Superblooms Vary, But You Can Rely on Merced and the Almond Blossoms

Dubbed the “Gateway to Yosemite,” Merced has long faced the same stereotype as nearby cities like Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and the bulk of the San Joaquin Valley: there’s nothing to do there. But a recent, sizable investment in the historic downtown area, including a new boutique hotel, El Capitan, the revitalization of the historic Mainzer Theater and the region’s first fine-dining restaurant, Rainbird, has changed the cityscape quite a bit.

“Our little downtown, like so many of the downtowns of these cities that are along Highway 99, had been dying off for years,” says Kim Garner, El Capitan’s director of impact. “But our once-beautiful main street was struggling. Our company purchased two historic hotels and a historic theater and began to help change the tide downtown. We are the last stop on the road before you hit the foothills going up to Yosemite, so I like to say our buildings made an impact 100 years ago, and they’re making an impact today.”

Aside from the orchards, which have been a primary draw for years, there are plenty of other opportunities along the Blossom Trail to see the explosion of wildflowers that hits California wilderness every spring. “The Blossom Trail was mapped out by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources,” Garner explains. “It’s over 40 miles of the bloom, or 40 miles of road alongside where you’ll be able to see the bloom.”

There’s nothing better than stepping into the acres and acres of glowing almond orchards along the Central Valley Blossom Trail, which offers visitors the chance to participate in an immersive spring bloom that’s not harmed by visitors who want to wander through the rows of privately owned trees. “It’s not a polished, touristy experience,” Garner says. “You’re going to be able to get out into the orchards and experience the superbloom with miles and miles of almond orchards and really get out into nature."

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