Farming and agriculture have a long history in California’s Central Valley. Connecting Northern and Southern California, the Central Valley is the bread basket to the Bay Area and beyond, including the hundreds of restaurants awarded accolades by the MICHELIN Guide California. Hundreds of wineries churn out top-notch wines each year, cementing the valley as one of the top viticulture destinations in the world.
This story was created in partnership with California’s Central Valley.
Yolo County: The “Farm” to the “Table”
One of the Central Valley’s top agricultural regions, Yolo County is the proverbial “farm” to the “table,” providing high quality ingredients found on local tables and beyond. Enjoy a meal in downtown Winters to sample the local fare, or for a more hands-on experience you can pick your own at a local farm. Stock up on fresh produce at the Davis Farmer’s Market, or pick a bouquet of fresh flowers from the Farm at Park Winters.
The agricultural heritage of Yolo County makes this region a prime destination for gorgeous blooms, no matter the season. Experience a sea of sunflowers at their peak in June, or tour a vineyard in late summer to see grapevines at their best before the harvest.
Oakdale: Prospectors and Rodeo Clowns
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing picnic or a whitewater rafting adventure, head to Knight’s Ferry Recreation Area. There’s no shortage of recreational opportunities, but what sets this park apart is its history. Founded in 1849, it was originally sought-after as a location to cross the Stanislaus River, ferrying gold from the Sierra foothills to Stockton. A bridge was first built in 1857, though was washed away during a flood before the bridge that spans the river today was built in 1863. At 330 feet long, it still stands as the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River. Rounding out the historical aspect are the remaining Gold Rush-era buildings, including a centuries-old and still-operating general store.
The Central Valley is renowned for its wine, so it’s only natural that you can also find the perfect accoutrements. The cheese makers at Oakdale Cheese and Specialties have been perfecting their craft for four generations, tracing their roots back to the Gouda region in Holland a century ago.
A visit to Oakdale, which boldly claims to be the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” wouldn’t be complete without a trip to The Cowboy Museum. Better yet, plan your visit during the second weekend of April, during the annual Oakdale Rodeo.
Vacaville: Nuts and Boulders
Climbers of all skill levels will find a veritable playground at Brown’s Valley Open Space. The basalt boulders strewn across the hillside are known for their good holds, with problems ranging from V0 (beginner) to V9 (expert).
For those looking for a less vertigo-inducing activity, the gentle rolling hills of Lagoon Valley Park offer miles of hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and disc golfing. A 7.5 mile trail to the top of the park leads to one of the area’s most scenic viewpoints, complete with a swing overlooking the valley. Adjacent to the park is another hidden gem: Peña Adobe, a small park whose namesake structure is the oldest standing building in Solano County.
Whether your arms or your hands are worn out, unwind and refuel at the Nut Tree. What began as a humble roadside fruit stand in 1921 has become a full fledged family attraction featuring shops, restaurants, a carousel, and train rides for children.
Fairfield: Grapes and Jelly Beans
With over a dozen wineries and tasting rooms, the Suisun Valley is a standout viticulture region just outside of Fairfield. Neighboring Napa Valley may get more attention, but connoisseurs and casual sippers alike know they can enjoy award-winning wines here without the crowds.
While grape growers have elevated the art of wine making in Fairfield, a different sort of experts have perfected another American culinary masterpiece: the humble jelly bean. Drop in to the Jelly Belly Candy Company for a self-guided factory tour, where you’ll see how the candy is made and get to sample over 100 different flavors. The factory is also home to the California Welcome Center, so drop in if you’re looking for more information or activities nearby.
Over 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from the Central Valley, and Modesto is right smack in the heart of it. The almond craze reaches its peak when the orchards blossom in February and March, and there’s no better way to get in on it than to take yourself on the self-guided Almond Blossom Cruise.
In town, stretch your legs and take yourself on a tour of the public art. Since 2015, the city has been recruiting internationally-known muralists and graffiti artists to use the city as a blank canvas. Over 100 pieces are scattered throughout downtown and beyond, which you can find by downloading a digital itinerary to guide you.
Over 85 wineries put out award–winning wines from 125 different varietals here. But if you must try one, make it a Zinfandel–this is the Zinfandel capital of the world. Olives are the other big crop in town–get to know it with an olive oil tasting right from the source at Calivirgin-Coldani Olive Ranch, an estate-grown producer that just can’t seem to stop winning awards.
Home to the Micke Grove Zoo, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum, and Wortley Lake, Micke Grove Regional Park is perfect for a paddle or a picnic. The park also includes amusement rides and games at Fun Town and a Japanese Garden with a tea house, koi pond, and flowering cherry trees.
Make quick work of getting to know Stockton through one of their experience trails. Earn rewards and win prizes while you check off experiences by theme, from tacos and sweets to art and farmers markets. Whichever path you choose, don’t miss out on one of the Central Valley’s most unique destinations, the Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple, or Wat Dhammararam. Over 90 large, colorful statues adorn the temple, including a 50 foot-long reclining Buddha.
It only makes sense that you would find the perfect pairings across the heart of California—all home grown. The landscape lends itself to incredible flavors and exciting adventures up and down the Central Valley.