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Hot spot: Doing the Delta

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Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 12:00 am

Visitors wanting to enjoy historic towns near beautiful views of wide flowing rivers will enjoy a day in the Delta.

The collection of villages are west of Lodi and feature restaurants, museums and small shops in historic buildings. Visitors can walk through and enjoy reading markers about the history of the buildings as well as art displays from some of the residents who live in the area.

People can also enjoy a day of fun on the river by renting a patio boat, a fishing boat, a kayak, a pedal boat, a waverunner or even a house boat if you want to stay on the water overnight.

For those wanting a more guided tour, there are also sight seeing excursions that include the history of the region, animal and plant life and the environmental issues facing the Delta. The California Delta Chamber and Visitor's Bureau has a list of places in its business directory on its Web site to rent boats or join tours, www.californiadelta.org/boatrents

After a long day on the water, visitors can enjoy a picnic at a spot along the river or a glass of wine at one of the many wineries in the area.

While in the Delta, tourists might also run into one of the many festivals that the towns host. There is a Chinese New Year celebration in March in Isleton, a Delta Traditions Wine and Art Festival in Walnut Grove on June 13, a Pear Festival on July 25 in Courtland and a Bass Derby Festival on October 8 in Rio Vista. The city of Isleton even has a Spam festival in February.

Locke

Locke's buildings are essentially the same as they were when they were constructed in 1920. The town has many artists as residents, so visitors get to explore not only museums, but also art exhibits displayed near people's homes.

Locke was built in 1915 after nearby Walnut Grove burned down in a fire. Chinese residents created the town, and it has the distinction of being the only town in the U.S. built enclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.

One of the main and oldest attractions is Al's Place or more commonly know as Al the Wop's. It was constructed in 1915 but did not become Al's Place until 1934. The restaurant has hundreds of dollar bills lining the ceiling from local patrons who tack them up with a special method the bartenders are more than happy to example.

The store is lined with vintage signs, a moose with underwear hanging from its antlers and old pictures. Owner Ed Wall said he often finds items on the walls he never noticed before.

The restaurant is known for its steak, its pasta and its fried toast with peanut butter and jelly.

The Main Street also features Dai Loy, a gambling hall that was shut down in the 1950s and turned into a museum, and Locke Boarding House, another museum.

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To schedule or find out more information about historical tours of Locke, call 916-776-1828 or e-mail lockefoundation@frontiernet.net.

Visitors keen on prolonging their stay should venture off Main Street to see some of the real charm of Locke. Down the wooden paths between the buildings, toursits might find Connie King's toilet garden where plants sprout for porcelin pots. In the gardens behind town, tourists will enjoy a nice stroll and might even find an artist painting.

To find out more about the history of Locke, visit the city's Web site at www.locketown.com.

Isleton

Once described as the "Little Paris of the Delta," Isleton has historic towering buildings along its Main Street that now house little shops, art galleries, bars and restaurants.

Established in 1874, the city is along the Sacramento and near good fishing spots.

One of the new attractions on Main Street is a museum sponsored by the Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society. The museum includes artifacts from 1874.

The museum is in the Bing Kong Tong Building, which used to be a community center hall and a Chinese Language School to teach children about their heritage.

The city also has the Summer Wind Stained Glass Studio, which usually features a new artist every month and beautiful stained glass pieces. The store has stained glass supplies and also teached classes.

For more information, visit the city's Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.isletoncoc.org.

Rio Vista

Described as the "Gateway to the Delta," Rio Vista has fishing, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet skiing, sail boating or tourists can just hang around the Sacramento River.

Fans of hunting will enjoy Foster's Bighorn, a Main Street restaurant that was opened in 1931. The restaurant now has one of the biggest wild game collections in the world.

In the dining room is the head of a full-grown African elephant. There are also more than a dozen different varieties of deer and antelope, a hippopotamus, rhinoceros, lion, bear and Cape buffalo.

Two of the restaurants top selling items are the fish and chips and the Bighorn Bison burger. The restaurant has dinner specials, including pan-fried beef fillets, barbecue pork back ribs or a 14-ounce steak.

While at Foster's, also check out the historic building in Downtown and stop to take a view of the river.

For more information, visit the city's Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.riovista.org.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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