The words “best things to do in Fresno” aren’t exactly a common phrase on the lips of seasoned travellers. But if for some reason you’re passing by, then these are my handpicked shouts.
Often overshadowed by California’s coastal cities it emerged from the gold rush era as a key agricultural centre in the heart of the Central Valley.
Common misconceptions about Fresno include it being purely agricultural and lacking in any cultural diversity or character.
In reality, Fresno hosts Armenian and Hmong communities and has a decent list of options for passers-by with an open mind.
Explore Forestiere Underground Gardens
Created by Baldassare Forestiere over 40 years ago, these underground gardens are a testament to his dedication.
As you explore, you’ll discover a network of underground rooms, courtyards, and passageways, all intricately designed with natural light and ventilation. The gardens feature a variety of fruit-bearing plants and vines, some of which are over a century old.
This hidden gem provides a cool retreat from the brutal Fresno heat and a glimpse into a world crafted with passion and perseverance.
Wander The Fresno Blossom Trail
Move over Tokyo and Kyoyo, Fresno is now the champion of seasonal pink blooms, heaven help your GDP, Japan.
Ok, not quite but take a look at it yourself and tell me it’s not a beauty!
Each spring, the famous Fresno Blossom trail comes alive with vibrant blossoms from fruit trees, painting the landscape in shades of pink, white, and lavender.
The trail, which runs through orchards in the Fresno County countryside, offers a peaceful escape from the sun with the shade from the trees and a chance to witness the area’s annual agricultural bounty.
Relax at Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden
The Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden, nestled in Fresno’s Woodward Park, is an oasis that invites visitors to unwind and connect with nature. This garden, symbolising the friendship between Fresno and its sister city Kochi in Japan, is a harmonious blend of Japanese landscape design and Central Valley flora.
Stepping into this tranquil space, you’re greeted by traditional elements like koi ponds, ornate bridges, and carefully curated bonsai collections.
The garden’s layout is influenced by the four seasons, offering a dynamic and ever-changing beauty throughout the year. It’s a perfect spot for quiet reflection, enjoying the art of nature, and appreciating a unique cultural fusion.
Discover Downtown’s Mural District
Discovering Downtown’s Mural District in Fresno is an immersive journey into a vibrant world of street art… if that’s your kind of thing.
This area serves as a canvas for artists, both local and international, showcasing a diverse array of murals that brighten the city’s urban landscape. As you wander through the district, you’ll encounter an eclectic mix of artistic styles, each telling its own story and adding unique character to the city.
This self-guided tour not only offers a feast for the eyes but also provides insight into the cultural and social narratives of Fresno. The Mural District is a testament to Fresno’s thriving arts scene and the power of public art to transform spaces instead of letting them turn into a wasteland or another KFC.
Experience Fresno Art Hop
Another shout for all you hipsters who pretend to deeply understand modern art in all forms and who will argue that this is the coolest of things to do in Fresno.
This event, held on the first Thursday of each month, transforms downtown Fresno into a vibrant art scene. Galleries, studios, and other venues open their doors to the public, showcasing an array of local artworks.
It’s a lively, community-driven event where visitors can interact with artists, enjoy live performances, and witness the creative pulse of the city.
Cheer at a Fresno Grizzlies Game
As the city’s beloved minor league baseball team, the Grizzlies games are known for their lively atmosphere and again, local community spirit.
Attending a game at Chukchansi Park is not just about baseball; it’s about enjoying a quintessential American pastime in a friendly, energetic setting as fans get to witness budding talents, enjoy classic ballpark snacks, and participate in fun between-innings entertainment.
Whether you’re a hardcore baseball nerd, or looking for a fun evening out, a Fresno Grizzlies game promises a memorable experience mainly for the atmosphere alone.
Support Fresno FC at a Soccer Match
Fresno FC, affectionately known as “The Zorros,” has a relatively recent but impactful history in the United Soccer League.
Established in 2017, the team quickly became a symbol of pride for Fresno’s sports community.
Attending their matches offers a glimpse into the evolving footy culture in Fresno, where (just like the baseball games) the spirit of the game and community support converge to create an exciting match-day atmosphere for the local minor league Zorros.
Enjoy the Fresno Audio Drive Tour
The Fresno Audio Drive Tour offers a unique way to explore the city’s rich history and landmarks from the comfort of your vehicle. This self-guided tour provides a narrated journey through Fresno, highlighting significant locations and sharing stories that bring the city’s past and present to life.
Participants can expect an engaging and educational experience, delving into various aspects of Fresno’s cultural and architectural heritage, an ideal activity for those who prefer a more personal, at-your-own-pace exploration of the city.
These narratives might include tales about the city’s founding, its growth as an agricultural hub, and its cultural evolution.
Listeners can expect to hear about historic events, influential personalities, and landmark developments that have shaped Fresno. For example, stories may delve into the impact of the Gold Rush era, the significance of the Central Valley in California’s economy, or the diverse cultural communities that contribute to the city’s rich tapestry. Such stories provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of Fresno’s past and present.
Stargaze at Downing Planetarium
Stargazing at Downing Planetarium offers an enchanting experience for astronomy enthusiasts and families alike. Located on the California State University, Fresno campus, the planetarium provides an immersive journey into the wonders of the universe.
Visitors can marvel at the star-studded skies in the planetarium’s state-of-the-art theatre, where high-quality projections bring celestial phenomena to life.
The shows are educational, exploring cosmic mysteries and the latest discoveries in space science.
Embark on a Hike at Lewis S. Eaton Trail
In the Fresno area, one of the established trails known for its stunning viewpoints is the Lewis S. Eaton Trail. This trail, part of the larger San Joaquin River Parkway, offers panoramic views of the river and surrounding landscapes.
The Eaton Trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of various skill levels, making it a popular choice for both locals and visitors. As you walk along the trail, you’ll be treated to picturesque scenes of the river, bluffs, and diverse wildlife, providing a perfect backdrop for a leisurely hike or a photo opportunity.
The typical duration for hiking the Lewis S. Eaton Trail varies depending on the specific route and pace of the hiker. Generally, it’s a trail that can be tailored to your schedule, allowing for shorter walks or longer hikes. Some people might spend just an hour or two walking a portion of the trail, while others might choose to spend a half-day or more exploring longer stretches.
Visit Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church
Completed in 1914, this church is one of the earliest Armenian churches in the U.S. and the first to feature traditional Armenian architecture. It signifies the early settlement of Armenians in Fresno during the 1870s.
The church, originally a simple wooden structure, evolved into its current form after the first building was destroyed in a fire, standing as a testament to the Armenian community’s resilience and faith, becoming the first Armenian church in the U.S. built with traditional Armenian church architecture. Today, it’s a key historical and cultural site in Fresno, reflecting the city’s rich Armenian heritage.
Shop at Old Town Clovis Farmers Market
Shopping at the Old Town Clovis Farmers Market is a fun option for anyone looking to explore the local flavours and crafts of Fresno or to take home a bit of culinary Fresno with you.
Nestled in the agriculturally rich Central Valley, this market boasts an amazing array of fresh, peak-flavor produce, sourced directly from nearby growers.
The vibrant atmosphere is enhanced by live music and food selections from local artists and foodies.
Visitors can enjoy a diverse range of products, including fresh fruits, vegetables, pastries, and unique local crafts. The market operates year-round on Saturday mornings and also hosts a special evening market during the summer months.
Day Trip To Yosemite National Park
Yosemite, renowned for its stunning natural beauty, is about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Fresno.
The park is famous for its towering granite cliffs, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife where visitors can enjoy scenic drives, hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, and iconic landmarks like El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
Yosemite National Park stands out among U.S. national parks due to its unique geological features and diverse ecosystems and it is also home to some of the tallest waterfalls in North America, including the famous Yosemite Falls, and iconic granite cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome.
Watch Monster Jam at Save Mart Center
An unsung hero of things to do in Fresno.
The Save Mart Center in Fresno hosts Monster Jam, an action-packed motorsports experience. This event features world-class drivers competing in speed and skill contests with 12,000-pound monster trucks capable of incredible feats like backflips and high-speed racing.
The Monster Jam event offers a chance to see these massive trucks up close and meet the drivers. It’s a family-friendly event that combines high-energy motorsports action with entertainment, making it one of the most unique things to do in Fresno and at the Save Mart Center.
Try Your Hand at Bad Axe Throwing
Throwing axes with permission, under the safe guidance of trained instructors is not endemic to the city of Fresno… but it’s a whole lot of fun!
I have done this all over the world and it never gets boring. Most places are rightly strict and I’ve seen stag parties of lads turned away for being under the influence of drink, so take heed or you may get rejected at the door or worse need to find a Fresno injury lawyer on your travels.
Participate in Hmong New Year Celebrations
The Hmong community in Fresno has a significant history that began with their migration to the United States after the Vietnam War.
Fresno, along with Minneapolis/St. Paul hosts one of the largest urban Hmong communities in the U.S. The first Hmong family arrived in Fresno in 1977, and by 1982, the population had grown to about 12,000.
Many initially lived in public housing and faced challenges due to language barriers and adapting to a new environment. Over time, they have become an integral part of Fresno’s cultural fabric, contributing to the local economy, politics, and community life.
These celebrations are significant annual events for the Hmong community all over the world, showcasing traditional dances, music, and colourful attire. It’s an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the Hmong culture, history, and traditions which makes it by far one of the most interesting things to do in Fresno.