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Fresno CA

Fresno, CA

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Fresno, California's fifth-largest city, is located at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the valley bounded by three of the state's national parks. Surrounded by Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, the city serves as the perfect home base for trips into the parks, and is a premier getaway choice for anyone who loves the outdoors. Within city limits, visitors flock to Fresno attractions like the Tower District, where trendy boutiques rub shoulders with casual dining establishments, hip coffeehouses and an Art Deco theater. Rated one of America's most walkable cities, there's plenty to see and do in downtown Fresno without getting stuck on the freeway.

Originally built by the Central Pacific Railroad and settled by farmers, Fresno has grown into the largest inland city in California. For those interested in exploring downtown, the Tower District is a great place to start, with its walkable size and plenty of shopping and dining. The district’s centerpiece and cultural hub, the Tower Theatre, hosts live musical performances, comedy acts, Broadway plays and classic films.

Just west of the Tower District lies Roeding Park, one of the city's green oases. A family-oriented Fresno attraction, children enjoy Rotary Storyland and Playland, two amusement centers located near the park's western end. To the southeast, Fresno Chaffee Zoo houses 125 species of animals, including northland green geckos and southern tent tortoises.

Woodward Park, Fresno's largest public park, anchors the northern end of the city. The Shinzen Japanese Garden inhabits the park's eastern side and includes a tea garden and replica Sukiya-style teahouse, as well as a large koi pond. The rest of the park features 300 acres of jogging trails and picnic areas that provide a quiet escape from city life.

Another unique Fresno attraction is the Forestiere Underground Gardens. Covering three levels below ground, the underground gardens are based on Mediterranean catacombs and were tunneled by hand by Fresno resident Baldassare Forestiere in 1906. Forestiere made his home underground in order to escape the city's heat, creating an elaborate maze of nearly 100 rooms.

To see how the other half lived during the same era, check out the Kearney Mansion, with two buildings designed in the French Renaissance style. Originally intended as an enormous chateau, the existing mansion was meant to become the servants' quarters to a larger structure that was never completed. The manor stands on the 225-acre Kearney Park.

For art lovers, the Fresno Art Museum should not be missed. Permanent exhibits include pre-Columbian Mesoamerican art, Andean pre-Columbian textiles and artifacts, and Berkeley abstract Expressionist paintings from 1955 to 1965. The extensive collection also includes Japanese prints by Bakufu Ohn and late 20th-century sculptures by Robert Cremean, Claire Falkenstein, Jacques Lipchitz and Clement Renzi.

Upon leaving town for additional sightseeing, visitors enjoy trips to the Madera Wine Trail, just north of the city. Fresno is located in San Joaquin Valley, and although the wine industry is not as well-known as Napa Valley's, several award-winning wineries thrive here.

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