Couples stroll along the marina hand-in-hand, while families enjoy their lunch and the afternoon sun from their terrace seating at a nearby bistro. Street artists are hard at work on a mural, and just steps away local artisans peddle their crafts on the streets, right next to fashion boutiques, hipster coffeehouses and microbreweries. It isn’t Vancouver, or Chicago, or Sydney. It’s Stockton, California.
Stockton boasts a privileged position in Northern California’s Central Valley, surrounded by fertile farmland and a wealth of vineyards, just 90 minutes away from San Francisco and two and a half hours from Yosemite National Park. Though it lies 75 miles inland, it is an important port city (the busiest inland port in the country), connected to the Pacific Ocean by a network of over 1,000 miles of waterways still used for both transportation and recreation.
It also happens to be a surprisingly multicultural city – large Chinese, Mexican, Japanese and Filipino communities call the city home, among many others, and it is the home of the oldest Sikh temple in the USA (dating from 1912) – and this diversity is palpable in every aspect of the city’s life, from its architecture and rich artistic scene to its eclectic gastronomy and the wealth of festivals and events it hosts throughout the year. Stockton has no fewer than four New Year celebrations (Gregorian, Chinese, Cambodian and Hmong), and every year its citizens get to enjoy a Greek festival, a Jewish food fair, the Stockton Arts Week, the rowdier Stockton Beer Week, summertime open-air concerts, and even an asparagus festival, to name just a few.
Not least, the city’s gastronomic scene is booming, with weekly farmers’ markets, renowned vineyards and top chefs setting up shop in the revamped downtown area.
The economic crisis of 2008 hit Stockton harder than most cities, but economic hardships were unable to dampen the spirits of the people of Stockton, and ambitious urban revival plans have breathed new life into the downtown area and waterfront, repopulating it with shops, restaurants, entertainment, and most importantly, Stocktonians, a testament to their resilience and steadfastness.
The redone downtown waterfront boasts an eclectic atmosphere, with the Stockton Marina now attracting throngs of pedestrians for leisurely strolls and Miracle Mile coming back to life with dining, shopping, culture and entertainment. Formerly abandoned storefronts now sport done-up facades; once empty shelves are now packed with chic products in specialty boutiques; streets once vacant now crawl with diners and shoppers strolling along waterfront walkways and enjoying outdoor cafes and bistros; nightlife buzzes where before none dared venture after dark.
Historic buildings have been refurbished, green spaces revived, urban areas redeveloped, and civic life resurrected. And it was done from the ground up, a grassroots movement led by local entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops and Stocktonian families and neighbors, and as a result, the city has emerged from the hardships of foreclosures and bankruptcy stronger than ever, once again earning in 2015 the well-deserved title of All-America City.
Written in collaboration with Visit Stockton.