionary times when folks had neither time nor money to spare but still desired to see the sights and take a break from actual work.

Take part in a tour of the Fox CA/Bob Hope Theatre, which goes hand-in-hand with classic movies shown monthly at the stately film palace!

So, let’s explore staycations, defined by Merriam Webster as “a vacation spent at home or nearby”. Pluses include saving money on accommodations, meals and travel expenses and the option to see local sites that you’ve never gotten around to. The minuses include the danger of continuing working and/or frittering away your vacation time without much to show for it.

So, here are suggestions; they include seeking out hands-on learning experiences; particularly tied to hometown history and local visitor attractions. Splurge a few times – dine out at local favorites and visit nearby attractions (you’re saving a ton of money by not traveling out of the area).

Simpson suggests, “I think we should all treat our home towns as if we were visitors and not wait…thinking I’ll do that next year.” She adds, “tour the Stockton waterfront; start at the Waterfront Warehouse. The interior of this former grain storage facility is spectacular and vintage pieces of large machinery are well labeled. Sample Mexican food at Nenas or try out the new dessert shop”.

Huge wind art is part of a walking/strolling tour of the Stockton waterfront; location here is on water behind the Stockton Ballpark, home to the Ports Baseball Team.

“Walk the Joan Darrah Waterfront Promenade to the Hotel Stockton and Downtown Cineplex, stop by the Visit Stockton offices (125 Bridge Place, 2nd floor) and pickup both their Stockton Activities Guide and materials for the Walking with Weber self-guided tour of downtown Stockton. The pre-recorded audio tour offers insightful commentary by seasoned tour guide Manuel Laguna. On the tour, check out newer restaurants like Cast Iron Trading Company and check out historic murals on historical buildings”.

Continuing her nautical theme, she notes, “a favorite local water destination is kayaking from Lodi Lake into the calm, winding Mokelumne River. Renting kayaks and gear from Headwaters Kayak in Lodi is the stress free way to go, not too pricey. My favorite time is early morning; the Wednesday night group paddles are fun. The sensation of gliding on the calm water immediately relaxes me. Mornings or sunset are the best times to see birds, turtles and even deer (Lodi Lake also a good place for easy hikes, as well)”. She adds that the Cosumnes River Preserve, just north of Thornton, is another treasure for hiking, paddling and watching flora and fauna.

Kayakers head out of Lodi Lake onto the (usually) placid Mokelumne River.

Marilyn Togninali is a local accounting professional who heads the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre board. She suggests, “find the time to enjoy downtown Stockton. With new restaurants opened and many places to explore, downtown is undergoing a rebirth. Take in the Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre, which offers the monthly classic film series (Sundays, 2 PM, July 14, Star Wars; August 11, Bullitt with Steve McQueen, both impressive on the Fox’s huge screen).

She continued, “spend a day at Micke Grove Park and visit the Zoo, Japanese Gardens and the San Joaquin Historical Museum with such extensive agricultural history. If young kids are part of the tour, a picnic and Funderland are a must. Don’t overlook Stockton’s Pixie Woods; the carousel is at the top of my list of things to enjoy there”.

Kids enjoy the old farm truck, loaded with Lodi-area fruit and vegetable crates, at the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park.

I’ll add a few more local favorites. Delve into the history of our area’s indigenous peoples, with full exhibits at both the Haggin Museum and the San Joaquin Historical Museum. Reflect upon and revisit the city and county’s thriving cultural scene (the Stockton Symphony, Stockton Civic Theatre, shows/acts coming to the Fox CA/Bob Hope Theatre and Stockton Arena, our gold rush history and classic architecture.

We’ve already mentioned an active waterfront and Delta location (the Calaveras, Mokelumne and San Joaquin Rivers, offering hiking, cycling and paddling options). At the west end of Ben Holt, grab breakfast at Bobs at the Marina, or a sunset dinner on Garlic Brother’s deck and reflect on the adjoining Village West Marina, our Delta and views of Mt. Diablo to the west.

The Stockton Children’s Museum on Weber Avenue is a great destination!
A sunset dinner on the Garlic Brothers Restaurant deck, west end of Ben Holt Drive, Stockton, is a great way to show off the Delta’s extensive waterways and Mt. Diablo to the west!

Make a stop, shop and dine at one of the fine restaurants along the Miracle Mile, the city’s first suburban shopping center that blossomed in the 1950s and 60s. Cocoro, Mile Wine, La Palma and Valley Brew are all inviting options along the Mile.

Tour the Lodi/Woodbridge Wine Appelation centered around Lodi; make a point to visit several of the smaller of the 80-plus wineries. If you’re looking for a late lunch, stop at Phillips Farms on Highway 12, just west of Lodi, for a delicious farm-focused lunch, along with adjoining farmstand full of local produce, wine and gift options.

Abundance Vineyards, off Turner Road, offers shady, classy wine tasting, representative of the Lodi-Woodbridge Wine Grape Appellation.

Find time to reacquaint yourself with the Stockton Ports baseball team; a good night to start is the 4th of July game, with fireworks, when the Ports play the Modesto Nuts at 6:10 PM. An evening at a game is the perfect reminder to better explore your hometown with family (and friends visiting during summer months).

For more information: Downtown Stockton Alliance,; Haggin Museum,; San Joaquin Historical Museum,; Visit Lodi,; Visit Stockton,

Contact Tim at; follow at Happy travels in your town!

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