The biggest city in California’s Central Valley region, Fresno blends urban sophistication with enduring agricultural traditions. You’ll find such attractions as an innovative zoo, fine restaurants that source ingredients locally, and nearby farms where you can shop for the freshest—and tastiest—of seasonal produce. Here are five unique ways to discover the different sides of Fresno.
Explore Fresno Chaffee Zoo
If you’ve ever wanted to pet a stingray or feed a giraffe, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is the place to get up close and personal with remarkable creatures from around the world. In the city’s Roeding Park, the zoo has a number of naturalistic enclosures, including the 13-acre African Adventure, a great place to watch lions frolic on boulders and elephants rumble across a savanna-like expanse. Special Behind-the-Scenes Encounters show how zookeepers work with such animals as rhinos, giraffes, and sloths, and you can even participate in training sessions with seals and sea lions.
Visit Forestiere Underground Gardens
Get a look at Fresno from the ground up at Forestiere Underground Gardens, 10 acres of subterranean tunnels, grottoes, and yes, gardens, all painstakingly dug out by Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere during a 40-year period starting in 1906. With its handcrafted stone walls and graceful arches, the gardens resemble some ancient archaeological wonder that has been unearthed and restored. But this designated California state landmark is very much a living place, complete with productive fruit trees and grapevines.
Experience Fresno County Blossom Trail
For a few weeks every year from mid-February and into March, the farmland outside Fresno brightens with color as thousands of apple, stone fruit, and nut trees burst into bloom along the Fresno County Blossom Trail. The route travels between local farm towns and passes through a landscape transformed by countless pink and white flowers. And the drive smells every bit as good as it looks, especially on a stretch that loops through orange groves.
Enjoy Simonian Farms
A fifth-generation agricultural operation, Simonian Farms dates to 1901 and is where you’ll find a huge assortment of locally grown nuts and dried fruits. Walk the aisles of its big red barn and you may just be overwhelmed by this cornucopia of such seasonal produce as nectarines, pomegranates, boysenberries, and peaches, as well as gourmet goods like jams and honeys. And everywhere you look, there are antiques and historic artifacts, including a vintage model steam train that travels overhead along 200 feet of track and a 1946 caboose.
Dine at The Annex Kitchen
The Annex Kitchen keeps things local and takes full advantage of the rich array of ingredients cultivated and raised on Central Valley farms. The stylish, contemporary restaurant specializes in rustic, regional Italian dishes, including handcrafted pastas like sweet corn agnolotti. There are also (of course) pizzas served fresh out of a wood-fired oven, and don’t miss such wood-burning hearth specialties as ribeye with a porcini rub. A little thirsty? Take your pick of modern or classic craft cocktails as you raise a toast during a night on the town in Fresno.