Downtown Lodi

Downtown Lodi, California

While Lodi is arguably best known for its wine, its downtown is equally magnetic for visitors and residents alike. This gathering spot offers a variety of shops, eateries and other attractions.

In the late ’90s, downtown received a shot in the arm with the School Street revitalization project, which involved laying old-fashioned brick streets, inlaid golden sidewalks, informational kiosks, a parking garage and movie theater and 30-foot Sycamore trees. Now, about 20 years later, School Street also has become known for its “wine strolls” and many other community events.

Visitors here might first notice one of the city’s most prominent landmarks: the Mission Arch. The 40-foot arch was built in 1907 and is topped with a gold-leaf covered California state bear.

The general downtown area offers a plethora of eateries, galleries, tasting rooms, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, antique shops and more. (See below for a current list of what the downtown offers.)

Some downtown highlights

One gem is Hutchins Street Square. Many consider this community center to be the crown jewel of Lodi. An anchor for the downtown, it’s a gathering place and a popular performing arts theater that features plays, ballet and live music. Perhaps even more remarkable is that this community asset was born out of the ashes of a burnt and abandoned school building back in 1979. This venue offers community programs for all ages, including arts, adult day care, and the Camp Hutchins Child Care. It also houses an indoor pool. And many a wedding has been celebrated in its banquet facilities.

Another must-see is the World of Wonders Science Museum. The WOW museum takes a hands-on approach to stimulating interest and learning in all ages. Come away with some new facts about electricity, energy, magnetism, eyesight and more. You’ll forget you’re learning through more than 50 tactile exhibits and challenges such as a Lego-building raceway; Cranium Corner, which consists of puzzles and brain-teasers; and the Jim Pyers Illumination Lab, where visitors can soak up knowledge about the science of light.

One of Lodi’s focal points is some spectacular public art with an interesting backstory. In May 2006, Lodi marked its 100th birthday by commissioning a group of 50 artists called the Walldogs. In just one weekend, they feverishly created nine murals depicting the town’s fascinating heritage. Some of the paintings have a humorous bent, while others are historical.

Lodi also boasts a multi-modal transportation hub that combines a train and bus station in one facility, allowing folks to ride the bus from anywhere in the county to the station and hop a train to the Bay Area or Old Sacramento for a day trip.

Another main attraction is Lodi Stadium 12 Theatre, which draws thousands downtown every week.

Events and festivals

In addition to the downtown’s mainstays are a number of annual goings-on that are eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. One example is the Lodi Street Faire, one of the largest antique and craft fairs in central California. More than 500 antique and craft vendors converge here the first Sunday in May and October. Another popular event is the School Street Strolls, which take place in April and October and offer an evening of delicious wine, food and shopping.

There’s also the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival, an annual celebration of the cranes’ migratory journey. The event, which recently marked its 20th anniversary, draws thousands of visitors to Lodi-area wildlife refuges and farmlands every November.

Seasonal offerings in town include the Downtown Farmers Market, from mid-May through September. Things turn particularly festive in early December for the Christmas Light Parade, which has been known to include about 80 lighted floats and 2,500-plus people on the floats. Tens of thousands of spectators come out to line the approximately mile-long parade route.