Imagine a place with a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, an historic core, a thriving walk-able port, and a world-class cultural mix. This isn’t Barcelona or Marseille, but Stockton - a diamond in the rough that is well worth a visit. The city in 2018 will host a start of the Amgen Tour of California for the second time. In 2007, the stage started on Stockton’s waterfront and traversed the Diablo Ridge into San Jose where fan favorite & Amgen Tour of California Ambassador Jens Voigt won the day. This year’s stage will start across McLeod Lake at the scenic Stockton Ballpark where fans and riders alike will be introduced to this gem of the San Joaquin Valley.
Stockton may be the third largest city in the famed San Joaquin Valley, but its harbor-front location plays tricks on the mind. The San Joaquin is known as the “food basket of the world” thanks to a combination of perfect soil and climate. Amid the otherwise waterless landscape, Stockton is located at the furthest reaches of the California Delta, connecting with San Francisco. Among this sprawling system lies Stockton. The city was founded by an opportunist German immigrant who came for gold and found it in trading goods. Stockton’s accessibility made it a crucial harbor, first close to the mines and then agriculture. A Depression-era port modernization and expansion even led the Navy to establish Rough and Ready Naval Supply Center during World War II.
With thousands of miles of waterways in and around the city, this is an oasis. The newly developed waterfront promenade is a serene place to float through the water in a rented kayak, sip regional brews and wine, or enjoy local farm fresh products. Stockton is a large sprawling town, but at its core is a historic treasure trove of buildings. In less than a quarter-square mile in downtown, there are no less than eleven buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places featuring a wide spectrum of the city’s history. From the Sperry Union Flour Mill to the appropriately named Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank, Stockton is a standing museum exhibit. Such businesses have come and gone, but the Diamond Foods Corporation is one of the remaining Stockton producers who has grown from a small cooperative of walnut growers into a company known today for its national brands of chips, popcorn, and of course nuts.
The diversity of produce that has historically flowed through Stockton is symbolic of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Aside from being the hometown of singer Chris Isaak and Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Dave Brubeck got his start at the University of the Pacific and Bob Hope was a frequent visitor. The historic Fox Theater in downtown now bears the legendary comedian’s name and is still an iconic venue to catch a show. The visual arts are strongly represented by the illustrious Haggin Museum, which boasts the central valley’s largest fine art collection in a relaxing and spacious park environment. But the cultural heritage of Stockton is best experienced at its annual festivals, where the city’s historic and ongoing melting pot produces an international feel on par with the world’s leading cities. Whether the Chinese New Year’s Parade, the Cambodian New Year, Greek Festival, or Colombian Independence Day celebration, Stockton has been welcoming and vibrant beginning with its Gold Rush days. In this regard, the Amgen Tour of California, its riders and fans, will feel at home in this global city.