Cruise Modesto: Almond blossoms, olive oil, milkshakes, and fun

by Feb 15, 2022California

Knights Ferry Modesto Cruise

When you visit Modesto, you need to jump in your car and really cruise Modesto to understand the city’s wealth of agriculture, adventure, history, and food. An audio tour provides a perfect guide to the highlights.


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Modesto’s charm is rooted in its history and in its deep ties not only to agriculture, but also to the food and beverage industries.

There are many wonderful sides to Modesto you will only discover if you get off Highway 99 on your California road trip to take a few hours to cruise Modesto, from downtown to backroads. Cruising is a big part of the Modesto culture (remember the movie “American Graffiti?”).  That is why events in the city are often tied to that concept, think  Almond Blossom Cruise and Graffiti Summer, to name a few.

Visit Modesto has partnered with Wayfarer to create a guided audio cruise to tour visitors around the bounty, beauty, and history of the valley during the almond blossom bloom.

Almond Cruise Modesto Orchards Barn

Dubbed the “Almond Blossom Cruise,” the tour really is a whole lot more. Yes, you will see a lot of breathtaking almond blossoms at different stages of bloom from about mid-February to mid-March. But don’t let the name deceive you. On this tour, you will learn about almonds, olives, wine, cheese, chocolate, cowboys, covered bridges, cruising, and yes, even George Lucas and his American Graffiti movie.

Despite the area’s deeply rooted classic car culture, you don’t have to drive a restored collector car on your Modesto cruise — though extra points if you do. Whatever your wheels, you need to plan on at least three hours to comfortably enjoy the full tour as presented. If you’re planning on stopping to shop or taste, detouring for a closer look at historical landmarks, having a picnic at one of several recreation areas, or taking a hike (all encouraged activities), your cruise may take up much of a day. Plan for longer than you think, since we guarantee you’ll enjoy every minute and find all kinds of distractions.

Almond Blossom Busy Bee

Be sure to download the tour app before you leave home, or at least where you have a good Wi-Fi connection. You can download the app by going to VisitModesto.com. The tour starts just off Highway 99 at Kiernan Avenue and Sisk Road. Take our recommendation and begin at the official start so you hear instructions on how to use the app and also listen to an informative intro to the world of almonds. You may even want to pull over and listen to the intro and experiment with using the app features. We found that a little experience with which buttons to push helped us move smoothly.

The official tour then takes you eastward across the northern part of town, but if you have the map (from VisitModesto.com or at stores and Cruise sites), you’ll also see dotted “side routes” that are worth exploring – you can pause the tour to make stops and detours, and the Cruise Modesto tour will guide you back to the next stop. All you have to do is just hit that stop number. The cruise takes you through historic Knights Ferry, then back down a different route via the cute Oakdale downtown, before you go south and are then guided back toward town along a southerly route.

HITT Tips: Do take a hard look at the audio guide’s map on “Preview Tour” before you start the tour so you have a notion of where you will be going. And, please, do not operate the app if you are doing the guided audio tour solo; we highly recommend having a passenger to help with navigation and operation.

Ready to cruise Modesto?

Here are a few of our favorite points from the audio tour with a little extra detail from HI Travel Tales here and there:

Rodin Farms – The Rodin family arrived in Modesto in the 1940s from San Francisco. Insider tidbit: Antonin Rodin was the founder of the iconic San Francisco restaurant Original Joe’s, as in THE original in downtown. The Rodins are one of many Italian families who put down roots in Modesto and began farming – grapes, peaches, and almonds. Granddaughter Antoinette Rodin started the farm stand at the corner of Claribel and Oakdale roads when she was 17 and still runs it today.

Cruise Modesto Rodins Farmstand

Rodin Farms is the first stop on the audio tour, making it the perfect place to stock up on fruit, nuts (almonds, of course!), beverages or other snacks (we recommend the dried okra, no, really). Plus, the orchard behind the farm stand is one of the few you are allowed to walk into. So enjoy that honor with respect: Never climb the trees, break branches, trip over irrigation hoses, or leave trash, and never ever pick the blooms (each is a future almond!).

Almond Blossoms Modesto Starburst

Colorful beehive boxes – We loved the colorful beehive boxes in the fields to the north of Highway 108 as we were driving along. Why are they colored? Bees perceive color. So beehive colors keep the queens from returning to the wrong box and, well, maybe not surviving the wrath of strangers. It also keeps bees from going into the wrong hive and overcrowding it while another is too empty.

Modesto Cruise Bee Hives

Lover’s Leap – There is really no place to stop to view the high rock promontory called Lover’s Leap as you are driving along busy Highway 108, but enjoy the formation. Legend has it that two star-crossed Native American lovers leapt to their deaths from here although that has never been proved. Just beyond this landmark you will make a left turn toward Knights Ferry.

Cruise Modesto Almond Blossom Tour Lovers Leap

Knights Ferry Covered Bridge – You’ll likely need a bathroom stop, and this is as good as any. It is a fee-based parking lot ($5 per vehicle at the time of this writing). Be sure to take a short stroll and walk across the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River. This is also a great place for a picnic if you packed supplies, take the dog for a walk, let the kids romp a bit, or get in a hike to stretch the legs.


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Knights Ferry The town was founded in 1848 and is home to the oldest continuously operating general store in California. The store has been selling to the public since 1852. Motorcyclists love this road for group rides.

Cruise Modesto Knights Ferry

Oakdale Cheese – You’ll want to plan a stop here, to have a picnic, buy some delicious Gouda cheese or cheese curds, and learn about the art of cheese making.

Oakdale Cheese Modesto Cruise

Roberts Ferry Gourmet – Hope you still have an appetite after all that cheese! Here you will find what is arguably one of the most amazing milkshakes ever – an almond butter milkshake with either vanilla or chocolate ice cream. We selected vanilla, and can we say triple YUM??? That almond flavor is ooooooh soooo good with a few small grains of nuts to crunch on here and there.

Cruise Modesto Almond Butter Milkshake Stop

Sciabica Family California Olive Oil – This was one of our favorite stops on the tour simply because Craig Hilliker, certified Master Sensory Analyst (yes, it is a certification) took us through an olive oil tasting that was both entertaining and educational. If you take the Modesto Almond Blossom Cruise during the week, ask for Craig, and he can lead you through your own tasting.

Cruise Modesto Sciabicas Olive Oil

We guarantee you will walk away with a bottle – or two or three. Sciabica’s is not open on the weekend at the time of this writing, but you can usually find the company and its oils — and sometimes Craig — at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Sciabica Olive Oil Tasting

Cruise Modesto – Downtown Modesto’s cruising scene was memorialized in the 1973 George Lucas film, American Graffiti. We’d recommend a side trip to visit the Classic Car Museum and educational center. Since the center was still in part in development, do call to find out about planned weekend openings, how to donate, or special events.

If you need place to stay in Modesto, try the SpringHill Suites.



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Book your stay at the Modesto SpringHill Suites here. We use Booking.com to save you money, and by booking through this link, we earn a small commission too, which helps us out.

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1 Comment

  1. Beautifully photographed! Looks like a good spot for foodies to call at. I’ve never yet tried Californian olive oil and look forward to trying it some day.

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