Prospective students are visiting the University of California, Davis campus this month, trying to decide if they should spend the next few years there. For students and other visitors, there is plenty to see on the UC campus and the appealing city of Davis that surrounds it. What was once a tiny farming community has blossomed into a fair-sized town in recent years, with about 67,000 residents. And there is much to interest visitors who never intend to study or cram for finals.

Start downtown, a compact walkable district. E Street is the most interesting and the center of it all.

Downtown offers familiar names and unique restaurants, with some priced for student budgets. Peet’s Coffee, Chipotle and chicken-finger purveyor Raising Cane’s are part of the downtown food scene, as are restaurants serving Indian, Nepalese, Mexican, Thai and brewpub food. One longtime restaurant is Woodstock’s Pizza, which has been serving Davis since 1980. 

The line in front of Davis Creamery goes out the door on a Friday night. (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff) 

Interesting stores are downtown also. They range from women’s clothing at Pinkadot and Peachy Lady, to the Bootleg bar inside Armadillo Music, which advertises “Vinyl-Beer-Music” on its front window. Next door is Roots of Happiness, a kava bar with a Pacific Island vibe.

Consider visiting Davis when the Farmer’s Market is open downtown. The market has a fixed location in Central Park and is a Central Valley institution. The market is held on Wednesday afternoons and evenings and on Saturday mornings. Starting May 17, Picnic in the Park returns after a pandemic hiatus. That event is Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. Picnicking is encouraged, alcohol is allowed, and bands will play.

The United States Bicycling Hall of Fame is next door to the Farmer’s Market, and open at the same approximate times as the market. It has three floors full of exhibits about cycling. 

Bicycles, synonymous with Davis, take part in a parade on the UC campus on Picnic Day on April 15. (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff) 

Davis, of course, is known for its bicycling scene and trails, and is often called the Bicycling Capital of the U.S. You’ll find plenty of bike stores downtown, along with the Bike Barn on the UC Davis campus, which repairs and rents bikes. 

Once a month in downtown Davis, the 2nd Friday ArtAbout offers visitors the opportunity to check out artists’ booths, installations and gallery receptions in the evening. (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff)  

Downtown is full of art galleries, and activities, too. On the second Friday evening of each month, there’s Art About, an art walk with receptions and sidewalk art booths downtown. A craft and vintage fair with music is also on some Sundays at Central Park. 

The UC campus is about a half mile from downtown. Students often migrate back and forth between the two on Third Street, which is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. Nicely, there’s vehicle parking on campus, along with bus service. Davis is also served by the Capitol Corridor Amtrak line, which frequently runs from the Sierra foothills and Sacramento to Oakland and San Jose. 

It’s free to visit the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff)
One mission of the UC Davis Arboretum is to educate the public about climate change and the importance of regionally appropriate landscaping, (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff)
The 100-acre arboretum at UC Davis includes more than 20,000 trees and plants that are adapted to a Mediterranean climate. (Courtesy Larry Sokoloff) 

An arboretum is a botanical garden devoted to trees, and the UC campus features one that follows the path of a fork of Putah Creek. It’s a well-traveled parklike setting that includes lawns and signs explaining its trees, including coastal redwoods. Campus buildings, such as the Mondavi Center (a performing arts venue) are along the arboretum path. Bridges cross over the water, and a few ducklings swim by in this peaceful idyll.  

For information about the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, visit UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. To learn more about 2nd Friday ArtAbout, go to davisdowntown/artabout.