Fresno is located in the fertile San Joaquin Valley with a population is 520,159 making it the fifth largest city in California. From the agricultural fields on the valley floor to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the area truly offers something for everyone. The cultural attractions are far more numerous than in other cities its size and it offers 70 beautiful parks, including three dynamic regional parks. There are so many things to do and attractions to see here, a list of the top ten tourist attractions in Fresno has been provided.
10. Fashion Fair Mall
Fashion Fair Mall is a medium-sized, enclosed shopping mall that was built in 1970 by the MacDonald Group with 500,000 square feet and was remodeled in 2003 adding about 90,000 square feet for a total of 590,000 square feet. They have wonderful department stores such as Macy’s, Forever 21, and Anthropologie. There are also specialty shops like Rocky Mountain Chocolates, Game Stop, and Starbucks. They have memorable restaurants including Flemings, BJ’s Restaurant, and The Cheesecake Factory; along with a satisfying food court. The mall offers valet parking, a children’s play area, holiday photo sets, and family restrooms with a changing station.
9. Legion of Valor Museum
In August 1991 the Legion of Valor established the Legion of Valor Veterans Museum to tell the story of America’s wars from the perspective of the soldiers who received the nation’s highest awards including the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Air Force Cross. This is the only institution of its like in the nation and houses thousands of items including framed citations, photographs, and exhibits that were donated by Legion of Valor members as well as others. It displays military history through the exhibition of several pieces of WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorabilia and photographs, as well as articles from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring the kids along and explore the many wonders that this museum has with the family-friendly activities. Plus, admission is free.
8. Shinzen Japanese Garden
The Shinzen Friendship Garden is a traditional northwestern American Japanese Garden located in Woodward Park, bringing the essence of Japan to the San Joaquin valley. Designed to present an atmosphere of elegant simplicity (shibui) and quiet beauty, the garden was constructed to honor Fresno’s Sister City, Kochi Japan, celebrating the spirit of understanding and promoting educational and cultural awareness. The design was guided by the original principles of Japanese gardens while incorporating elements of the regional landscape and climate. It accents the four seasons and provides the perfect romantic stroll.
7. Woodward Regional Park
The late Ralph Woodward, a long-time resident, bequeathed the major portion of his estate in 1968 to provide a regional park and bird sanctuary. It was initially 235 acres and then the City also bought additional acreage making it the largest Regional Park in Central Valley. It offers cross country courses, a BMX track, a freeride track, mountain bike trails, and Frisbee Golf. Other amenities include 37 barbeques, 3 children’s play areas, a dog park, a par/fitness course, 77 picnic tables, 5 restrooms, and an outdoor amphitheater. Along with the Cross Country State Championships, the park also plays host to the Woodward Shakespeare Festival for Shakespeare in the Park. The park is open April through October from 6:00am until 10:00pm and from November through March the hours change to 6:00am until 7:00pm. The cost is $5 per vehicle.
6. Forestiere Underground Gardens
Forestiere Underground Gardens is a complex of underground caverns, grottos, patios and garden courts encircling the underground home of Underground home of Sicilian visionary and self-taught artist/builder Baldasare Forestiere. They are a hand-built network of underground rooms, courtyards and passageways reminiscent of ancient Roman catacombs using picks and shovels, wheelbarrows, and a Fresno scraper pulled by two mules. The intricate pathways were created section by section, over a span of 10 acres, without the aid of blueprints over a period of 40 years from 1906 to until his death in 1946. There are no self-tours allowed and the guided tours last about one hour. CNN Travel listed it on the world’s 10 coolest underground wonders which make it one of the best places to visit in Fresno.
5. Meux Home Museum
The Meux Home Museum is a tribute to the beauty of Victorian architecture and was built in 1888 by Dr. T.R. Meux, a Civil War surgeon who became a renowned area physician. The exterior walls are covered with a variety of textures and decorations including clapboards, shingles, and ornamental floral-like relief work. The architecture blends all these beautiful features resulting in an intriguing historic home that invites visitors of all ages to enjoy its beauty and charm. It recaptures the flavor of Victorian Fresno by presenting a middle-class residence furnished in the period. The home has been lovingly restored with furnishings and equipment that portray early Fresno family life and a costumed docent will lead you on a one hour tour of this restored urban dwelling.
4. Fresno Chaffee Zoo
The zoo first opened in 1929 with a collection consisting of two bears and around fifty birds of various species. Today, it has a variety of animals, giraffe feeding, Stingray Bay, Dino Dig, Valley Farm, Sea Lion Cove, Ross Laird’s Winged Wonders Bird Show, and a new African exhibit that added 13 acres of grand savannah to the 18 acres that it already had. There are 694 animals with 125 different species. Their mission is to inspire wonder of the natural world, provide an engaging learning environment, and create a passion for conservation. During November and December, each night from 5pm-8pm you can take a walk through lit pathways of beautiful Christmas lights.
3. Fresno Art Museum
Since 1948, this institution has committed itself to cultivating the community’s artistic spirit. Exhibitions at the museum reflect the culturally and artistically diverse community living in the San Joaquin Valley today. Since it welcomes, inspires, and educates a diverse regional audience, its significant exhibitions strive to reflect the community’s diversity. The cultures and histories that are celebrated are the Sikhs from India’s Punjab region, the Hmong from South East Asia, Mexican and Peruvian ancient cultures, and the Japanese-American experience during WWII, and Greek Orthodox iconography. Other exhibitions include contemporary and modern art, photography, and ethnographic. It is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and accredited with American Alliance of Museums accredited which brings over 14,000 visitors from across the Valley and around the world.
2. Discovery Center
The Discover Center is history and science center offering children a hands-on learning experience to stimulate a passion, curiosity and wonder for the environment and physical sciences. It was founded in 1954 and has a 5+ acre park which contains a Science Museum, a giant rolling meadow, large shade trees, picnic benches & indoor bathrooms. The outdoor attractions include a Historical Barn, Waldon Pond, Yokut Indian houses, the Deutsch Cactus Garden, the Mystery Maze, A Gemini Space Capsule, and much more. The indoor exhibit areas include Space, Paleontology, Natural Science, Music, Electricity, & Magnets, Native American basketry & artifacts, as well as live “animal ambassadors”. The park admission is free, though donations are welcomed and the admission for the museum is $8 for adults and $6 for children.
1. Island Waterpark
Whether you decide to visit for a week or a weekend, you will want to gather your family and friends to cool off at this outdoor waterpark that offers fountains and roaring water in attractions designed for everyone from toddlers to adults. You’re guaranteed fun with more than 20 rides and attractions to choose from on 42 acres. Bright-blue tube slides spiral down into splash pools, a giant bucket tips gallons of water onto passersby, On Drop Zone, riders whoosh down a 75-foot tower, on the Red Wave Family Raft Ride, rafts that can hold as many as five people plunge off a 68-foot tower, and a three-story open slide sends riders on a straight shot into a landing zone that pads their descent with a foot of water and a coral reef packaged in bubble wrap. When you’re ready to take a break from the water, you can enjoy the picnic grounds, cabana rentals, party room, and gift shop.
Along with the top ten listed things to do in Fresno, the city also hosts the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Fresno Ballet, and the Grand Opera. An agreeable climate and proximity to both ocean and mountains combine to make this city a haven for outdoor lovers. Summers are very hot and dry with temperatures ranging between low to high 90s with little to no rain. So, the best time to travel would be in April and March, or October when temperatures are in the mid-70s with a little bit of rain.