Built up in the 1930s as a suburb accessible by Fresno’s (since retired) streetcars, the luminous Tower District is the city’s leading nightlife destination. The district is named for the neon-lit Tower Theatre, a 1939 Art Deco masterpiece and national historic landmark designed by S. Charles Lee, the architect of many of Hollywood’s most famous theaters. It’s now the 761-seat Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts, which hosts a busy lineup of local and national rock, jazz, and comedy concerts, as well as film screenings. When you come for a show, give yourself time to take in such architectural details as the lobby’s bas-relief etched-glass panel depicting hunters and blacklight-illuminated circular murals painted with fluorescent pigments.
For more live theater, book a table at nearby Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, home to the Good Company Players, a troupe that also stages productions a block away at the 2nd Space Theatre. Music fans should check the schedule at Strummer’s, a concert hall, restaurant, and club named for Joe Strummer, The Clash’s late frontman.
With all of the live performances, restaurants, art galleries, vintage clothing shops, and record stores, this walkable district positively buzzes after dark. Less than a block from the Tower Theatre, dine at eclectic Veni Vidi Vici, a popular restaurant with a menu that incorporates Asian and Italian influences. Sequoia Brewing Company makes a great place to lounge pre- or postshow; try its China Peak Pilsner or a General Sherman IPA. And for more craft beer (plus classic arcade games!), head over to the bicycle-themed Spokeasy Public House.
Several times a year, special events turn the entire Tower District into a giant party. These include the celebrated Rogue Festival (the city’s annual fringe festival), the Fresno Film Festival, and an annual Mardi Gras parade.