California Beyond the Big Names

California's Central Valley is often overshadowed by iconic landmarks like a swooping red bridge, big white letters on a hill, a pastel-colored castle, cascading waterfalls, and surfboard-lined beaches. Yet, delve deeper and you'll discover a gold vein of attractions waiting to be explored in the Valley. From breathtaking landscapes to unique local interactions, this diverse region offers unforgettable experiences for every traveler.

Towering granite majesties, ancient sequoia groves, and canyons deeper than the Grand — the Central Valley plays a key role in accessing the region’s national park and offers outdoor attractions of its own. Just outside the gates of Yosemite, Madera County has water sports at Lake Bass, mammoth bones at the Fossil Discovery Center, and tastings with a view along the Madera Wine Trail to discover. Fresno not only has access to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks within 90 minutes of the urban hub, but it also claims the quirky-but-cool Forestiere Underground Gardens. Visalia has easy access to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, but is also home to a beautiful conservation area for valley oaks. Craving more extreme adventures? Vacaville can brag on serious bouldering opportunities, but those who want to slow down should seek out the pair of hard-to-find swings with a view that can’t be beat! 

Every journey requires food, so why not make it a part of the adventure? The country’s major agricultural hub delivers more than nuts and produce — they deliver food experiences that are attractions in and of themselves. Escape to France with a French farmhouse-style cocktail in Yolo. Sample honey from around the world in Yolo County, nibble almond-themed indulgences while cruising Modesto’s orchards, and devour drip-down-your-chin stone fruit on Fresno County’s Fruit Trail — this is just a smattering of the incredible flavors to discover in the Central Valley. Can’t decide where to start? Stockton’s Flavor Fest gathers a world of spices and seasonings into a single weekend to tantalize the tongue (but even if you miss it, there’s always something ripe in the Valley!)

Life-long learners, listen up. The Central Valley has a diverse range of opportunities to sate the whole family’s curiosity. For the littler lot, frolic at the Pixie Woods Children's Park in Stockton, explore the brand new Modesto Children’s Museum, imagine future careers at Imagine U Children's Museum in Visalia, or spot as many of the 40 endangered species as you can at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Get up close to history and tradition with demonstrations of the Wukchumni people's heritage at the Go Native event in Visalia. Museum lovers will want to check out the classic art treasure trove at the Haggin Museum and then pedal back in cycling history at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in Yolo County. Step aboard a steam-powered locomotive on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad in Madera County. Want to discover your own treasures? Antiquing is a must in downtown Clovis in Fresno County. From cultural immersion to interactive learning, every city offers unique experiences to spark your curiosity.

California's Central Valley offers an abundance of unique attractions waiting to be discovered. Pack your bags, lace up your shoes, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in this region. There are so many things to fit into your Central Valley itinerary, you’ll have a tough time narrowing down your options!

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