While it’s true that much of Fresno’s identity is tied to agriculture, locals will tell you that the economic hub of Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley is so much more than almond orchards and citrus groves as far as the eye can see.
Here, you’re near the geographical center of California, and you’re never far from something fun. Wondering what to do this weekend in Fresno? Planning a solo adventure or day trip with friends? Searching for kid-friendly activities perfect for the whole family? There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Fresno.
Read our Fresno City Guide below for inspiration!
Only in Fresno
Whatever the day holds, make a quick trip to Simonian Farms before you begin tackling your itinerary. What started as a small family farm in the early 1900s has, four generations later, evolved into a beloved Fresno institution. Pass through their doors, and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Explore the farm’s collection of antiques, which includes balloon tire bicycles and pedal cars, and stock up on nuts and dried fruits grown right here in the Central Valley. It’s one of many free things to do in Fresno.
Fresno Tower District
Image courtesy of Gemini2525 via Wikimedia Commons
The Tower District is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Fresno, and it’s a great part of town to explore on foot. Restaurants, shopping and entertainment line Olive Avenue and the surrounding streets, including the Tower Theatre, a beautiful historic theater with an art deco spire and marquee that hearken back to a bygone era.
Shinzen Friendship Garden
The Shinzen Friendship Garden may be one of Fresno’s best-kept secrets. Even some locals aren’t aware of its existence! The public garden tucked behind Woodward Park was established by Fresno’s Japanese-American community.
Shinzen, which means “friendship” in Japanese, is essentially a living museum that has many features of a traditional Japanese garden, including an artistic composition evident throughout the greenspace’s five acres, from the double moon bridge that symbolizes rebirth to the pond full of koi fish which symbolizes long life.
But nothing encapsulates that traditional aesthetic like the Clark Bonsai Collection. The collection of more than 250 bonsai trees are artistic compositions in and of themselves, meticulously sculpted and maintained over the years.
Fresno Blossom Trail
Each spring, the orchards in rural Fresno County come into bloom with beautiful pink and white blossoms. Take yourself on a self-guided tour of the Blossom Trail and navigate through acres and acres of almond, peach, plum, apricot and citrus groves. During the summer, you’ll be able to stock up on ripe, fresh-picked fruit from roadside stands.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Central Valley sun can be pretty unforgiving, especially in summer months, so if you need a break from the heat, head to the Forestiere Underground Gardens, an underground oasis with a network of rooms, grottoes and courtyards planted with fruit trees, grape vines and other plants.
Sicilian immigrant and citrus grower Baldassare Forestiere began the excavation shortly after the turn of the century, digging as deep as 25 feet underground over 10 acres using only hand tools. The catacomb-like garden can be 10 to 30 degrees cooler than aboveground climates, making it a relaxing respite.
Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater
Located around the corner from the Tower Theatre, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater keeps the vintage vibe alive with delicious food and live entertainment provided by the Good Company Players. This family-friendly mainstay has been around for decades and has earned a reputation as the Central Valley’s premier destination for Broadway-quality productions.
Fresno Mural District
Locals know Fresno is full of murals. There are literally hundreds of them scattered throughout the city, though many of them are clustered in Downtown Fresno, near Fresno City College and, of course, in the Fresno Mural District. Explore the Mural District on foot by beginning at Broadway Studios at Broadway and Tuolumne. From there, you can snap pics at 1612 Fulton, the CMAC building and the iconic Fresno Postage Stamp mural.
Part museum, part Latino cultural center, Arte Américas boasts more than 10,000 square feet of gallery, performance and event spaces that celebrate the arts in Mexico, Latin America, the Southwest and California. Check out the latest exhibit, take an art class or relax on the plaza at the summer concert series.
San Joaquin River Gorge Recreation Area
Stretching across Fresno and Madera Counties, and just upstream from the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, the San Joaquin River Gorge park system comprises miles of easy to challenging hiking trails and an abundance of plant and animal wildlife.
Trail names are derived from the language of the Dumna and Kechayi indigenous peoples who once occupied the region. Take the four-mile Wuh-ki’o Trail (the Dumna and Kechayi word for San Joaquin River) along the river and through the foothills until it links up with the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area on the Madera County side. On the Fresno County side, take the San Joaquin River Trail until it connects to the Pacific Crest Trail near the Devils Postpile National Monument.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
This set of side-by-side national parks may be lesser known than Yosemite, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Within the confines of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, you’ll find the highest point in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney); one of the deepest canyons in North America (Kings River Canyon); a marble cave (Crystal Cave); and a staggering collection of centuries-old sequoias (the Giant Forest). It’s all here, and it’s only a little over an hour outside of Fresno!
Image courtesy of Victor Gane via Wikimedia Commons
Some of the best views at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks lie underground. Crystal Cave is a marble karst cave in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains that is one of at least 240 known caves in the park. A guided tour will lead you through an underground world full of stalagmites, stalactites and marble polished by subterranean streams. Crystal Cave is only open during the summer, and since cave temperature is a constant 48 degrees, it’s a perfect way to cool off.
If you’re not an avid hiker or have small children, but still want to get outdoors, pay a visit to the Giant Forest. The forest is home to half of the world’s largest and oldest trees. Among the forest’s 8,000 giant sequoias, the most impressive in the General Sherman, named after American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. At approximately 275 feet tall, 100 feet in diameter at its base and 2,100 years old, it’s the largest living organism, by volume, on the globe. Check out the Visitor Center for more information on easy nearby hikes and scenic drives to tack onto your trip.
San Joaquin River Parkway
The San Joaquin River Parkway comprises several greenspaces and parks in Fresno, including Sycamore Island, Woodward Park and Jensen River Ranch, to name a few. Go on a downstream canoe or kayak tour led by a trained river guide, ride bikes along the 22-mile Lewis S. Eaton Trail, or take a guided nature walk through unexplored parts of the park. Fish for trout, bass or panfish at Sycamore Island, one of the best fishing spots on the San Joaquin River, and picnic under a giant sycamore or oak tree. The River Parkway Trust also offers a range of educational programs and volunteer opportunities for children, families and community members.
At Personal Express, our Homegrown Pros will be the first to tell you why Fresno is such a fantastic place to live, work and explore. Whether you’re a native or just passing through, make sure you’re protected with adequate insurance coverage throughout your adventures.
Our Homegrown Pros are here to help you find the right type of auto, homeowners or renters insurance that suits your needs and budget—and of course, we’re always here to offer recommendations on fun things to do in Fresno too! Stop by your local Personal Express office or call 1-800-499-3612 to get started.
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