Fresno County’s agricultural bounty comes with both flavor and eye-popping color—take this 90-mile drive to see for yourself.
Fresno makes for a surprisingly lively getaway. Seven stadiums and a pair of arenas satisfy sporty types, and an annual Woodward Shakespeare Festival in lush Woodward Park reveals Fresno’s cultural bent.
But agriculture is king here. Check out bountiful Vineyard Farmers’ Market, Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In early spring, drive or bike along the 62-mile Blossom Trail, when the route lined with fruit and nut trees is in full bloom. In summer, it morphs into the Fresno County Fruit Trail, and fruit stands overflow with seasonal produce.
Back in town, explore subterranean Forestiere Underground Gardens, hand-dug by an Italian immigrant who saw going underground was a great way to keep cool and comfortable during Central Valley summers. Kids love Chaffee Zoo, especially the frolicking pinnipeds in Sea Lion Cove. Monthly Art Hops are a great way to explore the Mural District, a hotbed of artists’ studios and galleries. After dark, restaurants and clubs light up the neon-bright Tower District.
A fruit stand that’s been run by the same family for five generations. Its massive red barn encloses a model Western town complete with saloon and schoolhouse.
Situated on the Fresno Blossom Trail, the small town of Sanger is flanked by rolling hills lined with rows of fruit trees and vineyards. Whether you’re here to see the orchards in bloom or traveling to Sequoias and Kings Canyon National Parks, pause for a while to savor the country life. Stock up on local preserves at Centerville Fruit Station or wind your way through the sunflower maze. Buy fresh peaches, nectarines, and apricots at the Blossom Trail Fruit Stand. Feast on huevos rancheros at the Blossom Trail Café. Three local wineries are worth a visit—Ramos-Torres for Rhone-style wines, Kings River Winery for light and crisp whites, and Marechal Vineyards for hearty Cabernets and full-bodied Tempranillo. The Sanger Depot Museum features beautiful Native American artifacts plus a diorama explaining the history of logging in the Sierra Nevada (Sanger’s log flume played an important role).
The tiny hamlet of Minkler sits on the Fresno Blossom Trail, where drivers and cyclists flock in February and March to see rose-colored sprays of peach and nectarine petals, pink bouquets of apricot blossoms, and white blazes of almond, plum, and apple trees. At any time of year, Minkler’s Cedar View Winery is worth a stop to sample artisan wines. The winemakers are proud of their rare Alicante Bouschet grapes, which were popular among home winemakers during Prohibition. Cedar View uses the red-fleshed grapes to make fruit-forward red blends. Located on the road to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, the winery’s on-site Sequoia View Bed and Breakfast offers three elegantly decorated suites surrounded by vineyards and farm fields. Just down the road, the Schoolhouse Restaurant and Tavern serves farm-to-table food and features live bands every Friday night.
In spring, it’s easy to know when you’re getting close to Orange Cove. You can smell the sweet aroma of citrus flowers (a scent known as “azahar”) for miles around. Home to the Orange Blossom Trail—an extension of the Fresno Blossom Trail—this Central Valley town is a major citrus producer, specializing in lemons and oranges. Its historic City Hall anchors its petite downtown. If you’re in the mood for Mexican food, stop at OC Taco Shop on Park Boulevard for freshly grilled meats topped with onions and cilantro, or drive a few miles south to La Catrina’s colorful dining room for chile rellenos, menudo, and handmade tortillas.
The mighty Kings River flows through Reedley as it makes its long journey from the High Sierra to the Central Valley’s farms. Situated midway between Fresno and Visalia, this agriculturally important town has been known as the “Fruit Basket of the World” since 1946. With more than 30 fruit and vegetable packing plants, Reedley leads the country in shipping fresh, locally grown produce. Wander around downtown’s turn-of-the-century buildings and see the colorful fabric craftsmanship on display at the Mennonite Quilt Center. Pick a spot for a picnic on the Kings River’s sandy beaches. If you have kids in tow, be sure to take them to Hillcrest Farm. Set among the peach and plum orchards is a miniature steam train, with fanciful locomotives, train cars, and more than a mile of track built by the farm’s owners. Rides are offered every weekend.
Let the kids ride a miniature steam train at Hillcrest Farm, dotted with peach and plum orchards. The owners design and build their own fanciful locomotives, train cars, and track.
Kingsburg wears its Swedish roots proudly. Its Swedish-coffee-pot-shaped water tower can be seen from the freeway, and downtown is lined with gabled Nordic architecture. Bakeries sell buttery pastries and Kady’s Country Kitchen serves Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam. This Central Valley town’s Northern European heritage dates back to 1873, when two Swedes arrived at what was then only a rail stop. Believing the local soil was ripe for farming, they stayed on. Before long, their Swedish cousins and friends joined them, and by the early 20th century, 94 percent of Kingsburg’s residents were of Swedish descent. Today you can shop for Swedish gifts—colorful wooden Dala horses, Swedish crackers and preserves—at Svensk Butik. In May or June, fill up on fresh berries at Berry Lady Farms. And of course, if you love raisins, you must pay a visit to the Sun-Maid raisin market (just look for the world’s largest raisin box). Plus, with Rhône varietals produced from its foothills estate vineyard near Yosemite National Park, Ramos Torres Winery offers a surprising destination for wine lovers. With its rich woods and casual atmosphere, the tasting room is an appealing setting to discover winemaker and San Joaquin Valley native Oscar Ramos-Torres’s wines, including Cabernet Sauvignons made with grapes from Lodi.
Close to bustling Fresno but a world apart, Clovis is an authentic western town with brick sidewalks edging its Old Town streets and more antique and collectible shops per square mile than anywhere else in California. Even if you’re not a collector, you’ll enjoy wandering its streets filled with turn-of-the-century charm. Thumb through used, rare, and out-of-print tomes at Clovis Book Barn (ask to see their collection of first editions). Munch on lemon or cranberry biscotti at Rosetti’s Biscotti House. Old Town Clovis also hosts a fruit-filled farmers market on Saturday mornings year-round and Friday nights in summer. If you want to get some exercise, 26 miles of paved trails wind through town, perfect for cycling or jogging.