The city of Fresno is in proximity to some of the biggest and best parks in California such as Yosemite National Park, King Canyon National Park, Sierra National Forest, and Sequoia National Park. However, the city itself is worth visiting in its own right. Aside from the major attractions like the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chaffee Zoo, and Tower Theatre, there are tons of points of interest situated off the beaten path. After settling into your Fresno vacation rental, explore the heart of the city with these hidden gems.

1. Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater

While the Tower Theatre is the huge draw when it comes to live entertainment, the Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater offers a cozy experience with first-class dinners tailored to the specific performance. For instance, the menu served during “Mama Mia” offers Greek fare and seafood such as hummus, spinach and feta-stuffed chicken, and stuffed globe artichoke. While dining, enjoy live musicals and plays that range from “Peter and the Starcatchers” to “My Fair Lady.” Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater lies in north Fresno across the street from the historic Tower Theatre, so you can view it before enjoying your show.

2. Simonian Farms

Simonian Farms lies in the outer fringes of southeast Fresno where the housing districts give way to farmland. Get a vacation rental nearby where you can enjoy country charm and be close to Simonian Farms. This farm offers a look into the past with the classic red barn, miles upon miles of tilled farmland, animals, and antiques. Go on a self-guided tour of the farm, and hang out in the Big Red Barn where you can purchase food, fresh produce, wine, and a variety of nuts. The farm also hosts regular events such as mining for gold and gemstones for the kids and wine tasting saloon for the adults.

3. Fresno County Wine Journey

Located in the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno is the center of the county’s wine land. Even thought Napa Valley is known as California’s wine country, the San Joaquin Valley is no slouch with a dozens of wineries in and around Fresno. Go on the Fresno County Wine Journey where you can explore award-winning wineries such as Marian Farms, Moravia Wines, Engelmann Cellars, and Full Circle Brewery. Or you can visit a few dozen within the city limits including A. Nonini Winery and Fresno State Winery.

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4. Vineyard Farmer’s Market

If you want to visit a vineyard or get fresh produce just north of the downtown area, head to the Vineyard Farmer’s Market, and open-air, vine-encased venue where farmers from throughout the valley come with their goods and produce. Enjoy fresh fruit and veggies, artisan cheeses, local honey, homemade jams and jellies, fresh squeezed orange juice, and more.

5. Fresno Historical Society

Fresno may not have a ton of historic sites, but the Fresno Historical Society celebrates the city’s past with flair in the historic 19th-century Kearney mansion. Here you can browse the exhibits, explore the archives, and take part in the many events such as the Civil War Revisited, History Happy Hour, and Cemetery Tour. There are public house tours on the weekend afternoon. While visiting, explore Kearney Park with its 225 acres of walking trails, woods, and playgrounds.

6. Shinzen Friendship Gardens

While the Forestiere Underground Gardens are one of the major attractions in Fresno, the Shinzen Friendship Gardens are just as lovely but far lesser known, giving you a little space as you explore. Located in north Fresno, the gardens offer a rural experience with open land and the San Joaquin River to the north and west and suburbs to the south and east. Find your inner peace by walking along the tea garden, around the koi pond, by the waterfalls, and through the bonsai garden. There’s a section of the garden dedicated to each season for a stunning visit the entire year. After visiting the garden, explore Woodward Park located next door. You can walk around the lake or take one of the many hiking paths, or play disc golf.

7. Meux Home Museum

The Meux Home Museum is another historic mansion dating back to the 19th century. This building boasts gothic Victorian. Take a self-guided tour or wait for the weekend afternoons for a docent-guided tour. Afterwards, head across the street to tour St John’s Cathedral, dating back to the 1800s, and the Veterans Memorial Museum. The Meux Home Museum lies in the downtown area where there are plenty of museums, eateries, and attractions to visit. Add to this great public transportation, and you can take one afternoon to thoroughly explore the area without having to worry about parking.

8. Millerton Lake State Recreation Area

With both Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park a little over an hour away, most tourists ignore the much closer Millerton Lake State Recreation Area located just 40 minutes from downtown Fresno. If you need to take an afternoon soaking in the sun or boating on the water, then visiting this hidden gem can be paradise, especially because you can explore sans the crowds. Start out renting a boat or kayak at the Millerton Marina for some personal time with nature. Next, go hiking along the shore or take part in a bald eagle tour that runs on the weekends in the early part of the year. Keep an eye out for other wildlife from mule dear and badgers to golden eagles. End with a look at the Kechaye Cultural Preserve.

9. Standard Sweets & Spices

Standard Sweets & Spices is a hidden gem, literally, in north Fresno. At first appearances, the store is an Indian market, but if you head toward the back of the store, you’ll hit the secret cafe that serves some of the best Indian food in the city. there’s lamb and goat curry, samosas, chicken tikka, naan bread, and other scrumptious dishes. Don’t leave without trying the ras malai, a dessert featuring cream, spices, and doughnuts.

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