Located in the heart of California’s agricultural breadbasket, Hanford is a neat little town with an interesting history. The local produce is something quite special, making Hanford a great place to eat and drink.
For a small city, Hanford’s has an interesting history, and many celebrity residents have lived here at one time or another. The gold rush and the creation of the Southern Pacific Railroad, in particular, shaped the city and created one of its highlights; China Alley.
With spectacular links to several nearby national parks, you may be most eager to head to the hills to experience some of America’s most breathtaking scenery.
Here are the 15 of the best things to do in Hanford.
1. Spend a Day at the Races at the Keller Auto Speedway
King’s Fairground in Hanford has a packed calendar of events, from renaissance fairs to local circuses.
Its chief attraction though is gritty high-adrenaline car-racing competitions, which run all year round.
Ever popular with locals, this thriving racetrack is still expanding its repertoire of events. The outlaw sprint car races, in particular, are a popular feature on Saturday nights.
Get a beer and a hotdog and watch some hair-raising turns at this exciting local track.
2. Learn About Painting at the King’s Art Center
An important artistic center since it opened in the 1960s, this art museum has many lovely paintings from both local and international artists, and in a range of different mediums. Photography, sculpture, painting, and ceramics are all well-represented here.
King’s is committed to public outreach, and many art classes are run to teach patrons about various art forms in a relaxing and community-spirited environment.
It’s free to visit, so make sure you stop in.
3. Explore the Architecture of China Alley
Due to the construction of the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad extension, Hanford was settled by many Chinese immigrants who came to work on the tracks.
As a result, the remains of the fantastic Chinatown district, China Alley, is an interesting historical area with many notable buildings. Constructed in the 19th century, it is packed with authentic Chinese restaurants and unique architecture.
Amongst its most important sites is the 19th century Taoist temple, now serving as a small museum. Many traveling migrants passed through the temple, which was also a boarding house once. You can find about how these migrants lived and struggled with the difficult experience of integration from the excellent documents and exhibits.
4. Explore a World of Stories at the StoryBook Museum
Based around a series of small model houses, the StoryBook Museum is an educational center and playground rolled into one. With lots of fun games to try out, it’s a great place to take the kids for some off-the-wall educational activities.
The museum and its gardens are supposed to inspire children to read, and have a range of literary themes. Charlotte’s Web, the Three Little Pigs, and Peter Rabbit are all well-represented classics here. It also has a lovely area dedicated to Monet and his unique style of painting.
Its diverse selection of themed gardens will delight kids and adults alike and allow you to learn more about agriculture in one of America’s most fertile regions.
5. Explore the Hanford Fox Theatre
A hub of local activity, Hanford Fox Theatre is worth a visit even if you don’t see a show.
The building itself was built during the Great Depression, a golden age for movie theaters, and its interesting aesthetic resembles a movie set. It has been specifically designed to make you feel as if you are in a picturesque exotic location, with fake oriental buildings jutting out around the screen.
They run many live shows, as well as movies here, but check out their old school silent movie night to enjoy the atmosphere.
6. Take a Trip to Sequoia National Park
One of the most spectacular parks in the whole of America is only an hour’s drive from the city of Hanford.
Sequoia National Park is a stunning place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. So awe-inspiring are the trees here, that it’s not unknown for first-time visitors to tear-up at the sight of these ancient giants. The trees here are some of the oldest on earth, and the tallest among them are over 250 feet high.
There are many trails, waterfalls, caverns, and mountains to explore, so plan your itinerary carefully. Be sure to include Moro Rock Trail in your itinerary; the view from the top will give you goosebumps.
7. Choose from Hundreds of Teas at L.T Sue’s Chinese Tearoom
This charming wood-paneled tea shop in China Alley is a rare authentic Chinese tea den, with over 100 types of loose-leaf tea.
Like many Chinese Tea shops, these teas are not just for pleasure, they also have medicinal uses. You can discover this for yourself by talking to the knowledgeable local staff.
Despite its huge historical significance, China Alley has been in danger of falling into disrepair for quite some time. If you feel public-spirited, pick up some tea. The owners here give 20% of their proceeds to the area’s restoration effort.
8. Sip Wine like a Sommelier at Hanford’s Lush Wines
Hanford is adjacent to some pretty fantastic wine country, so it’s no surprise that this local wine bar has become the stuff of legends.
Don’t let the fancy atmosphere fool you, this place has a pleasant and down-to-earth atmosphere.
They run some tasting-classes if you want to know more about wine, and are particularly informative about local California tipples. The bar’s enormous selection of wines and beers have also been perfectly paired with a range of culinary treats and appetizers.
If wine isn’t your thing, sample their craft beers instead.
9. Try the Ice Cream at Hanford Superior Dairy
Buying ice cream at this family-owned ice cream parlor is something of a ritual for residents. Known for its great variety of flavors and amazing shakes, this local darling is one eatery you must try before leaving town.
Marking its 100th anniversary in 2022, this little diner has retained something of its old-world feel.
Newbies should beware that the ice cream portions here are supersized, and new customers are frequently shocked by the staggering ice cream mountains that get brought to their table.
10. Take a Trip to the Sarah A Mooney Museum
Ten minutes from Hanford in nearby Lemoore, a tiny museum gives visitors a window into 19th-century life.
The house once belonged to the Mooney family and their possessions and those of nearby Lemoore residents have been preserved in situ, to allow you to step back in time. Antique furniture, clothing, documents, and instruments all add to the charm of this adorable Victorian house and its grounds.
Make sure you get a proper tour, as the knowledgeable guides here can give you a superior overview of how this part of California was settled and developed.
11. Take “the Plunge” at the Local Water Park
If you come to Hanford in the summer, beat the heat and take a dip in this popular local water park, The Plunge.
This multi-pooled local park sports a series of swimming areas for kids and adults of different ability levels. The park also plays host to regular aquatic games in the summer, so if you’re lucky you may get to join in.
The plunge slide is the park’s chief attraction and it will whisk you round a circuit and into the deep end.
Check out the cheap and cheerful snack bar on your trip.
12. Raft Down the Kings River
The nearby King’s River, which stretches across the county, is a great place for adventure sports.
The gentler part of this river is good for some serene kayaking, but typically people only hit the waters here for an adrenaline rush. White water rafting and tubing companies exist in abundance around King’s county because of the tumbling rapids that run through King’s Canyon National Park and beyond. The Middle Fork especially is an infamous and world-class run for daring white-water rafters.
A heart-racing trip down this river will lead you deep into the Sierra Mountains and into the majestic Redwood forests of Sequoia.
13. Relax in Hidden Valley Park
Hanford has several local parks, but Hidden Valley Park is the best. This tranquil picnic spot frequently hosts local weddings due to its cute Gazebo and adjoining pond.
Wilder than most city parks, Hidden Valley features a small creek and some sizable trees in addition to your typical park playgrounds and sports facilities.
A nice spot to watch the local wildlife, you may notice the odd turtle dipping in and out of the water.
14. Take a Day Trip to Yosemite National Park
Many locals move to Hanford because of its easy access to some incredible parkland. Yosemite National Park is just under three hours north by car.
The drive alone up to Glacier point will reveal some amazing views, culminating in a panorama overlooking forests and mountains. The great Half Dome Cliffs feature prominently in Native American legend.
Yosemite’s falls are another highlight; the tallest falls in America, they can be heard from miles away. It’s worth staying in and around the forests here for a few days to truly relax and maybe spot a bear or two.
15. Go Berry Picking at the Rancho Notso Grande
This nearby farm and winery should win an award for its name alone.
The agricultural center has a do-it-yourself ethos and teaches visitors how to harvest berries from its hedgerows. You’ll be taught to spot the ripest and juiciest and get to eat what you collect.
While kids are sure to love the berry-picking activities here, adults might be more enthusiastic about the free wine-tasting which is thrown into the bargain.
The blueberry wine here is particularly famous and is one of many exotic flavors.