Built up in the ‘30s as a suburb accessible by Fresno’s (now retired) streetcars, the neon-bright Tower District is now nightlife central in this part of the valley. Dozens of restaurants, bars, theaters, record stores, art galleries, vintage-clothing shops, and cafes attract locals and visitors alike, with sidewalks buzzing after dark. The 761-seat Art Deco-era Tower Theatre; look for an eclectic lineup of local and national rock, jazz, and comedy acts, as well as art film. For more live theater, book a table at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre, or see a performance by Good Company Players, both based in the Tower District. Sequoia Brewing Company, founded in 2000, makes a great place to lounge pre- or post-show; try a China Peak Pilsner or a Sequoia Pale Ale. For more craft beer and arcade games, head over to bicycle-themed Spokeasy Public House. Live music of all kinds—and, for the brave, karaoke—are on tap at Strummer’s, named in honor of the Clash’s late lead singer and guitarist Joe Strummer, and at Fulton 55.
Several times a year, the entire Tower District turns into a party, with special events bringing music and more to assorted venues. These include the celebrated Rogue Festival of the Arts, the Fresno Film Festival, and an annual Mardi Gras parade.
Although it’s in the heart of California’s most productive agricultural region, Fresno is also a sophisticated city of gorgeous gardens and parks, with a vibrant creative community and one unforgettable (and underground) attraction you won’t find anywhere else.
Visit the Central Valley’s largest city and discover the exciting Tower District neighbourhood, with shopping, dining, and a nightlife hotspot named for its centerpiece—a landmark, neon-lit Art Deco theater that opened in 1939. Catch the cultural scene at its most dynamic during the twice-monthly open-art program, ArtHop, held in studio and gallery spaces downtown and in other parts of the city. The Fresno Art Museum is also a must, both for its beautifully displayed permanent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts and also its innovative exhibitions showcasing everything from children’s book illustrations to contemporary works from Mexico.
Along the San Joaquin River, 300-acre Woodward Park, the biggest in the city, truly has something for everyone: five miles of trails, an authentic Japanese garden, and three playgrounds. Speaking of the kids, across town they’ll also love the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, where they can watch marine mammals frolic in Sea Lion Cove and see elephants, lions, and giraffes in the recently opened African Adventure exhibit.
For an unforgettable only-in-Fresno experience, explore a subterranean living space at Forestiere Underground Gardens, a labyrinth of stone walls, tunnels, and courtyards hand-dug by an Italian immigrant, who had decided that living underground was the best way to keep cool during the Central Valley’s hot summers.
For sports fans, there’s Pacific Coast League baseball at Chukchansi Stadium, home of the Fresno Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the teams at Fresno State University have earned one of the most avid followings of any college in the country (Bulldog alum Aaron Judge is a rising star with the New York Yankees).
At some point, be sure to get out into the farmland surrounding Fresno. In spring, drive or bike the 62-mile Blossom Trail, a loop lined by brilliantly blooming fruit and nut trees. During summer, the drive morphs into the Fresno County Fruit Trail, with produce stands overflowing with ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables.