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How to make the most of a visit to this historic Tulare County town, 50 miles northeast of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

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The Central Valley town of Visalia makes a great launching pad to see some of the mightiest trees on the planet at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. With a history that dates back to the 1850s, however, this farming town also offers plenty of its own charm.

To get acquainted with the local personality, take the self-guided walking tour of Visalia’s historic downtown—from street murals and well-preserved architecture to the painted hydrants of the Art on Fire display. Browse the candles and culinary gizmos at Pacific Treasures & Gourmet, then relax with a flash-brew iced coffee or a watermelon lemonade at Component Coffee Lab. Or, go on the walkable Downtown Visalia Beer Tour to sample a few pints in Visalia’s Microbrewery District; among the stops are Sequoia Brewing CompanyBrewbakers Brewing Company, and 1852, which also—unpredictably—has an indoor soccer facility. If you are tight on time and would like a more inclusive overview of the city, check out this three-hour tour to get a good overview of some of Visalia’s highlights.

Along with plenty of familiar hotel brands, Visalia is also home to The Darling Hotel, housed in what used to be part of the courthouse. The 1935 art deco building has been restored to show off the soaring ceilings and original architectural details—an effort that earned the hotel a California Preservation Design Award—and it also boasts a rooftop bar with lovely Sierra Nevada mountain views.

Where to Eat in Visalia

For dinner, Jack & Charlie’s offers both farm-to-table cuisine—like a heritage-raised pork chop with sweet summer corn and grilled peaches—as well as some history: This was the site of the Old West–era Tulare County Jail in the late 1800s. Another fine-dining option with history behind it is The Vintage Press. Though to the uninitiated it may sound like a newspaper or a coffee shop, this Visalia institution with an ivy-draped façade has been serving their creative California cuisine in large, timelessly elegant dining rooms—there are four of them—since 1966. Grab a more casual meal and a craft beer at Pita Kabob Mediterranean Gastropub, where the  authentic fare—falafel, grilled meats, baba ganoush, hummus—and nearly 30 beers on tap have made it a local favorite.

Family-Friendly Attractions in Visalia

If you’ve got kids in tow, Visalia has several attractions you should not miss. The ImagineU Children’s Museum offers interactive, child-centered exhibits with a focus of environment conservation, science, and the arts—little ones from toddler to preteen age have a blast exploring room after room of imagination-igniting puzzles, games, and activities. More historic explorations can be had at the Tulare County Museum, where visitors can learn about the contributions made by successive waves of immigrants from around the world and view Native American artifacts and exhibits on the Gold Rush, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression. Ranking a little higher on the thrill meter is Adventure Park, where visitors of all ages can enjoy water slides, laser tag, batting cages, bumper cars and boats, and miniature golf.

Events in Visalia

Before you visit, check out Visit Visalia for a roundup of Tulare County’s many farmers markets, u-pick orchards, the famed Visalia Blossom Trail and other agritourism experiences, plus deals such as hotel stays bundled with gas gift cards or free shuttle service to Sequoia & Kings Canyon. You’ll also find information on any ongoing events that will be happening, like the holiday-season Annual Candy Cane Lane Parade, which is closed out each year by an appearance of Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Insider tip: If your interest in area national parks extends beyond the nearby Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, consider embarking on the three-day Majestic Mountain Loop. This itinerary will lay it all out for you: On day one, take in Sequoia National Park; day two, Kings Canyon National Park, and day three, Yosemite. The trip includes five recommended points of interest at each park, so you can spend more time talking in the scenery and less deciding where to go next.

Accessibility in Visalia

If you are visiting with friends or family members who may require a little extra attention, you should know that Visalia is committed to accessible and inclusive travel. Visit Visalia has earned its Certified Autism Center credentials, and a number of partnering attractions in and near the city are committed to making all travelers feel welcome.

Things to Do Near Visalia

Drive northwest for 45 minutes on Route 99 and you’ll be in Fresno, the largest city in the Central Valley, which has a long list of attractions to live up to that distinction. The Fresno Chafee Zoo, the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the Blossom Trail, Woodward Park are all here; the city’s Tower District offers great shopping and nightlife.


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