As the closest major city to Yosemite’s South Entrance and its neighboring national parks, Kings Canyon and Sequoia, chances are you’ll be flying into or driving through Fresno on your next national park road trip. Fresno is so much more than just a place to start your travels, however. Make sure to plan a couple days to take in everything this city has to offer from a world class zoo to a walkable brewery district before hitting the road.
Here are four of our favorite places to explore in Fresno.
1. Forestiere Underground Gardens
Don’t miss this truly one-of-a-kind stop, especially on a hot summer day. Starting in 1906, Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere began tunneling out an underground wonderland. Over the course of 40 years, he created a home full of underground rooms, passageways and courtyards full of plants that thrive underground. Today, this amazing architectural feat is open to the public mid-March through November. Reservations for the hour-long guided tour are required.
2. Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Head to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo right when it opens at 9 a.m. for the day’s coolest temperatures and to see the animals when they’re most active. This incredible 39-acre zoo is home to more than 190 species with incredibly well-done educational displays, habitats and interactive experiences. Don’t miss African Adventure where the habitat emulates the African savanna and is home to elephants, rhinos, lions, cheetahs and more. Some parts of the habitat even allow for multiple species to co-mingle. Be sure to sign up to feed the giraffes. The zoo supports conservation projects around the world so you can feel good visiting knowing that a portion of your ticket price is going to help endangered animals and their habitats.
3. Old Town Clovis
Fresno’s neighboring town of Clovis is home to a charming historic downtown district that dates back to 1912. All the businesses from the boutiques to the restaurants to the coffee shops are independently owned. Stop by On the Edge Coffee House, which features local artists and has a piano out front that’s often being played by a passerby. Then, spring through fall, don’t miss the Farmers Market on Fridays. You could spend the better part of a day wandering through the unique shops and boutiques and grabbing a leisurely lunch at The Craft House. The restaurant features a truly eclectic menu with something for everyone from poke nachos to chicken and waffles.
4. Fresno Brewery District
There’s a huge mural at 736 Fulton Street in downtown Fresno declaring this area of town as the “Brewery District.” Not only is it home to a burgeoning craft brewery scene, but this area is also full of murals, making a self-guided brewery and mural walking tour a perfect way to spend a summer evening. Start at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company where you can drink beer with a mission. This local brewery brings awareness and resources to the preservation of the Sierra Nevada. Their beers are named after landmarks like Half Dome and General Sherman. Next, head to Full Circle Brewing Co., where you’ll find IPAs that are crafted to appeal to a wider audience than traditional hoppy and bitter renditions alongside all sorts of entertainment from live music to roller derby to cornhole competitions. Both breweries often have taco trucks, which Fresno is famous for, parked out front.
End the night at The Modernist, an upscale craft cocktail bar with a menu that’s sure to impress. It’s a great choice if you have someone in your group who isn’t the biggest craft beer drinker, because the interesting menu will convert even the staunchest beer drinkers.
Learn more at www.visitfresnocounty.org.