The Ultimate Travel Guide To Fresno & Things To Do

What is the first place that pops into a traveler’s head when they hear natural beauty? That’s right, Fresno! This centralized California city, nestled in the San Joaquin Valley, is a hub for travelers looking to hit up nearby National Parks. Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks are all under two hours by car.

Being smack-dab in the middle of the state means travelers are only a day trip away from all the must-visit places in California. Fresno is not just a jumping-off point, but a destination for rugged outdoor types and city lovers alike.


The city has a beautiful collection of parks and gardens, one of which is literally underground! For shoppers, the Tower District is the home to a ton of local businesses to support.

Because Fresno was a railroad depot back in the day, downtown has a beautiful Queen Anne-style station and other cosmopolitan architecture. Artsy folks will be at home as well, with many museums and public installations throughout this charmer of a city.

Best Time To Go

For a quieter time to travel, fall is ideal. The temperature is more manageable than the hot Cali summers. Avoiding the busy summer months also means better deals on accommodations.

Those looking to camp around Fresno or in the nearby national parks may prefer September and October. The area cools down a bit and the humidity is a little higher, so travelers can avoid reapplying sunscreen lotion every five seconds.

Related: 20 Travel Hacks For People Who Can’t Stand The Heat At All

For those who want to spend summer vacation in Fresno, don’t fret. The high temperatures can get over 100, but the dry heat means shade actually works!

Really, any time of year in the city is relatively temperate. Because Fresno is so sunny, make sure to be prepared with sunscreen, a hat, and moisturizer.

And, with around 300 days of sunshine and most months averaging less than an inch of rain, it’s hard to complain.

What To Know When Visiting

Yosemite National ParkVia: Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash

Yosemite National Park road near Fresno, California

Fresno, and really the entire California Central Valley, is known for agriculture. This is to the area and the travelers’ benefit. During the summer delicious fruit stands and festivals are especially abundant.

Related: Did You Know The Central Valley Was Once An Inland Sea?

The biggest city in the central valley has a large Hispanic population, followed by large groups of Armenian, Greek, and Hmong communities. Depending on the time of year, large cultural festivals take over the city:

  • Piñata Fest – May
  • Fresno Greek Fest – September
  • Taco Truck Throwdown – July
  • Hmong Music Festival – May

In Fresno-proper, the Tower District is the lively and artsy heart. This walkable section is full of restaurants, museums, and theaters. If visitors don’t want to drive out to the national parks, Woodward Park, in North Fresno, has trails and gardens to amble through.

Best Ways To Get Around

Sequoia Tree in Sequoia National ParkVia: Photo by Nina Luong on Unsplash

Sequoia Tree in Sequoia National Park


Downtown Fresno and the Tower District are very walkable, with restaurants and shopping right there. The many parks and gardens make being outdoors easy. But, in terms of walking as a way of getting around, other parts of town are a little more difficult. It is a pretty large city after all.

Public Transport

The Fresno Area Express, or FAX, is the 16-route bus line around Fresno and the neighboring town of Clovis. It is a cheap way to get around to all parts of the city. However, many people complain about buses arriving late or not at all, so make sure to have a backup plan. To move around California, there are Greyhound and Amtrak stations on Tulare St.

  • Cost: $1.25 (Discount prices for elderly, people with disabilities, and children); A Greyhound Bus ticket to LA will cost around $40.


Traveling by car is fairly cost-effective within the city:

  • All the parking garages in the city let drivers park free for the first hour
  • Metered parking is free after 6:00 pm on weekdays and all day most weekends.

A car also allows travelers to explore the valley and the gorgeous national parks. Three highways connect in Fresno making quick access to:

  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park: Go down Highway CA-99 to CA-198 (no tolls) or CA-99 to Avenue 384 (with tolls).
  • Yosemite: Straight shot north on CA-41 (with tolls) or CA-41 toward CA-140 (no tolls and only 10 minutes longer

Where To Stay In Fresno

Fresno sign on post office CaliforniaPhoto by Evan Wise on Unsplash

Fresno sign painted on a post office in California

Fresno is a relatively cheap place to stay, even in peak tourism season. From high-end boutique hotels to glamping, there’s something for everyone.

High-end hotels

Courtyard by Marriott Fresno

  • Address: 140 East Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93710
  • Cost per night: Starts at $211/night
  • Amenities: Restaurant, fitness center, and outdoor pool

Double Tree by Hilton Fresno Convention Center

  • Address: 2233 Ventura Street, Fresno, CA 93721
  • Cost per night: Starts at $164/night
  • Amenities: Great Downtown Location, fitness center, outdoor pool, business center, Café, and Restaurant

Mid-tier hotels

Hotel Piccadilly

  • Address: 2305 West Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93711
  • Cost per night: Starts at $124/night
  • Amenities: Outdoor pool, fitness center, bar, and restaurant

Best Western Village Inn

  • Address: 480 East Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93710
  • Cost per night: Starts at $139/night
  • Amenities: Fitness center, outdoor pool, and business center

Budget-friendly hotels

Quality Inn & Suites Fresno Northwest

  • Address: 5455 West Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93722
  • Cost per night: Starts at $92/night
  • Amenities: Outdoor pool and a continental breakfast

Clarion Pointe Fresno near Yosemite

  • Address: 4061 Blackstone Ave, Fresno, 93726
  • Cost per night: Starts at $76/night
  • Amenities: Outdoor pool and a continental breakfast

Highway in Fresno CaliforniaPhoto by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Highway in Fresno California


For people who love to sleep on the ground:

Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

  • Location: 47597 Road 145 Friant, CA 93626
  • Price: $30/night
  • Why here: It is just far enough outside the national parks to be cheaper and quieter. Millerton has Tent and RV lakefront camping, while being surrounded by Christmas trees!
  • Amenities: Water at the site, toilets, showers, ADA access, and fires.

Azalea Campgrounds (Kings Canyon National Park)

  • Location: Azalea Drive Grant Grove, CA 93633
  • Price: $18/night
  • Why here: This is inside Kings Canyon National Park, perfect for travelers dying to up close and personal with some big beautiful trees. Be aware: This is a first come first serve site until May. After that date, reservations are required.
  • Amenities: Picnic table, potable water, access to trails

​​​​​Related: 10 Things To Know Before Camping In A US National Park


Sequoia High Sierra Camp Tent Cabins

  • Location: 65745 Big Meadow Rd, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
  • Price: Starting at $350/night
  • Amenities: Tented canvas glamping tents with a seating area, comfy bed, and shower. There is also an onsite restaurant and chef that prepares complimentary meals.

Where To Eat Around Fresno

Breakfast: Batter Up Pancakes

This family-run breakfast spot is a Fresno favorite. They are of course known for their buttermilk pancakes, but these are not your mama’s pancakes! Batter Up is perhaps best known for their Tessa Cate’s cinnamon roll pancake (Cost: $14/1 cake). Yes, a cinnamon roll AND pancake.

For lovers of pineapple on pizza try, The Hawaiian (Cost: $14/1 cake). A grilled pineapple sits on a macadamia nut and banana stuffed pancake with a topping of coconut syrup. A perfect vacation breakfast. They have all the breakfast staples as well, but there is a cake for everyone at this place.

  • Hours: Mon-Fri: 6:30 am-1:00 pm; Sat-Sun: 6:30 am-2:00 pm
  • Cost: $$
  • Address: 8029 N Cedar Ave Fresno, CA 93720

Lunch: Sam’s Italian Deli and Market

Travelers have sites to see and hikes to hike. Multitask and take lunch to go at Sam’s Italian Deli & Market. This international grocery makes beloved sandwiches. They also have a sommelier to help customers pick out one of their many wines.

While it is a whole grocery store, the deli shines with Italian-style subs. They get a lot of orders for meatballs and pastrami sandwiches. It was voted one of the best lunch spots by the Fresno Bee newspaper. A place is really good when locals love it

  • Hours: Tue-Fri: 10:00 am-6:00 pm; Sat: 10:00 am-5:00 pm (Closed Sun-Mon)
  • Cost: $-$$
  • Address: 2415 N. First Street Fresno, CA 93703

Dinner: Heirloom

Fresno sits in the middle of one of the most prosperous agricultural areas in the world. Heirloom uses local farms and their seasonal ingredients to become a poster child for farm-to-table. Although without the stuffiness that sometimes comes with these restaurants. The restaurant takes counter orders and has a long bar, reminiscent of a cafeteria. In a good way!

The star of Heirloom seems to be the Tri Tip Sandwich (Cost: $13), with barbeque sauce on a garlic ciabatta bun. If visitors missed the Greek Fest in Fresno, they have the Spicy Lamb (Cost: $13) that will turn that frown upside down.

From some gorgeous surf and turf (Cost: $17) to mushroom taquitos (Cost: $13), Heirloom serves up a fancy night out at a reasonable price.

  • Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:00 am-9:00 pm
  • Cost: $$
  • Address: 8398 N. Fresno Suite 101, Fresno, California 93720

Drinks: Howlin’ Wolf

Feeling fancy? Grab a drink at The Howlin Wolf. The craft cocktail bar has a classic art-deco style that will make drinkers feel like Jay Gatsby. Located in the center of the Tower District it is a great start to a night out on the town.

One of their more intriguing signature cocktails is American Gothic, with whiskey, apple cider, lemon, and maple. Their Old Fashion and Stockholm Royale are also popular.

They also have wine and beer. Non-drinkers can still enjoy the old-school atmosphere and the live music the bar has to offer.

  • Hours: Sun-Wed: 3:00 pm-12:00 am; Thu-Sat: 3:00 pm-1:30 am
  • Cost: $$
  • Address: 920 E Olive Ave, Fresno, CA 93728

Top Things To Do

Forestiere Underground Gardens

The number one attraction in Fresno is the wild tunnels of the Forestiere Underground Gardens. Dug out by Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant, trying to cool down in the hot Fresno summer, the series of stone tunnels and open courtyards is definitely a unique attraction. We can be thankful Forestiere didn’t just get a glass of water.

  • Hours Of Operation: Often 9:00am-3:00pm (times and dates vary depending on weather and season)
  • Cost Of Admission: $23 for adults, $21 for certain populations, and free for children 4 and under.
  • Note: Tours of the gardens are best reserved as spaces fill up ahead of time, but they do take walk-ins. Check their website for availability


Fresno is known for its artistic side, best showcased by the bi-weekly ArtHop. On the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month, the Fresno Art Council puts on an art crawl between the city’s studios, galleries, and museums for free.

  • Hours Of Operation: 1st and 3rd Thursdays of every month (5:00pm-8:00pm)
  • Cost Of Admission: Free
  • Note: The 1st Thursday is primarily Downtown and Tower District venues. But, the 3rd Thursday expands to the metro area.

Catch a Game at Chukchansi Park

Fan at a Minor League Baseball game in FresnoVia: Photo by Mike Bowman on Unsplash

A fan at a Minor League Baseball game for the Fresno Grizzlies in Chukchansi Park.

Nothing like going to a ballpark on (one of Fresno’s many) sunny days. That small-town feel means that Fresno loves its sports. Baseball fans can take this in first hand at Chukchansi stadium where the minor league Fresno Grizzlies play. Maybe gamegoers even see the next superstar?

  • Hours Of Operation: Check game days and times on their website
  • Cost Of Admission: ~15-40
  • Note: The Grizzlies’ season is from April to September. However, the park puts on festivals and the famous Taco Truck Throwdown in the offseason.

Take a tour of the Blossom TrailVineyard Row in Fresno California

For three years the neighboring town of Sanger has given a guided bus tour of the stunning pink and white blossoms on fruit trees around the area.

  • Hours Of Operation: 9:00 am-4:00 pm on Feb 26 and 27 (Last year’s dates)
  • Cost Of Admission: $125
  • Includes: the Blossom tour, mimosa breakfast, tasting at five local wineries and a microbrewery, and a gourmet lunch
  • Note: The bloom starts in mid-February and lasts until mid-March. Travelers can also just get a map at Simonian Farms and just drive through the trail on a free self-guided tour.

Get some culture at Warnors Theater

Warnors (Pantages) Theater looks as if it was plucked out of southern Spain and slapped with an old-school movie sign. The inside is even more jaw-dropping, with its huge ornate ceilings. This historic building put on concerts, comedy performances (it is part of the ArtHop), and sometimes classic movies! Immaculate vibes.

  • Hours Of Operation: See the website for events
  • Cost Of Admission: ArtHop events are free, but check events for prices.
  • Note: If there are no shows there, try the other gorgeous old theater in town, the Towers theater. It doesn’t show movies but is perhaps the most recognizable building in Fresno.

Best Neighborhoods


When Fresno was a railroad depot, Downtown boomed with beautiful architecture, many of which are still standing. Museums and art galleries are on every corner of Van Ness Ave. Arte Americas has a lovely collection of Latin American art and hosts cultural events. Street and public display the artistic spirit of the city. Go hunting for murals and sculptures, like the famous Washer Woman by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Tower District

Tower Theatre for the Performing ArtsVia: Photo by Anisa Castaneda Gaeta on Unsplash

Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts in the Tower District in Fresno, California

While downtown has tons of attractions, the Tower District is the place to stay. It feels like a small town within a city, housing mostly local businesses and restaurants. It is especially popular with tourists and younger people, having been home to the annual LGBTQ+ pride parade and various music festivals.

Related: The 10 Best Destinations for LGBTQ+ Tourism

Woodward Park

Just north of town is Woodward park, highlighting the importance that nature has on Fresno and the valley. Running along the San Joaquin River, the park houses a bird sanctuary, a Japanese garden, and miles of hiking trails.

How To Spend A Perfect Day In Fresno

Shinzen Friendship Garden, Woodward Park, FresnoVia: Photo by Daniel Jerez on Unsplash

Flowering Tree in the Shinzen Friendship Garden located inWoodward Park, Fresno

Start the day with a carbo-load breakfast of pancakes at Batter Up. Pick up a sandwich at Sam’s for a picnic at the park later. After eating roll into the car for the short drive to Woodward Park.

Visitors can walk off breakfast on one of their many trails, but make sure to spend time in the meditative Shinzen Friendship Garden. On the way out peak in on the bird sanctuary located at the south end of the park.

Head over to the gardens to see real fruit trees and ponds under the ground. Then, make the drive downtown to kick back and watch a performance at the Warnor. And, because it is an ArtHop day, it’s free!

After grabbing some local grub at Heirloom, it is off to the Tower District for the night. Grab a drink at the Howlin Wolf and feel the energy of the city walking under the lights of the Tower theater. Don’t drink too much though, roughing it in the National Parks is tomorrow!


Q: Is Fresno a big city?

Fresno is the fifth largest city in all of California and the largest in the Central Valley. The population is just over one million people in the metro area; Fresno trails behind cities like Los Angeles, which has a population of nearly four million.

Q: What is Fresno popular for?

Fresno is known for its gorgeous yet agricultural landscapes and its proximity to multiple national parks.

Q: Is Fresno, California worth visiting?

Fresno is an ideal destination for travelers who want to see it all; Fresno’s centrally located between Northern and Southern California, so all kinds of adventures are only a short drive away. Head to the best SoCal beaches, venture off the beaten path in Northern California, and everything in between.

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