Madera is a city of about 66,000 people situated in the San Joaquin Valley area of Madera County. One of the main attractions in the city is its Wine Trail, but Madera has so much more to offer.
In Madera, there are many parks, restaurants, and shopping areas, including Madera Marketplace, Bethard Square Shopping Center, and The Crossroads.
The city of Fresno and its attractions are only 20 miles away, and mountainous areas are within easy reach.
A number of festivals and events take place in Madera throughout the year, including the Pomegranate Festival and the Madera District Fair.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Madera, California.
1. Learn About Local History at the Madera County Museum
The best way to learn about Madera and its surrounding area is to visit the Madera County Museum.
Inside the museum, which is located in the former Madera County Courthouse built in the early 1900s, there’s a vast collection of artefacts detailing and preserving the city’s history.
As you go through the museum, you’ll see a variety of photographs, documents, and items depicting what life was like in the region. Some of the exhibits include Native American history, agriculture, logging, and the pioneering people.
2. Sample Local Wine at the Toca Madera Winery
If you’re looking for a great winery in a beautiful setting, Toca Madera Winery located in the hills of Madera is the perfect place.
This award-winning winery is surrounded by picturesque vineyards and offers visitors a lively atmosphere perfect for wine tasting and enjoying time with friends and family.
Some of the wines you can sample include Dulce Rojo, Mirame Rose, 2017 Marsanne and 2014 Companero. A selection of wines in the Wildlife Conservation Series is also for sale, and the proceeds go towards an animal conservation project.
On certain nights throughout the week, live music is showcased at the winery.
3. Get Some Fresh Air at Lions Town & Country Park
When travelling and exploring get tiring, there are many green spaces around Madera where you can relax in the fresh air with access to outdoor amenities.
Lions Town & Country Park features a variety of facilities, including an amphitheatre, a walking track, sporting fields, and picnic areas.
4. Enjoy a Meal at California Grill
At California Grill in Madera, you’ll find a wide variety of delicious meal options made with the freshest ingredients available.
Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta dishes and entrees such as grilled chicken, hot turkey dinner and Baja fish are just some of the items available. Vegetarian options are featured as well.
5. Take a Tour of the Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Forestiere Underground Gardens in nearby Fresno is like nothing you’ve ever seen. This unique attraction was created by Sicilian immigrant, Baldasare Forestiere and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
Over 40 years, he turned a plot of farmland into a ten-acre network of tunnels filled with underground rooms and gardens using only the hand tools he had available to him.
The site is only accessible via an hour-long guided tour. During this tour, you’ll see some of the unique rooms he carved out, including several bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living area with a fireplace.
You’ll also see a fishpond, stone walls, beautiful archways, and other architectural wonders. Some of the fruit trees are almost 100 years old.
6. Tee off at Madera Municipal Golf Course
Madera Municipal Golf Course is situated in a peaceful, picturesque area on the edge of Madera. This 18-hole, par-72 championship course is said to be one of the best in the area.
The on-site pro-shop sells some of the latest equipment, and lessons are available. The Clubhouse Restaurant serves a variety of options at breakfast and lunch.
7. Spend an Evening Out at ApCal
If you’re looking for an exciting opportunity that combines all the things Madera is known for, ApCal is the perfect place to spend an evening out on the town.
At this outdoor venue, you’ll party it up in a deserted space that feels rural but is only a short distance from the centre city. Sip on local wine and beer from the famous 75-foot bar and mingle with locals and other tourists while surrounded by beautiful vineyards.
Throughout the night, you can dance to great music or relax on a blanket and watch the sky. Food is available, and the menu is always different – although you can be assured there’s always something tasty to compliment your drink.
8. Visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo
The main goal of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is to protect the rare animals they care for. Visitors to the zoo have the opportunity to meet more than 190 different species.
As you make your way through the zoo, you’ll see various interactive exhibits such as Zoorassic Park, African Adventure, Dino Dig, and Stingray Bay.
These exhibits feature a wide variety of animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, and sloths. There are also a number of exciting experiences, including a petting zoo.
9. Explore The Nelder Grove
Situated in the Sierra National Forest, The Nelder Grove is a vast Giant Sequoia Grove filled with more than 100 mature Giant Sequoia trees.
Across this 1,540-acre nature area, there are plenty of opportunities to admire and photograph these majestic trees. A series of nature trails take you through the pristine wilderness where you’ll see plants, wildlife and unique rock formations.
Picnic areas are on-site, and if you would like to spend more than a day in the area, a campground is available so you can stay in the park overnight.
10. Tour the Madera Wine Trail
When it comes to the country’s vineyards and wineries, Madera is home to some of the best. It can be overwhelming trying to decide which ones to see, especially if you’re pressed for time.
The Madera Wine Trail was created to help visitors see many of those wineries and vineyards and make the most of their time in the area.
As you make your way through this exquisite grape-growing area, you’ll stop at various wineries and spend time in their tasting rooms sampling local wine.
Many events also take place on the Madera Wine Trail, including Ladies Night and Yoga.
11. Learn About Science and History at The Discovery Center
The Discovery Center in nearby Fresno is an interactive science and education facility showcasing a variety of exhibits and experiences.
The museum itself houses various displays about electricity, nature, space, palaeontology, and Native American History.
The exterior of this five-acre property features a cactus garden, a Dino Dig area, a tortoise enclosure, and Miwok Indian Houses.
12. Beat the Heat at Wild Water Adventure Park
Wild Water Adventure Park in nearby Clovis is an amusement park with an array of attractions for all ages, both in the water and on land.
The most popular attraction in the park is the thrilling GhostSlider, but there are many other water attractions, including the biggest wave pool in the state and the kid’s play area at Adventure Bay.
Fishing is another activity available at the three lakes located in the park. Catfish, crappie and bass are some of the species you’ll have the opportunity to reel in.
There are also several volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. Several snack bars and cafes are scattered around the park.
13. Immerse Yourself in Culture and Art at Arte Americas
Arte Americas in Fresno showcases Latino Art in a 10,000 square-foot gallery. Learn about Latino culture and admire art in many forms, including film, music, poetry, and visual art.
In the warmer months, concerts are held at La Plazita on certain nights throughout the week.
14. Sample Local Craft Beer at the Three Monkeys Brewing
Since 2013, Three Monkeys Brewing has been creating quality, tasty brews for locals and visitors alike. They use sustainable practices in their unique brewing procedures.
On-site, you can sample a wide variety of the brewery’s creations, including Gold Monkey IPA, Red Monkey, Brown Barrel Ale, Yosemite Falls Imperial Double IPA and Monkey Mouth Stout.
15. Browse the Vineyard Farmers’ Market
At the Vineyard Farmers’ Market in Fresno, you’ll find a wide variety of quality items for sale. For almost 40 years, this market has been offering the best locally-grown produce year-round.
As you browse the market, you’ll discover homemade baked treats, honey, coffee, chocolate and many other locally-made items.