Chances are, if you’re heading to or from Yosemite National Park, you’ll pass through Merced, or even spend the night there. The city proudly proclaims itself as the “Gateway to Yosemite”, since Yosemite Valley is only about 80 miles away (although that’s still a solid 2 hours on two-lane, curvy roads). Even if you’re focused on getting to Yosemite as quickly as possible, it won’t hurt to take a brief break in downtown Merced. After all, it’s the last city you’ll see for a while.
You don’t need a brochure, tour guide, or the city’s website to tell you that the most recognizable landmark in Merced is the towering Merced Theatre. As of 2010, the theater is closed, but a restoration effort is underway.
The ceiling underneath the marquee is just as beautiful as I’m sure the interior will be, once the restoration is complete. I’d love to have seen the neon lit up at night.
Just one block west on Main Street, there’s a more modern cinema. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and shops to visit as you stroll.
Also keep your eye out for a few nifty old signs, including this neon 7-Up sign (It Likes You!)…
… and the Branding Iron steakhouse.
You’ll also spot signs that remind you, the wonders of Yosemite are nearby.
And then there’s this work of art, outside the Dog House restaurant. There’s something disturbing about a wiener putting a condiment on himself.