Fresno is California’s fifth most populated city and a destination you should add to your travel list! You will be surprised by all the fun things to do in Fresno CA, that is for sure!
It may not have the big city vibe of San Diego, the glamour of Malibu, or the ocean views of Pismo Beach, but Fresno city has its own list of appeals, many types of activities and places to visit.
But first of all, where is Fresno?
Fresno is located in the central valley of California, more or less between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you’re planning a California road trip, it’s the perfect city to break up your journey.
It’s also just over an hour’s driving distance from the majestic Yosemite National Park, one of the best places for hiking in California and a perfect destination for a day trip from Fresno. We’ll talk more about this later on.
The unique and exciting attractions in Fresno added to its locations, make it a great place to visit for a few days. And to help you make the most of your time, we put together this list of the 22 best things to do in Fresno, California.
This guide also has a section about where to stay in Fresno, so you can book the perfect stay for your trip.
But before we start our guide about things to do in Fresno, let me give you an important piece of advice:
Don’t forget your Travel Insurance! You don’t want anything to ruin your trip, right? So don’t take the risk! Reliable travel insurance can help you in case of travel issues, from accidents to health problems, travel delays, and lost luggage.
There are many insurances in the market, our picks are HeyMondo and SafetyWing. We used both and always had a good experience. Click on the insurance names to get a quote.
And where to stay for Fresno sightseeing?
There are lots of cool and comfy places to stay in Fresno. To make sure you see as many as possible, you’ll want to choose a hotel that’s near all of the action.
A good area to stay in is Downtown Fresno. It offers a mix of historic and modern architecture, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. Several Fresno attractions are here, and you will find many hotel options available, including budget-friendly and luxury accommodations.
Another great place to stay in Fresno is the Fig Garden neighborhood, an upscale area in the northwestern part of the city known for its beautiful homes, tree-lined streets, and boutique shopping. It’s only 10 minutes driving to downtown, or 30 minutes by public transportation.
We listed below a few options of accommodation in Fresno, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly accommodations. All with good reviews, strategic location, and good amenities.
Check them out and choose the one that matches your trip.
Best hotels in Fresno, California:
DoubleTree by Hilton Fresno Convention Center
No doubt of one the best hotels in Fresno. It’s located right in the city center, close to many attractions and easy o get around. It has all the amenities you expect from a 3 star-hotel (swimming pool, fitness center, room service, wifi…), and you can book your stay with or without breakfast included.
Holiday Inn Express Fresno River Park Highway 41
This is a great choice for travelers seeking a comfortable and convenient stay in Fresno. It’s located in the northern part of the city, just minutes away from the River Park Shopping Center and Woodward Park. And it’s only a 13-minute drive to get to the city center.
It’s a good mid-range hotel in Fresno, with clean and comfy rooms. Especially good for those who are planning to visit the parks nearby.
Hampton Inn Fresno Airport
This hotel is the best option for those who want to stay close to Fresno Airport but still close to the city. It takes only 10 minutes driving, or 30 minutes by public transportation to downtown.
The rooms are comfy and clean with breakfast included on the rates. The Hampton Inn Fresno offers an outdoor pool, fitness center, wifi, and free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Best Western Village Inn
This is one of the cheapest hotels in Fresno, California. The Best Western Village sits between downtown and the Fig Garden area. From here it’s easy to access most of Fresno’s attractions in the city ao nearby.
It offers comfy rooms, and the guests, particularly like the breakfast. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, wifi, family rooms, and non-smoking rooms.
Now, what to do in Fresno, CA?
Apart from your usual big-city popular attractions, this central California city also offers some pretty unique ones. From historical landmarks to scenic drives and modern entertainment venues, here are the top things to do in Fresno, California.
Free things to do in Fresno, California
Let’s start with the free things to do in Fresno that are perfect to get your Fresno trip rolling.
1 – Take a self-guided walking tour through Fresno
The best way to explore a new destination is by walking around, and the historic downtown Fresno area is the perfect place to do this.
Here is a quick itinerary of places to go in Fresno during your walking tour:
– Fresno Water Tower: this iconic landmark is a great starting point for your Fresno tour. It was built in 1894 and was used to hold water for the city’s fire department.
– Fulton Street: this pedestrian-only street is lined with historic buildings and public art installations. Enjoy it!
– Fresno County Courthouse: this courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Fresno, it was built in 1875. It’s a great example of Victorian-era architecture.
– Meux Home Museum: we gonna talk more about it later on.
– Fresno Art Museum: a must-visit place in Fresno and we have a special section for it.
– Tower Theatre: another Fresno attraction we gonna explore more.
Planning a self-guided walking tour on your first day in Fresno is a great way to explore the city’s rich history.
Before starting, mark those places on your map of Fresno, and remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water with you.
Click here to read all our United States city guides!
2 – De-stress at Woodward Regional Park
Woodward Regional Park is a sprawling green space with a classic city park vibe. The largest park in Fresno was created in 1968 in an area donated by Ralph Woodward.
Today it stretches over 300 acres by the South bank of the San Joaquin River.
The park offers something for everyone. There are walking and biking paths, plenty of park benches for resting, manicured lawns, tables for picnicking, and playgrounds for little ones.
The park is very well maintained and offers bathroom facilities and drinking fountains. It’s one of the cool things to do in Fresno with kids.
Extra tip: if you like parks, plan a visit to Roeding Park, another regional city park that has a lake, ponds, and areas for picnics.
3 – See the scenic Fresno County Blossom Trail
Fun fact, the central valley of California is the most productive agricultural region in the state. It yields an abundance of citrus, tree fruits, nuts, table grapes, and other crops each year.
The Fresno County’s Blossom Trail passes through some of the area’s most colorful orchards on a nearly 70-mile scenic route.
Take a self-guided tour driving or cycling and admire the beautiful wildflowers, blooming fruit trees, and cherry trees. See stunning shades of pink, white, and orange. It’s a real treat for the eyes.
You can pull over throughout the route to take a quiet stroll or have a photoshoot with the backdrop of the charming blossoming trees.
The peak time to see the flowering trees is in February and March. Although, visiting the Fresno Blossom Trail during other times of the year still provides a nice opportunity to see Fresno’s rural landscape.
A great place to begin the route is Simonian Farms. The fruit stand on the property has been around since 1901. It sits in a large red barn and displays a model Western town with an interesting collection of vintage items.
Have a quick wander before you begin your journey through Fresno Fruit Trail, and don’t forget to pick up some snacks for the road.
Fresno attractions you can’t miss!
There are many things to see in Fresno, will start with attractions that are paid for, but in a few of them, we have a local tip to help you save money while visiting.
4 – Travel to Japan at Shinzen Friendship Garden
The is a hidden gem inside Woodward Park.
Built by Fresno’s Japanese-American community, this serene Japanese garden showcases their culture. It features a koi pond, a teahouse, a bonsai collection, resident peacocks, lots of colorful plants, and picture-perfect scenery.
It’s a lovely place to de-stress and spend some time relaxing in nature.
Money-saving tip: The Shinzen Friendship Garden offers free admission for kids under 4 yo, and between 1 to 14 it’s only $1. Seniors and students pay also pay $1, and for families (2-5 people) is $7.
5 – Discover the Forestiere Underground Gardens
Built by the Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere from 1906 until his death in 1946, the Forestiere Underground Gardens are one of the most unique attractions in Fresno, CA.
The underground gardens weave through a series of structures, including rooms, courtyards, and passageways. Everything was hand-made by Forestiere, who drew inspiration for his work from the Paris ancient catacombs.
The underground gardens are only accessible through guided tours. Accompanied by a guide, you’ll learn about the history of the subterranean structure and the man who created them.
Money-saving tip: The Forestiere Underground Gardens offer free admission for children under 5 and reduced admission for students, seniors, and the military.
6 – Visit Fresno Art Museum
Established as a regional art center way back in 1948, the Fresno Art Museum (FAM) has grown into a top-notch accredited museum that truly represents the San Joaquin Valley cultural identity and art scene.
The museum exhibitions display local, California, and internationally known artists with an impressive permanent collection of Pre-Columbian art. It’s a must-visit in Fresno.
It offers a variety of educational programs, including art classes and workshops. If you’re interested in learning more about art, this is a great place to start.
Money-saving tip: keep an eye on the museum website for the Family Day events, they offer activities in Fresno for kids and adults, and the best part, they are free.
7 – Don’t miss the African American Historical and Cultural Museum
Fresno African American Historical and Cultural Museum is an excellent place to learn about the history and culture of African Americans in the region.
The museum has a wide range of temporary exhibitions and permanent collections that are designed to educate both children and adults.
In addition, the museum hosts a variety of exciting events throughout the year that celebrate and honor African-American history and culture.
Extra tip: book your visit in advance via the museum website. Also, check the event dates and plan your visit accordingly.
8- Attend an event at the historic Tower Theatre
The Tower Theater is one of Fresno’s landmarks, a place you can’t miss! The theater was built in 1939 and it’s a good example of art-deco. Checking out the architecture and the interior design is already a must, but if I were you, I would plan to watch a concert or any music performances here.
You can find the theatre agenda on its official website.
9 – Check out the Discovery Center
This interactive science center offers a fun and educational experience for all ages.
With hands-on exhibits, and live demonstrations – think of crawling through a life-size ant tunnel to launching a rocket – the center provides a unique opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in an engaging and interactive way.
The center’s programs are designed to engage and inspire young minds, with a focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Whether you’re a student, a parent, or simply someone with a curious mind, a visit to the Discovery Center is a must-do activity in Fresno.
10 – Go back in time at the Meux Home Museum
The Meux Home Museum is a 16-room Victorian mansion that has successfully stood the test of time. Dr. Thomas Richard Meux, a physician and Civil War veteran built the 16-room mansion for his family in 1889.
The museum showcases the best of Victorian architecture and includes intricate details typical of that period, like Corinthian cornices, scrolls, string courses, stained glass, and furnishings. It also features a scenic garden.
The house is accessible through roughly an hour-long guided tour, which is both entertaining and educational.
Extra tip: if historical attractions are your thing, then also check out Kearney Mansion Museum, a house built in French Renaissance style by M. Theo Kearney. It sits in Kearney Park, another green space and a nice place to visit in Fresno.
11 – Be entertained at the Save Mart Center
The Save Mart Center is a multi-purpose venue located on the campus of California State University, Fresno, at Shaw Avenue. It opened in 2003 and has been hosting various entertainment events since.
College basketball, wrestling, ice hockey, and other competition events take place at Fresno State University regularly.
The center also hosts live entertainment and concerts from time to time. Past music concerts have included A-list artists like Justin Bieber, Elton John, and Taylor Swift and performances from Cirque du Soleil. Cool, isn’t it?!
If you’re looking for a fun night out in Fresno, visit their official website to see the upcoming events. You might join a few interesting Fresno weekend events during your trip.
12 – Have fun at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo (sometimes called Roeding Park Zoo, as it’s located inside Roeding Park). People of all ages will enjoy spending the day here, exploring the interesting exhibits and outdoor attractions.
The Valley Farm petting zoo offers guests the chance to interact with and pet a variety of animals native to the Central Valley, including goats, sheep, chickens, cows, and more. At Twina Terrace, you’ll have the opportunity to come eye to eye with giraffes and feed these gentle giants.
There’s also a Stingray Bay to visit and a reptile house where guests can view over 40 species of reptiles up close.
That’s just a small sample of what you can do at Fresno Zoo. There are two dining options inside and guests are also welcome to bring in their own food and drinks.
13 – Enjoy an evening at the Tower District
The Tower District, aka Entertainment District, is a neighborhood that sprung up in the 1930s. It offers Fresno tourists a little bit of everything.
During the day, shop at the local boutiques and grab a coffee or casual meal at a coffee shop. Irene’s Cafe and Teazers World Tea Market are both local favorites.
When evening hits, this area of the city turns into a hotspot for nightlife and entertainment. For some of the best cocktails in Fresno, head to Lucy’s Lounge. For live music and dancing, visit Strummer’s Bar & Grill.
If you’re keen on a casual night out, see a theater production at the historic Tower District Theater. Or, for dinner and a show, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater will provide a memorable experience.
14 – Beat the heat at Island Waterpark
There’s no way around it, Fresno in summer is hot. The average temperature usually hangs out in the 90°s (32°C), with some days reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking for a tourist attraction in Fresno to beat the heat, the Island Water Park is where you should go.
It has all of the fun attractions you’d expect from a waterpark, including outdoor pools with thrilling tube water slides, body slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a water playground.
Rent a cabana and enjoy comfortable shaded seating. When you need to refuel, visit one of the food concessions found around the amusement park.
The park caters to all ages and is one of the fun places in Fresno to spend the day.
15 – See a baseball game at Chukchansi Park
Chukchansi Park is the home of Fresno’s minor league baseball team, the Fresno Grizzlies.
The modern baseball stadium opened in 2002 features great views of the field from every seat in the house. It also offers incredible panoramas of downtown Fresno’s skyline with stunning views of the Sierra Mountains creeping up in the distance.
The concession stands sell meals, snacks, and drinks. Enjoy a fun afternoon and mingle with locals while cherrying for the beloved Grizzlies.
16 – Wander around Riverpark Shopping Center
Riverpark is a very popular Fresno attraction. This massive outdoor shopping and entertainment center features top brand retails as well as some locally-owned gems.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, but don’t want anything tacky from a gift shop, or feel like treating yourself to a shopping spree, this is your place.
Apart from shopping, the movie theater, named Regal Edwards Theater, screens all the blockbuster hits. It even has 4DX and IMAX screens for the ultimate immersive cinematic experience.
You’ll find in River Park Shopping Center a wide range of restaurants specializing in everything from Asian and Mexican to French cuisine. For fine dining in Fresno, head to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Or, for something more casual with a lively setting, stop into Yard House for delicious food and drinks.
If you want an authentic Californian foodie experience, grab a burger and shake from In-N-Out Burger.
17 – Have drinks at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company Beer Garden
Mingle with the locals and enjoy a few cold ones at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company. Two fun things to do in Fresno for adults and couples.
This low-key brewery makes all of its products in downtown Fresno. They aim to create great-tasting craft beer while bringing awareness and support to the preservation of California’s Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
They cater to all tastes, from easy-drinking beer to rich stouts. Plus, their menu changes, so there’s always something new to try. Their flavors can get quite creative, with options like tropical blonde ale infused with passion fruit, guava, mango, and pineapple – yum!
Many of their flavors and beer names draw inspiration from the local surrounding, especially the mountains. Select from options like a Valley Haze IPA, a Yosemite Facelift Pale Ale, and a Half Dome Wheat Ale.
The brewery has a fun, social atmosphere. They regularly host live music and food trucks. The taproom and beer garden is open every day, from the afternoon until late in the evening.
On your way out, don’t forget to pick up some bottles or growlers of your favorite flavors to go.
18 – Check out the Big Fresno Fair
The Big Fresno Fair is the fifth-largest fair in California. It was founded in 1884 and has been taking place every year since.
It has all of your typical fair rides and attractions, like a Ferris Wheel, rotating swings, and carnival games. It also has some special events, like home shows and horse racing.
Live music is another staple of the fair. Past headliners have included acts like Billy Idol, the Beach Boys, and Ariana Grande.
The fair takes place every October and runs for two weeks. But if you can’t visit Fresno during this month, check out the Big Fresno Fair Museum. This attraction is open year-round and educates guests on the history of the fair for the past 136 years. It features lots of cool exhibits and artifacts.
Things to do near Fresno, CA
19 – Visit Moravia Wines
The central valley is the backbone of California’s wine industry. This region of the state produces over half of California’s grapes. The hot temperatures and dry conditions combined make the perfect formula for large grapes, which yield juicy, high-quality wines.
The best place to sample some delicious Californian wine is Moravia Wines. Set in a sprawling vineyard, the setting is magical and the varieties of their whites and reds are top-notch. Enjoy an outdoor wine tasting on their large patio under the warm California sun. And it’s only 20 minutes drive from Fresno.
Kids are also welcome at the winery. An outdoor play structure will keep them entertained while Mom and Dad sip some wine on the patio.
Guests are also free to bring their own food. Pack your favorite picnic provisions, and you’ll be all set for a day of fun in Fresno.
Extra tip: on Friday evenings, from May to September, family-friendly activities and entertainment are also scheduled.
20 – Go for a hike or bike ride on the Millerton Lake Trail
You can’t say you visit Fresno if you didn’t venture into some outdoor activities. So you better plan a visit to the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area.
Located only 30 minutes’ drive north of Fresno, Millefrton Lake is a beautiful green space where you can admire the San Joaquin River flowing from the Sierra Nevada into de Friant Dam.
It’s a paradise for hiking and cycling with 8 great trails that goes from 1 mile (1.6 km) to 8.7 miles (14 km), with elevation up to 1,853 feet (565 meters) above sea level.
The Pincushion Mountain Peak Trail is one of the most popular trails and offers a direct route to the peak of Pincushion Mountain. It’s a moderate difficulty 2.8-mile loop trail.
Before starting any hiking trail, check its difficulty and be sure that it matches your skill level.
You can also go fishing and boating on Millerton Lake. But before doing any of these activities check out the park regulations.
21 – Don’t miss Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of the most beautiful National Parks on the west coast. If this statement is not enough to convince you to visit it, here are a few extra points you should take into consideration:
The park is only 1 hour away from Fresno.
It’s home to breathtaking natural beauty, majestic waterfalls, lakes and towering granite cliffs.
You can go hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and rock climbing here.
Yosemite National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s home to historic sites, including the Ahwahneechee Indian Village, which offers a glimpse into the daily lives and traditions of the native people who once lived in the area.
22 – Feel small at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Two natural wonders perfect for a Fresno day trip, less than an hour’s drive from the city.
The Sequoia National Park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, spectacular mountain views and waterfalls. The park offers an unforgettable outdoor experience. It also has the Moro Rock climb which will give you amazing views of the Great Western Divide and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Kings Canyon National Park is known for its canyons, valleys, waterfalls, and peaks. It also has the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world! You should go and admire it!
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are perched in Sierra Nevada Mountains, known as one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the US. Both are home to abundant wildlife and stunning hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging walks.
Download your Sequoia Kings Canyon Self-Driving Audio Guide here and have fun while learning about these incredible parks.
Getting around Fresno, CA
When staying in Fresno downtown you can reach many places by walking. If you are a bit far, then you will need to use a car or public transportation.
If you are planning a California road trip you will be sorted. However, if you are flying to Fresno (find the best flights to Fresno California here) or any other city, and planning to visit all the attractions you have 3 options:
– Renting a Car: renting a car in Fresno is easy, you have a few shops at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and also in the city. I suggest you search for the best deals and book your car in advance. You will save some money and will you arrive in Fresno with everything sorted.
RentalCars website compares the best rental cars in Fresno and in any other US city. Check it out!
– Using public transportation: you can get around Fresno using the city’s 18 bus lines that connect the metropolitan area and downtown. It might take a bit more time to get to places, but most of Fresno’s attractions can be reached by using public transportation.
– Taxi: not the cheapest way, but an easy way to get around without the need to worry about driving or planning your schedule according to the bus timetable.
– Cycling: you can rent a bike and explore Fresno at your pace. There are several bike lanes in Fresno and it was the first city in the Central Valley to earn a Bronze Medal Designation from the League of American Bicyclists, recognizing it as a bicycle-friendly community.
Always be careful, wear a helmet, and follow the traffic rules.
Fresno activities wrap up
Although Fresno is one of California’s largest cities, it has a small-town charm with plenty of urban and natural attractions, plus some interesting cultural events. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy the days at an easy pace, or have an action-packed trip. It’s your call!
It may not be by the coast, but its location next to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range makes it a hit with nature lovers. This means that when visiting Fresno, you can have the city fun and also the outdoor thrill.
Whether you’re visiting Fresno on its own or passing by en route to somewhere else, it’s safe to say that the entirety of your trip will be entertaining and exciting.