There is so much to see and do in Fresno!
When it comes to people visiting California, most people tend to have places like Los Angeles and San Francisco on their travel wishlist, but don’t always think about the Central Valley when planning out their trip. However, being born and raised in Fresno, California, I can honestly tell you that there is so much to do and see here! Not to mention, that there are also so many incredible places that you can visit just outside of the city, like Yosemite National Park! Naturally, I thought it would be important to have an official Fresno, California travel guide (especially since it’s so hard to find one!).
From delicious eats to fun excursions and unexpectedly cool sights, Fresno is brimming with fun activities. Take it from this local that after visiting all of the places on this travel guide, you’ll be going from FresNO to FresYES.
Where to Eat
If you are a music lover, this is the perfect place to have brunch. Each dish has its own unique name inspired by some of music’s greatest hits, like “Hotel California.” My personal favorite is “This Magic Moment,” which is literally like a giant s’mores for breakfast with large, fluffy pancakes with their house chocolate syrup and toasted marshmallows. (Read: Yum!) Though their dining room may be small, don’t let it fool you—because their dishes surely are bursting with flavor.
For a truly Parisian breakfast, La Boulangerie is the best place to get delicious pastries and a cup of coffee. You can always head over to their bistro and enjoy a delicious quiche, breakfast croissants, and parfaits. While their pastries, bread, and coffeecakes can’t be beat, they also have tasty sandwiches and salads for lunch, too! And make sure to pick up a yummy dessert for later! (They make the best lemon bars!)
This casual diner serves up both American and Mexican classics. From Chile Verde to pancakes, there is something for everyone at Al’s. It’s pretty busy on the weekend, so you know all of the locals love it. Plus, the portion sizes are very generous, so make sure you come hungry. My recommendation: Order the Southwestern Breakfast Sandwich.
Fresno Breakfast House
The Fresno Breakfast House is one of the cutest restaurants in Fresno. You’ll quite literally feel like you are attending a fancy garden party with the decor and atmosphere. I love how they sometimes have someone playing the piano while you eat. From omelets to sweet breakfast treats, their breakfasts are so yummy, including my favorite: Southwest Breakfast Enchiladas.
Red Apple Cafe
The Red Apple Cafe offers delicious breakfasts and brunches, and their homestyle cooking is fantastic. They have a huge menu filled with nothing but yummy options, including breakfast tacos, omelets, and French Toast. Also, the country potatoes are absolutely delicious.
In my opinion, Kuppa Joy makes the best coffee in town. My personal fave is their signature Kuppa Joy, which has an espresso base with chocolate and crème brûlée-infused milk. The Almond Joy is another classic with coconut-infused milk, as well as the spiced chai. They also serve light breakfast fare, including their delicious breakfast sandwich. Honestly, there’s nothing better than enjoying some coffee and a light breakfast than at one of their cafés.
If you want to have the best sandwich in town (or maybe your life), you have to go to Piemonte’s. Their sandwiches are so fresh and tasty. I love picking up a Piemonte’s Special (their best sandwich, by the way) and sitting outside the shop, enjoying the sites of the Tower District.
The Berrock Shop is the best little, family-owned diner there ever was. With a warm, family atmosphere, their dishes will have you feeling like your mama made them for you. They serve a variety of sandwiches, burgers, chicken pot pies, and bierocks, and everything is made from scratch (including their bread!). If you stop by, make sure to grab one of their homemade chocolate chip cookies—they are the real star of the show.
Sam’s Deli is your one-stop shop for all things Italian in Fresno. You can find an array of Italian meats and cheeses, homemade pastas and salads, and made from scratch take-home meals. Everything is so fresh and delicious, you’ll want to take one of everything.
Chef Paul’s Cafe
Chef Paul’s Cafe is literally one of the best restaurants ever. In fact, the soul food restaurant was just recently featured on Buzzfeed’s list of top 30 must-try black-owned restaurants in the country. With Chef Paul’s iconic shrimp and grits and other popular southern entrées, it will truly be some of the best soul food you will ever have.
This little eatery in Downtown Fresno has some of the coolest dishes. They are always making new twists on classic dishes with unique, fresh ingredients. Take their Eel Burger for example—an Angus beef patty smothered in habanero jack cheese and tamari ginger-glazed shiitake mushrooms. But the real winner is their Big A$$ Cinnamon Rolls. Now those are seriously delicious and huge.
House of JuJu
While House of JuJu is technically in Clovis, California, they make some pretty delicious hamburgers. Now, these aren’t just your typical hamburgers—House of JuJu’s gourmet burgers are filled with fresh, unique ingredients that make them stand out from any standard burger. My personal favorite is the “Leticia!”
If you’re going to grab some BBQ in Fresno, you have to go to Westwoods. Their signature sandwiches, burgers, and BBQ plates are all generously portioned and absolutely mouth-watering. I highly recommend “The Feast Platter” because you’ll get a little of everything, including their famous tri-tip and St. Louis ribs!
Pismo’s Coastal Grill
My fiancé, Ferdy, loves his seafood, so I took him here for the first time on Valentine’s Day and he highly approved. You definitely feel like you’re enjoying fresh seafood right on the coast in their open air dining room. So, if you’re a seafood lover, you have to go to Pismo’s.
Cracked Pepper Bistro
If you’re in the mood for something a little fancier, I highly suggest the Cracked Pepper Bistro. This fine dining restaurant focuses on regional cuisine using natural, farm-to-table ingredients and California-grown wines. Their steaks and seafood are impeccable and dining here is truly a treat.
Frosted Cakery is easily my favorite bakery in town for all things cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. Not only does everything taste absolutely delicious, all of their details on their treats is impeccable (you can see a sneak peek of their Baby Yoda cookie I took to Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland!). They offer over 12 different choices of their signature or seasonal cupcakes alone! (My favorite is their French Toast ‘n’ Bacon cupcake!)
If you’re in the mood for some delicious ice cream, Ampersand is the place to go. While they offer some traditional ice cream options, they are known for their gourmet flavors. Each month, they offer monthly specials so there is plenty of ice cream to try. Ampersand has two local scoop shops and sometimes each shop has some exclusive flavors. My personal recommendation: Get the Honeycomb and Bordeaux.
Crave Cookie has the most delicious cookies, hands down. Granted they don’t actually have a storefront, but they deliver anywhere that has an address. Just order your cookies online and they will deliver them to you fresh out of the oven. You can even grab some of their cookies from all Kuppa Joy locations. They always carry their classic chocolate chip cookies and rotate out a new flavor of the week for their second selection.
Sights to See
Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Forestiere Underground Garden is truly an oasis in our concrete jungle. Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant, came to the United States in 1901 to become a citrus farmer. After landing in Fresno, California, Forestiere began to sculpt his underground world after the ancient catacombs he admired back in Italy. For 40 years, he dug and carved (by hand!) a unique complex of rooms, tunnels, and gardens throughout his property. It is absolutely beautiful and a must-see sight when visiting Fresno.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo
The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is definitely one of the crown jewels of Fresno. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful zoo like all of the big cities! Over the past few years, they have made several additions that have only made the zoo even more magical. Check out the Sea Lion Cove and be instantly transported to the coast while you get up close and personal with some adorable sea lions and seals. But perhaps the best part is the African Adventure section. Here you’ll feel like you’re on a safari, watching all of the animals out on the plains.
The Shinzen Friendship Garden at Woodward Park
A serene 5-acre Japanese style garden built by the local Japanese-American community, this beautiful garden features a lovely koi pond and teahouse. The garden is a perfect place to take a walk or sit and relax among all of the flowers. Perhaps the best time to visit is during the spring when all of the cherry blossoms bloom. After visiting the gardens, enjoy the rest of Woodward Park and its numerous trails, playgrounds, and the lake with all of the ducks.
The Kearney Mansion is by far one of the prettiest historical houses in Fresno. The mansion actually consists of two buildings, the main residence and an adjoining servants’ quarters, and is designed in the French Renaissance style. When you visit the mansion, you’ll learn that Kearney was a genius with his design of the house, including the use of a double-paned window. You’ll also get to learn the history of how Kearney never intended for the mansion to be his permanent residence, but rather the caretaker’s lodge. Kearney lived in it while awaiting completion of his much grander home, Château Fresno. Even better, during October, the Fresno Historical Society hosts a Civil War Revisited event at the mansion.
Fresno Grizzlies Game at Chukchansi Park
The Fresno Grizzlies are our local Minor League Baseball team, so if you are a sports fan, make sure to catch a ball game at Chukchansi Park. During their home games, they usually have lots of fun activities and theme nights for fans, and sometimes even have firework shows after the game.
Clovis Farmers Market
One of the best things about Fresno is all of the local farmers’ markets. The Central Valley is a huge agricultural hub, so you know you’re getting the freshest produce. But it’s not just about the fruits and veggies—there are also lots of local food vendors selling an assortment of dishes. During those warm summer nights, the market will also have live music and lots of people will usually dance out in the square.
While Gazebo Gardens is technically a nursery, they hold lots of events over the weekends, bringing out local food trucks and live music. During the summer, it’s especially fun to hang out here and enjoy the atmosphere as the hot day start to cool down.
Fresno has a lot of awesome murals and public art pieces. In fact, the city even has a “Mural District.” Pretty cool, right? I highly recommend going on a mural tour of the city and seeing all of the amazing art Fresno has to offer!
Broadway in Fresno
You don’t have to go to the major cities, like San Francisco or Los Angeles, to see a Broadway show. That’s right—you can see a Broadway show right here in Fresno! The shows vary by season, of course, but it’s a great way to see some of those shows that you’ve longed to see! Make sure to check out their website for the season’s current showings.
The Downtown Brewery District is definitely growing into one of the coolest scenes in town. Along the district, you can find some awesome local breweries to try. If beer is not your thing, there is a super cool and elegant craft cocktail bar where you can even take classes and learn how to make some of the signature drinks.
Things to See That Are Close By
Fresno County Blossom Trail
While this trail will technically take you out of the city, the Fresno County Blossom Trail is a beautiful display of pink and white blossoms and wildflowers as the county’s orchards of fruit trees bloom during February and March. The trail will take you through some of the surrounding communities outside of Fresno and it’s a great way to see some of the “country” landscape. If you miss the blossoms, don’t worry—try driving the route from May to September when it becomes the Fresno County Fruit Trail.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see. From the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome to the breathtaking views of Bridalveil Fall and Vernal Falls, Yosemite is filled with lots of scenic trails and waterfalls to see and explore. Perhaps one of the most iconic spots of the park is Tunnel View, a spectacular viewpoint on State Route 41 that provides expansive views of Yosemite Valley.
Sequoia National Park
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park is known for its huge sequoia trees—most notably the General Sherman Tree. Another cool feature of the park is the Tunnel Tree, a toppled tree that was carved in 1938 to accommodate the road. At the park, you can also take the Moro Rock Trail, a dome-shaped granite formation with a rock-cut stairway to the panoramic summit.
Kings Canyon National Park
Adjacent to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park is known for its huge sequoia trees—most notably the gigantic General Grant Tree in Grant Grove. In Cedar Grove, you can catch trails that lead to Zumwalt Meadow along the Kings River and Roaring River Falls. While at the park, you can also visit Hume Lake.
Shaver Lake is a super popular recreational lake surrounded by the thick pine forests of the Sierra National Forest. The lake is great for everything from boating and water skiing to kayaking. During the summer, Shaver Lake offers relief from the heat in the valley and is perfect for swimming and lounging on the beach. Make sure to visit Shaver Lake Pizza during your trip! Wintertime is also fun at Shaver Lake, especially when it comes to playing in the snow.
China Peak Mountain Resort
If you’re a fan of skiing and winter sports, you have to visit China Peak Mountain Resort. A premiere ski and vacation spot located near the scenic Huntington Lake, skiers and riders will find a variety of terrain parks to choose from on the mountain. During the summer, there are a number of activities for visitors, including a mountain bike park, disc golf course, and scenic chair rides that offer fantastic views of Huntington Lake and the surrounding Sierra National Forest.
I hope this travel guide inspires you and that you add some of these destinations to your itinerary when you visit to Fresno! Enjoy FresYES!