Modesto is a California city in the central valley that is located about 6 hours north of Los Angeles and 2 hours southeast of San Francisco. The city is the hometown of influential director and movie producer George Lucas (Star Wars creator). The town is situated near Stockton, Lodi, and Patterson - all smaller cities with plenty to do. If you are traveling through central California and find yourself in Modesto, consider taking your family to some of the well preserved museums in town.

Here is a brief breakdown of the most visited sites in Modesto, California:

McHenry Museum

Parking is a cinch and admission is free, though donations are appreciated. What better way to spend a sunny afternoon in Modesto, California?

The entrance of the McHenry Museum has a domed ceiling ornately decorated with golden and green oak leaves and acorns. Owls and books carved out of oak sat atop the beautifully restored oak columns that surrounded the entrance. The McHenry Museum was once a library which explains all the decorations and the down-to-earth feel of the place. Many other exhibits were on display, including: model of a blacksmith shop, gold rush tools and machinery, and other early California artifacts.

The lower level had several interesting displays on the evolution of modern day appliances, from clothes ringers to washing machines and record players to the portable television sets of the 1950's. There were also exhibits relating to the history of the Modesto police and fire department and other necessary departments of an early booming Californian city.

Also there is a button collection exhibit! The collection carries and displays a very attractive assortment of buttons; some that were inspired by famous paintings, people, and places. The collection was donated to the museum who houses the vast items in beautiful display cases.

There were many other exhibits that are housed in the McHenry Museum collection and their rotating exhibits are reason enough to justify a return visit. During the holiday season, the museum is decorated to reflect the festive season and many visitors come with their children to admire the hard work done by the staff and volunteers to create the magical displays, including a gigantic decked out Christmas tree.

For more information, please visit:

Location: 1402 I Street, Modesto, California (corner of I Street and 14th Street)

Hours and Admission: Tuesday - Sunday from Noon to 4 p.m., Free (donations are welcome)

McHenry Mansion

The McHenry Mansion stands proudly on the corner of fifteenth and I Street in downtown Modesto and is beautifully restored to replicate the grandeur of the 19th century. There are even original pieces from the time when the McHenry family occupied the huge Victorian mansion. The docents at the mansion are very knowledgeable and are happy to give a free tour to visitors of the three-story mansion.

The dining room and kitchen have appliances, dinnerware, and utensils that make one appreciate living in the present day. At the same time, one can appreciated the splendor that was the 19th century - especially in seeing a pretty, tall, glass piece specifically used to hold celery sticks. Everything is set up beautifully and the displays are carefully constructed using furniture and household pieces that were common during that period.

The upstairs bedrooms give you a glimpse into the lifestyle that the McHenrys maintained as a prominent family during that time. It was interesting and fun seeing how the wealthy lived back in the 19th century and worth the trip if you are visiting Modesto.

For additional information, please visit:

Location: Corner of Fifteenth Street and "I" Street

Hours: Sunday through Friday, 12:30 - 4 p.m.

Admission: Free, but donations are appreciated

The Great Valley Museum

The Great Valley Museum is a great way to learn and teach others (i.e. your kids) about the ecosystems and animals that make the Central Valley their home. The museum has five habitat dioramas that depict Central Valley ecosystems and tours are available where local to our region as well as other exotic live animals. Kids will enjoy the hands-on area where they can build a 5-foot puzzle or analyze snake skin under a microscope! And yes, there are turtles!

For more information, visit: Great Valley Museum Website

Location: 1100 Stoddard Avenue, Modesto, CA 95350 (corner of College & Stoddard)

Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 9-4:30 p.m. and Saturday 10-4 p.m.

Admission: Modesto Junior College Student (with I.D.) and Kids under 6, Free. General, $1. Family $3.

Lucas Plaza Statue

Located at the "Five Points," the intersection of Downey, 17th, McHenry, and J Street, you will find a tribute to George Lucas in the form of a bronze statue of two teenage kids during the 1960's who are leaning against a 1957 Chevrolet.