Fresno is the fifth largest city in California and sits in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley. The city was formed just after the California Gold Rush in 1856 and was named after the large number of ash trees that sit along the side of the San Joaquin river. The city has mild, moist winters and summers that are hot and dry, these attract a lot of people as it rarely gets below freezing more than a couple of times a year.
Fresno has a lot to keep visitors as well as locals entertained so let’s take a look at the top 25 things to do in Fresno.
1. Take A Look Around The underground Gardens
Forestiere Underground Gardens are both an interesting and unusual tourist attraction. The underground gardens are the life-long work of Baldassare Forestiere. Forestiere ran away from his home town of Sicily and arrived in America in 1901. Once here he spent all of his spare time digging this underground maze of patios, gardens and grottos. The gardens were created without plan and each room designed as the work progressed. For forty years the work continued until he reached this amazing creation we see today. There are many fruit trees to be seen, including oranges, lemons and grapefruits.
2. Meet The Animals At Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Fresno Chaffee Zoo started its life as a home for unwanted pets rather than an official zoo. The history is a little uncertain as no official records have been kept but it would appear as though the beginning was in 1908. As time went by more animals were donated and an amphitheater was built. In 1929 the zoo became officially recognized and opened its doors as the Roeding Park Zoo. The zoo has continued to expand over the decades and recently an ‘African Adventure’ area was created that doubled the size of the zoo and included elephants, cheetahs, gorillas and more.
3. Awaken Your Spirit At Yosemite National Park
Every year more than 3 million people come to visit the Yosemite National Park, most of these visit the Yosemite Valley which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The National Park covers a huge 747,956 acres and goes all the way across to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Throughout the world the area is famous for the incredible granite cliffs and beautiful waterfalls. There is over 800 miles of trails in the park that range from a small easy walk to a multi-day grueling hike over various park mountains.
4. Get Drenched At Island Waterpark
If you are looking for a low cost and fun day out with the family then a trip to Island Waterpark could be just what you need. This huge water park has enough slides and wave machines to keep even the shortest of attention spans busy. You can explore the Tunnel of Terror or go through the Mumbai Monsoon. When you need a rest from all the fun in the water you can eat at one of the 7 food and drink stalls. The park is not open all year around due to weather so always check online prior to arriving.
5. Spend A Day Shopping At River Park
River Park in Fresno opened in 1996 and features more than 75 shops. The park is split up into three main areas. You have ‘The Shops at River Park’ which has various shops, a movie theater and some restaurants. The second part is called ‘The Marketplace at River Park’ which features various big box stores and finally you have ‘River Park Plaza’ with more restaurants and a craft store. The movie theater has 21 screens ensuring there is always a seat to watch the latest releases.
6. Watch A Show At The Best Theatre In California
The Tower Theatre in Fresno was opened in 1939 and is still going strong today. Over the years various restorations works have been carried out and now the theater is considered to be the best of its kind in California. The theater can hold 761 people in one sitting and has three tiers on each side of the auditorium. There is always a full schedule at the Tower Theatre and many shows appear for just a couple of nights before the next one starts so always check with the box office to see what is coming up next.
7. Time For Some Baseball At Chukchansi Park
The Fresno Grizzlies have played their home games at Chukchansi Park since the stadium was completed in May 2002. The Fresno Grizzlies are a minor league baseball team that has a long history of players moving onto the Major League. The park is famous throughout the league for the views the stadium affords, you get the stunning view of downtown Fresno whilst also being set against the backdrop of the Sierra Mountains. After the game you can stop for a meal and a few drinks at The Phoenix Club whilst you discuss the ins and outs of the days game.
8. Watch Some Shakespeare In Woodward Park
Sitting alongside the San Joaquin River is the Woodward Park. The park is the largest in the Fresno area and was donated to the city by Ralph Woodward in 1968. Each year in November the park plays host to the CIF Cross Country State Championships. A highlight of Woodward Park is the Woodward Shakespeare Festival also known as Shakespeare in the Park. The company has been performing here for many years, putting on the most famous of his plays on the WSF Stage.
9. There Is Lots To Do In Roeding Park
Another of Fresno’s parks is Roeding Park which covers an area of approximately 90 acres. The park has a large lake as well as several small ponds, there are also groves of cedar, ash, pine and redwood trees. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo also sits within the grounds of the park. If you are here for the day you might want to make use of the various picnic areas, tennis courts or horseshoe pits.
10. Come To The Big Fresno Fair
Each year in Central Valley more than 600,000 people come to the Big Fresno Fair. The fair is a two week event that features various exhibits, including livestock shows, horse racing and live music. The fair was designed to educate the residents of the Valley on the areas agricultural history. There are many competitions that take place at the fair each year including livestock, fur and feathers. When the fair is not on the area is used for exhibitions and events that continue to draw in revenue for the city of Fresno.
11. Watch An Event At The Save Mart Center
Set on the campus of the Californian State University is the Save Mart Center, a multi purpose venue that was opened in 2003. The Center is home to the Fresno State Bulldogs basketball team but previously boxing, ice hockey, hockey, Rodeo and wrestling have all been held here. Over the years several live music events have been held here as well, with the first ever performance being by Andrea Bocelli. Outside the arena is a 37 meter tall clock tower that has 13 stories and is named after the founder of Producers Dairy Foods who donated $3 million to the construction costs.
12. Have Fun On The Snow
Just 65 miles outside of Fresno is China Peak Mountain Resort. The resort is set on a mountain that at its peak is just over 8,700 feet. People flock here in their thousands to practice their skiing and snowboarding. There are parks that cater to all ability levels from the complete novice to the seasoned pro. Safety is a priority at this resort and a series of fences and special signs make sure you keep in the areas that suit your abilities.
13. Enjoy A Classic Movie At Warnors
Warnors Theater is located in the downtown part of Fresno and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This 2,000 seat venue was opened in 1928 and given the name Pantages Theater, this was the name of the owner at the time. One year later the theater was sold to the Warner Brothers, in 1960 the name was changed again to Warnors after an issue with trademarking. The Theater now shows many classic movies as well as comedy and live music.
14. Visit Saint John The Baptist Cathedral
In 1978 the catholic people of Fresno came to the realization that they needed to build a church and started to gather funds for the works. Eventually four lots of land adjacent to each other were purchased and work on the church begun in 1880. In 1882 the church was completed and the Catholic people of Fresno had a new church to attend. By 1902 the church was no longer big enough to hold the congregation. The church was destroyed and a new one was built on the outskirts of the city. In 1903 the new church was finished and has remained until now. The church is made of red bricks and has two steeples, the church was built in a Gothic Revival style.
15. From Humble Beginnings Came The Peoples Church
The people’s Church was founded by a group of families who lived in the Fresno area. Initially the congregation of 200 converted a row of old turkey houses into their first church. The congregation continued to grow and soon it had reached 2,000 and a new church was built in its current location. The church now has two Sunday school rooms, a building for the youth, a wing dedicated to ministry and a new chapel. This church is well worth visiting when in Fresno as the church is involved heavily in the community, especially in the field of performing arts.
16. Walk Around The Shinzen Friendship Garden
The Shinzen Friendship Garden of Fresno is located within the Woodward Park, it is a traditional American Japanese Garden. Fresno has a sister city in Japan called Kochi, and this garden was constructed in recognition of this. The garden was initially set on a dry valley floor but it has been completely changed to incorporate waterfalls, a lake and some streams. If you go in spring or summer you can see the cherry trees in full bloom and the tranquil pond teeming with colourful Koi. The garden also benefits from seven authentic Japanese style bridges.
17. Step Inside The Meux Home Museum
Dr. Meux was originally from Tennessee and spent time in the Confederate Army where he served as an assistant surgeon. When he had finished in the army he brought his family to Fresno and purchased this wonderful property. The Meux Home Museum is a real tribute to Victorian architecture. The property has two story’s and composed roofs that contain many chimneys. When you arrive at the museum you will be met by a staff member dressed in traditional attire who will take you on a grand tour of the building. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
18. Discover Science At The Discovery Center
The discovery Center is much more than just a museum, here you get to walk around the exhibits and interact with them. The center was designed so that everything is as interactive as possible. You can learn about botany, geology, electricity, dinosaurs and much more. From 2011 until 2013 the museum was closed whilst it underwent a large renovation and re-opened to rave reviews from all that visited.
19. Visit Historic Kearney Mansion
Kearney Mansion is a truly beautiful piece of architecture and one that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion is made up of two buildings, the main residence and the servant’s quarters. The buildings were designed to have a French renaissance look about them and were built by the owner’s workers. The mansion is set on 225 acres of parkland which was previously called the “most beautiful park on the west coast”
20. Savour The Fine Wine At Moravia Wines
If you like wine tasting there are two places in Fresno worth a visit, this is the first one. Moravia Wines opened a winery in 2012 with the intention of producing wine that would win awards and use the grapes from the San Joaquin Valley. Within the first two years the winery had already started collecting awards and the company continues to excel. Each weekend the winery is open for people to come and taste the fabulous wines on offer. On certain Friday’s throughout the year the winery also hosts family events for everyone to relax at the end of the week.
21. Have More Wine At LoMac Winery
The second winery worth visiting is LoMac Winery. There are regular events and tastings held throughout the year and the winery is also part of the Fresno County Wine Journey. The owners use only local grapes to produce some excellent wine. Unlike a lot of places the owners like to lead the tasting sessions ensuring that the passion they have for great wine really shines through in the sessions. There is a fantastic merlot produced here that is well worth a taste.
22. Try Some Craft Beer At Tioga-Sequoia
It is not just wine that is popular in California, there are a couple of excellent craft breweries and perhaps none better than Tioga-Sequoia. Founded in 2007 the company set out to produce world class beers that would bring awareness to the people about the need to preserve the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The brewery hosts regular events that feature food trucks, live music and lots of kegs.
23. Spend A Night At The DoubleTree By Hilton
If you are looking for somewhere nice to stay for a night or two and give yourself a real treat then this is a great place. The DoubleTree by Hilton is located in downtown and has easy access to all the major parts of the city. The hotel is modern with state of the art equipment, each room comes with a large flat screen TV. There is a variety of restaurants onsite to choose from or head to the Lounge for a few cocktails whilst you take in the view of the cascading waterfall. For the energetic you can use the 24 hour fitness center of the indoor heated pool.
24. Pretend You Are In Italy At Sam’s Deli
If you feel like spoiling yourself with some fine cheeses, olives and meats then make a trip to Sam’s Deli. Sam and Angela together with their son Nick bring the passion and tradition of Southern Italy to the Joaquin Valley. There are imported pastas and olive oils on the shelves and in the kitchen homemade bread and focaccia is made. The meats and cheeses have all been handpicked and imported from Italy. You can even buy specially made pasta dinners to take home and reheat whenever you are needing something extra delicious.
25. Have A Few Cheeky Beers At The Spokeasy
The Spokeasy is the most talked about bar in Fresno. Here you will find a fine collection of craft beers on tap and by the bottle. The bartenders are well trained and able to competently discuss the beers that are available as well as make suitable recommendations. You can bring your own food which is very unusual but always handy. In the rear of the bar is a selection of old classic arcade games to keep everybody happy.