50 Things to Do in SJC Before You Die

The ultimate San Joaquin County bucket list

We’re rounding up the best adventures in San Joaquin County and challenging our readers to try them all before it’s too late. This round-up of 50 exploits is quite the undertaking, but we think it’ll evoke some serious insta-envy while also helping you to create memories with your favorite people, all within the confines of the county we call home.

  1. Moonlit Kayaking at Lodi Lake. Hosted by Headwaters Kayak Shop, this experience offers more than just a visit to Lodi Lake. With guided tours, kayakers can make the most on their water excursion while exploring the lake after dark. Check the website for upcoming tours. 847 N. Cluff Ave., #6, Lodi
  2. Go to Flavortown. Take a page out of Guy Fieri’s book and eat your way through the four Stockton eateries that have been featured on his Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives—Smitty’s Wings & Things, Green Papaya Food Truck, Gian’s Deli, and Midtown Creperie. For the best experience, order up what the expert himself deemed the most notable dishes from each.
  3. Become an escape master. Successfully escape every escape room at Lincoln Center Limitless Escape Games. There are six in total, but sometimes the themes rotate and the rooms get a makeover, meaning there’s opportunities to master even more puzzles. 280 Lincoln Center, Stockton
  4. Finish off a San Joaquin Magazine Burger. This monstrous, meaty tower is larger than life. Stacked with eight ounces of certified angus beef, four ounces of barrel-smoked prime rib, bacon, onion strings, pickles, lettuce, mayonnaise, American and pepper jack cheese, horseradish cream, and Bruno’s peppers. Find it on the menu at Midgley’s Public House. 296 Lincoln Center, Stockton
  5. Post a photo of the flowering pink almond blossom trees to Instagram. This perfect photo-op is available early spring in Ripon (home of the infamous Almond Blossom Festival that takes place each February). For the best vibes, hire a local photographer to do a mini-shoot. Many book time in the trees in advance so they can snap some limited mini-sessions for clients.
  6. Hit the ice rink at the Stockton Arena on teddy bear toss night, the Stockton Heat’s best night of the year. Going to a Stockton Heat game should definitely be on your bucket list, and with a host of themed events every year, it’s easy to pick a fun night to enjoy. Teddy bear toss night in January, however, might just be the best time to go to the rink. Bring as many stuffed animals as you can carry and when the Heat scores its first goal, chuck them onto the ice. The animals are gifted to the United Way of San Joaquin County and distributed to kids throughout the county. 248 W. Fremont St., Stockton
  7. Grab $1 beers at Banner Island Ballpark. The Stockton Ports play home games at Banner Island Ballpark, and lucky for San Joaquin residents, there are a lot of games to enjoy during baseball season. The best nights, however, may be $1 beer nights. Courtesy of The Deliberation Room, fans can buy cheap brewskis at Thursday home games. 404 W. Fremont St., Stockton
  8. Race around the fastest ¼-mile paved race track and the oldest running race track west of the Mississippi. The Stockton 99 Speedway welcomes amateurs to test their own speed on select event days. Check out the website each season to see when you can get in on the fun. Do you have the need for speed? 4105 N. Wilson Way, Stockton
  9. Climb aboard a full-size firetruck at the Stockton Children’s Museum. This one is for the kids. Not every city has a playground filled with full-size vehicles, including a cop car, bus, ambulance, tractor, and helicopter, to climb on. Let kids’ imaginations soar as they dress up in costume and let loose at the indoor play museum. 402 W. Weber Ave., Stockton
  10. Take on water sports. If you haven’t wake boarded or water skied before, now is the time. The California Delta encompasses about 1,000 miles of waterways, many of which weave their way through SJC. Rent gear at one of the local marinas or H20 Craft in Tracy and hit the water in style on ski boats, jet skis, pontoons, and more.
  11. Cruise the Delta for free with Opportunity River Cruises. Speaking of the Delta, if you’d like to get on the water free of charge, you can get a historical look at the California River Delta with Opportunity River Cruises. The California Sunset tours the Port of Stockton every summer, teaching those aboard about its rich history, current activities, and future plans. 445 W. Weber Ave., Stockton
  12. Go on the ultimate Stockton-centric scavenger hunt. This event is ideal for both those new to Stockton and those who have lived here their whole lives, uncovering the coolest facts and other hidden gems about this great city. Hosted by Let’s Roam, the number one app-led scavenger hunt company, on the trek you’ll walk to landmarks answering trivia questions and solving challenges. You can work with a team or compete against your friends to be crowned champion. LetsRoam.com
  13. Get lit on the water at the Stockton Yacht Club holiday boat parade. Each December the yacht club along with Roger Hahn does Christmas lights like only Stockton can. Stockton’s Annual Lighted Boat Parade features decorated boats throughout the marina as well as other fun festivities like Santa Claus, cookie decorating, and more at the downtown Stockton waterfront.
  14. Plunge 13,000 feet out of an airplane. Also routinely referred to as skydiving, the Parachute Center in Acampo is the local spot to take the dive. Come by for an introductory tandem jump with an instructor and get photos and videos for keepsakes! 23597 N. Highway 99, Acampo
  15. Complete the ultimate wine tour. It’s going to take you some time to cross this one off of your bucket list. Lodi is home to over 75,000 acres of vineyards, and nearly 60 wineries. Take it one by one and visit every winery in the city. Expert tip: print a list of all of the wineries and check them off as you go.
  16. Play ball on a replica of the Boston Red Sox home field. Big League Dreams in Manteca offers a lot of play space to play ball, but one of the coolest aspects of this over-sized playground is that it houses a replica field of Fenway, which may just be the most infamous ballpark there is. 1077 Milo Candini Dr., Manteca
  17. Dine at five restaurants for one meal. It’s all part of Savor Lodi, a walking tour that includes bites from five Lodi restaurants over a 2.5-hour tour. The tours are often themed and there is even a happy hour version that focuses on local drinks. Check out your options at SavorLodi.com
  18. Ride a vintage carousel all day long. There’s no limit to the number of times you can ride the carousel at Pixie Woods when you buy an unlimited ride wristband, so as far as we’re concerned, you should get in as many rotations as possible from open to close. 3121 Monte Diablo Ave., Stockton
  19. Visit Lodi’s very own amusement park. Kids all off ages—including those that are technically adults—can refuse to grow up at Funtown Amusement Park at Micke Grove State Park. There are ten rides in all—including a Kiddie Coaster, Tilt-A-Whirl, and the Fun Town Express Train. 11707 N. Micke Grove Rd., Lodi
  20. Watch thousands of sandhill cranes take flight at the Isenberg Crane Reserve. The annual festival takes place every November, offering peak viewing times, but most cranes start their migration to the California River Delta in September, and stay through the winter months. Tours of the reserve are typically available. West Woodbridge Road, Lodi
  21. Go full speed on a dirt bike at Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area. Carnegie used to be a small town, complete with a saloon, hotel, bakery, school, 17 homes, two bunkhouses. Today, it’s best known for its open land and many dirt bike tracks. Go for the day or camp overnight. 18600 Corral Hollow Rd., Tracy
  22. Join an exclusive waterfront resort. Eagal Lakes Resort is a private lake community open to members and boasting a slew of water and beach activities. Get a family membership and spend your summer days waterskiing on the man-made lake or playing beach volleyball in the sand. 12 W. Lorenzen Rd., Tracy
  23. Watch colorful balloons fly over Ripon during the Color the Skies Balloon Festival. Every year, hot air balloons take off over the city on Labor Day Weekend to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Central California. Those who want to see the spectacle will have to wake up early—the balloons are typically airborne by 7 AM. ColorTheSkies.com
  24. Fly your own hot air balloon. If the Ripon event inspired you, consider getting a license of your own to operate a hot air balloon at the first and oldest balloon flight school in the country (operating since 1971), dubbed Balloon Excelsior in Manteca. 711 Industrial Park Dr., Manteca
  25. Wait in line for the best sausages in SJC. The food at Lockeford Meats is so good that you’re likely to find a line stretching outside of the building whenever you go, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. We recommend sampling the Hawaiian Luau or the Smoked Dakota. 19775 N. Cotton St., Lockeford
  26. Tour a haunted castle. Preston Castle in Ione most likely, probably has ghosts living in it. The former boy’s school—that housed troubled youth—is a paranormal activity hotspot. Drive up to the castle gates, and, if you dare, step inside. Preston Castle plans to bring back tours in 2021. 900 Palm Dr., Ione
  27. Stuff yourself with Nashville Hot Chicken. Nash + Tender is the only SJC eatery to serve up this southern staple, with locations in both Lodi and Stockton. Stop by for a hearty helping of chicken tenders or try a specialty sandwich or even taco made with the spicy meat. NashAndTender.SquareSpace.com
  28. Drink more beer than you can fathom at Stockton Beer Week. But, you know, drink responsibly. If you haven’t attended the September event yet, this is the year to do it! Local breweries band together to offer new brews and tasty discounts. Keep an eye on Visit Stockton for details. VisitStockton.com
  29. Attend a first Thursday Taste of Ripon event in December. Held the first Thursday of December every year, this is the best way to sample the food and wine popular in Ripon. From 6-9 PM, ticketholders will have three hours to dine on refreshments from participating merchants, all while strolling down Main Street.
  30. Take the family camping with Yogi Bear and his friends at Jellystone Park. If you grew up watching Yogi Bear and Boo Boo get into mischief, then this is the vacation for you. And if your kids enjoy reruns—even better. The glamping spot at Tower Park in Lodi offers fun extras like a swimming pool, mini golf, sand volleyball, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and more. 14900 W. Highway 12, Lodi
  31. Pick the perfect pumpkin between raucous fair-style rides and other attractions at Del Osso Family Farms. If you haven’t spent an afternoon at this over-the-top pumpkin patch in Lathrop, we suggest you give it a go! Between hay rides, train rides, pumpkin games, bounce houses, and a seriously spooky haunted house, this overgrown patch is more akin to an amusement park. 501 W. Manthey Rd., Lathrop
  32. Take a stroll down Army Corps Park Ripon River Crossing. For those who enjoy the great outdoors, Ripon offers a natural wonder that can make any family walk or bike ride more memorable. Featuring a bridge that stretches over the Stanislaus River and lush foliage, it’s a favorite outdoor escape for those who live nearby.
  33. Let the San Joaquin County Fair light up your night. We’ve got our fingers crossed the SJC fair will be back in 2021—the event never took off in 2020—so we can boot scoot boogie to live music between rides on the Ferris wheel. And don’t forget the fried fair food! 1658 Airport Way, Stockton
  34. Transport yourself to a tropical paradise at Tiki Lagoon Resort & Marina. Need a tropical vacation but don’t have the time off or money to spend? Stockton’s resort and marina offers tent and RV camping as well as boat launches and a full grill, all with a fun, tropical theme that will make if feel like you’re off in the Caribbean somewhere instead of your own backyard. 12988 W. McDonald Rd., Stockton
  35. Take a winery tour on two wheels. There may be no better way to enjoy Lodi’s sprawling vineyards than a bike ride through the countryside, stopping at favorite wineries along the way. Visit Lodi offers a wine tasting map that shows the easiest routes for hitting several at a time. VisitLodi.com
  36. Make wine tasting a group affair with a sip shuttle reservation—no designated driver needed. Sip Shuttle offers roundtrip rides for those looking to taste through Lodi and Acampo. Book your tour and hit the road; trips run daily from 11 AM-4:30 PM. SipShuttle.com
  37. Visit the under sung gem of California, as coined by Sunset Magazine. The Haggin Museum has become a cultural hub in Stockton, celebrating local triumphs in art and history as well as paying tribute to other artists with rotating displays and traveling expositions. Plus, the museum caters to families with themed nights and interactive displays that help you delve deeper into the artwork. 1201 N. Pershing Ave., Stockton
  38. See a headliner at Bob Hope Theatre. The historic theatre, which sits on the National Register of Historical Places, was once called Fox Theatre. Today, it plays host to a wide range of acts from plays and films to concerts and festivals. The gorgeous theater always seems to have something going on, making it one of the liveliest spaces to spend an evening. And if you didn’t come for a show, at least show up to see the theatre, complete with elegant touches include dangling chandeliers and a mosaic marble floor. 242 E. Main St., Stockton
  39. Snap an insta-worthy photo on the red bridge in the Japanese Garden at Micke Grove Park. If you haven’t been to this serene Lodi gem yet, take a friend and head into the green landscape. Above a koi pond, a red bridge is the ideal spot for an impromptu photo shoot, or, even wedding photos in many cases. Stop by and grab a few shots for the ‘gram and be sure to tag Lodi. 11793 N. Micke Grove Rd., Lodi
  40. Get cute in umbrella alley. Another photo backdrop begging to appear on your feed is Umbrella Alley. The art installation at Yosemite Village Market is the ideal background for your next artsy social media pic. Plus, it was created by a local artist, which makes it even cooler. 924 N. Yosemite St., Stockton
  41. Listen to live music in the park. Music in the park events are not scarce in San Joaquin County. Swenson Park, Weber Point, and Victory Park all have their own lineups of live music entertainment (socially distanced and outdoors) plus Mountain House usually hosts musicians at its food truck nights.
  42. Let a 50-foot Buddha photo-bomb you. Stop at Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Wat Dhammararam), an active Buddhist temple boasting larger-than-life, jewel-encrusted statues that celebrate the story of the Cambodian Buddha. The tallest figure stands 50-feet! Looking for a time to visit? The temple hosts an annual Cambodian New Year event every April. 3732 Carpenter Rd., Stockton
  43. Stop and smell the roses. Find peach on the Discovery Trail , a lovely, one-mile walk through the UOP Campus, with several stops highlighting art, architecture, nature, and the International World Peace Rose Garden, as well as a lake and other historical elements. 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton
  44. Transport yourself to a mystical land of superheroes and science fiction. StocktonCon is a tribute to Comic-Con, a wild event where people dress up in cosplay and celebrate alternate universes and fictional characters. Go in full costume to make the most of your experience. Facebook.com/StocktonCon
  45. Waste an afternoon watching the ships come in and out of Stockton Port. If you’ve ever wanted to lay on your back, stare up at the clouds, and just enjoy a peaceful day near the water, then we recommend grabbing your picnic basket and heading to Dad’s Point near Louis Park. This little stop is perhaps the best place to view port operations.
  46. Give yourself the heebie jeebies or a history lesson (depending how you see it) at Stockton Rural Cemetery, the final resting place of many of Stockton’s founding fathers. See the hand-carved tombs and monuments of Caterpillar inventor Benjamin Holt and the famous Civil war fundraiser Reuel Colt Gridley. Plus private mausoleums. And look for a few dead rich guys on “millionaires row.” 2350 Cemetery Lane, Stockton
  47. Sample every burger on our ultimate burger list. We came out with our own round-up of the best burgers, available in our July 2020 issue, in print and online. If you love burgers, this list won’t disappoint. Start at the beginning and work your way through 33 meals (plus some serious sides!) Bonus points if you pull up the 2017 issue and run through that list, too.
  48. Play all 21 golf courses in San Joaquin County. This is another one of those lists you’re going to have to chip away at, but for any avid golfer, it should be a fun endeavor. The best golf courses in San Joaquin County, according to our 2020 list, includes public courses Swenson Park Golf Course, Elkhorn Golf Club, and Micke Grove Golf, as well as private courses Brookside Golf & Country Club, Stockton Golf & Country Club, and Woodbridge Golf & Country Club.
  49. Dine your way through Stockton during Stockton Restaurant Week. The dates have been set for the 12th annual, 2021 event—Jan. 15-24. During restaurant week, diners can take advantage of special menus at fixed prices to showcase the best stuff coming out of their kitchen, all hosted by Visit Stockton. VisitStockton.com
  50. Say yes to your favorite indulgences at Wine & Chocolate weekend. This annual Lodi event is a favorite for those who love both wine and chocolate. Always hosted around Valentine’s Day, the event includes wines paired with delicious treats at local wineries including everything from fresh churros with chocolate drizzle to decadent truffles. LodiWineAndChocolate.com

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