March/April 2022 Issue
Long considered a stop on the way to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, California’s fifth-largest city is now a destination of its own, thanks to an influx of young entrepreneurs and creative types. Spring in Fresno brings spectacular wildflowers, fun festivals, and farm-to-table gourmet food and drink.
With $7.9 billion in annual sales of 350 different crops, Fresno County is the nation’s top agricultural producer. And from late February through early April, those peach, almond, plum, and nectarine trees flourish in a riot of pink and white flowers. Drive the 60-mile Fresno County Blossom Trail through the small towns of Sanger, Fowler, and Reedley following the Blossom Trail Committee’s self-guided tour, available both in print and digitally through Google Maps, to know exactly where to pull over and snap photos.
Venture north to the San Joaquin River, where the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust is creating a 22-mile path along the river’s bluffs, segments of which are already open. Enter through Woodward Park, Fresno’s largest city park, to pick up the Lewis S. Eaton Trail, and wander on foot along five miles of wildlands home to bobcats, egrets, and blue herons. Stop at the Jensen River Ranch, the site of a massive effort to restore 167 acres to native vegetation, or hit the water for kayaking and fishing.
Sights and Events
Before air-conditioning, Central Valley summers were unbearable. So when Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere arrived to dig irrigation canals in 1906, he dug his own home as well (with nothing more than a pickax and shovel). The result is Forestiere Underground Gardens, a labyrinthine 10-acre resort complete with a ballroom, a tri-level aquarium, and a courtyard, all more than 12 feet underground—and 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the surface. Sign up in advance for the hour-long guided tour (the only public access), and ask your guide to point out the creative ways Forestiere designed skylights to keep his underground fruit trees warm and watered; 98 percent of the trees are his original stock. Opens mid-March.
The Wild West is on full display in Clovis, Fresno’s neighboring town. Browse the shops on Clovis Avenue, and check out the 108th annual Clovis Rodeo (April 20–24), a long weekend of bull-riding, parades, and mutton bustin’—a sheep-riding competition for 5- to 7-year-olds. The spring fling raises more than $350,000 every year for local charity; this year, Mitchell Tenpenny, Parmalee, and Jameson Rodgers all perform live.