Proximity to national landmarks and breathtaking landscapes, a vibrant arts community, and a food scene so fresh it was picked this morning. Visalia’s official motto may be “The Gateway to the Sequoias,” but it’s so much more than the entry point on the way to a greater destination.
In this charming little city tucked in the San Joaquin Valley in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there’s something hidden here just waiting to surprise you. Read on for some of our favorite things to do in Visalia.
Roam the Ranges of Sierra Nevada National Parks
The sequoia groves in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains draw visitors from around the globe, and if you live in the Central Valley, you’re lucky enough to practically have them in your backyard. Touring these two national parks is one of the best things to do in Visalia because there’s always something new to experience, no matter how many times you visit.
Sequoia National Park
From giant sequoias to caves to massive rock formations, Sequoia National Park is full of natural wonders. Wander the Giant Forest and pay a visit to the General Sherman, a 2,100-year-old giant sequoia that is the largest tree, by volume, on Earth. There are more than 270 caves within the confines of the park, including Crystal Cave, a marble karst cave with a temperature that remains a steady 48 degrees—an ideal respite from the summer heat. You can also climb more than 350 steps to Moro Rock, a granite dome rock located smack in the center of Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia National Park offers a free shuttle service throughout the park from May through September. During the summer, you can take the Sequoia Shuttle, which provides round-trip transportation between Visalia and the park for a fee, which includes park entry.
Kings Canyon National Park
Deep valleys, towering trees, and staggering rock formations make up the unique landscape of Kings Canyon National Park. The park has two distinct areas of attraction: Cedar Grove and Grant Grove, which is home to the nation’s Christmas tree. Kings Canyon National Park has miles of hiking trails, plus cabins and campsites if you want to stay awhile. During the summer, visitors can also take advantage of guided horseback rides through Grant Grove Stables and Cedar Grove Pack Station, both located inside the park.
Discover Downtown Visalia
The best way to explore a new city is usually on foot! Take to the concrete and check out the one-of-a-kind shops, great restaurants, and other small businesses line the streets of Downtown Visalia.
Visalia Fox Theatre
As you’ll discover by reading our City Guides series, Central Valley cities are home to quite a few Fox Theatres, including Visalia. Visiting these gorgeous Art Deco movie theaters is always an experience, and the Visalia Fox Theatre, with its extravagant murals depicting an East Indian temple, is no different. The Fox Theatre regularly hosts film series, comedians, and musicians. Don’t miss out on their Sequoia Symphony Orchestra series, where you can watch a movie with a live score played by the orchestra.
Visalia Farmers Market
Purchase fresh produce from local farmers, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy live entertainment at the Visalia Farmers Market. The Main Market is open year-round every Saturday at Caldwell and Mooney, and three other markets operate seasonally in Visalia and nearby Porterville. The Farmers Market also hosts a free Kids Corner once a month where engaging, educational activities spark interest in healthy food choices and the Central Valley’s agricultural history.
The Darling Hotel
Keep an eye on this exciting new development set to open for business in early 2020. The Darling Hotel is currently undergoing a massive restoration that will return this beautiful property to its original splendor. The building was built as an annex to the Tulare County Courthouse and was a fixture of Downtown Visalia for years until it fell into disrepair and was abandoned decades ago.
When the county put the property up for sale in 2018, a local family jumped at the opportunity to purchase a piece of history and restore the building to its former glory. The Darling Hotel will feature 32 rooms, four event spaces, a pool, and a rooftop lounge with 360-degree views, all within walking distance of the best shops and restaurants Downtown Visalia has to offer.
Get Crafty with Visalia’s Art Scene
Visalia’s burgeoning art scene is sure to get your creative juices flowing. From galleries to guerilla street art, the city is filled with plenty of opportunities to appreciate, make, and learn about art.
Located in the same building as the historic Golden Creamery building, Arts Visalia is a community arts center that features monthly exhibitions from artists who have received regional, national and international recognition. Because exhibitions change monthly, there are frequent opportunities to see something new, whether it’s an exhibit on woodworking or one that features works made by tattoo artists.
Arts Visalia also hosts a range of community events, including First Fridays, lectures, workshops, and family days, as well as educational programs with classes for children and adults.
Old Lumber Yard Murals
The Urbanists Collective has redefined this abandoned industrial hub by turning the Old Lumber Yard in Downtown Visalia into an open-air art gallery of sorts. Artists from around the country have visited to paint elaborate murals here. Continue your art tour by walking up and down Main Street, where painted fire hydrants line the street!
Taste the Arts Festival
The Tulare County Arts Consortium hosts the Taste the Arts Festival each October. Downtown Visalia transforms as more than 100 artists, vendors, food trucks, and entertainers line the streets. The free festival offers workshops where you can learn printmaking and aerosol art, and there are plenty of activities for kids too.
You don’t have to be an audiophile to get your groove on at Velouria Records, a popular record shop on Main Street in Downtown Visalia. Shop for and spin everything from new releases to deep cuts, whether you’re building up your collection or buying your very first record. In addition to an impressive assortment of vinyl, Velouria Records also sells posters, stickers, pins, and other merch.
Get a Kick out of Kid-Friendly Visalia
Visalia has lots of options for keeping kids and grandkids happy. Given the San Joaquin Valley’s standing as the most productive agricultural region in the nation, you can bet many of Visalia’s kid-friendly attractions incorporate farming history. These spots are perfect for entertaining kids… or acting like one!
The ImagineU Children’s Museum is the only children’s museum in the Central Valley, and it’s one of the best things to do in Visalia with kids. Kids can explore, learn, and use their imagination through the museum’s interactive, educational exhibits. ImagineU also offers a variety of events and educational programming for kids, including summer camps.
Sam B. Peña Planetarium & Science Center
The Tulare County Office of Education operates the Sam B. Peña Planetarium & Science Center in Visalia. The center is open to students for class trips, but it occasionally offers public shows that are open to everyone. Past public shows have highlighted the Apollo Program, the solar system, and other celestial topics that are great for kids.
Tulare County Museum of Farm Labor & Agriculture
Located in an oak preserve in Mooney Grove Park, the Tulare County Museum pays homage to the Central Valley’s indigenous people and rich history of farming, ranching, and agriculture. In addition to housing one of the largest collections of Native American baskets in California, the museum also features pioneer-era artifacts, farming equipment, and restored structures that depict the region’s history. The museum’s newest addition is the History of Farm Labor and Agriculture Museum, which highlights different cultural groups and their contributions to agriculture.
Antique Farm Equipment Museum
Housed in the International Agri-Center in nearby Tulare, CA, the Antique Farm Equipment Museum pays homage to the Central Valley’s agricultural history. Visiting this museum, which has fully restored tractors and other farm equipment on display, is like going back in time. The museum also details the history of the annual World Ag Expo, which draws more than 100,000 attendees each year.
Feast on Visalia’s Fresh Food Scene
When you’re surrounded by farms in the middle of the most productive agricultural region in the world, you know whatever is on your plate is going to be delicious. The dining options in Visalia are as diverse as the people who live here. Welcome to foodie paradise!
This Mediterranean gastropub puts a fresh, inventive spin on all of your favorite staples of Mediterranean cuisine, like hummus, gyro, and baba ghanoush. Pita Kabob is a local favorite known for its impressive menu, beer garden, and friendly staff.
The Planing Mill Artisan Pizzeria
Pizza lovers unite! The Planing Mill is known for incredibly delicious California-style pizza made with locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Enjoy a classic pepperoni or cheese pie, or amp up the adventure with customer favorites like the Thai Pie or The Kitchen Sink, in this laidback hangout.
The Vintage Press
Many of the dishes served at The Vintage Press, a family business that opened in Downtown Visalia in 1966, are made with fresh ingredients picked that morning. Its seasonal menu, charming ambiance and wine list (named one of the best in the world by Wine Spectator magazine) make The VP Visalia’s top choice for an accessible fine dining experience.
Alejandra’s is arguably one of the best—if not the best—Mexican restaurants in Visalia. The restaurant serves up all your favorites: tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, and more. Great ingredients and even better recipes delight diners who crave an authentic taste of Mexico.
Component Coffee Lab
Get caffeinated at Component Coffee Lab, a downtown coffee shop where coffeemaking is an art form. Ethically-sourced beans from around the world are roasted in house and used in their handcrafted drinks. You can also find Component’s coffee beans at other places around town, including The Nitro Bike.
At Personal Express Insurance, the Central Valley is our home. With a neighborhood office in Visalia on Caldwell Avenue, we’re dedicated to securing adequate coverage at affordable rates for our customers who live in the same communities we serve. That’s the Local Advantage. For a free insurance quote or to learn how you can find more affordable homeowners, renters, or auto insurance coverage, call 1-800-499-3612 or meet with your local Homegrown Pro.
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