With an emerging Downtown market, destination resort and events like CycleFest, Lodi is becoming a popular location for so-called staycations.
Residents in the Bay Area could lack extra money for a trip to Maui, but they are still willing and able to spend some discretionary income at wineries, restaurants and hotels around town, say local advocates of wine and leisure.
"Lodi has always been in a great position as a destination for day trips," said Nancy Beckman, president and CEO of Visit Lodi! Visitors and Conference Bureau. "There are millions of people who live within two hours of here."
To court those visitors, Beckman said Visit Lodi! has shifted its marketing strategy to reach more Bay Area residents.
"We want to reach those who traditionally vacationed in Napa and are looking for a less expensive alternative," she said.
Although AAA reported gas prices generally fell the week following Independence Day, California's gas prices are still the third highest in the nation. The average price of gas per gallon in the nation is $2.71, while Northern California's average is $3.15. The slumping economy, coupled with pump prices, have made people reconsider how they spend their vacations, something many in Lodi think the city is poised to take advantage of.
Looking to entice more potential visitors, the bureau has stepped up its advertising on the Internet, Beckman said. She noted that 70 percent of people make a portion of their travel plans online.
The wineries are the main draw for Lodi, she said, and many tasting rooms are seeing the same number of customers as last year or more.
Abundance Vineyards is one winery seeing a spike in its business this summer.
"We are getting people from all over," said Courtney Roesler, general manager of Abundance Vineyards. "We are getting a lot of people from Redding and Chico."
While Abundance Vineyards was named Winery of the Year by Visit Lodi! for 2009, Roesler said the increase in traffic is also likely due to the region's growing popularity.
"Lodi in general is getting a lot of attention," she said. "I think people are over the Napa and Sonoma scene, and they are hearing things about Lodi and making a point to see it."
The great outdoors
Outdoor activities are also a draw for travelers looking to stay local, said Mike Reese, recreation manager for the city of Lodi's Parks and Recreation Department.
"Besides the swimming and boating at Lodi Lake, we have walking and bike trails there," he said. "We also have boat tours on the Mokelumne River."
Reese pointed to the California Glory and Legion baseball games at Zupo Field and last week's CycleFest as potential attractions for visitors.
The city is also doing more to promote its outdoor events, he said.
"With the special events and activities at Lodi Lake, we are making more public notices and advertising our extended hours for swimming and boating," he said. "We want to make it a fuller day."
A place to indulge
For those into pampering themselves, the region's premier spa is there to offer manicures, pedicures and massages.
"There is no place like us, unless you go to Napa or Sonoma," said Joline Meyer, spa director at Wine & Roses.
A year ago, the spa started offering a frequent guest discount card. The program has been received well and led to more business, Meyer said.
The director of sales and marketing for the resort agreed that they are making an effort to attract locals.
"We are more community-focused," said Heather Reagan. "People aren't venturing out as much and we are developing more packages for locals."
The Live Summer Concert Series and Rediscover package are two such items the resort is using to attract locals, she said.
The Rediscover package offers a one-night stay in a King Fireplace Room, winetasting and a four-course meal for $349.
While the resort remains a popular tourist destination, Meyer said she sees a large amount of regular customers who bring in their friends and family from out of the area.
"When family comes in to visit from out of town, they come to the spa," she said. "A lot of them say they don't need to go to Napa when they have Wine & Roses in Lodi."
With several restaurants, tasting rooms and boutiques, Downtown Lodi is also a popular destination for tourists on a budget, said Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership.
"Because of the poor economy, I notice people are taking advantage of local opportunities," she said.
Some DLBP events helping to attract tourists to the area are the Certified Farmers Market and Shop Sunday campaign.
The 23-week Shop Sunday campaign showcases Downtown stores open on Sunday and features live entertainment in the middle of Downtown.
"The Shop Sunday campaign is for locals and visitors alike," she said. "For those who aren't leaving town, we want to keep Downtown as busy as possible during the weekend."
Two Sacramento-area residents were at the farmers' market Thursday night and commented on Lodi's charm and attractiveness.
"I started coming to the farmers' market last year because a friend in Galt told me about it," said Liz Suposs. "I love Lodi; it's small and friendly."
Suposs was at the market with her daughter, Melissa, who was thumbing through a visitors guide. Melissa Suposs was planning to visit some wineries with her friends, she said.
"I'm looking forward to tasting some of the Zinfandels," she said.