About an hour drive south of Merced, Fresno is California’s fifth largest city and serves as a financial, commercial, agricultural and industrial capital in the central San Joaquin Valley. Fresno Yosemite International Airport provides convenient nonstop air service connections for business and leisure travelers.
Fresno provides a diverse assortment of activities to suit many interests. The city is home to Fresno State, which is part of the California State University system, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy the Fresno Monsters, a junior A Tier III ice hockey team, and the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team.
Known as the city of “Water, Wealth, Contentment and Health,” Modesto serves as the seat of Stanislaus County and has a population of about 200,000. Approximately a 45-minute drive north of Merced, the city is the birthplace of iconic filmmaker George Lucas, who immortalized his hometown in the movie “American Graffiti.”
With a thriving downtown that has an active nightlife and is home to the beautiful Gallo Arts Center, visitors can also take in countless activities – including concerts, the Modesto Symphony, sporting activities and more.
Modesto also serves as the headquarters of E.&J. Gallo Winery, one of Stanislaus County’s largest employers and the largest winery in the world.
Turlock is a 30-minute drive north of Merced and is the second largest city in Stanislaus County with a population of more than 70,000 people. Home to the Turlock Community Theatre, Carnegie Arts Center and California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock provides a host of cultural art experiences, sports activities, a range of medical facilities and nearly two dozen parks. Its quaint downtown area includes antique shops, boutiques, artisan restaurants, pubs, cafes and unique gift shops.
Mariposa, which takes its name from the Spanish word for butterfly, is situated in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada, at the 2,000-foot elevation. The town has a population of approximately 1,170 people and serves as the county seat, with all local and most of the state and federal government offices located there. Mariposa possesses a rich history, historic buildings and architecture. The Mariposa County Courthouse, erected in 1854, is California's oldest seat of justice and is the oldest county courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies. The Mariposa Museum and History Center houses an impressive collection of historical artifacts.