Located in the heart of the Central Valley, Fresno is often overlooked as a destination in favor of bigger cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco. But the truth is that Fresno has a lot to offer for those who are willing to explore it.
With a rich history, diverse culture, and beautiful natural surroundings, Fresno is a city with something for everyone. This list has something for everyone, from cultural attractions and outdoor recreation to shopping and dining. So if you’re looking for an exciting and rewarding way to spend your time, keep reading to learn more about the top 13 things to do in Fresno.
We advise you to plan your trip ahead and make sure you have all the necessary arrangements in place before you go. This will help ensure that your trip goes smoothly and you have a great time. In addition to planning your itinerary, it is also a good idea to bring your Sony A7IV camera along with you as photogenic sights surround Fresno.
Basic facts about Fresno
Fresno is located in the Central Valley region of California, about 160 miles southeast of San Francisco. It is the fifth most populous city in the state, with a population of approximately 527,000 people.
Fresno is known to have a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and mild and wet winters. Nowadays, the city is mostly known as the home to a number of universities and colleges.
Things to do in Fresno
As Fresno is a great destination for university students and families, there are a number of cultural attractions, outdoor recreation, or just activities to relax and have fun. We listed our top 13 things to do in Fresno below.
Visit the Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Forestiere Underground Gardens are unique because of .. their underground gardens. Baldassare Forestiere started building them in the early 1900s as a way for Forestiere to escape the hot summers of the Central Valley.
For this project, Baldassare was influenced by the Roman catacombs and wine cellars which he had seen in Italy. He decided to dig a small cellar to escape the summer heat and was surprised at how effective and comfortable this solution was. He started experimenting with skylights when he built it out and spent from 1906 to his death in 1946 expanding the tunnels.
The gardens consist of a series of underground rooms and passageways, connected by a network of tunnels and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Their unique architecture and beautiful setting are the main reasons why tourists visit them.
Nowadays, The gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and registered as California Historical Landmarks.
Explore the Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Located in the heart of the city, the zoo covers 39 acres and houses over 190 species, offering its visitors the opportunity to see and learn about a wide variety of animals.
The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is the biggest zoo in the region. It is home to over 190 species of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians – including lions, tigers, bears, gorillas, chimpanzees, flamingos, and many others.
The zoo is known to attract an average of 850,000 visitors yearly for its commitment to conservation and education. During the 2020 COVID lockdowns, the zoo has built out a new “Kingdom of Asia” Exhibit, which easily sets the Zoo as one of the best things to Do in Fresno.
Visit the Shinzen Japanese Garden
The Shinzen Japanese Garden is a peaceful attraction in Fresno. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that despite the dry and hot climate of the region, the garden has been able to thrive for over 40 years as most of the plants are not used to this climate at all.
The garden features a koi pond, a tea house, several plants and flowers, and various paths and bridges that allow the visitors to stroll around the Japanese gardens. The area also attracts visitors who want to relax by the pond or have a cup of tea in the tea house.
Take a walk through the Roeding Park Zoo
The Roeding Park, which houses an amusement park called Playland and a fairytale amusement center called Storyland, is also the home to the Roeding Park Zoo.
The zoo is home to various animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In addition to these animals, the Roeding Park Zoo also features a petting zoo where visitors can interact with and feed some of the animals.
Next to the usual attractions, the zoo also offers a train ride which takes visitors on a tour of the zoo and allows them to see the animals up close, making it one of the best things to do in Fresno for families and children.
Check out the Fresno Art Museum
The Fresno Art Museum has a rich history dating back to 1948 when it was founded as the Fresno Art League by a group of local artists. The group was later incorporated as the Fresno Art Center in 1949 and eventually established a permanent space for exhibitions and events in 1956.
Since then, the museum has dedicated itself to showcasing the work of local, national, and international artists. This means that their exhibitions cover a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, and more.
In addition to its exhibitions, the Fresno Art Museum also offers a number of educational programs and events, including artist talks, workshops, and classes – making it a popular destination for art lovers and students.
Visit the Kearney Mansion Museum
Kearney Park is a large public park located that was named after M. Theo Kearney, who owned a ranch in the area and donated the land to the city in the early 20th century.
The park is home to a variety of amenities, including a lake, picnic areas, playgrounds, sports fields, and a historical museum. The Kearney Mansion Museum, which is located within the park, is a popular attraction that showcases the history of the area and the life of M. Theo Kearney.
Nowadays, it is a popular destination for locals and tourists as the park hosts many concerts, festivals, and sporting events.
Go wine tasting
The Fresno region is home to a number of wineries that produce a variety of wines, which is why wine tasting is one of the most popular things to do in Fresno and the surrounding area. This involves sampling and evaluating different wines, and it is a great way to learn about the different flavors and aromas of different wines.
Some of the best spots for wine tasting in Fresno include:
- Engelmann Cellars: Located in the city’s heart, Engelmann Cellars is a family-owned winery producing various red and white wines.
- San Joaquin Wine Company: Located in nearby Kerman, the San Joaquin Wine Company is a small, family-owned winery that produces various red, white, and sparkling wines.
- Madera Wine Trail: The Madera Wine Trail is a collection of wineries located in the Madera area, just a short drive from Fresno. The wine trail features a variety of wineries that produce a range of wines, and many of the wineries offer wine-tasting experiences.
- Ficklin Vineyards: Located in Madera, Ficklin Vineyards is the oldest port wine producer in the United States and is known for its delicious port wines.
Visit the Fresno Fairgrounds
The Fresno Fairgrounds is a large fairground and event center famous for a number of annual events and festivals, including the Big Fresno Fair. It is the largest annual event in the San Joaquin Valley. It lasts for 12 days, attracting around 600,000 people and featuring exhibits, a livestock show, live horse racing, musical entertainment, educational programs, and more.
In addition to these events, the Fresno Fairgrounds also hosts several other events throughout the year, including concerts, expositions, and trade shows. The Fresno Fairgrounds is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike and are a great place to experience the excitement and fun of a fair.
Take a hike through the Sierra National Forest
Sierra National Forest is a national forest located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is known for its diverse landscape, which includes high peaks, deep canyons, and beautiful forests.
The forest was established in 1893, making it one of the oldest national forests in the United States. It was created to protect the forests and natural resources of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and to provide recreational opportunities for the public.
The Sierra National Forest is home to a variety of plant and animal life, including giant sequoias, black bears, and Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. It is also home to several popular recreational areas, including Bass Lake, Shaver Lake, and Huntington Lake.
Nowadays, it’s a popular destination for camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
Check out the Fresno Philharmonic
The Fresno Philharmonic is a professional symphony orchestra, known for its high-quality performances and is a major cultural institution in the Central Valley. The orchestra presents a variety of classical music concerts throughout the year, featuring a range of repertoire from classical to contemporary works.
Next to their concerts, the orchestra also offers a number of educational and outreach programs, including youth concerts, open rehearsals, and masterclasses. Whether you’re a classical music fan or just looking for a new cultural experience, the Fresno Philharmonic is a great destination.
Visit the Fresno Food Expo
The Fresno Food Expo is an annual event that celebrates the food and beverage industry in Fresno and the Central Valley region of California, highlighting the ever-growing California Cuisine movement. The expo was founded in 2013 with the goal of showcasing the diverse and abundant food and drink products produced in the region and is now one of the largest in the state.
The thing that makes the Fresno Food Expo so unique is that it focuses exclusively on the products and producers of the Central Valley region as the region is known for its rich agricultural history and is home to a wide variety of crops, including grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus fruits, and more.
The food expo attracts thousands of visitors each year, including food and beverage industry professionals, buyers, and food enthusiasts. It is a popular and highly anticipated event that brings together the local community and helps to highlight the region’s contributions to the industry. The cultural importance of this expo makes it one of the top things to do in Fresno.
Golf in Fresno has a long history, with the first golf course in the city opening in the 1920s. Over the years, the sport has gained popularity in the region and has become an important part of the local community. Golf courses in Fresno are known for their beautiful settings and well-maintained greens, making them a popular destination for both local golfers and visitors to the area.
Some of the best spots for golfing in Fresno include:
- Fort Washington Golf Course
- Riverside Golf Course
- Belmont Country Club
- Sunnyside Country Club
- Copper River Country Club
Visit the Meux Home Museum
The Meux Home Museum is a historic house museum mostly known for its Victorian architecture. The house was built in the late 19th century and is named after its original owner, Dr. Thomas F. Meux.
Nowadays, the museum features a variety of exhibits that showcase the history of Fresno and the Central Valley. It also displays the life of the Meux family and their role in the region’s development.