What started as a humble cherry stand in 1908 is now a massive roadside attraction, welcoming more than 3 million visitors each year. Located 40 miles northeast of Monterey, Casa de Fruta in Hollister is a comforting spot to cool your heels or even spend the night. With a 10,000-square-foot market, 24-hour restaurant, sweetshop, RV park,14-room inn, and playground, there’s something at Fruta for the whole family.
“My great-uncles came from Calabria, Italy, to plant the very first orchards in the Pacheco Valley,” says Casa de Fruta partner Gene Zanger. The Central Coast attraction has remained in the family’s hands since its inception. Zanger remembers laying brick in front of the shop when he was just 12 years old; now his own children play on the property. “There are peacocks that roam the property,” he says, “and there’s something in kids that makes them love to chase them around.”
The market, which Zanger calls “the soul of the operation,” sells dried fruit, nuts, wine, gourmet goods, and fresh produce from all over the state. Visitors can try strawberries from Watsonville, pistachios from Fresno, garlic from Gilroy, and more. The family’s wine is offered in the traditional white, red, and blush—but Zanger says that visitors most often leave with a bottle of Casa de Fruta’s signature pomegranate wine.
The restaurant is open 24 hours a day. “In 1957, we put a sign up that said, ‘We never close.’ And we haven’t since,” Zanger says. Diners can dig into hearty meals like meatloaf, pot roast, and fish and chips. Zanger’s go-to? The prime rib, the fried chicken, or the New York strip steak. End your meal with a warm slice of Fruit of the Forest Pie—or head across the way to the sweetshop for a cone filled with locally made ice cream.
With an inn and an RV park on the property, guests are invited to stay as long as they like. Parents can get some rest as the kids wear themselves out on the miniature train (lovingly named Casa de Choo Choo) and the double-decker carousel.