Fresno | Visit California (2024)

Although it’s in the heart of California’s most productive agricultural region,Fresnois also a sophisticated city of gorgeous gardens and parks, with a vibrant creative community and oneunforgettable (and underground) attractionyou won’t find anywhere else. It’s also theCentral Valley’s largest city.

Fresno’s History

Founded in 1872 by the Central Pacific Railroad, the city of Fresno rapidly grew as an agricultural hub, thanks to the fertile soil of the San Joaquin Valley and the region’s favorable climate. Fresno's identity is deeply intertwined with its farming roots, particularly in grape cultivation, leading to its recognition as the "Raisin Capital of the World." Major crops in the area also include almonds, cotton, peaches, and nectarines. The city's growth continued to surge in the 20th century, fueled by an influx of immigrants from around the world, which gives the city a diverse, international feel.

Things to Do in Fresno

1. Discover the excitingTower Districtneighborhood.

With shopping, dining, and a nightlife hotspot named for its centerpiece—the landmark, neon-lit art deco theater that opened in 1939. Catch the cultural scene at its most dynamic during the twice-monthly open-art program,ArtHop, held in studio and gallery spaces downtown and in other parts of the city.

2. Visit theFresno Art Museum.

This is also a must-visit spot, both for its beautifully displayed permanent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and also its innovative exhibitions showcasing everything from children’s book illustrations to contemporary works from Mexico.

3. Take the kids to Woodward Park.

Along the San Joaquin River, the 300-acreparktruly has something for everyone: five miles of trails, an authentic Japanese garden, three playgrounds, a dog park, a BMX track, and a disc golf course. The largest park in the county, Woodwark park was named after Ralph Woodward, who left part of his estate to provide a regional park and bird sanctuary in Fresno.

4. Get Up-Close with Animals at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Speaking of the kids, across town they’ll also love the. If you’ve ever wanted to pet a stingray or feed a giraffe, this is the place to get up close and personal with remarkable creatures from around the world. In the city’s Roeding Park, the zoo has a number of naturalistic enclosures, including the 13-acre African Adventure, a great place to watch lions frolic on boulders and elephants rumble across a savanna-like expanse. Special Behind-the-Scenes Encounters show how zookeepers work with such animals as rhinos, giraffes, and sloths, and you can even participate in training sessions with seals and sea lions.

5. Explore the Forestiere Underground Gardens.

For an unforgettable only-in-Fresno experience, explore this subterranean living space—a labyrinth of stone walls, tunnels, and courtyards hand-dug by an Italian immigrant, who had decided that living underground was the best way to keep cool during the Central Valley’s hot summers. With its handcrafted stone walls and graceful arches, the gardens resemble some ancient archaeological wonder that has been unearthed and restored. But this designated California state landmark is very much a living place, complete with productive fruit trees and grapevines.

6. Catch a game.

For sports fans, there’s Pacific Coast League baseball at Chukchansi Stadium, home of theFresno Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the teams atFresno State Universityhave earned one of the most avid followings of any college in the country (and Bulldog alums includepro athletes such as New York Yankee Aaron Judge).

7. Get Out into the farmland.

At some point, be sure to get out of the city and into the farmland surrounding Fresno. In early spring, drive or bike the 62-mileBlossom Trail, a loop lined by brilliantly blooming fruit and nut trees.

During summer, the drive morphs into theFresno County Fruit Trail(map), with produce stands overflowing with fresh picked strawberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, peaches, and more. Beginning in late May, the Fruit Trail also brings festivals and cultural events to other area towns: theSanger Farmers Market and Street Faire(typically every Saturday in May and June), Clovis’Big Hat Days(mid-June), and Kingsburg’sSummer Band Concerts Under the Stars(typically Thursdays in June and July).

8. Dine at The Annex Kitchen.

The Annex Kitchen keeps things local and takes full advantage of the rich array of ingredients cultivated and raised on Central Valley farms. The stylish, contemporary restaurant specializes in rustic, regional Italian dishes, including handcrafted pastas like sweet corn agnolotti. There are also (of course) pizzas served fresh out of a wood-fired oven, and don’t miss such wood-burning hearth specialties as ribeye with a porcini rub. A little thirsty? Take your pick of modern or classic craft co*cktails as you raise a toast during a night on the town in Fresno.

To enhance your explorations, get the lowdown onFresno County’s 15 Treasured Cities—like checking out the Raisin Capital of the World or visiting one town with a rich Swedish heritage.

Fresno | Visit California (2024)
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