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An outdoorsman’s dream, with 75 urban parks, boulevards of shady palms, and three nearby national parks, Fresno is California’s fifth-largest city, home to 80 ethnic nationalities. Built on the desert plains of the American West and framed by snow-capped mountains, Fresno was born as a railroad town in the late 1800s. Settled by farmers drawn to the rich soil of the San Joaquin Valley, this sun-dappled California metropolis is today a bustling commercial hub, but its real draw is its proximity to the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, home to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Active Pursuits

Fresno makes an ideal base for exploring three of the west’s most stunning national parks—Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon, as well as the Sierra National Forest, just an hour away. Head north to hike, cross-country ski, or swim in bracing mountain streams in Yosemite National Park. Gaze up at 14,000-foot high Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park. And both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, to the east, hold some of the world’s largest living giant sequoia trees. No matter what park you choose to explore, the towering Sierra Nevadas will surely capture your imagination.

Things to Do

Exhibits at the Fresno Museum of Art range from pre-Columbian Mexican textiles to Berkeley abstract expressionists. The elegant Kearney Mansion Museum was built by Fresno’s “raisin king” a century ago. Wander downtown Fresno’s 300-acre Woodward Park and its miles of scenic river trails. In spring and summer, root for the Triple-A minor-league Fresno Grizzlies in Chukchansi Park. In late February, drive the 62-mile Fresno County Blossom Trail through blossoming fruit orchards and citrus groves.

Nightlife and entertainment

Hit the Tower District—so named for the neighborhood’s distinctive 1939 Tower Theatre—to sip sudsy microbrews or California wine in buzzing cafes, nightclubs, and bistros. The Deco theater at the neighborhood’s heart is now a performing-arts space, hosting rock bands and comedy acts. See such Broadway classics as Oklahoma! at Roger Rocka’s dinner theater nearby. If you’re craving a classic neighborhood pub, join the locals at Livingstone’s Restaurant and Pub.

Restaurants and dining

Fresno is right in the middle of California’s agricultural heartland, where farms and orchards dot the countryside. The culinary scene reflects Fresno’s zesty cultural diversity. Look for good and fast taco joints like Robertitos, where a jukebox blasts Tejano tunes, or full-service Mexican stalwarts like Bobby Salazar’s. For old-school Italian served up in a mod interior, head to Veni Vidi Vici. Order a juicy steak in the Wild West ambience of Cool Hand Luke’s. Sample wines in the boutique vineyards along the Madera Wine Trail.