Located in the central valley of California, Fresno is the state’s fifth most populated city. It may not have the beaches of San Diego or Malibu, but it has its own list of appeals, and you will be surprised by all the things to do in Fresno, CA.
But first of all, where is Fresno?
The city is located more or less between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you’re planning a California road trip, it’s the perfect city to break up your journey. It’s also just over an hour’s driving distance from the majestic Yosemite National Park, one of the best places for hiking in California and a perfect destination for a day trip from Fresno.
The unique and exciting attractions in Fresno, coupled with its locations, make it a great place to visit for a few days. To ensure you make the most of your time, I’ve compiled a list of the top 13 fun things to do in Fresno, California.
Before starting your trip, remember to double-check your travel documents, especially the validity of your passport. Another important task is to get travel insurance, it’s a small investment that can save you a lot of money in case something happens. We have been using SafetyWing for a few years and really like its extensive coverage and how easy it is to buy it.
What to do in Fresno
Apart from your usual big-city popular attractions, this central California city also offers some pretty unique ones. From historical landmarks to scenic drives and modern entertainment venues, here are the top things to do in Fresno, California.
1 – De-stress at Woodward Regional Park
Woodward Regional Park is a sprawling green space with a classic city park vibe. The largest park in Fresno was created in 1968 in an area donated by Ralph Woodward. Today it stretches over 300 acres by the South bank of the San Joaquin river.
The park offers something for everyone. There are walking and biking paths, plenty of park benches for resting, manicured lawns and tables for picnicking, and playgrounds for little ones.
The Shinzen Friendship Garden is a hidden gem inside Woodward park. Built by Fresno’s Japanese-American community, this serene Japanese garden showcases their culture. It features a koi pond, a teahouse, a bonsai collection, resident peacocks, lots of colorful plants, and picture-perfect scenery. It’s a lovely place to de-stress and spend some time relaxing in nature.
The park is very well maintained and offers bathroom facilities and drinking fountains. It’s one of the cool things to do in Fresno with kids.
If you like parks, plan a visit to Roeding Park, another regional city park that has a lake, ponds, and areas for picnics and fun activities.
2 – Discover the Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Forestiere Underground Gardens are one of the most unique attractions in Fresno, CA.
They were built by Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere from 1906 until his death in 1946.
The underground gardens weave through a series of structures, including rooms, courtyards, and passageways. Everything was hand-made by Forestiere, who drew inspiration for his work from the Paris ancient catacombs.
The underground gardens are only accessible through guided tours. Accompanied by a guide, you’ll learn about the history of the subterranean structure and the man who created them.
3 – Go back in time at the Meux Home Museum
The Meux Home Museum is a 16-room Victorian mansion that has successfully stood the test of time. Dr. Thomas Richard Meux, a physician and Civil War veteran built the 16-room mansion for his family in 1889.
The museum showcases the best of Victorian architecture and includes intricate details typical of that time period, like Corinthian cornices, scrolls, string courses, stained glass, and furnishings. It also features a scenic garden.
The house is accessible through roughly an hour-long guided tour. Visiting this attraction is both entertaining and educational.
If historical attractions are your thing, then also check out Kearney Mansion Museum, a house built in French Renaissance style by M. Theo Kearney.
4 – Be entertained at the Save Mart Center
The Save Mart Center is a multi-purpose venue located on the campus of California State University, Fresno, at Shaw Avenue. It opened in 2003 and has been hosting various entertainment since. If you’re a sports fan, games like college basketball, wrestling, and ice hockey take place here on a regular basis.
The center also regularly hosts live entertainment, from music concerts to acts like Cirque du Soleil. Past performers have included A-list artists like Justin Bieber, Elton John, and Taylor Swift.
If you’re looking for a fun night out in Fresno, visit their official website to see what’s on the schedule and plan for the upcoming events. You might join a few interesting Fresno weekend events during your trip.
5 – See the scenic Fresno County Blossom Trail
Fun fact, the central valley of California is the most productive agricultural region in the state. It yields an abundance of citrus, tree fruits, nuts, table grapes, and other crops each year. The Fresno Blossom Trail passes through some of the area’s most colorful orchards on a nearly 70-mile scenic route.
Take a self-guided tour driving or cycling tour and admire the beautiful wildflowers, and blooming fruit trees, and cherry trees. See stunning shades of pink, white, and orange. It’s a real treat for the eyes. You can pull over throughout the route to take a quiet stroll or have a photoshoot with the backdrop of the charming blossoming trees.
The peak time to see the flowering trees is in February and March. Although, visiting during other times of the year still provides a nice opportunity to see Fresno’s rural landscape.
A great place to begin the route is Simonian Farms. The fruit stand on the property has been around since 1901. It sits in a large red barn and displays a model Western town with an interesting collection of vintage items. Have a quick wander before you begin your journey through Fresno Fruit Trail, and don’t forget to pick up some snacks for the road.
6 – Have some wholesome fun at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. People of all ages will enjoy spending the day here, exploring the interesting exhibits and outdoor attractions.
The Valley Farm petting zoo offers guests the chance to interact with and pet a variety of animals native to the Central Valley, including goats, sheep, chickens, cows, and more. At Twina Terrace, you’ll have the opportunity to come eye to eye with giraffes and feed these gentle giants.
There’s also a reptile house where guests can view over 40 species of reptiles up close.
That’s just a small sample of the outdoor activities you can expect to partake in when you visit the zoo. There are two dining options inside and guests are also welcome to bring in their own food and drinks.
7 – Enjoy the Tower District
The Tower District is a neighborhood that sprung up in the 1930s. It offers Fresno tourists a little bit of everything.
During the day, shop at the local boutiques and grab a coffee or casual meal at a cafe. Irene’s Cafe and Teazers World Tea Market are both local favorites.
When evening hits, this area of the city turns into a hotspot for nightlife and entertainment. For some of the best cocktails in Fresno, head to Lucy’s Lounge. For live music and dancing, visit Strummer’s Bar & Grill.
If you’re keen on a casual night out, see a theater production at the historic Tower District Theater. Or, for dinner and a show, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater will provide a memorable experience.
8 – Beat the heat at Island Waterpark
There’s no way around it, Fresno in summer is hot. The average temperature usually hangs out in the 90s, with some days reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking for cool Fresno tourist attractions to beat the heat, visiting the Island Water Park is a must.
It has all of the fun attractions you’d expect from a waterpark, including outdoor pools with thrilling tube water slides, body slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a water playground. Rent a cabana and enjoy comfortable shaded seating. When you need to refuel, visit one of the food concessions found around the amusement park.
The park caters to all ages and is a fun place in Fresno to spend the day.
9 – See a game at Chukchansi Park
Chukchansi Park is the home of Fresno’s minor league baseball team, the Fresno Grizzlies.
The modern venue opened in 2002 and features great views of the field from every seat in the house. It also offers incredible panoramas of downtown Fresno’s skyline with stunning views of Sierra Mountains creeping up in the distance.
The concession stands sell meals, snacks, and drinks. Enjoy a fun afternoon and a great American pastime by rooting for the local team.
10 – Wander around Riverpark Shopping Center
Riverpark is a very popular Fresno attraction. This massive outdoor shopping and entertainment center features top brand retails as well as some locally-owned gems. If you’re looking for souvenirs or feel like treating yourself to a shopping spree, this is your place.
Apart from shopping, the movie theater, named Regal Edwards Theater, screens all the blockbuster hits. It even has 4DX and IMAX screens for the ultimate immersive cinematic experience.
You’ll find in River Park Shopping Center a wide range of restaurants specializing in everything from Asian and Mexican to French cuisine. For fine dining, head to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Or, for something more casual with a lively setting, stop into Yard House for delicious food and drinks. If you want an authentic Californian foodie experience, grab a burger and shake from In-N-Out Burger.
11 – Visit Moravia Wines
The central valley is the backbone of California’s wine industry. This region of the state produces over half of California’s grapes. The hot temperatures and dry conditions combined make the perfect formula for large grapes, which yield juicy, high-quality wines.
The best place to sample some delicious Californian wine is Moravia. Set in a sprawling vineyard, the setting is magical and the varieties of their whites and reds are top-notch. Enjoy an outdoor wine tasting on their large patio under the warm California sun.
Kids are also welcome at the winery. An outdoor play structure will keep them entertained while mom and dad sip some wine on the patio. Guests are also free to bring their own food. Pack your favorite picnic provisions, and you’ll be all set for a day of fun in Fresno.
On Friday evenings, from May to September, family-friendly activities and entertainment are also scheduled.
12 – Have drinks at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company Beer Garden
Mingle with the locals and enjoy a few cold ones at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company.
This low-key brewery makes all of its products in downtown Fresno. They aim to create great-tasting beer while bringing awareness and support to the preservation of California’s Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
They cater to all tastes, from easy-drinking beer to rich stouts. Plus, their menu changes, so there’s always something new to try. Their flavors can get quite creative, with options like tropical blonde ale infused with passion fruit, guava, mango, and pineapple – yum!
Many of their flavors and beer names draw inspiration from the local surrounding, especially the mountains. Select from options like a Valley Haze IPA, a Yosemite Facelift Pale Ale, and a Half Dome Wheat Ale.
The brewery has a fun, social atmosphere. They regularly host live music and food trucks. The taproom and beer garden is open every day, from afternoon until late in the evening. On your way out, don’t forget to pick up some bottles or growlers of your favorite flavors to go.
13 – Check out the Big Fresno Fair
The Big Fresno Fair is the fifth-largest fair in California. It was founded in 1884 and has been taking place every year since.
It has all of your typical fair rides and attractions, like a Ferris Wheel, rotating swings, and carnival games. It also has some special events, like home shows and horse racing.
Live music is another staple of the fair. Past headliners have included acts like Billy Idol, the Beach Boys, and Ariana Grande.
The fair takes place every October and runs for two weeks. But if you can’t visit Fresno during this month, check out the Big Fresno Fair Museum. This attraction is open year-round and educates guests on the history of the fair for the past 136 years. It features lots of cool exhibits and artifacts.
Where to Stay for Fresno Sightseeing
There are lots of cool and exciting places to visit in Fresno. To make sure you see as many as possible, you’ll want to choose a hotel that’s near all of the action.
Things to do in Fresno wrap up
Although Fresno is one of California’s largest cities, it has a small-town charm with plenty of urban and natural attractions, plus some interesting and cultural events. This makes it easy to relax and enjoy a stress-free vacation.
It may not be by the coast, but its location next to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range – one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the US – makes it a hit with nature lovers. This means that when visiting Fresno, you can also plan trips to beautiful parks like Yosemite National Park and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park to see the sequoia trees, which are the tallest and largest trees in the world.
Whether you’re visiting Fresno on its own or passing by en route to somewhere else, it’s safe to say that the entirety of your trip will be entertaining and exciting.
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