Best Things to do in Fresno
The next time you road trip through California, consider spending a weekend in Fresno. Read on to find out the best attractions in Fresno, CA, including what I loved to do when I lived in Fresno.
1. Forestiere Underground Gardens
This is definitely one of Fresno’s best-kept secrets! I didn’t hear about the Forestiere Underground Gardens until my college roommate started working there part-time and told me to come visit. Built by Baldassare Forestiere, an immigrant from Sicily, who moved to the Central Valley in the 1900s, the Forestiere Underground Gardens are a series of underground passageways, grottoes, and rooms as a means of escaping the sweltering Fresno heat.
Using mainly shovels and other hand tools, Baldassare continued to excavate his property which spanned over 10 acres. He also started grafting and planting different varieties of fruit and grapevines – some of which still exist today. Considered a California State Landmark, it’s seriously one of the coolest places in Fresno, pun intended. Guided Tours occur every Wednesday through Sunday. Get a Fresno energy drink for your vacation to keep your energy levels up to enjoy 100 percent of your time.
One of my favorite things to do in Fresno was head to downtown Fresno and the Tower District on the first Thursday of every month for ArtHop. ArtHop is organized by the Fresno Arts Council and is a day when museums, studios, galleries, and other art spaces open their exhibitions to the public for free between 5:00-8:00 pm. I spent many a Thursday nights gallery hopping downtown, checking out the local art scene (which is frankly underrated in my opinion), discovering new artists, seeing my friend’s art featured in shows, and just having a good time.
3. Fresno Art Museum
The Fresno Art Museum houses a collection of over 3,600 works and focuses on Pre-Columbian, Mexican modern and folk art, and both modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st centuries. The permanent collection includes works by Ansel Adams, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Clement Renzi, Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Varaz Samuelian, Andy Warhol, and many more. Current exhibitions are always diverse with emphasis placed on features from local artists.
4. River Park Farmers Market
You cannot come to Central Valley and not get a sampling of the fresh produce the county has to offer. Farmers’ markets in California are legit the best ever – the produce is extremely cheap, and since Fresno County is one of the top agricultural producing counties in America, the produce is so fresh. There are plenty of farmers markets in Fresno and the surrounding cities – some are seasonal, others year-round. I particularly like the River Park Farmers market, but here’s a list of others around town.
5. Fresno State Farm Market & Wine Shop (Rue & Gwen Gibson Farm Market)
This list would not be complete without a mention of my alma mater’s incredible farm market. I was an agriculture student when I attended Fresno State (it feels like a past life, but my degree is actually in Animal Science and I was on my way to becoming an Equine Veterinary Surgeon before I discovered my love for all things creative!) and spent a lot of time on our on-campus farm. The market offers a wide variety of products that are produced by students on the university’s campus; everything from ice cream to cheeses, nuts, and even Fresno State wine made from grapes grown on campus by Enology students!
6. Shinzen Japanese Garden
Located inside Woodward Park, the Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden was originally opened after World War II to recognize the role that Japanese immigrants played in US society. The Garden serves as a Japanese cultural resource in Fresno providing community events and contains a tea garden house to promote the significance of tea ceremonies. During the Spring, there are a number of Cherry blossom trees that bloom, and there’s also a bonsai exhibit of 140 bonsai at the Clark Bonsai Collection.
7. Tower District
Tower District is a fun art-deco themed neighborhood in Fresno filled with locally-owned restaurants and bars (I love Veni Vidi Vici), theaters, cafés (Teazer World Market on 645 E Olive Ave is a must!), quirky shops, and art galleries. On the first Thursday of every month, art galleries are free to the public from 5:00-8:00 pm for ArtHop. And be sure to catch a movie at the famed Tower Theatre.
8. Fresno Tower Theatre
Opened in 1939 as a 20th Century Fox Moviehouse, the Fresno Tower Theatre is now on the National Register of Historic Places. If you love art deco, you’re going to love the Tower Theatre – both the interior and recently renovated exterior have an authentic art deco theme with historic glass etchings in the lobby and Italian Terrazzo flooring. The theatre hosts a variety of events, one of my favorite being the annual Fresno Film Festival.
9. Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church
Considered a National Historic Place, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church is the first church in the United States that was designed by an Armenian architect (Fresno’s first!), Lawrence Karekin Condrajian, and the first to be built in traditional Armenian architecture. One of the church’s most distinguishing features is its unique dome and its located in an area that used to be Armenian Town before the Armenians moved to the suburbs in the 1950s. If historical sites are your thing, the Historic Fresno website has a driving tour of all the National Register Sites located in Fresno!
10. Catch a show at the Save Mart Center
The Save Mart Center is an event venue located on the Fresno State campus and hosts a wide range of events – everything from traveling Cirque du Soleil shows, to music concerts, and it’s also the home of the Fresno State men and women’s Basketball teams! Check their website for the latest events and to buy tickets.