Embarking on an adventure of exploring Merced, California, is a captivating experience filled with delightful surprises. Located in the heart of the picturesque San Joaquin Valley, Merced beckons visitors with its charming blend of rich history, vibrant culture, and a plethora of local attractions and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. This article will serve as your ultimate guide to unveiling the best that Merced has to offer, from natural wonders to cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, mouthwatering cuisine, and all the exciting Things to do in Merced, CA.

Merced has a fascinating history that dates back to the 19th century. Originally inhabited by Native American tribes, the area later became a popular stop for travelers during the California Gold Rush. The city’s name, which means “mercy” in Spanish, was inspired by the Merced River that flows through the region. Over the years, Merced has grown into a thriving community with a rich cultural heritage.

Main Attractions in Merced, California

Yosemite National Park

No visit to Merced is complete without a trip to Yosemite National Park. Just a short drive away, this iconic national park is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and stunning natural local landmarks. From towering granite cliffs to cascading waterfalls and pristine forests, Yosemite offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures such as hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife spotting.

Castle Air Museum

For aviation enthusiasts, the Castle Air Museum is a must-see attraction in Merced. Located on the grounds of the former Castle Air Force Base, this museum houses a remarkable collection of vintage aircraft and exhibits that showcase the history of aviation. Visitors can explore Merced the aircraft up close, learn about their significance, and even climb aboard some of them.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Nature lovers will appreciate the tranquil beauty of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Spanning over 10,000 acres, this refuge is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including migratory birds, endangered species, and native plants. Visitors can observe and photograph the wildlife, hike along the designated trails, and participate in educational programs that highlight the importance of conservation.

Applegate Park and Zoo

Families with children will enjoy a visit to Applegate Park and Zoo. This charming park features playgrounds, picnic areas, and a small zoo that houses a variety of animals, including exotic birds, monkeys, and reptiles. Kids can also enjoy the train ride that takes them around the park, adding an element of fun and excitement to their visit.

Merced Theater

For a dose of culture and entertainment, the historic Merced Theater is a tourist stop. This beautifully restored theater hosts a wide range of performances, including plays, musicals, concerts, and film screenings. With its elegant architecture and intimate setting, the Merced Theater offers a memorable experience for art and theater enthusiasts.

Outdoor Activities in Merced, CA

Hiking and Camping

Merced’s proximity to Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada Mountains makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With numerous hiking trails and camping sites, adventurers can explore Merced, the region’s natural beauty, from towering peaks to serene lakes. Whether you’re a novice hiker or an experienced mountaineer, there are options for all skill levels.

Water Sports

If you’re seeking water-based activities, Merced won’t disappoint. The nearby Merced River offers opportunities for kayaking, rafting, and tubing, allowing visitors to enjoy the thrill of navigating the river’s gentle rapids. Additionally, nearby lakes provide opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming, perfect for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun.


Merced boasts several golf courses that cater to golf enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner looking to improve your swing, you’ll find well-maintained courses with beautiful surroundings. Enjoy a leisurely day on the greens, challenge yourself with friends, or even take lessons from experienced golf instructors.


With its flat terrain and scenic routes, Merced is a great destination for cyclists. Explore Merced’s neighborhoods, ride along the picturesque countryside, or join organized group rides. Merced also offers bike trails that cater to different skill levels, ensuring a safe and enjoyable cycling experience for everyone.


For those who enjoy fishing, Merced provides a lot of things to do there. The region’s lakes, reservoirs, and rivers are abundant with various fish species, including bass, trout, and catfish. Whether you prefer freshwater or fly fishing, you can cast your line and reel in a memorable catch while enjoying the serene beauty of the surrounding nature.

Another Hidden Gem in Southern California is San Bernardino. Check out our guide on San Bernardino!

Cultural Experiences

Merced County Courthouse Museum

Step back in time and delve into the history of Merced County at the Merced County Courthouse Museum. Housed in a historic courthouse building, this museum showcases artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that depict the region’s past. Visitors can learn about the area’s early settlers, the agricultural heritage, and the significant events that shaped Merced’s development.

Merced Multicultural Arts Center

Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. This cultural hub hosts art exhibitions, performances, and workshops that celebrate the diverse artistic expressions of the community. From visual arts to music, dance, and theater, there’s always something inspiring happening at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.

Merced Symphony Orchestra

Music lovers can experience the beauty of live orchestral performances by attending concerts by the Merced Symphony Orchestra. This talented group of musicians showcases classical compositions, contemporary pieces, and special collaborations throughout the year. Be prepared to be transported by the captivating melodies and the exceptional talent of the orchestra members.

Merced County Fair

Every year, Merced hosts the Merced County Fair, a lively event that brings together the local community and visitors from afar. The fair features thrilling rides, live entertainment, agricultural exhibits, and delicious food. From the excitement of the midway to the charm of the farm animals, the Merced County Fair offers a fun-filled experience for people of all ages.

Shopping and Entertainment

Merced Mall

For a dose of retail therapy, head to the Merced Mall. This bustling shopping center is home to a variety of stores, ranging from popular brands to specialty boutiques. Browse through fashion, accessories, electronics, and more, or catch a movie at the mall’s theater for a well-rounded shopping and entertainment experience.

Downtown Merced

Downtown Merced offers a charming and eclectic mix of shops, cafes, and art galleries. Stroll along the historical sites, explore the Merced’s, and the local boutiques for unique finds, and stop by the art galleries to admire the work of local artists. Additionally, downtown Merced hosts regular community events, live music performances, and farmers’ markets, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

Merced Flea Market

If you’re in search of treasures and unique items, visit the Merced Flea Market. Held on weekends, this bustling market brings together vendors selling antiques, collectibles, handmade crafts, fresh produce, and much more. Explore the Merced’s aisles, haggle for bargains, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this local treasure trove.

Read our guide that covers the best hiking trails in California. We have picked some of our favorite routes, perfect for both beginners and more confident hikers so pack your boots and discover this beautiful state on foot.


Merced, CA, is a hidden gem that offers a plethora of attractions and experiences for visitors. From the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Yosemite National Park to the rich cultural heritage showcased in museums and performing arts centers, Merced has something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, indulging in local cuisine, or immersing yourself in the vibrant arts and entertainment scene, Merced will captivate you with its unique charm and warm hospitality. So if you want to move there, you should consider one of the top movers in Merced, CA, to assist with the laborious and time-consuming aspects of loading and unloading household goods, all while exploring the exciting Things to do in Merced, CA. Many people don’t have the tools or knowledge to disassemble large pieces of furniture or appliances before transporting them and then reassembling them at their new homes.


Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.

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