Named after the abundant ash trees by the San Joaquin River, Fresno is a city in Central California’s Fresno County that’s often been called “The Best Little City in the USA.” Although not as popular as Los Angeles or San Francisco, Fresno has many historical sites and natural wonders worthy of an extended trip. If you’re thinking of booking a vacation rental in Fresno for a few weeks, then you need to check out this list. Below, we’ll go over 11 exceptional things to do in Fresno on an extended stay.
Yosemite National Park
The main reason people choose to stay in Fresno has to do with the city’s proximity to the world-famous Yosemite National Park. Officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, Yosemite National Park measures 750,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is a two hours’ drive from Fresno. Approximately 4 million tourists make the trip to this massive park every year to take in the awe-inspiring granite cliffs, wondrous waterfalls, and soaring sequoia trees. The most photographed area in this park is Yosemite Valley, but tourists on an extended stay should schedule visits to other equally beautiful areas like Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. To find out more information on Yosemite, check out the government’s official website on this link.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo
While we’re on the subject of the great outdoors, be sure to add a tour of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to your itinerary. Located at 894 W Belmont Avenue, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo measures almost 40 acres and contains well over 180 different species. An extremely popular exhibit in the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is the “African Adventure,” which features exotic animals like elephants, cheetahs, and African tigers. A few other exciting animals you’ll see on a tour of this zoo include the emu, the komodo dragon, and the red kangaroo. A visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a must for families traveling through Fresno. Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s normal operating hours are between 9AM and 4PM from Sunday through Saturday.
Fresno Art Museum
Any art buffs visiting Fresno must plan a stop at the Fresno Art Museum. Founded around 1949, this museum is most celebrated for its collection of pre-Columbian art from all around Mesoamerica. Visitors will find hundreds of pre-Columbian textiles, ceramics, and wooden figurines to marvel at on their tour. The Fresno Art Museum also boasts the impressive El día de las flores, Xochilmilco painting by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Throughout the year, curators at the Fresno Art Museum organize special exhibits to highlight dynamic works of contemporary art from the Central Californian community. You can find the Fresno Art Museum at 2233 N First Street.
Sierra National Forest
If you didn’t get your fill of the great outdoors from Yosemite, then consider taking a drive to the nearby Sierra National Forest. Situated on the Sierra Nevada’s western side, the Sierra National Forest has well over 1,000 miles of hiking trails to explore. There are plenty of wonderful picnicking areas near pristine lakes in Sierra National Forest for visitors to take advantage of. Only a 40-minute drive from Fresno, the Sierra National Forest is a perfect day-trip.
Shinzen Japanese Garden
Formally dedicated in 1981, the Shinzen Japanese Garden is the ideal place for a meditative stroll in Fresno. Depending on what time of year you visit, you can many iconic Japanese plants blooming in this garden, including cherry blossoms, bonsai, and gingko trees. There’s also a lovely tea garden & house on property where you can take a break from your walking to enjoy a fresh cup of matcha. If you can, then try to visit Shinzen Japanese Garden in the spring or autumn for the best scenery. Shinzen Japanese Garden is located at 114 W Audubon Drive.
Kearney Mansion Museum
Completed in 1903, the massive Kearney Mansion Museum is one of the finest examples of French Renaissance architecture in California. Commissioned by famed raisin farmer Martin Theodore Kearney (1842 – 1906), this mansion features both Kearney’s main residence and a house for his servants. Today, the Kearney Mansion Museum hosts guided tours as well as Civil War re-enactments throughout the year. Guests not only learn about the architecture of the Kearney Mansion, but also about Kearney’s important contributions to the agriculture of Fresno County. Anyone interested in visiting this beautiful mansion will find it at 7160 W Kearney Boulevard.
Meux Home Museum
Yet another historic building you can visit while in Fresno is the Meux Home Museum at 1007 R Street. Built in the late 1800s for local doctor Thomas Richard Meux, the Meux Home Museum was constructed in the Victorian style and has been lovingly maintained by locals. Visitors get to tour the 16 rooms inside the house as well as the gorgeous garden on property. Anyone who wants to experience the Victorian era at its finest can’t pass up a visit to this elegant house. Tours are usually scheduled between 12PM and 3PM Fridays through Sundays and last about one hour.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Forestiere Underground Gardens are certainly one of the most unique Fresno attractions. Created by Italian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere between 1906 and 1946, the Forestiere Underground Gardens are modeled on the catacombs Forestiere saw as a child in Sicily. Forestiere created this masterwork of masonry to realize his American dream of becoming a citrus farmer. Today, there are 10 acres of planted area in these incredible underground gardens. Guided tours of the Forestiere Underground Gardens are now one of the most popular attractions in Fresno. Visitors will find the Forestiere Underground Gardens at 5021 W. Shaw Avenue.
Save Mart Arena
Looking for exciting live entertainment in Fresno? If so, then look no further than the Save Mart Arena. Situated on Fresno’s California State University campus, the Save Mart Arena is best known for hosting sporting events such as basketball, hockey, and boxing. Besides sports, this arena also has many live music concerts and shows with world-class performers. While on your extended stay in Fresno, be sure to check out Save Mart Arena’s lineup and catch a show or two.
Any shop-a-holics reading this article must include a stop at Fresno’s River Park Shopping Center during their stay. You’ll find dozens of big-name stores in River Park such as Best Buy, Victoria’s Secret, Vans, and Khol’s. There are also numerous beauty salons in River Park where you could get a haircut, wax, or full-body massage. For food, there’s a wide range of budget and higher-end restaurants to choose from including Chick-fil-A, Applebee’s, P.F. Chang’s, and BurgerIM. There’s also a 21-screen movie theatre in the River Park area guests can enjoy. Whether you’re looking for something in particular or you just want to window-shop, River Park is the place to be.
Saint John the Baptist Cathedral
Last on our list of things to do in Fresno is to tour the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral on 2814 Mariposa Street. First completed in 1882, the St. John the Baptist Cathedral was re-built in the early 1900s to accommodate the growing Catholic congregation. Built using red bricks, the completed church as two major steeples and is a superb example of Gothic Revival architecture. Guests are stunned by the impressive stained glass windows, frescoes, and statuary in and around this church. No matter what faith you belong to, a visit to the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral is sure to lift your spirits.