Fresno’s Woodward Park is a classic, great city park, providing Fresno residents and visitors with a beautiful destination for exercise, cultural events, and ways to reconnect with nature.
With a large lake, ponds, and forested areas, including a redwood glen, this 300-acre urban oasis along the south bank of the San Joaquin River is the largest of Fresno’s 80 parks. Much of the parkland is the onetime estate of Ralph Woodward, the son of early Fresno civic leader and banker Oscar James Woodward.
The park is a place to be as active or relaxed as you want to be. Many families come out to Woodward Park for picnics and barbecues. There are two cross-country courses, one 5,000 meters and the other 10,000 meters, and trails at the park connect to the Lewis S. Eaton Trail System along the San Joaquin River Parkway. Woodward Park is also a birding hotspot thanks to its many species, including colourful wood ducks and even the occasional bald eagle.
Daredevil riders love to catch air and take on the banked corners at the Woodward Park BMX course, while mountain bikers of all levels can challenge themselves along the downhill and jumps at the Woodward Mountain Bike Skills Progression Park. Others come to Woodward for the more mellow pleasures of a round of 18 holes at the wooded and hilly Woodward Legacy Disc Golf Course.
Many locals also head to the park for concerts and performances at the 3,500-seat Rotary Amphitheater, an intimate, open-air venue with both covered seating and lawn areas. The eclectic lineup of performers ranges from country to jazz to Latin.
Woodward Park’s most exotic destination is the tranquil Shinzen Japanese Garden. Retreat into a serene world that changes with the seasons, as camellias and ume trees (Japanese apricot) bloom in spring and the red leaves of maples put on a brilliant display during autumn. The authentically designed garden includes a teahouse made of Japanese red cedar and gorgeous spots to take in the Zen environment, such as the stone Double Moon Bridge, which looks out over a pond filled with brilliantly hued koi.
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.