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50 Nifty Things To Do Around Town

Everyone knows there's nothing to do in Modesto, right? To have any fun, you have to drive to the Bay Area, Sacramento or the mountains.

Wrong! There are plenty of activities right under your nose — you just have to know where to look. The city is filled with treasures that can be appreciated by everyone from young hipsters to families with children to seniors.

We consulted the Modesto Bee news staff and readers of our paper and www.modestofamous.com and came up with a list of 50 things to do in town.

Among the .diverse suggestions are attending an indie rock show (No. 13), playing paintball (No. 23), watching drag queens perform (No. 26), learning how to scrapbook (No. 37) and joining a sports league (No. 43).

We know it's not a comprehensive list, but at least it's a start. Save it and check it out the next time you and your friends are bored. You also might get a few ideas on how to entertain out-of-town guests. Contribute your own suggestions at forums.modbee.com (click on Nifty 50).

1. Join the Third Thursday Gallery Walk downtown. Check out locally created art while munching on refreshments and chatting with art lovers. The third Thursday of every month, the Anderson Gallery, 1323 J St.; Mistlin Gallery, 1015 J St.; Chartreuse Muse, 1217 H St.; and other galleries stay open until 9 p.m. for receptions. 579-9913.

2. Compete in a poetry slam. Or just watch the verbal boxing matches. Slams are the second Wednesday of every month at Prospect Theater Project, 520 Scenic Drive. www.slamonrye.com.

3. Ride the bike trails. Modesto has four paved off-road paths: the 5.5-mile Dry Creek trail between Claus Road and La Loma Avenue, the 3-mile Hetch-Hetchy path between Sisk Road and Semallon Drive, the 2.5-mile route in Tuolumne River Regional Park near the Modesto Airport and the new Rotary Centennial trail by Roseburg Square shopping center on Virginia and Roseburg. You also can follow the green bike route signs around town to find bike-friendly roads.

4. Visit the Lotus Gardens. A beautiful oasis at 7915 McHenry Ave., the gardens are open May 20-Aug. 20, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The gardens' ponds contain more than80 varieties of lotus flowers and more than 20 types of water lilies. 522-2233 or www.lotusgardens.com.

5. Learn to tango. Aficionados meet at 8 p.m. Mondays for dancing at Jacob's Fine Dining, 2501 McHenry Ave. 522-1571.

6. Shop for fresh produce at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market. The market is generally open May through November on 16th Street between H and I streets from7 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Saturdays.

7. Play Frisbee golf. Use the course in East La Loma Park at Scenic Drive and Coffee Road or Edgebrook Drive.

8. Check out the library. Browse the latest best-sellers or look at some time-tested classics at the Stanislaus County Library, 1500 I St. There's also a variety of DVDs and books on tape — all free. Children will enjoy story time; check www.stanislauslibrary.org for times or call 558-7800.

9. Catch some air at the skate park. Skateboarders use the Modesto Skate Park near Beyer High School, 1717 Sylvan Ave.

10. Go to a Modesto Nuts baseball game. The season begins April 5 at John Thurman Field, 601 Neece Drive. www.modestonuts.com.

11. Share a hookah pipe. Fez Cafe, 1524 J St. (524-3644); Falafel Hut, 917 Yosemite Blvd. (557-9454); and Skewers Kabob House, 906 J St. (525-3611), all have hookahs, old-world water pipes packed with flavored tobacco.

12. Tour the Great Valley Museum of Natural History. The museum adjacent to Modesto Junior College has displays on native plants, animals and California Indians. 1100 Stoddard Ave. www.gomjc.org/greatvalley. 575-6196.

13. Listen to live music. Music is offered at a number of venues. Check out the monthly Off the Air indie rock series and other shows at the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge, 930 11th St. (524-1400), Barkin' Dog Grill, 940 11th St. (572-2341); Queen Bean, 1126 14th St. (521-8000); and P. Wexford's, 3313 McHenry Ave. (576-7939), among other venues.

14. Subscribe to a concert series. The Modesto Symphony Orchestra offers a long lineup of shows between September and May (www.modestosymphony.org, 523-4156). An eclectic variety of artists perform in concert series sponsored by the Modesto Community Concert Association (www.modestoconcert.org, 549-0214), Stanislaus Arts Council's Serenades on Sundays (www.artsway.org, 558-8628) and Congregation Beth Shalom's Sunday Afternoons at CBS (571-6060).

15. Attend a performance. Web links to Prospect Theater Project, Townsend Opera Players, Modesto Performing Arts and Central West Ballet are listed at www.artsway.org (click on "contacts"). Modesto Junior College offers a variety of dance, theater and musical performances all year (575-6081). The Modesto Band of Stanislaus County, also known as MoBand, presents free concerts on Thursdays in Graceada Park during the summer (www.moband.org).

16. Journey to the past. Learn about the way Modesto used to be at the McHenry Museum, 1402 I St., Modesto. Among its special offerings its First Sundays program for children, which is offered February through May from 1 to 3 p.m. on, yes, the first Sunday of each month. This happens to be a First Sunday, and the theme of today's program is "Victorian Delight." www.mchenrymuseum.org, 577-5366.

17. See a belly-dancing show. India Palate, 915 Yosemite Blvd., usually has shows on Wednesday and Friday nights. 523-0324.

18. Dance to the latest Spanish-language hits. Club Max at the DoubleTree, 1150 Ninth St., offers contemporary Latin music on Wednesday nights. 526-6000.

19. Visit the McHenry Mansion. Built in 1883 by Robert McHenry, the home is a beautiful example of the Victorian Italianate style of architecture. It is open for tours and is the site of many weddings, receptions and special events. 577-5344.

20. See a classic film at the State Theatre. The Modesto Film Society shows great movies of the past in this recently refurbished 1930s venue. Offerings have included "The African Queen," starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, and "Rebecca," starring Laurence Olivier. www.modestofilm.org.

21. Play a round of golf. The city's golf courses are Dryden Park, 920 S. Sunset Ave. (577-5359).; Creekside, 701 Lincoln Ave. (577-5123); and Municipal (577-5360). Enjoy miniature golf at Boomers, 4215 Bangs Ave. (545-5247), and Funworks, 4307 Coffee Road.

22. Have a picnic in a park. Modesto has more than 60 parks, with a range of amenities from pools to basketball, tennis and horseshoe courts. www.modestogov.com/prnd/parks. Modesto Band of Stanislaus County performs free concerts Thursday nights at Graceada Park during the summer. 577-5200.

23. Practice shooting in a paintball game. This game attracts everyone from children to grandparents. The 12-acre Extreme Paintball field is at 7336 Dusty Lane and features several courses and games. www.extremepaintball.com or 571-0210.

24. Taste homegrown products. For example, sample olive oil at Nick Sciabica & Sons, 2150 Yosemite Blvd. (577-5067).

25. Take horse-riding lessons. Several Modesto stables offer lessons, including Lightacres, 5318 Coffee Road (578-0599), and Hannink Equine Center, 5437 McHenry Ave. (526-0322).

26. See a drag show. The Brave Bull,701 S. Ninth St., has drag shows featuring lip-syncing female impersonators on Sunday nights. www.thebravebull.com. 529-6712.

27. Check out antique aircraft. The Commemorative Air Force Central Valley Squadron shows antique aircraft at the Modesto Airport the second Saturday of every month in Hangar 1. www.cafvalleysquadron.org. 579-2545.

28. Take a tour of The Modesto Bee. Tours for school-age children are offered at our office, 1325 H St., on the third Thursday of each month with advance reservations. 578-2296.

29. Rock out with an Elvis impersonator. The King visits the A&W Root Beer Drive-In, 1404 G St., 6 to 9 p.m. Saturdays. 522-7700.

30. Knock down pins. Bowling fans can visit McHenry Bowl, 3700 McHenry Ave. (571-2695), or Yosemite Lanes, 2301 Yosemite Ave. (524-9161).

31. Sing karaoke. A number of restaurants and bars offer amateurs a chance to show off their vocal skills. Torii Japanese Steakhouse in Century Center, 2401 Orangeburg Ave., offers karaoke daily at 8 p.m. (529-8697).

32. Surf the Net at a coffeehouse. Free wi-fi service is available all over town, including at Deva, 1202 J St. (572-3382), and Firehouse Coffee Roasters, 3507 Tully Road (575-3485).

33. Visit the streets that inspired Modesto favorite son George Lucas. The movie "American Graffiti" was inspired by Lucas' boyhood experiences cruising Modesto. According to the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau, the popular cruising loop of the 1950s and 1960s was Ninth and 10th streets between G and K streets.

34. Watch a sporting event at Modesto Junior College. Among the sports played are baseball, basketball, golf, track, soccer, swimming, softball and tennis. Check www.mjc.edu/mjcathletics for details.

35. Learn a craft. Options include painting pottery at the Mudroom, 1016 13th St. (578-0459), and Color Me Mine in the Costco shopping center on Pelandale (545-9952); experimenting with beading at Boss Beads, 1612 Tully Road (579-2677); learning to knit at Paper Habit, 1700 McHenry Ave. (567-0605); and perfecting your painting skills at the Chartreuse Muse, 1217 H St. (522-0935). Michaels Arts & Crafts, 3900 Sisk Road, also offers a variety of craft classes. And Modesto Junior College's community education program offers instruction in a range of crafts (www.mjc.edu/commed).

36. Join a book discussion group. Yesterday's Books sponsors the Inklings, a group that reads J.R.R. Tolkien's books. The store is at 3457 McHenry Ave. (521-9623).

37. Work on a scrapbook. Oh For The Memories, 410 Coffee Road, invites the public to work on their scrapbooks at the store from6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays (524-2900).

38. Try salsa dancing. In mid-March, Galletto Ristorante, 1101 J St., resumes offering salsa dancing outdoors in its courtyard on Thursday evenings (523-4500).

39. Taste wines. Dewz, 1101 I St., offers wine tastings 5 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. (549-1101); Tresetti's World Caffe, 927 11th St., offers wine tasting 5 to7 p.m. Tuesdays(572-2990); and O'Brien's Market, 4120 Dale Road, has tastings 4 to7 p.m. Thursdays and 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

40. Take a car tour. Use the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau's two-disc CD set as your guide. It's available for $5. (526-5588).

41. Make your own beer. Get advice from the Modesto Mashers, a home-brewing club (www.modestomashers.com).

42. Play a musical instrument. Modesto Junior College (575-6081) accepts community members into its bands and orchestra. Gottschalk Music Center also offers musical groups (523-5326). In the summer, musicians in high school and older are invited to join the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County (www.moband.org).

43. Join a sports league. Sports aren't just for children. The Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department offers soccer, basketball and softball leagues (571-5517).

44. Laugh a lot. The Fat Music House & Lounge offers comedy shows Saturday nights. (524-1400, www.fatcatmodesto.com). Hero's Sports Lounge & Pizza Co. (524-2337) and Yosemite Lanes (524-9161) both present comedy on Thursdays.

45. Perfect your photography skills. The Stanislaus Photo Collective, an art photography group, meets monthly (577-1464).

46. Get your boogie on. Young people flock to Aqua Shi, 910 12th St., to dance to the latest hits (324-5264, www.aquashi.com). The older set can check out Crocodile's Nightclub, 1745 Prescott Road, which bills itself as "Modesto's premier oldies nightclub." (544-1962, www.crocodilesnightclub.com). Ballroom fans can attend the Forever Young Dance Club dances at the Modesto Senior Center (556-0322).

47. Gaze at the stars. The Stanislaus Amateur Astronomers Club accepts members and organizes stargazing nights, has occasional open houses at MJC and sometimes visits a private observatory in town. Call Rodney Anderson (529-7058).

48. Volunteer at a nonprofit. Be a mentor for at-risk youth, teach disabled children how to ride horses, lead games and crafts for seniors. The United Way of Stanislaus County lists regional volunteer opportunities at www.uwaystan.org.

49. Hang out at 'tHa SpOt.' The King-Kennedy Memorial Center, 601 N. Martin Luther King Drive, has games, dancing and music for kids 14 and older on the last Friday night of each month. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. (577-5355).

50. Play bingo. The Assyrian American Association Yosemite Bingo has games at 6:30 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays through Fridays. 577-0991.

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