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Downtown is the best angle
Within the Tracy triangle

Tracy boosters like to tell the world about the “Tracy Triangle.”

It’s a refence to three major freeways — Interstate 5, Interstate 580, and Interstate 205 — that have made it the Northern California hot spot for distribution centers including three Amazon fulfillment centers along with a long “who’s who” list of other major retailers.

The best angle Tracy has to offer, though, isn’t unparalleled freeway access for a city of 95,610.

It’s downtown Tracy.

It checks all of the required boxes you’d expect in a vibrant Valley downtown enjoying a renaissance as a dynamic gathering place: Dining options, traditional and boutique retail, visual/performing arts center, and extensive community-event style programming.

But it also has the perfect setting in a dozen blocks with an eclectic collection  of architecture, pedestrian friendly streets, and — a must to make blistering summer days tolerable and summer evenings a delight — a massive street tree canopy.

As such, al fresco dining is a common offering among 20 plus restaurants that run the gamut from bistros to Thai food.

More importantly there is a repertoire of different vibes. You can get the laid back sidewalk dining feel of Turlock or Lodi, the bustle of a Pleasanton downtown on a Saturday evening or find a quiet spot away from the crowd.

Mexican dining options are an example. 

There are places that offer patio dining. But there are also old school options such as Mi Esperanza Market that has a takeout kitchen tucked into the heart of a store with narrow aisles jammed with ethnic and traditional groceries to the Casa Grande Bar & Grill.

Casa Grande is a restaurant you will find on the first floor of the historic Tracy Inn that sits at the front  door of downtown on the southwest corner of Eleventh Street and Central Avenue.

The two-story structure, with its iconic rounded wall on the corner that is a two years’ shy of being a century-old, is an example of the once popular Mission Revival Style in early 20th century California that was reflected in public buddings of the era ranging from high schools and train stations to government buildings.

The Tracy Inn continues to be a community gathering place  for meetings and parties on the ground floor banquet halls operated by the Casa Grande Mexican restaurant off of the inn’s grand lobby. The main dining area has a true 1920s feel.

Downtown Tracy’s heart is Central Avenue — five blocks stretching from Eleventh Street (the Old Lincoln Highway) to the Spanish-style Tracy Transit Center on the roundabout featuring the 18-foot bronze sculpture “Harvest of Progress.”

The sculpture is a nod to Tracy’s past, present and future.

 A farmer faces the east, a railroad conductor faces the west. As such, they represent what gave birth to the community and continues to power Tracy’s growth.

It is also at the roundabout you will find arguably the most expansive downtown plaza/promenade for community events in the region.

It’s a wide expanse known as the Front Street Plaza in the middle of East Sixth Street. It’s heavily tree-lined with large swaths of grass broken up by pavers.

This is where a lot of events take place, notably the City of Tracy’s  summer Block Party Series that feature evening concerts from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday nights. They run the gamut from Latin, country, rhythm and soul, and reggae to contemporary sounds such as from the 80s.

Downtown Tracy is among the few Northern San Joaquin Valley communities that boosts of a year-round farmers’ market.

It takes place Saturdays on the southern end of Central Avenue from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

And while Tracy is home to one of the largest Amazon facilities in the world — the multi-story, 3.7-million square-foot fulfillment that opened earlier this year on Grantline Road — it isn’t the grandest thing in Tracy.

It’s the Grand Theatre for the Arts.

The municipal interdisciplinary arts center is considered the only one of its kind in the State of California offering professional and community-based fine arts programming through arts education, exhibitions, performances and rentals of all kinds, in a single complex, and is one of only a small network of similar facilities in America.

It opened on Central Avenue in 1923 as a premier vaudeville house. It was converted to show “talkies” by the late 1920s.

The present-day reincarnation of the Grand Theatre featuring 37,000 square feet that included combining what were originally three adjoining hotels was completed in 2007.

It is now in its 16th season with just under 50 programmed concerts, theatrical productions and such in its current season.

The main theater seats 547 while the small theater accommodates upwards of 100. There is also a dance studio, kids art studio, music rooms and more.

The Tracy City Center Association complements the Grand Theatre’s offerings with a long list of ongoing downtown events that go beyond  the weekly farmers’ market.

Among them are:

  • Taps on Tenth Craft Beer Tasting  in April and November.
  • Vintage & Antique Faire in May.
  • Fourth of July Parade.
  • Social at Sunset in July.
  • Blues, Brews & BBQ in September.
  • Wine Stroll in September.
  • Movies on the Plaza during the summer months.
  • Downtown Art Walks during the summer months.
  • Street Dreams Car Show in October.
  • Halloween Candy Crawl & Festivities.
  • Girls’ Night Out in March and October 
  • Holiday Ornament Stroll in December.
  • Holiday Light Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony in December.
  • Santa’s Workshop.

Tracy sprang up in 1878 when construction of a new rail line was started from Oakland around the shores of San Francisco Bay, through Martinez to connect to the Central Pacific at a point three miles to the east of Ellis. The line had been built to make possible greater efficiency by avoiding hills and to eliminate the expense of helper engines. 

The result of the new rail line was the founding of Tracy on September 8, 1878, named for Lathrop J. Tracy, a grain merchant and railroad director.

Tracy continued to grow as a railroad center. A new line through Los Banos was the fastest and least expensive to Los Angeles. In March of 1894, railroad headquarters at Lathrop were moved to Tracy. All of the railroad equipment including engines and buildings were moved. 

Businesses were initially centered on Front Street (today’s Sixth Street). After the turn of the 20th Century, commercial activity moved north on Central Avenue. As Eleventh Street became Highway 50, a busy thoroughfare, it fostered the creation of a number of businesses, including the historic Tracy Inn, completed in 1927.

Tracy was incorporated in 1910. It grew rapidly after the first irrigation district was established in 1915. Although railroad operations began to decline in the 1950s, Tracy continued to prosper as an agricultural area. 

Today, the railroads still play a key role in powering the city’s economic engine especially with the advent of Altamont Corridor Express commuter rail service to the job-rich Silicon Valley.

Tracy capitalized on its location  of being roughly equal distance to San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento to become the fastest growing logistics hub in Northern California.

The easiest way to downtown Tracy is to take the Tracy Boulevard exit on Interstate 205 and travel south to Eleventh Street. Turn left at Eleventh Street and travel to Central Avenue (the two-story Tracy Inn is in your right) and turn right.

For more information on downtown Tracy offerings go to the websites for: