The 67-mile Blossom Trail offers arguably the best look at what makes the Fresno area unique, with a plunge into some of the most productive agricultural land in the world. The annual Blossom Trail kickoff comes each February, and motorists and hikers through the farm country can come upon stunning displays of blossoming peach, nectarine, plum, orange, and almond trees in full bloom. The family-run Simonian Farms at the end of the trail cultivate more than one hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables and can be toured via a hay wagon.
Fresno is less than an hour away from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and three of the nation's most popular national parks. Yosemite, King's Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks offer spectacular canyons, waterfalls, and forests of 4,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees and giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world.
Downtown Fresno offers the Fulton Mall, a beautiful area of stores, restaurants, landscaped grounds, fountains, and sculpture that covers a ten-block area. It contains one of the finest collections of public art in the nation, arranged throughout the central business district. Roeding Park, two miles northwest of the downtown area, contains the Fresno Zoo, the third largest in California; Rotary Playground, a mechanical park for children; Chaffee Zoological Gardens; and Storyland, offering display and walk-through depictions of children's stories.
The William Saroyan Theater is the cultural center of Fresno. Luxurious seating for 2,300 people and near-perfect acoustics highlight the theater, home to the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Fresno Ballet and site of many cultural events throughout the year. Other venues for the performing arts are the Good Company Players Second Space Theatre, presenting comedy and drama; Roger Rocka's Dinner Theatre; historic Tower Theatre, presenting touring performers; Theatre Three, presenting eight varied performances annually in a 107-seat facility; and Warnors Theatre.
The Fresno City and County Historical Society operates the Kearney Mansion and Fort Miller Blockhouse, two historical museums, extensive archives on the history of Fresno, and tours of the city's historic buildings. Meux Home, a restored historical structure in downtown Fresno, features a number of exhibits relating to the region's history, displayed on a rotating basis. Architecture buffs might wish to contemplate the futuristic design of the City Hall, located near the historic district containing Meux Home and St. John's Cathedral.
The Discovery Center is a hands-on science museum and outdoor education center; it features Native American exhibits, a cactus garden, worm farms, ponds, and a greenhouse.
The Fresno Art Museum is the only modern art museum between San Francisco and Los Angeles and has three main galleries, an exhibition concourse, and a unique "Child-space"; it offers art classes for adults and children. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Science, and History contains collections of European still lifes, tromp l'oeil oil paintings, and exhibits focusing on the cultural heritage of Central California, including exhibits dedicated to author and Fresno native William Saroyan.
Arts and Culture Information: City of Fresno Cultural Arts Office, telephone (559)498-1181
Fresno schedules a number of special cultural and ethnic events throughout the year. A variety of activities are planned by communities along the Blossom Trail to coincide with the peak growing season, beginning in late February or early March. A Renaissance Festival is held annually in March on the campus of Fresno City College. The Bob Matthias Fresno Relays take place every spring, as they have for more than 75 years. Beginning each June there are biweekly free concerts in Woodward Park. July brings the Obon Odori Festival, a Japanese carnival of crafts, games, food, music, and dance. The High Sierra Regatta at Huntington Lake is a prestigious yachting event held on two consecutive weekends in July. The Big Fresno Fair happens at the Fairgrounds in October.
The Fresno Grizzlies, a Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, play baseball at the new downtown ballpark, Grizzlies Stadium. The Central Valley Coyotes play professional Arena Football at 11,000-seat Selland Arena. Minor League hockey can be seen with the Fresno Falcons at the new Save Mart Center, and the Fresno Heatwave play ABA pro basketball at Selland Arena. The Fresno State University Bulldogs play basketball at Selland Arena and football at Bulldog Stadium. Men's baseball and women's softball teams compete at Beiden Field.
A number of area lakes and reservoirs provide a full range of water recreation in the immediate Fresno area. But with three of America's great national parks within a 90-minute drive, Fresno offers arguably the greatest range of recreational options of any large metropolitan area in the U.S. Nearby Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and Death Valley National Parks offer flat, scorching desert vistas to high mountain streams and skiing, and everything in between. The numerous streams and rivers in the area offer some of California's finest trout and largemouth bass fishing, as well as rafting and canoeing. The hills and nearby mountains contain many campsites and hiking trails; snow skiing is less than 90 minutes away at Sierra Summit, while Lake Tahoe is just a bit further in the Sierra Nevada range.
More than 2,000 children age 3-12 play on 175 teams in the sports of baseball, basketball, and football, and participate in karate lessons. The city of Fresno operates 3 major regional parks, including the highly popular Chaffee Zoo, as well as 27 playgrounds and community centers, 14 swimming pools, 3 eighteen-hole golf courses, and tennis courts. There are 5 additional public golf courses in the immediate Fresno area.
Fulton Mall, a popular sightseeing spot, is the major shopping complex in Fresno's downtown area. Other important shopping centers are the Fashion Fair Mall and Manchester Mall. The Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis contains several large retail outlets and a number of smaller specialty shops. Numerous smaller centers and antique shops are spread throughout the city. Of unique interest is the international gift shop in the Mennonite Quilting Center in downtown Reedley.
More than 500 restaurants in Fresno, many housed in historic buildings, offer a wide selection of dining experiences for every taste and price range, including hearty regional and western dishes, Mexican specialties, and European and international cuisines.
Visitor Information: Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau, 808 M Street, Fresno, CA 93721; telephone (559)233-0836; toll-free (800)788-0836; fax (559)445-0122; email TourFresno@aol.com