things to do in Fresno
California,  United States

The Ultimate Guide to Fresno California

Despite being California’s fifth-largest city, you’ve probably only heard of Fresno if you happen to be passing through it on the 99. Fresno often gets a bad rap for being a hot, farming city in the middle of the state. I actually shared this opinion before moving here myself. However, as a current Fresno resident, I discovered first-hand how much this city has to offer. There are so many fun things to do in Fresno that it needs to be considered a destination in itself!

If you are planning to visit Fresno soon, here is everything you will need to know for your upcoming trip. Be sure to like my Instagram to catch even more of my perspective as a Fresno local through my highlights and tagged posts.

Things to do in Fresno

So many people talk about how easy it is to get to other destinations from Fresno. (Myself included.) However, this Central Valley hub is so much more than a convenient rest stop!

  • Arte Américas: More than a museum, this “casa de la cultura” is one of the largest Latinx cultural centers in the state. You will leave with a greater appreciation of what it means to be “American” from the perspective of those who have always been here.
  • Fresno Blossom Trail: If you are lucky enough to visit Fresno in the springtime, you must drive the blossom trail. There aren’t many places in the world where you can find this sheer volume of blossoms in one place. And it smells great!
  • Old Town Clovis: While not technically in Fresno, it is incredibly close. Plus, this boutique area with a historic feel is too cute to miss. Check out my full post on things to do in Clovis!
  • Tower District: The Tower District is quintessential Fresno. Plan to spend at least an afternoon walking the different shops, restaurants, and venues found here.
Explore the Tower District on Olive Street in Fresno.

Read Next: 6 Can’t-Miss Coffee Shops in Fresno

  • Woodward Park: This 300-acre park has over 5 miles of trails and sweeping views of the nearby Sierra Nevadas. The best way to experience it all is by renting a bike from The Bike Shop conveniently located just across the street. Renting a bike will also allow you to park in the shopping center parking lot, avoiding the $5 Woodward Park parking fee.
  • Shinzen Friendship Garden: Within Woodward Park is a hidden oasis complete with waterfalls, koi ponds, tōrōs (stone lanterns), live peacocks, and an authentic tea house. Bring cash for both the entrance fee and the parking.
  • Farmers Markets: Since agriculture is so central to Fresnan’s way of life, a visit here just wouldn’t be complete without perusing at least one farmers market.
  • Fresno Chaffee Zoo: The zoo tops every family adventure list! My favorite exhibit is the African Adventure because of the 360-degree views of the savanna habitat.
  • Forestiere Underground Gardens: Probably one of the more unusual things to do in Fresno, tour over 10 acres of underground open-air tunnels, rooms, and patios. You won’t be able to believe that it was all constructed singlehandedly by Forestiere himself.
  • Audio Drive Tour: If you are looking to get to know Fresno beyond its main attractions, start with this audio tour brought to you by nonprofit Every Neighborhood Partnership. Pray for Fresno and all the great work that is happening here as you are exposed to different areas of the city and its history.
A local's guide to the best things to do in Fresno California.
Catch all the Fresno murals on my Instagram.

Best Restaurants in Fresno

Because of its centrality, Fresno offers an abundance of authentic flavors from different cultures. As California’s most productive agricultural region, a trademark of Fresno flavor is the locally-grown ingredients. Miles of orchards surround the city limits and almost every nontropical crop is grown here, so freshness is almost guaranteed.

  • Butterfish: My personal favorite restaurant in Fresno. A “California twist on a Hawaiian favorite,” there are endless combinations and bowls to taste. My go-to bowl is brown rice topped with crispy wonton chips, shredded chicken, edamame and light Asian pear.
  • Gazebo Gardens: A garden nursery that weekends as a food truck hangout and beer garden? Although not technically a restaurant itself, Gazebo Gardens is definitely the place to go to taste the best restaurants in Fresno.
  • Casa de Tamales: There are so many delicious authentic Mexican places to choose from in Fresno, but I like Casa de Tamales because it is local family-owned, artisan, and above all delicious.
  • Chef Paul’s Cafe: What California has in fresh produce and Latin flavors it completely lacks in southern comfort food. Located in the heart of Fresno’s Chinatown, Chef Paul’s is a delicious answer to that problem. Just be prepared to arrive early as seating and hours are limited.
  • Teriyaki Don: A casual counter-service restaurant serving up the best Japanese food in Fresno! My favorite is the Spicy Crispy Teriyaki Chicken Don.
  • House of Kebab: My favorite Mediterannean find! Chicken kababs, baklava, pita, hummus, and a delicious garlic sauce all grace the menu.
  • Heirloom: If you are looking for a nicer meal, yet still want a relaxed atmosphere, most definitely head to Heirloom. I love the unique menu and incredible wedge salads.
  • Ono Hawaiian BBQ: Because it can be difficult to find outside of California, I always recommend trying authentic Hawaiian food to anyone visiting Fresno. Although it’s a chain, Ono has been approved as my (Hawaiian) husband’s favorite.
  • Quesadilla Gorilla: Originating in Visalia, Quesadilla Gorilla has quickly become a Fresno favorite. I love the simple menu and tasty combinations of gourmet quesadillas. Pop in next door to Ampersand Ice Cream for a local dessert after your meal!
  • La Elegante Taqueria: Voted Fresno’s best tacos for good reason!
The Blossom Trail is one of the best things to do in Fresno!

Pro Tip: During your stay plan to make at least one meal yourself using fresh, locally grown ingredients! There is an abundance of roadside fruit stands and the aforementioned farmers markets that you can source your own dish from.

Best Fresno Excursions

On the other hand, if you have a few days to spend here, you must take advantage of the convenience of being so centrally located. There are endless incredible destinations that are within just a few hours’ drive from Fresno. Here are some of my favorite trips by car.

A Few Hours AwayDay TripsWeekend Getaways
Yosemite National Park Valley (2 hours)Los Angeles (4 hours)Las Vegas (6 hours)
Sequoia National Park (2 hours)San Francisco (3 hours)Death Valley National Park (5 hours)
Kings Canyon National Park (1 hour)Monterey (3 hours)Lake Tahoe (5 hours)
Avila Beach (2.5 hours)Carmel-By-the-Sea (3 hours)San Diego (6 hours)
Basilwood Farm(30 min)Big Sur (4 hours)Tijuana, Mexico (6 hours)

What do you think? Is Fresno on your California bucket list yet?


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For Cassie, every destination deepens her love for God. Her mission is to inspire that same love in others. Hang around and find something to inspire your next adventure!

4 Comments

  • Cristina Alcocer

    So glad I moved away from this hick town of nothing. I lived there for 18 long years and there is no culture or entertainment beyond hicksville which is being nice. The food, entertainment and activities are over glorified and bland. The only good thing I can say is Clovis was a good place to raise kids and the school district is good. Fresno Unified has many shortcomings being a 10 year veteran from there. There are no decent museums or music in Fresno. Local merchants don’t even pay musicians to perform in local venues. Save Mart center is a haven for has been entertainers or country or ethnic music. If you enjoy movies, Hmong and Mexucan food, and shotty music s one, then this place is for you. Underground gardens is great once and only once. Glad, oh so glad, I moved out of there. Thank god I dud and my kids mi ed as well.

    • Cassie

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cristina. After living somewhere for so long, I can definitely understand feeling jaded towards a place. I would encourage you to check out some of the local community-based efforts happening around town like those at ENP and Serve Fresno. (There are soo many opportunities to volunteer with FUSD or the cultural heritage museums here.) Once you take a step to invest in our city, you will see that Fresno really is a special place and it’s only getting better!

  • Samantha

    As a recent transplant myself (moved here in August), I’m loving it so far. I lived in a big city all my life and wanted something a bit slower and quieter and found Fresno to be perfect for me. I’m glad you put the drive time chart for excursions because that’s one of the main reasons I chose Fresno!

    • Cassie

      I’m glad to hear you are enjoying Fresno too! I agree, I don’t think you can truly appreciate how accessible everything is from Fresno unless you have lived somewhere else. It truly has its own vibe compared to other Cali cities.

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