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What's There to Do in the Merced Area? Plenty

April 12, 2023
UC Merced graduates celebrate at a party at downtown's Bob Hart Square in May 2022.
Students can find a multitude of activities and places to visit in the Merced area.

One question students considering attending UC Merced might ask is, "What's there to do around there?"

The quick answer is - a lot. There are plenty of ways for students to spend their leisure time in the greater Merced area, for students of varying interests:

Are you an outdoors enthusiast? Do you enjoy nights out with crowds of friends? Are you a devoted video game player? Do you like the challenge of thrift shopping? Do you prefer to just chill out, perhaps with a book while water laps gently at the shore?

Opportunities for all of those activities - or lack of activity - abound. And that's outside of the ever-increasing multitude events on campus.

UC Merced students attend college surrounded by some of the most fertile agricultural land in the world. And there are plenty of opportunities to both learn more about the products made here and, even more fun, try them.

One student recently queried said she and her friends like to visit the area's many independent restaurants and stores, which offer a nice change of pace from her hometown of Los Angeles. "There are a lot of chain restaurants there."

Downtown Merced is often abuzz with activity, and recent additions Joystiq, an arcade/restaurant/bar, and the Tioga Sequoia Taproom provide more opportunities for students to relax and mingle. There's also The Partisan and several other independently owned pubs and restaurants where students can hang out, get a drink or a meal and get to know each other.

Each Saturday morning, the Merced Certified Farmers Market takes place at 16th and Canal streets downtown. And every other month from spring through fall, a night market is held. SuperFlea, a pop-up vintage, craft and thrift market, has regular events through the warm seasons, as well - the next one is April 22.

Students also enjoy attending - and participating in - a robust local arts scene, with community theater group Playhouse Merced and the Merced Multicultural Arts Center downtown. The refurbished Mainzer theater offers everything from live shows to board games. The Merced Theatre also offers live performances by musical and comedy acts and the symphony orchestra, as well as the occasional vintage film.

Getting to these activities and businesses is simple and free, thanks to the university's Cat Tracks shuttle system.

For those who like water or outdoor activities, Lake Yosemite is adjacent to the campus. It's a popular spot to barbecue, swim, and even sail. A little further away is the Merced National Wildlife Refuge , which offers auto tours, nature trails and guided walks to see sandhill cranes, burrowing owls, and more.

Speaking of nature, a lot of people will tell you that one of UC Merced's most unique assets is its proximity to Yosemite National Park.

But what you may not know is the strong relationship the university has with the crown jewel of the National Parks system. You can study to be a wilderness ranger. You can conduct research. You can attend Shakespeare in Yosemite.

But even more simply, you can visit the park - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for so many people - just about any time you want. And every season is worth going to Yosemite.

Though it's most popular in the summer, there is much to be said for the other seasons at Yosemite. Winter is stunning, and far less crowded than other times of year. Spring arrives with the blooming of all that's green, the bears coming out of hibernation and the falls ramping up. And those falls will be spectacular this year, as record-breaking snowfall melts out of the mountains. In the autumn, the colors of Yosemite start to change as the glut of summertime visitors makes its way home.

The vast majority of visitors to Yosemite head directly to the Valley. And there's plenty to experience there, with meadows and trails and views of El Capitan and Half Dome towering over everything. But proximity to the park means you can also go to other, less well-known areas. The Clouds Rest hike starts off Tioga Road and provides a wide view of the Valley. Wawona is history in one spot. You can see the hotel Henry Washburn built and it's easy to imagine you are there in the 1850s.

So no matter what kind of activity a prospective student might be looking for, the area around the University of California, Merced campus no doubt will provide it.

Patty Guerra

Public Information Officer

Office: (209) 769-0948