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26 December, 2017

Visit Lodi for…a fun-filled day in the Central Valley!

Posted in : Bars and Tasting Rooms, Bars in Lodi - CA, Dining in Lodi - CA, Restaurants, Tasting Rooms in Lodi - CA, Travel, Travel Guide for Lodi, CA on by : The Gourmez

Last June, I dove a little beyond the wine of the Lodi region to experience what else makes this city of 65,000 people into a prime weekend vacation destination for Bay Area residents. My trip was free and sponsored by Visit Lodi, Lodi’s wine and tourism bureau ← that’s my obligatory disclaimer, lest you think I was already this familiar with Lodi. I, too, was uninitiated before attending the Wine Bloggers conference there in 2016 and returning for this media trip.

lodi, visit lodi, downtown, day trip

Downtown Lodi Streets

Bay Area residents don’t often think of the Central Valley as a destination, passing it by in favor of Tahoe or Yosemite. So why consider it? For one, you don’t always want to drive hours and hours away when 90 minutes will do. For another, the 85 boutique wineries, century-old and older zinfandel grapevines, and experimentation with over 100 varietals is exciting, as is the high skill and low pretension of Lodi’s winemakers and growers. It’s not Napa, which means it’s a lot more accessible to the average wine lover in terms of affordability and convenience.

There’s also a lot for the weekend adventurer to do in Lodi to supplement a wine-based stay or day trip. Here’s my suggestion for how to do just that.

Stop 1: A School Grounds Breakfast Bite

school grounds, school grounds coffee, school grounds gelato, visit lodi, lodi downtown, lodiTucked down a little corridor off Lodi’s main thoroughfare at 115 S. School Street, you’ll find a local’s favorite: School Grounds. It offers quirky décor, espresso drinks, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. And it’s a respite before you get your blood rushing with some midmorning aerobic activity. Pro tip? Come back afterward to cool off with gelato.

Stop 2: Kayaking on the Mokelumne River

kayaking, lodi, lodi lake molekumne river, visit lodiThe 95-mile long Mokelumne River fills Lodi Lake and the park surrounding it, which is available for all sorts of easygoing water sports. I say easygoing because the water was perfectly calm when I went, which made it perfect for a beginning kayaker like myself.

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Nervous pre-kayak smile.

Headwaters Kayak’s owner, Dan Arbuckle, deftly handled our group of mostly first-time kayakers on a social paddle through the beautiful marshes of the lake area. You may end up paddling into nearby Woodbridge…and wishing you’d rented one of the beautiful houses bordering the water. Once in the water, I didn’t fear flipping at all, as Dan’s calm manner and the gentle currents made the experience an enjoyable, refreshing breeze—with a breeze, yes. 😉

molekumne river, lodi lake, visit lodi, headwaters kayakBack on shore, it was fun to watch the fluidity of Dan’s team working together to bring all sorts of recreationists into and out of the water at the Lodi Boathouse (1101 W Turner Road). In season, Headwaters Kayak offers hourly and half-day kayak, canoe, paddle board, and pedal boat rentals. They also lead social paddles like the one we took, including at night during the full moon! Off-season, call for a rental appointment.

Stop 3: The Sip Shuttle (and winery lunch!)

sip shuttle, visit lodi, lodi, wine tours, wine driver, wine tasting, tour guide, tour busThis stop is actually made of multiple stops! What better way to spend the rest of the afternoon than relaxing with wine in the scenic countryside, no driving required?  The Sip Shuttle supplies that, either with their daily tours departing at 11:00 am or 11:30 am or by renting out your own shuttle for a custom tour if you have a group.

lodi, visit lodi, wine, wine tourism, countryside, viaggio estates

A shot of that countryside from the manor house at Viaggio Estates.

The set tours cost $115 per person and includes all the transportation, tasting fees for four wineries, a picnic lunch, and discounts on buying wine from the participating wineries. Plus, they’ll entertain you and your friends with wine trivia between stops!

You can see most of the wineries we hit up on our media Sip Shuttle tour in my last Visit Lodi post.

Stop 4: A Walldog Murals Walk
The Tokay Carnival mural leading into downtown Lodi. walldogs

The Tokay Carnival mural leading into downtown Lodi.

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2006, the Walldogs, a group of sign painters and mural artists, painted nine murals in downtown Lodi over four days. The murals, along with two later additions, celebrate the history and agriculture of the city of Lodi, and they are in easy walking distance of each other. Pick up a map from the Visit Lodi Visitor Center at 25 N. School St., right next to the first mural on this self-guided walking tour.

Stop 5: Downtown Dinner and Drinks

the dancing fox, downtown lodi, visit lodi, dinner pizza

The Dancing Fox

There are plenty of options in downtown Lodi for dinner, and I’ve recommended the Dancing Fox for its extensive pizza and salad menu already. After you decide where to get your vittles, just walk around the block to Scotto’s Wine and Cider at 14 S. School St. – I guarantee it’s only around the block pretty much anywhere you end up downtown.

Go for a glass of their “Father’s Fave” Soul Series Estate Old Vine Zinfandel, if you aren’t tired of wine yet. But if you are, the Scotto family has you covered with a great line of draft cider, too, available by the glass or flight.

scotto, scotto wine and cider, scotto tasting room, scotto drafts, scotto estates, scotto cellars, scotto family, lodi, downtown lodi

A wine flight at Scotto’s Wine and Cider.

Or you can take a growler home for later.

Did I say home? Why yes, you can indeed drive home to the Bay Area after you’ve completed your fun-filled day in Lodi, assuming you’ve behaved with the alcohol. It is only 90 away minutes after all.

My trip took place June 2-4, 2017.

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