Visalia is a city of nearly 140,000 residents that’s located in the geographic center of the state.
The San Joaquin Valley, which Visalia is part of, is largely dedicated to agriculture. It supplies the majority of fresh produce consumed around the country each year.
Visalia is about 300 kilometers east of San Francisco, and the same distance from Los Angeles to the south.
It’s also close enough to some of the state’s most iconic state and national parks to make day trips a popular option for those interested in seeing some of the west coast’s premier natural attractions.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Visalia.
1. Sequoia National Park
Though it’s technically outside Visalia city limits, it’d be a real shame to pass up visiting one of the country’s most majestic national parks just because it’s an hour away.
Sequoia National Park’s main attractions are the immense groves of towering sequoia trees that reach into the sky. They often sport trunks that have circumferences of more than 50 feet.
Other popular amenities include well-marked walking paths, restrooms, covered seating areas, and regular shuttles that run between the park’s visitor center and its other attractions.
Many guests choose to spend an entire day in the park hiking, sightseeing, climbing, picnicking, and fishing.
2. Visalia Farmers’ Market
The long valley between Los Angeles and Fresno has some of the most fertile soil in the world, and it grows a variety of produce on a year-round basis.
Though much of it is shipped to other parts of the country, the region’s farmers’ markets are always brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables, even when the Midwest and east coast are mired in snow and ice.
Visiting the Visalia Farmers’ Market is a great way to support the local economy and rub elbows with hard-working farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs.
The market is held on West Caldwell Avenue in Visalia. It has tons of non-produce items for sale too, like prepared food items, health and body products, jewelry, and arts and crafts.
3. ImagineU Children’s Museum
Conveniently located on North Tipton Street in downtown Visalia, the ImagineU Children’s Museum is a fun, engaging, and educational family attraction full of interactive exhibits designed with little ones in mind.
The museum’s activities touch on local agriculture, water conservation, science, and history. Its attractions include a clubhouse, forts, an arts and crafts center, and a U-pick fruit grove.
During the summer months, the area around Visalia can experience blisteringly hot weather, and the museum is a great place to spend a few hours out of the elements.
It’s usually a big hit with older kids and adults as well.
4. Visalia First Fridays
Visalia comes alive the first Friday of every month, when revelers and art lovers weary from a long week descend on the downtown area for a little evening fun.
First Fridays is sponsored by a number of civic organizations. It features vibrant works of art done in a number of mediums produced by local and regional artists.
The event takes place at the city’s Creative Center. It was originally established to provide creative opportunities to local residents with disabilities.
Evenings also include family-friendly activities and side excursions to local bars and restaurants for refreshing drinks and great food.
5. Mooney Grove Park
More than 100 years ago, a civic-minded resident had the foresight to set aside a large tract of undeveloped land in downtown Visalia.
Now, Mooney Grove Park is the city’s premier urban green space. It’s worth a visit for those looking to experience the great outdoors without wasting valuable vacation time driving to distant state and national parks.
It features walking paths, covered seating areas, a disk golf course, historic buildings, and an idyllic lagoon that guests can explore by paddle boat.
The park’s main entrance and parking lot are located on South Mooney Boulevard in town.
6. Recreation Ballpark
These days, visiting a Major League Baseball stadium with a family for a regular season game can cost a small fortune.
But for savvy travelers looking to enjoy America’s Pastime, there’s a better option in downtown Visalia.
Recreation Ballpark is located on North Giddings Street and is the home of the California minor league team known as the Visalia Rawhide.
The stadium has enough seating for nearly 2,500 spectators and has been around for more than 70 years.
It has recently undergone numerous upgrades, which means it’s amenities are in line with those at big league parks, just on a smaller and less pretentious scale.
7. The Fox Theater
Downtown Visalia is home to many historic buildings that range from courthouses and baseball stadiums to museums and theaters.
The Fox Theater has been a local icon since it was built in the ‘30s. Though it fell on hard times at the end of the 20th century, it has been open for business for the last 20 years.
The theater is one of the region’s premier live entertainment venues. It features performances ranging from dramatic theater and contemporary music to comedy and symphony orchestra productions.
Located on West Main Street in Visalia, it’s open year-round, and tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.
8. Downtown Murals
Like many rural towns looking to spruce things up and revitalize their aging downtown areas, Visalia has turned to its local artists for help.
Featuring lots of large, unpainted, and nondescript surfaces that don’t contribute to local character, Visalia is the perfect place for budding artists to showcase their work.
Though the art revitalization was started by one man, it has morphed into a group effort that now features several large and powerful works by a number of artists.
Most of the works are found along Main, Court, and Church streets. Some of them are as large as billboards, so they’re difficult to miss.
9. Barrelhouse Brewing
Featuring a delectable assortment of tasty beers, indoor and outdoor seating, and several gourmet food trucks that take up residence in its back lot, Barrelhouse Brewing is a must-visit attraction for visiting epicureans.
Previous guests have appreciated Barrelhouse’s attentive servers, rustic but contemporary décor, and relaxing music that was just loud enough to enjoy without impeding conversation.
Their beers run the gamut from light, crisp, and refreshing with low alcohol contents to hoppy IPAs and potent stouts with undertones of chocolate and malt.
You’ll also find a few newfangled concoctions infused with fruit, like mango and apricot, that are particularly tasty after a day in the sun.
10. Component Coffee Lab
California may have more coffee shops than any other state in the union, but coffee labs are few and far between.
It may be a fine distinction, but Component Coffee Lab’s founders have been roasting beans for nearly a decade—and they take it more seriously than most.
They specialize in single-origin beans that they roast in small batches, which accounts for the crowds of coffee junkies they draw during their limited business hours.
Component is located downtown and offers cold drinks too. Unlike most of their competitors, they don’t use artificially flavored syrups that tend to obscure the coffee’s natural flavors.
11. Visalia Christmas Tree Auction
For nearly four decades, the city of Visalia has been holding an annual Christmas tree auction that benefits charities supporting residents in need.
Though most visitors won’t want to buy a tree to lug back home with them after their vacation, it’s still a fun event and a great way to support the community.
Event activities include dancing, a silent auction, and food and wine tastings provided by local restaurants and wine merchants.
For those interested in moving to town or making business connections, the auction is a great way to meet some of Visalia’s movers and shakers.
12. Valley Oaks Golf Course
Valley Oaks Golf Course in Visalia features three distinct 9-hole courses that offer golf lovers both traditional and contemporary layouts.
The course’s 27 holes are spread amongst some of the town’s least developed areas, including large stands of oak and pine trees, abundant lakes, and narrow fairways leading to large, multi-tiered greens.
The newest 9-hole section was completed in the mid-‘90s and was built in the modern links-style, which is more common in Europe.
Each hole features a number of tee options to accommodate most players, but those playing from the longest blue tees will have their work cut out for them.
13. Allensworth State Park
The town of Allensworth has the distinction of being the only municipality in the country to be founded and governed solely by African Americans.
It was established more than 110 years ago by forward-thinking pioneers, including a minister, professor, and a US Army officer, after who it’s now named.
Allensworth State Park’s attractions include several restored buildings, like the Colonel’s home, a library, historic churches, and a schoolhouse.
Though the town’s population has declined significantly due to a lack of potable water, it’s a unique, fun, and educational place to explore. Plus, it’s only a 45-minute drive south from Visalia.
14. Forestiere Underground Gardens
From Visalia, the city of Fresno is about 60 kilometers north on California Route 99.
It features a number of attractions that make the drive worthwhile, but for those interested in experiencing a one-of-a-kind oddity, the Forestiere Underground Gardens are probably just what the doctor ordered.
The gardens and underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms were originally constructed decades ago to afford protection from the oppressive California sun.
Many of them are nearly 30 feet below the earth’s surface, where the temperature remains cool and constant throughout the year.
The facility is located on West Shaw Avenue and is only accessible as part of a guided tour.