16 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Fresno, CA
Fresno is one of the largest cities in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California. Agriculture defines much of this region of California, and Fresno is no exception. The city offers a refreshing mix of urban and outdoor things to do, often blending its sunny weather with its bounty of tourist attractions.
Blossom trails and underground gardens are just a few examples of Fresno's outdoor attractions. Other things to do include waterslides, shopping centers, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The city is also home to several gorgeous parks primed for an afternoon of leisure.
Fresno also delivers on cultural appeal. Museums and historic theaters set the baseline for the Fresno flavor, while the entire Tower District offers the most modern take on the Fresno way of life.
For more ideas on places to visit, see our list of the top attractions and things to do in Fresno, California.
1. Forestiere Underground Gardens
Sicilian immigrant, Baldassare Forestiere, started constructing these underground gardens in early the 1900s. He built patios, grottos, and all the intricate stonework by hand. After 40 years of subterranean toil, Forestiere built a truly unique labyrinth of underground rooms, passageways, and planters for numerous fruit-bearing trees.
The underground gardens are now a California Historical Landmark, and the only way to experience them is through a one-hour guided tour. On the tour, in addition to learning about the man and his methods behind the underground garden, visitors see the catacomb-inspired architecture and some of the original trees that still bear fruit today.
This unique underground attraction is less than 10 miles northwest of downtown. It's an excellent example of human engineering and offers a cool activity in the summer. As part of the design, the temperature of the underground gardens is typically 10 to 20 degrees below the temperature at the surface.
Address: 5021 West Shaw Avenue, Fresno, California
Official site: http://www.undergroundgardens.com/
2. Fresno Chaffee Zoo
The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is within Roeding Park, approximately three miles northwest of downtown. It's accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and features numerous exhibits, such as an African Adventure and Wilderness Falls. A few notable resident animals include tigers, orangutans, and warthogs.
The zoo also hosts numerous special activities. A few events on the calendar include animal meet-and-greets, behind-the-scenes tours, and educational programs including summer camps and Zoo Talks.
The surrounding Roeding Park also provides a fun, public space to bring the whole family. It has abundant green space and trees, and amenities like picnic shelters and water fountains. The family favorite Rotary Storyland Playland Family Amusement Park is also within Roeding Park and features a fun environment ripped straight from classic children's books.
Address: 894 W Belmont Avenue, Fresno, California
Official site: https://www.fresnochaffeezoo.org
3. Woodward Regional Park
This popular regional park encompasses 300 acres on the north side of the city. It features a bird sanctuary, an authentic Japanese garden, and numerous reservable gazebos. Paved roads and dirt hiking trails span the public space, connecting other picnic areas and the various bodies of water throughout the park.
Popular things to do at Woodward include jogging, bicycling, and photographing the many birds that hang out close to shore. Other park amenities include a BMX course, mountain biking trails, and a disc golf course. The park is also home to the annual Woodward Shakespeare Festival, which features two professional play productions during the summer.
The Shinzen Friendship Garden within the park features cherry trees and ornamental Japanese structures. The park also features the impressive Rotary Amphitheater, which seats up to 2,500 people for special events.
Address: 14528 26 Mile Road, Oakdale, California
4. Tower District
The Tower District is a hot spot for nightlife and dining northwest of downtown. This eclectic neighborhood is named after the historic Tower Theatre, which still illuminates an intersection at East Olive Avenue – the district's main thoroughfare.
Every meal of the day is offered in the Tower District, with a classic breakfast menu at Irene's Cafe, and places like Veni Vidi Vici offering upscale dinner menus with stylish digs. Coffee shops, art galleries, and boutique storefronts also line the streets, as well as numerous vintage and antique shops.
The Tower District also tends to attract an evening crowd. Live music is a staple of the neighborhood, and regularly scheduled shows can be seen at the Tower Theater or enjoyed with a meal at Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater.
The Tower District is also home to festive cultural events, including the Fresno Film Festival.
Official site: https://www.towerdistrict.org/
5. Fresno Blossom Trail
Spring comes with some color in Fresno, particularly throughout the fruit and nut orchards on the southeast side of the city. And the Fresno Blossom Trail highlights the abundance of agriculture in the region.
This 62-mile driving/biking route tours the most colorful apple, apricot, and peach trees of the Central Valley (among many others). Timing is key to seeing the fullest color, and, typically, blooms last for just a few weeks between mid-February and mid-March.
Official site: http://www.goblossomtrail.com/
6. Downtown Fresno
Vast revitalization efforts have made Fresno's downtown district a central attraction of the city. Courthouse Park is at the heart of the district and is home to the imposing Fresno County Superior Court building. The architecturally impressive Fresno City Hall is also near Courthouse Park, as is the historic Old Fresno Water Tower.
Many local restaurants are near Courthouse Park, as are numerous boutiques and retail shopping stores. Other nearby downtown attractions include theaters, museums, and Chukchansi Park–home to the minor league baseball team, the Fresno Grizzlies.
Alongside revitalization efforts over the last decade, new public art on the streets of downtown Fresno makes for a pleasurable pedestrian experience. Downtown events in Fresno include numerous live music performances at local venues, as well as an outdoor Mariposa Music Series that takes place throughout the summer.
A new downtown celebration, the summer Fulton Street Party celebrates revitalization efforts on this historic thoroughfare. The tasty Fulton Street Food Truck Fest is a part of this street party and features over 30 trucks and a true culinary caravan.
7. Shinzen Japanese Garden
Shinzen Japanese Garden, also known as the Shinzen Friendship Garden, is a tranquil space on the northeast corner of Woodward Regional Park. It's an extra small price of admission to tour these landscaped grounds, though it's well worth the meditative moments the park provides.
Landscape walkways, hanging lanterns, and ornate bridges define some of the space at Shinzen. Other notable features include a ceremonial teahouse and a large koi pond. The garden is also home to the notable Clark Bonsai Collection, featuring rotating potted trees on display in an outdoor setting.
Shinzen is also home to several cultural events throughout the year, including a spring bloom festival. A Toro Nagashi celebration also takes place every August, featuring hundreds of floating lanterns. Check out the official website for a current event calendar.
Official site: https://www.shinzenjapanesegarden.org/
8. Warnors Theatre
This historic performance space is in downtown Fresno. It first entertained the community with vaudeville performances in 1928 and quickly evolved into a silent-movie house. And the long legacy of Warnors Theatre continues today with live music performances and sold-out shows.
Performances range from comedy to Broadway and children's performance theater. Half the fun of attending any show is the ambiance of this historic venue. Warnors Theatre is also a popular venue for private parties, including wedding ceremonies and receptions.
Address: 1400 Fulton Street, Fresno, California
Official site: http://warnors.org
9. Fresno Art Museum
Born from humble beginnings in the 1940s, the Fresno Art Museum evolved into a nationally recognized museum with a wide diversity of artworks. Over 3,600 works comprise the museum's permanent collection today, with an emphasis on paintings, sculptures, and prints.
The museum rotates exhibits nearly every season, providing something new to appreciate with each visit. It's a small cost of admission to tour the museum, although members receive free entry. Operating hours vary between winter and summer, but the museum is generally always open on the weekends.
The Fresno Art Museum is also home to a full calendar of special events. The Trashique art and fashion show fundraiser is one of the most popular events not to miss, historically taking place on Earth Day.
Address: 2233 N First Street, Fresno, California
Official site: https://www.fresnoartmuseum.org/
10. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
The grandeur of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks is accessible from Fresno with an hour's drive. This majestic landscape encompasses rugged mountain peaks, giant sequoia trees, and incredibly dark night skies.
Popular activities at these jointly managed Sierra Nevada national parks include rock climbing, backpacking, and day hiking throughout the giant forests. A route leading to the top of Moro Rock is a popular avenue for adventure that includes stone steps and a spectacular view.
You can find campgrounds in both parks. Among the best campgrounds at Kings Canyon National Park, the Azalea Campground, located in the Grant Grove area, is surrounded by the biggest attractions. The campgrounds at Sequoia National Park also offer incredible opportunities for camping under the stars and among the trees.
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/seki/index.htm
11. Meux Home Museum
This historic 16-room Victorian Mansion was originally constructed in 1889 by Dr. Thomas Richard Meux, a medical physician and veteran of the Civil War. It is now owned by the city and open for the public to explore.
The only way to see the well-preserved interior of the Meux Home Museum is on an hour-long guided mansion tour. These tours offer a sneak peek into the early 1900s, with several artifacts and furnishings from the era. Tours are available Friday through Sunday with a small price of admission. Outside of the weekends, visitors can appreciate the intricate Gothic Victorian architecture from the outside.
Events at the Meux Home Museum include candlelight tours, holiday celebrations, and charity fundraisers. Check the official website for a current events calendar.
Address: 1007 R Street, Fresno, California
Official site: https://meuxhomemuseum.org/
12. Oso de Oro Park
Oso do Oro Park is a popular city park operated by the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. It encompasses nine acres, approximately half of which is home to a pond and wetland habitat. This aquatic landscape is a work of urban engineering, serving as a stormwater retention reservoir.
The real appeal of Oso de Oro, however, is the developed playground area encompassing the park's other half. This creative kid space has two playgrounds: one for tots and the other for older kids. The ground underneath is rubber padded, and the space is universally accessible to meet all children's needs.
Oso de Oro isn't the only kid-friendly park operated by the flood control district. East of downtown, Trolley Creek Park is also home to a large playground popular with families. Trolley Creek also has several unique replicas of city landmarks, including a replica Fresno Water Tower.
13. River Park Shopping Center
This sprawling shopping center is a central destination for clothing, appliances, furniture, and sporting goods. It's on the north side of the city, near the sprawling acreage of Woodward Regional Park. Public buses run regularly to the shopping center, and ample parking is available.
Storefronts like Target, REI, and Macy's are popular at River Park, as is the Regal Edwards Fresno movie theater. Over 30 restaurants are also scattered throughout the River Park campus, ranging from fast and easy to excellent date night locations.
Address: 71 E Via la Plata, Fresno, California
Official site: https://www.shopriverpark.com
14. Kearney Regional Park
Kearney Park is a beautiful regional park, approximately eight miles west of downtown. It's at the site of what used to be the massive estate of M. Theo Kearney, and is still home to the Kearney Mansion, dating to the late 1800s. Kearney spent the last three decades of his life cultivating the beautiful park space.
A boulevard navigates the entirety of the park, lined with picnic areas and park features. Several trees also stand out, as Kearney fashioned the natural space as an arboretum. This makes Kearney a popular spot for casual park activities like picnicking and sitting under the shade. The park is also home to a lengthy 18-hole disc golf course.
The Kearney Mansion, at the park's south end, is available for guided sightseeing tours. The Fresno County Historical Society operates this old mansion and provides the tours. Check out their official website for tour times.
Official site: https://www.valleyhistory.org/
15. Island Waterpark
This popular water park is on the northwest side of the city, near Forestiere Underground Gardens. This aquatic destination for family fun has over a dozen waterslides, including the solo, raft, and family-raft variety. This sprawling water park also features a lazy river, wave pool, and rentable cabanas. Designated grassy areas in the park also allow families to set up their own shade structure.
Island Waterpark operates for an extended summer season and hosts special After Dark Friday night swims that are fun for the whole family.
Address: 6099 W Barstow Avenue, Fresno, California
Official site: https://www.islandwaterpark.com
16. St. John's Cathedral
In downtown, St. John's Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. This important designation comes after 140 years of history in the area. And the beautiful Gothic-Romanesque church itself dates to the beginning of the 1900s. Daily masses are held throughout the week, as well as Sunday services.
Official site: https://www.stjohnsfresno.org/
Where to Stay in Fresno, California for Sightseeing
- On the north side of town, near the River Park Shopping Center, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Fresno Riverpark is one of Fresno's most popular hotels. It's a combination of an excellent location, clean rooms, and good value that makes reservations recommended. Alongside stylish common areas, the hotel offers rooms and suites with modern furnishings. Other on-site amenities include an outdoor pool, a business center, and a complimentary breakfast in the mornings.
- Near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, the Best Western Plus Fresno Airport Hotel offers an excellent location for exploring the region. Its location allows easy access to in-town Fresno attractions, as well as the sprawling national parks and forests to the east. Standard rooms and spacious suites are available, and each overnight space is equipped with free Wi-Fi, a desk area, and satellite TV. The hotel also features a complimentary breakfast, a fitness facility, and free rides to the airport.
- In northwest Fresno, Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno-Northwest offers a dependable stay at a reasonable price. The hotel has an excellent reputation for its cleanliness and customer service, and guests also enjoy the complimentary breakfast each morning. Standard rooms and suites are available, with suite accommodations including an extra sitting room and a sleeper sofa. Every room at Hampton Inn also includes a personal coffee maker.
- The Best Western Plus Fresno Inn is a recently renovated hotel at the town center that caters nicely to a Fresno vacation. Its central location lends easy access to all the city's attractions, while its proximity to the interstate also makes for a quick drive to the neighboring national parks to the east. Alongside rooms and suites, the hotel also provides complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, and a fully-equipped fitness center with free weights and machines.
- The Days Inn Yosemite Area offers among the best value in town. Alongside an unbeatable price, the hotel has an excellent reputation for its clean and comfortable rooms. It provides over 50 rooms in its two-story building, split between double-queens and single-king bedrooms. Other on-site amenities that add to a convenient stay include a complimentary breakfast bar in the morning, a business center with printing available, and a fully-equipped fitness facility.
- For a budget hotel close to the airport, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Fresno Yosemite International Airport is a safe bet. This budget-conscious property is relatively new to the area, which is reflected by the modern furnishings and fresh feel inside. It offers rooms and spacious suites. And the hotel is increasingly popular for business travel thanks to its fast Wi-Fi and relaxing accommodations to enjoy between work hours. The hotel offers an expanded breakfast menu in the mornings.
- The newly renovated Summerfield Inn Fresno Yosemite offers another dependable and affordable stay. It has double-queen and single-king rooms, each equipped with free Wi-Fi, 40-inch flatscreen TVs, and in-room coffee makers. And each overnight space is adorned with comfortable and plush furniture, including plenty of pillows. The hotel also offers free parking, laundry facilities, and a complimentary breakfast bar in the mornings.
- The Clarion Pointe is another gem for budget travelers and anyone who enjoys a nice, clean, and cozy hotel. Rooms at the Clarion feature a modern design with boutique-style furnishings and art on the walls. The other amenities available, including a seasonal outdoor pool, free coffee in the lobby, and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi and smart TVs, also make the hotel a great-value option.
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