Merced, known as the "Gateway to Yosemite," is less than two hours by automobile from Yosemite National Park to the east and Monterey Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and several beaches to the west.
Merced is the county seat of Merced County and welcomes 80,000 residents in its municipality. Characterized by its young, diverse, and friendly residents, Merced offers a variety of outdoor leisure activities and a beautiful downtown area. Applegate Park and its accompanying zoo are resident favored leisure spots.
Artistically, Merced provides entertainment through the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and the Mainzer Theater.
The University of California, Merced is the nation's first research institution built in the 21st century. UC Merced opened its doors to its first 1,000 students in 2005 and plans to raise that number to 25,000 throughout its growth.