by Michael P Coleman

Having been born and raised in Detroit, I know a little something about a city that’s been maligned, in part unfairly, by the media.  Another of those towns is Modesto, which I just discovered a few months ago.  It’s about 90 miles south of Sacramento, and it’s a great place for a night out on the town.  

IMG 3189 1I’ve had the occasion to travel to Modesto a few times over the last few months, for performances by world-class entertainers like Kenny Rogers, Billy Ocean, and Audra McDonald at the Gallo Center for the Performing Arts.  Just last weekend, I got to experience the glory of Mavis Staples’contralto, basically unaffected after over 50 years of live performances, during her outstanding show with Joan Osborne. 

The Gallo Center itself is a stunner, with not a single bad seat among the main auditorium’s 1,250.  The acoustics are great, providing an excellent listening experience for shows ranging from legendary performers like Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole and Tony Bennett to contemporary artists such as John Legend and Maxwell.  Tickets are very reasonably priced, and a secure, monitored, very reasonably priced parking garage is just half a block away.

I rolled into Modesto a little early last weekend and needed a bite to eat, and got another set of surprises at the Firkin & Fox, located kitty corner from the Gallo Center.  Service was very fast, I loved the outdoor seating, the Firkin Burger was the best burger I’ve had in a long time, and the cajun chicken wrap & fries were excellent.  As expected they also offer a variety of great beers on tap, and I sampled as much of that selection as I could before the show at the Gallo Center! 

As I walked back to the car after the concert, I couldn’t help but notice a raucous music festival going on right downtown.  I was impressed by the diversity of people headed to it, so I had to stop by and take it all in.  If not for my dogs back in Sacramento that were waiting for my return, I’d have danced all night!  

Speaking of Sacramento, Modesto’s a quick, efficient shot from Sactown, down 99.  Getting in and out of Modesto was much easier than when I’ve attended shows in the Bay area, for instance. 

According to Jennifer Mullin, Executive Director of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau, I’ve just scratched the surface of Modesto’s greatness.

“We’re the arts and cultural hub of the central valley,”Mullin enthused.  “We’re so fortunate to be a city our size with our own ballet, our own symphony orchestra, and our own opera.  That really does add to the total amount of cultural diversity in Modesto.”

The next time you’re looking for a great night out, check out Modesto —northern California’s best-kept secret! 

Explore Modesto and all of the cool things to do there at

Check out the amazing schedule of live performances at the Gallo Center at

Check out the menu (beer and otherwise!) at the Firkin & Fox at

Michael P Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer.  Connect with him at or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP 

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