Fresno is located in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It’s in the dead center of the state, almost directly between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The position of Fresno makes it a prime stopping spot for California road trippers, but it’s fast becoming a destination in its own right, with lots of awesome things to do on offer.

Although it’s not close to the ocean, towering mountains outline the city and Yosemite National Park is only a one-hour drive away. Fresno is the fifth-largest city in California. It has a large population, but a small-town feel and a very low-key California vibe. It offers an eclectic mix of attractions, from tranquil parks to chic shopping centers to fascinating historical landmarks.

If you’re planning a trip to this central valley city, here are the top things to do in Fresno!

Top Things to Do in Fresno

This central valley city offers a great variety of entertainment attractions. Whether it’s days spent outdoors, culinary delights, or something more exhilarating you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone. Here is our pick of the top 6 Fresno, California points of interest.

1. Explore the City’s Top Outdoor Shopping Center

Riverpark Shopping Center Fresno
source: NeoBatfreak (wikicommons)

Riverpark Shopping Center is one of the top Fresno attractions. This sprawling outdoor shopping mall has something for everyone. You’ll find numerous stores, from regional shopping outlets to local boutiques.

On the food front, there are many restaurants offering a range of cuisines, from casual to high-end dining. From Lebanese to steak houses, you won’t be short on options. There is also a large cinema, complete with several IMAX screens.

This shopping mall also caters to kids. There is a large outdoor play area next to the movie theater filled with fun and imaginative kids toys and equipment. Right across from the play area there is a candy store and arcade!

2. Spend Some Time Outdoors at the Woodward Regional Park

Spend Some Time Outside
A great place to unwind and enjoy some of Californias outstanding natural beauty | source: Nightryder84 (wikimedia commons)

Woodward Regional Park is the largest park in Fresno. Inside, you’ll find walking/jogging trails, picnic tables, a pond, plenty of large grassy areas, and several playgrounds. The entrance into the park is USD $5.00 per vehicle. There are toilet facilities and drinking fountains in the park.

The top attraction inside the park is the Shinzen Friendship Garden. This 5-acre garden was built by the local Japanese-American community. It portrays the intricate beauty of Japanese landscaping.

Inside you’ll find a large koi pond, several resident peacocks, quiet reflecting ponds, over 100 bonsai trees, and much more. It’s well kept and provides a relaxing and peaceful area to relax.

The entrance into the Japanese Garden is USD $5.00 for adults and USD $1.00 for children.

FIRST TIME IN FRESNO

North Fresno/ Shaw Avenue

The best areas of the city to stay in are found in north Fresno. Shaw Avenue is the city’s central vein and a great marker to use when looking for accommodation. Anything on Shaw Avenue or north of Shaw Avenue is a safe bet.

Places to visit:
  • Shop until you drop at the River Park Shopping Center
  • Catch a Women Basketball game at Savemart Center
  • Visit the Fig Garden Village

3. Enjoy a Great American Pastime

Enjoy a Great American Pastime
Experience the great American pass-time, and maybe make some new friends along the way. Hotdog’s aren’t mandatory, but highly recommended | source: Ken Lund (flickr)

The Fresno Grizzlies are the minor league baseball team of Fresno. If you’re a sports fan trying to decide what to do in Fresno, go see and game and join the locals in cheering on the home team. Baseball games provide the perfect social atmosphere.

The ballpark is clean and well-maintained. There is a new water play area, perfect for kids on hot summer days. The concessions have a wide variety of food and drinks available for purchase.

All around, the cost is very reasonable and easy on family budgets. For great entertainment, go see a Fresno Grizzly game!

4. Check Out the Local Craft Beer Scene

Check Out the Local Craft Beer Scene
America is in the midst of a craft beer epidemic at the moment. Wet your whistle with some grat local offerings. | source: jass (flickr)

Head to a craft brewery in Fresno and mingle with the locals. You’ll find several microbreweries around town that offer a relaxing and chilled-out experience.

Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company Beer Garden has a wide beer selection that changes regularly. This brewery has a very social atmosphere. There are games you can enjoy with your friends, such as foosball and corn hole. Food trucks are usually set up out front and events are regularly hosted.

Pine & Palm Brewery is another great option. This small brewery has an inviting atmosphere and offers a rotating selection of craft beer on tap. On the weekends, there is usually a vegan food stand in front of the brewery that sells “I can’t believe this is vegan,’ plant-based junk food!

5. Indulge in Mouth-Watering Mexican Cuisine

Indulge in Mouth-Watering Mexican Cuisine
You can find some of the freshest, most authentic offerings north of the border in Fresno. | source: T.Tseng (flickr)

Fresno has a strong Mexican influence that makes for out-of-this-world cuisine. You’ll find lots of local Mexican restaurants throughout the city.

For a casual margarita and the best salsa you’ve ever tasted, head into Bobby Salazars. This Fresno based franchise provides a relaxed atmosphere and great Mexican food. Their salsa is so popular it’s sold in grocery stores throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

For something a little homier, head to Castillo’s Mexican Food. This family-run restaurant serves mouth-watering, authentic Mexican dishes and has a great selection of flavored margaritas.

6. Discover a Casual Side of the City

Casual Side of the City Fresno

Fig Garden Village is another outdoor shopping mall in Fresno that has a more up-market feel. This area has a casual vibe and is usually less touristy. You’ll get a real local perspective of the city.

If offers an attractive mix of national, regional and local retailers. There are also plenty of places to sit down and enjoy a meal from a low-key local restaurant.

For sushi and cocktails, head to Wasabi Off the Hook. This Japanese restaurant provides the perfect atmosphere for relaxing with friends. For coffee and pastries, head to La Boulangerie De France. This quaint cafe has outdoor seating and a very delectable range of coffee drinks and pastries.

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Unusual Things to Do in Fresno

Are you looking for a few unique attractions to mix up your trip? Here are the most fun and unusual Fresno activities that should be on your travel bucket list!

7. Explore the Underground Gardens

Explore the Underground Gardens
This one of a kind garden complex is a marvelous experience, the whole space feels like an immersive sculpture. | source: Scott Harrison (flickr)

The Forestiere Underground Gardens are a series of subterranean structures built over a period of 40 years from 1906 until 1946. This is a true hidden gem in Fresno!

This underground world was the dream of one man, Baldassare Forestiere. He was a Sicilian immigrant who came to America in 1901. He crafted a secret complex of caves and gardens using the local hardpan sedimentary rock.

Baldassare was a self-taught artist who drew inspiration for his underground world from ancient catacombs near his home town in Sicily. Each element was created in Baldassare’s mind as he worked.

One of the most unique places to go in Fresno, this underground complex is located at West Shaw Avenue. It is open every day except for Tuesdays.

8. Enjoy a Meal at an Artistic Restaurant

Enjoy a Meal at an Artistic Restaurant
This local bohemian eatery is the hub of Fresno’s culinary and musical scenes. | source: jeffreyw (flickr)

The Starving Artists Bistro is a restaurant that showcases Fresno’s artists, musicians, and cuisine. The menu reflects the creativity and local flavor of the city. The decor found inside the restaurant is made by local artists and is available for purchase should you feel a connection to one of the pieces.

For entertainment, the restaurant regularly hosts local and regional talent. They also have an open mic policy. Performers are welcome to jump on stage and perform for the audience when their regular acts aren’t scheduled.

This is a unique restaurant that provides more than just a place to eat!

9. Visit a Historic Victorian Home

Visit a Historic Victorian Home
Step back in time with this lavish and perfectly preserved window into victorian Americana. source: Ben Phillips (flickr)

The Meux Home Museum is an 1800s Victorian mansion. It is complete with period furniture, decor, and a scenic garden. Visit this house and admire the best in art and architecture from the Victorian Age.

There are 16 rooms to explore and they are just as lavish and grand today as they were in the 1800s. The house is very well preserved and visiting the grounds is both educational and entertaining. There are docents there to answer all your questions and explain the history of the house.

Safety in Fresno

Fresno is generally a safe city to visit. There are certain areas you’ll want to avoid, but these areas aren’t in the touristy areas of the city. The neighborhoods close to Clovis and the north part of the city are considered the safest. Areas to be avoided include Downtown, Edison, and Central Fresno.

The public transportation in Fresno isn’t frequented by tourists. It’s generally used by the city’s lower-income residents and does not have a high level of quality or comfort. If you’re not traveling by car, the ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are commonly used and will safely transport you from one location to the next.

Lastly, the heat in Fresno is no joke. During the summer months, the temperatures generally hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always carry water with you and keep hydrated. Luckily, almost all the buildings in Fresno are air-conditioned and the city offers many indoor attractions! Check out our roundup of the best travel insurance.

Things to Do in Fresno at Night

Fresno doesn’t have a huge nightlife scene, but you’ll still have a few great options for going out. The locals are a warm and welcoming bunch, and if you’re looking to relax with some refreshing libations there’s a good chance you’ll make some fast friends, Here are some fun things to do in Fresno tonight!

10. Enjoy an Entertaining Evening at the Savemart Center

Enjoy an Entertaining Evening at the Savemart Center
There’s always something going on the Savemart Center, which attracts A list acts from around the world | source: David Prasad (flickr)

The Savemart Center is a multi-purpose arena that hosts a number of exciting events throughout the year. From the top A-list musicians to athletic events, you’ll find a great selection of options. Given Fresno’s located in the center of California, the Savemart center serves as a convenient middle ground for musicians.

Past acts have included Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and many other household names. Check their online calendar before you visit to see their full list of performers.

11. Party in the Tower District

Party in the Tower District
Between its thriving LGBTQ and live music scenes, you’ll never be short of options when it comes to late-night adventures. | source: David Prasad (flickr)

The Tower District is Fresno’s exciting dining, arts, and entertainment district. It has a unique blend of cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, galleries, and more! There are lots of nighttime attractions you can choose from.

Dine at a local restaurant, visit a bar with live music, or dance the night away at a club. If you’re in the mood to see a show, check out the historic Tower District Theater. For dancing and drinks, head to Strummers Bar and Grill for a casual night out on the town.

Where to Stay in Fresno

Best Airbnb in Fresno – Del Mar Studio

Del Mar Studio

At this Fresno Airbnb, you’ll have the entire north side of the house to yourself. It offers a large space with a queen-sized bed as well as a living area. The room can also accommodate 4 people with the queen-sized air mattress the host provides.

You’ll have your own private bathroom, a large TV with cable and Netflix, a mini kitchen area, and more!

Best Hotel in Fresno – Days Inn by Wyndham Yosemite Area

Days Inn by Wyndham Yosemite Area

This Fresno hotel offers loads of great perks. It’s conveniently located right off Highway 41, so you’ll be in a prime location for exploring the city. There is free parking and a free buffet breakfast available every morning. There are also plenty of places to eat and shop nearby. Rooms are modern and spacious and include a flat-screen TV, coffee/tea maker, and more!

Romantic Things to Do in Fresno

Vacation is a great time to arouse some romance! If you’re planning a trip with your significant other, there’s a host of quite and secluded spots which can be the setting for your romantic escapades. Here are the best things to do in Fresno, California for couples.

12. Visit a Nearby Winery

Visit a Nearby Winery
Walking around the vineyard and sampling some amazing new-world wines is a great way to get the sparks flying. | source:David Prasad (flickr)

The central valley is California’s largest wine region. Fresno’s location is very conducive to agriculture. You’ll find a great selection of wineries spread through the city.

Ziveli Winery has a wonderful atmosphere and a delicious range of wines. Their tasting room is located inside a rustic barn. Enjoy a tasting and savor the romance of the picturesque California vineyards. You can also challenge your significant other to a game of cornhole, a traditional American lawn game, if you’ve got some scores to settle.

Every Saturday and Sunday they offer brick oven artisan pizza to enjoy with your drinks. If you’re looking for fun places in Fresno for couples, a winery is a great option.

13. Enjoy the Peacefulness of Millerton Lake

Enjoy the Peacefulness of Millerton Lake
Bring a blanket, picnic, and portable speaker for a great pop-up date! | source: David Prasad (flickr)

Millerton Lake is an artificial lake about 15 miles outside of Fresno. Its location from the city makes it the perfect place to do some scenic Fresno sightseeing. There are plenty of places to have a barbecue or enjoy a picnic.

Activities wise, you can hike around the lake, enjoy a refreshing swim, or rent a boat! Visiting the lake is one of the best Fresno things to do during summer. The mild lake water is especially refreshing on the hot summer days.

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Best Free Things to Do in Fresno

Traveling on a budget? Here are our suggestions for some fun in Fresno that won’t break the bank.

14. Wander Around Old Town Clovis

Old Town Clovis, Fresno
Clovis is a captivating small town that has done a great job of preserving the old school small-town vibe. | source: David Prasad (Flickr)

Old Town Clovis is located in Fresno county. It’s a neighboring community with a more rustic country feel. If you’re looking for things to do near Fresno, this quint area is a must-visit!

Spend some time walking around and checking out the local antique stores, boutiques, bars, and more. For a casual coffee, head to Kuppa Joy Coffee House. This popular cafe has a welcoming atmosphere and a great selection of coffee drinks, pastries, and light meals. If you’re lucky enough to be here in the right season, there’s a great farmers market to explore.

If you’re visiting in the evening, head to the Old Town Saloon. Grab a cold beer, shoot some pool, and hang out with the locals.

15. Take a Scenic Drive Along the Blossom Trail

Take a Scenic Drive
There’s no better way to explore America than going full Kerouac and hitting the open road. | source: Malgorzata Litkowska (shutterstock)

The Blossom Trail is one of the most scenic Fresno tourist attractions. Take a drive and marvel at the unobscured views of orchards full of fruit trees! The best place to start your trip is at Simonian Farms.

This fruit stand has been in operation since 1901. Pick up a Blossom Trail driving map and a few bags of nuts and fruit for the drive. See white almond blossoms and plum blossoms, pink apricot blossoms, and much more. The blossom season in Fresno is in February and March, making this the ideal time to take the drive.

If you’re not visiting during these two months, the orchards are still beautiful throughout the year!

Books to Read in Fresno

The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.

Sometimes a Great Notion – A tale of a hardheaded Oregonian logging family that goes on strike, leading the town to drama and tragedy. Written by PNW legend, Ken Kesey.

Walden – The transcendental masterpiece by Henry David Thoreau that helped modern Americans rediscover their relationship with her outstanding natural beauty.

To Have and To Have Not – A family man gets involved with the drug smuggling business in the Key West and ends up in a strange affair. Written by the great Ernest Hemingway.

Things to Do with Kids in Fresno

There’s a whole heap of incredible hikes and drives you can make your way to using Fresno as your base, but if you’re looking for some great ways to keep the kids occupied without traveling so far afield, check out these awesome days out that’ll be sure to keep the kids beaming all day!

16. Enjoy a Day of Family Fun

Enjoy a Day of Family Fun
Carnival rides and water slides will make for a day full of laughter and smiles. | source: Sugarcaddy (wikimedia commons)

Blackbeard’s Family Entertainment is a family recreation center that is sure to provide plenty of family-fun. They offer loads of attractions, from mini-golf to go-kart tracks to arcade games, and much more!

Enjoy over 16 acres of inside and outside entertainment, including carnival-style rides and water slides. There’s something for everyone and will easily keep your family amused all day. Blackbeard’s is open every day for long hours.

There is also a snack bar that serves a basic menu of burgers, fries, hot-dogs, pizza, and drinks.

17. See a Diverse Selection of Animals at the Chaffee Zoo

See a Diverse Selection of Animals
Conservation and education are at the forefront of any visit to Chaffee Zoo. source: Flyfresno (wikicommons)

The Fresno Chaffee Zoo covers an area of 39 acres and houses over 190 species. It provides plenty of attractions and activities geared toward children.

They can go on a dino dig and excavate dinosaurs and fossils. At the African Adventure section of the zoo, they’ll see a pride of lions, a family herd of African elephants, cheetahs, white rhinos, and much more! At stingray bay, they’ll get a real personal experience petting and feeding the stingrays.

There are two dining options at the zoo and guests are also welcome to bring their own outside food and drink. This is one of the best places in Fresno for kids. They’ll love learning about the different species and seeing all their favorite animals up-close.

Day Trips From Fresno

Visit the Majestic Yosemite National Park

Visit the Majestic Yosemite National Park
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the southwests natural beauty, you’d be remiss to skip over a visit to Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park is a national treasure. The entrance to the park is just one hour outside of Fresno, making it the ideal destination for a day trip! Visit Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.

Hike the countless park trails and take in the beauty of your surroundings. Explore the meadows facing El Capitan and see the rock climbers conquering the imposing stone walls. There are many areas of the park to explore, and hiking trails for all skill levels.

If you’re a nature lover, this is the perfect activity for you!

Explore a Small California Mountain Town

Small California Mountain Town Fresno
Shaver lake has that winning combination of charming small-town atmosphere and pristine natural beauty.

Shaver Lake is about a one hour drive from Fresno. Take a scenic ride through the foothills of the central valley and explore this quaint mountain town. The road up is a bit windy, but it’s easy to navigate and will provide you with great views of the central valley floor.

Start your trip by exploring the main street in Shaver Lake. Check out the local shops and stop for a bite to eat at a rustic American diner. Once you’ve finished exploring the main road, continue your drive about 20 minutes to shimmering Shaver Lake.

Enjoy a relaxing nature retreat. Explore a hiking trail, take a refreshing dip in the water, or just relax and admire the tall trees and pristine water that surrounds you. Shaver Lake is one of the most picturesque places to visit near Fresno!

3 Day Itinerary in Fresno

Day 1 – Explore the Local History and Culture of Fresno

Start your first day in Fresno at the Meux Home Museum. See this beautiful Victorian Mansion and learn some interesting facts about the local history of Fresno. When you’re done, drive about 12 minutes to River Park Shopping Center. Spend some time wandering the stores and head into a local restaurant for lunch.

Explore the Local History and Culture of Fresno
source: Leon Rafael (shutterstock)

If you’re in the mood for something casual, the Broilers restaurant makes the best gyros in town. For a sit down with a fun atmosphere, head to Me-n-Ed’s Coney Island Grill. If you’re visiting River Park on a Tuesday or Saturday make sure to check out the local farmers market.

After you’re done exploring River Park, jump in the car for about five minutes and head to Pine & Palm Brewing Company. Mingle with the locals in this intimate venue and enjoy some craft beer on tap. For dinner, drive about 15 minutes to Castillo’s Mexican Restaurant.

Cap off your night with authentic Mexican food and margaritas!

Day 2 – Check Out the City’s Shopping and Dining Scene

Start your day at Forestiere Underground Gardens. Admire the underground system of caves and gardens and see a unique side of the city. When you’re done, drive about 20 minutes to Old Town Clovis.

Walk around this quaint street and check out the local boutiques and antique stores. For lunch, head to Di Ciccio’s for Italian food. Or, if you’re in the mood for more Mexican, stop into Bobby Salazars. Both of these restaurants are located in Old Town Clovis.

Check Out the City’s Shopping and Dining Scene
source: RichardHarrison (wikimedia commons)

When you’re finished, drive about 15 minutes to Fig Garden Village. Take in the chic side of the city. Do some window shopping at American high-end realtors and scope out the local boutiques. Finish your day with cocktails and sushi.

Or, drive about eight minutes to The Other Bar to play some pool and experience Fresno’s local bar scene!

Day 3 – Admire the Local Scenery and Sites

Start your morning at Woodward Park. Wander around and explore this outdoor oasis. Make sure to visit the Shinzen Friendship Garden. Keep your camera ready, this section of the park is beautifully and ornately decorated which makes for great photo opportunities.

When you’re finished, you’ll be right across the street from the Starving Artist Bistro. Stop in for a meal and check out the unique decor. The restaurant offers outdoor seating, but if there’s live music playing we suggest you sit inside!

Admire the Local Scenery and Sites
So much of the Fresno region still evokes the charm of early 20th century Americana. | source: RichardHarrison (wikimedia commons)

Next, drive about 20 minutes to the Tower District. Spend the rest of your day exploring this trendy and bohemian area of Fresno. Have a coffee at a local cafe, check out an art gallery, and shop at the local retailers.

If you’re in the mood to see a show, make sure to stop by the historic Tower Theater to experience Fresno’s performing arts culture.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our list of the most fun things to do in Fresno, California.

The city’s location in the middle of the state makes it an ideal stopping point between SF and LA on a road trip through California. Whether you’re planning a quick stopover or staying for a few days, you’ll find there are plenty of activities to enjoy during your visit.

Fresno has a more laid-back vibe compared to other big California cities; this can be very appealing to visitors. From sprawling shopping centers to tranquil gardens to family entertainment venues, there’s something for everyone!


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