Though named after the City of Davis, the campus is theoretically located bordering to the City of Davis in an unincorporated part of Yolo and Solano counties. The major campus is 15 miles 24.1 km west of Sacramento in the Sacramento Valley, part of California's Central Valley, and is bordering to Interstate 80.
The city of Davis is a college town, with the percentage of students to lasting residents estimated at 1:4. Also causing the college town environment is the close closeness of downtown Davis to the campus' major quada matter of some blocks, and 5- to 10-minute walk or bike ride. Davis' 15 minute distance from Sacramento gives it with both the separation important to fostering a college town environment while also allowing a lively and big metropolitan area close. although the campus itself is vast, the complete community of Davis is comparatively small and is easily traversable on bike using Davis' broad bicycle trails.
Towards the northeast end of campus is the Quad, a big rectangular field, which was the historic geographic center of campus. Earlier in the campus' history, the not many campus buildings enclosed the four sides of the Quad. Today, although the campus has grown considerably and the geographic center of campus shifted, the Quad remains the center of campus life, anchored to the north by the Memorial Union student union, to the south by Shields Library and to the West and Southeast by Wellman and Olson Halls in that order. The Memorial Union Complex houses Freeborn Hall and the Memorial Union, which houses different establishments like the UC Davis Bookstore.
The northeast side of campus holds more of the core buildings that were built earlier in UC Davis's history, like Wellman Hall, Shields Library, Mrak Hall, and Hutchison Hall. Also notable in this northeastern corner is the labyrinthine Social Sciences and Humanities building intended by Antoine Predock, recognized to students as the "Death Star" for its angular, metallic design.
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The most of Equestrian Center, and Animal Sciences buildings are located near the Arboretum Waterway, away from the core campus, the West Entry Parking Complex, the Silo Union, and the newly constructed Science Lecture Hall and the Science Laboratory Building are located nearer to the Tercero residence halls and the core of campus. The Mondavi Center, home of the University Symphony Orchestra and other cultural events, is located near the Tercero complex.
For most of UC Davis' history, West Campus served mainly as farming research land. Recently, portions were worked on through a $300 million public private partnership to form the biggest zero net energy community in the United States, called UC Davis West Village. West Village will supply housing for 3,000 students, faculty and staff and will assist the university recruit and keep top faculty. The project will include 662 apartments, 343 single family homes, 42,500 square feet of commercial space, a recreation center and study buildings. West Village will also host the 1st community college on a UC campus.
The classes held in this area primarily involve plant sciences, but also include entomology courses also. Students in the plant sciences maintain gardens as part of the PLS five lab while Entomology 156L and 158 students embark on field trips to sample fish for parasites at Putah Creek and conduct projects in forensic entomology at the UC Davis ecosystem, in that order. West Campus is home to the University Airport, Foundation Plant Services, the California National Primate Research Center, and the Contained Research building, a bio safety level three building.
To the south side of the campus core is the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum, which will include 3.5 miles of paved paths, 4,000 tree specimens, Putah Creek and Lake Spafford.
The northwest end of campus holds the most of the Segundo undergraduate housing complex, and different alternative non undergraduate housing, like Orchard Park, Solano Park, Russell Park, and The Colleges at LaRue Apartments. The actions and Recreation Center, or the ARC, is located near the Segundo complex. bordering to the northwest corner of campus is the Cuarto undergraduate housing complex, which has one dining commons.
The Tercero undergraduate housing complex is near the geographic center of the UC Davis campus, to the north of the Arboretum Waterway. This extends longitudinally through nearly the entirety of the south end of campus. The Davis Arboretum is a public botanic garden with over 4,000 types of trees and plants, as well as many California native plants, which was worked on over 100 acres 40 ha along The Waterway. The Cuarto undergraduate freshmen and move students housing complex is one block off campus, across Russell Boulevard. Unlike the other undergraduate housing complexes, Cuarto is inside city limitations, its residents may vote in city elections.