If you’re a travel nurse that loves to explore, California is a great destination. From its world-famous Pacific coast to the Mojave Desert to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California offers incredible outdoor recreation and entertainment, as well as the opportunity to experience many different cultures and cuisines.
In the Central Valley of California lies Merced County, an exciting new destination for GIFTED clinicians. This area is known for its beautiful scenery, agricultural production, and diverse cultural history.
To help RNs who are considering a travel nursing adventure to California, we’ve created a list of attractions and things to do in Merced County, California. Read on to learn more!
San Luis National Wildlife Refuge
Located in Los Banos, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge is heaven for outdoor recreation and wildlife enthusiasts. According to its official website, the 26,000-acre refuge includes “wetlands, riparian forests, native grasslands, and vernal pools.” These habitats are home to large populations of tule elk and other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish and plants, and the refuge offers three different touring routes for automobiles with associated trails and observation platforms.
The refuge also allows fishing in certain areas and offers a “waterfowl hunting program.”
Birdwatchers will thoroughly enjoy the refuge, as it is home to stunning egrets and blue herons as well as other other “waterfowl and shorebirds, including:
- Green-winged teal
- Northern shoveler
- Cinnamon teal
- Northern pintail
- Ring-necked duck
- Ruddy duck
- White-fronted geese
Other regions of the refuge feature habitats that are characteristic of the San Joaquin Valley, and are home to animals like “coyotes, desert cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, western meadowlarks, yellow-billed magpies, and northern harriers.”
The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge also contains a Visitor Center featuring interactive educational exhibits about the area’s wildlife and habitats.
San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
The San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area (SRA) is located at the San Luis Reservoir, constructed as part of the California State Water project to collect runoff that would otherwise flow into the Pacific Ocean.
The San Luis SRA is a beautiful place for outdoor recreation. Visitors often partake in wind sailing, hiking, and picnicking, but the area is best known for its campgrounds and fishing opportunities.
The San Luis Reservoir SRA offers four campgrounds: Basalt, San Luis Creek, Medeiros, and Los Banos Creek. All campgrounds are open for the entire year.
Castle Air Museum
Located in Atwater, the Castle Air Museum is the region’s largest aviation museum. According to its official website, it offers a wonderful collection of “vintage military aircraft” from pre-WWII to the present day, educating visitors on the men and women who “designed, built, maintained, and flew the aircraft into hostile skies to defend freedom and liberty,” as well as provide insight into “what the future of aerospace may hold in store.”
The museum is named after Brigadier General Frederick Walker Castle, CMH, a WWII General in the United States Airforce who received a posthumous Medal Of Honor for leading a 2,000-aircraft attack over Europe in December 1944.
The 20-acre Vista Ranch offers a lovely vineyard, tasting room, picnic area, and event center located in Merced. Originally a home for Native Americans named the Yokut, Vista Ranch is located on the property of Bear Ranch, a 4,000-acre farming operation for stone fruit, figs, and vegetables.
Vista Ranch was established in 2010 in an attempt to educate the public on this Central Valley agriculture experience.
According to its official website, Wine-lovers can make reservations at Vista Ranch for tastings and try a wide variety of California wines, including Cabernet, Primativo, and Pinot Noir varieties.
Applegate Park Zoo
The Applegate Park Zoo was established in Merced in 1962. According to the city of Merced’s official website, this charming local zoo features “approximately 75 mammals, birds, and reptiles” native to California that have come from wildlife rescue centers.
The zoo primarily functions as a safe haven for rescued wild animals, in turn providing visitors with a fascinating glimpse of the animal kingdom and learn about local California wildlife.
Other Great Nearby Attractions
While there is plenty to do in Merced County alone, travel nurses in the area also have access to many other Golden State attractions!
San Francisco Bay Area
Just a two-drive from Merced County is the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the art, entertainment, and cultural centers of the world, world-renowned for its natural beauty. Travel nurses can explore the unique charms of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and California Wine Country on a simple day trip!
Check out our beginner’s guide to the Bay Area here.
Home to legendary Big Sur, Pebble Beach and Carmel-By-the-Sea, Monterey County is quintessential California Coast magic. Travel nurses can roam through the majestic redwood forests, see breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean along17-Mile Drive, have a “gourmet picnic” on the sands of Carmel Beach.
Lake Tahoe is the largest mountain lake in the nation and hosts over 2 million visitors per year. Located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, it is another stunning natural wonder, offering a wide range of outdoor recreational activities.
USA Today has called it “America’s Best Lake.” Orbitz has ranked it America’s #1 skiing destination. And TripAdvisor has ranked it the #1 overall travel destination in the country.
Yosemite National Park
Among the most famous National Parks in the world, Yosemite National Park was first protected in 1864 and is one of the crown jewels of California. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, travel nurses can marvel at the park’s ancient sequoia forests, granite cliffs, and legendary waterfalls.
Nurses & Healthcare Professionals Thrive at GIFTED Healthcare
From travel to per diem contracts, GIFTED Healthcare provides clinicians with exceptional career opportunities at premier healthcare facilities across the nation.