California : Safety by City
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Modesto, California, might be one of the best choices in the Golden State for those who can’t decide if they want the beach or the mountains, a big city or wide open spaces, or affluent or budget accommodations.
Located in the agricultural heartland of California, you can be in the Bay Area in 90 minutes or at the entrance to Yosemite Park, all while staying in one of the most affordable California cities.
Modesto is a diverse community with as many Hispanics/Latinos as Caucasians.
Strong African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders live here too.
This city set the stage for George Lucas’ American Graffiti and paid homage to his hometown with a film that inspired the modern-day celebration of Graffiti Summer.
This city also loves to have car cruises down the main drag, as much as in Lucas’ childhood as there is now, so car aficionados are going to be impressed with Modesto before even seeing a historical landmark.
Tourists will go nuts for the agricultural option here, too, from the focal point of the global almond industry to one of the largest family-owned wineries to the fresh produce ready all year round.
With so many bigger cities around California, it can be easy to miss some of the state’s hidden treasures.
If you look closer, you’ll see Modesto really makes a statement.
Warnings & Dangers in Modesto
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
As a journalist, sometimes research really angers me with incorrect information. When you're looking at safety information about Modesto, you'll find everything from "One of the best cities in California to live in" to "one of the most dangerous cities in California." It's a good thing we talk about the facts here at Travel Safe Abroad. Modesto has a medium risk that is getting lower every year. That's quite an accomplishment with increased violent crime rates across the country.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll "Ride the S" if you want to take the public bus system in Modesto. Rental cars are the best idea if you want to explore the mountains - especially Yosemite. Taxis and rideshares are available too. Modesto also has 17 miles of trails for pedestrians and bicyclists to get around if you want to enjoy the warm weather of this region.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
While the Modesto Police Department doesn't provide specific pickpocketing crime data, you'll want to use extra caution during one of the many events here. It's always safe when there isn't data to support a category to treat it with medium risk. Limit what you carry to basic essentials and keep wallets in a front pocket. It's too easy to get out of the back pocket from an experienced pickpocket.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The biggest risk in Modesto is wildfires and related air quality issues. You might want to rethink a trip if a big wildfire is burning nearby. Modesto also gets extreme heat in the summer with little rain to cool off the environment. Earthquakes are another risk in the Northern California region. Flash flooding is possible when it does rain.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Robbery rates have been cut in half since 2017, so there's a trend in the right direction. There is still work to be done with a robbery rate 35% higher than the national average. There are some recent robberies involving customers in parking lots, but most robberies involve business attacks or incidents between people who know each other.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Modesto is a low-risk city but would likely be on the evacuation or safety route if the Bay Area was attacked.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The most prominent scams in Modesto involve people pretending to be police officers and demanding money from locals. You shouldn't have to worry about tourist-focused scams too much, but always be on the lookout for someone trying to take advantage of your kindness or presenting an "urgent" opportunity to get a good deal.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women face the same medium risk as everyone else, with a sexual assault rate about 20% higher than the national average. Again, data doesn't make it clear if those statistics are domestic or random acts of violence, but a search of headlines suggests victims are likely to know their attacker in some form. Resist the urge to be "too nice" here, because you don't want to fall victim to a predator. Avoid going to house parties or private homes with someone you don't know well.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations with extensive testing and transparency in the results presented. If there is flooding during your stay, check the city website for any water quality concerns.
Safest Places to Visit in Modesto
We advise using travel and tourism websites that are sponsored or produced by local governments or organizations directly involved in tourism.
For Modesto, that website is visitmodesto.com.
The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau also produces a podcast called “Get Fresh,” which can be great to listen to before you arrive.
You’ll have a better lay of the land and new amenities.
The Modesto Arch is an Instagram moment at best, but it’s a unique slice of the culture with the city’s motto of “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” and is illuminated at night.
It greets car enthusiasts and all travelers on their way into the city.
Graffiti Museum USA is one of the big draws in Modesto.
The classic car museum is a tribute to the movie American Graffiti.
If you haven’t seen the 1973 movie, you might want to watch it before you visit Modesto.
A lot of the tourist attractions will make much more sense.
The Great Valley Museum will take you on a science and history tour of the unique California climate with a planetarium on site for stargazing and mesmerizing movies about the skies above us.
Rotating exhibits are presented throughout the year.
You’ll find dozens of farm stands in and around Modesto.
The tourism website lists them all with specific information about what fruit or veggie is in season during the different times of the year.
Make a special note to try the cheese, strawberries, and almonds.
Chances are, if you ever ate an almond, it came from this part of California.
Funworks is an amusement area with batting cages, go-karts, mini golf, and so much more.
It’s fun for the whole family and a great way to burn some energy.
Don’t miss the virtual playground and the bear-stuffing section.
The Modesto Nuts are the Single-A baseball team in the city, so during baseball season, grab a cheap ticket, a hot dog, and cheer on the home team.
Vintage Faire Mall is the shopping destination in Modesto with a full slate of name-brand stores, restaurants, and activities for kids.
Check out the Kids Club for a list of events happening during your visit if you’re bringing little ones with you.
Places to Avoid in Modesto
The areas south of downtown are the most dangerous in the city.
Some Westside and northern neighborhoods are dangerous too.
The real issue for tourists in Modesto isn’t the dangerous neighborhoods – every city has those.
It’s that there isn’t a whole lot to do in Modesto.
The nightlife is scarce, and from the list of things I mentioned above, you can tell there are slim pickings unless you like visiting a dozen farm stands or walking the mall.
This leads to people driving around looking for something to do, which could lead them into a bad neighborhood.
There’s a gang problem in Modesto, and you shouldn’t take that lightly.
Stick to the main streets and the areas designed for entertainment and tourism.
Try to spend as much as you can during the day visiting places because it can get a little seedy after dark.
The benefit of Modesto is mostly all the places you are close to, not necessarily the benefits of Modesto itself.
There are great local festivals that happen throughout the year, so plot your trip around one of those to get a better vision of the city.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Modesto
- Modesto Police release an annual report that details the successes and challenges of the prior year. This is a great way to get a sense of the community and its current struggles. You’ll also get great contact information for law enforcement leaders if you want to reach out and ask questions.
- There’s a crime mapping tool on the department’s website where you can interactively search for certain types of crime in a certain area. This is a great way to get updated information on crime trends closer to your visit, as we are limited to crime data from the previous year since that’s the “official” information.
- Reach out to the Crime Prevention Unit to get information in written or video form about the common safety challenges and tips in Modesto. The phone number is (209)572-9500.
- As much as this city’s reputation was built on cruising the streets in the 50s and 60s, the 90s turned too violent, and now cruising is banned. The only exception might be times during the summer Graffiti Festival. The police will pull you over if you appear to be cruising.
- You can’t cruise, but you can use cannabis. MoTown Cannapass is an organization designed to explore the use of legal cannabis with strict adherence to the law while supporting local cannabis businesses. Please review the organization’s website before you consider using cannabis in Modesto.
- If you want to fish in any of the rivers in and around Modesto, you’ll need a non-resident license from the California Wildlife Department. You can purchase it online or when you get to Modesto.
- Sign up for StanAware (named after the surrounding county of Stanislaus) notifications. This will send emergency alerts to your phone or email about critical weather information, evacuations due to wildlife, or road closures due to flooding.
- Check the air quality daily, because even wildfires or pollution far away can follow the winds into the Modesto valley. If you’re sensitive to air pollutants, you might want to grab one of those leftover COVID masks to use while you’re spending time outside.
- Modesto has colored curbs that tell you the parking rules of that street section. White is for picking up or dropping off only, yellow is for short stops like going into a restaurant to pick up food, green is limited parking for usually 30 minutes or less, blue is for handicapped people with a placard of proof, and red means no parking ever.
- If you are a victim of a non-violent crime, like a car break-in, you can use the “Submit an Incident Report” function on the police department’s website. While you can always call 911 to get an officer on the scene, this is helpful if it’s a crime where an officer isn’t going to be able to help, and you don’t want to spend extra time filing a report in person.
So... How Safe Is Modesto Really?
Modesto, as a whole, is getting lower crime rates, but it’s still not in the “safe city” category.
There are fringe neighborhoods and surrounding cities that are much safer.
Finance report put Modesto among the “Worst American Cities To Live In” at number 13.
It cited higher crime rates, high unemployment rates, and a lower-than-average job growth rate over the next decade.
Violent crimes were rising in 2022, but there’s no official word on that until January of 2023 when the final data from the full year will be released.
The problem with Modesto is that it’s a cheap place to live, and many people commute to jobs in other, pricier cities.
It’s also what might lure tourists there.
What you’ll find is a city built around a car culture that doesn’t exist in its true form any longer.
If you’re visiting here, use it as a home base for seeing some of the nearby areas.
If you are attending a family function or visiting friends, just use caution when traveling through neighborhoods and avoid getting into verbal altercations.
The gang community here doesn’t tolerate disrespect, and you need to use common sense and situational awareness at all times.
How Does Modesto Compare?
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- Visas - Most visitors from outside the U.S. will need a Visa but use the U.S. State Department's Visa Wizard to see if you qualify for a Visa Waiver. It's important you fill out the right type of Visa paperwork, or else you could have to start the process all over again. You won't need your visa to travel between cities or states in America, but you will need it and a passport to get through Customs upon arrival.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Only carry the cash you need each day and try to make as many purchases with credit cards for fraud protection and tracking your purchases. Avoid using public ATMs, especially at night.
- Weather - Modesto does have some colder winter nights, but nothing a normal winter coat can't protect you from. There might be days when a long-sleeved shirt is enough to keep you warm. Most of the year, you'll enjoy shorts and t-shirt weather. Bring comfortable walking shoes because you'll be on your feet a lot. Sunscreen is a must for all travelers.
- Airports - Modesto doesn't have a commercial airport, so you'll need to drive a bit to get to one. You can use San Jose, San Francisco, or Oakland's airport in the Bay Area or drive to Sacramentos airport. The BART public transportation system from the Bay Area does have commuter lines to Modesto, so you don't have to drive back and forth if you don't want to.
- Travel Insurance - If you're coming from outside the country, we strongly recommend supplementary travel, baggage, and health insurance. Domestic travelers should also consider adding additional protection and be clear about where their regular car insurance falls short of covering rental car issues.
Modesto Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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