It’s summer vacation and it’s time to explore! A good idea for exploration is to check out various locations in the Central Valley for a staycation; you can save money on gas and be closer to home.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
Officially a California State Landmark, this stop is located on the corner of Shaw and Cornelia Avenues. The gardens were built by Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant who came to America to pursue his dreams of becoming a citrus farmer. Over a span of 40 years, Forestiere created a garden that represented vernacular architecture. Everything was constructed without blueprints over a span of 10 acres.
The gardens still stand today. It is structured as a subterranean area with patios, grottos, and garden courts; all feature arches and stonework made of local hardpan sedimentary rock. There are a total of 65 rooms in the gardens.
Tours are offered April through October, Wednesdays through Mondays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In November, tours are available Wednesdays through Sundays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Project Survival’s Cat Haven
Head out to the eastern side of the Central Valley and hang out with some big cats! Project Survival’s Cat Haven is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of wild cats. The Cat Haven originally started in 1993 when 100 acres were purchased just west of Kings Canyon. There is an educational room on the facilities for youth and outreach programs.
Visitors have the opportunity to visit the location until Sep. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Winter hours include dates between Oct. 1 and April 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Are you in the mood for nature? Take a break from the cities and suburbs and head over to Millerton Lake. Take Sky Harbour Road all the way out to the lake and park at the South Finegold lot. You can find the San Joaquin River Trail by the lot and hike it to Pincushion Peak.
The hike is five miles roundtrip and is rated as a moderate to difficult hike. The reward of reaching the peak? You’ll see stunning views of Millerton Lake and the surrounding mountains.
Catch a show in the Central Valley! The Tower Theater, built in 1939, hosts a variety of local shows and musicals. It originally started as a 20th Century Fox Movie House, but it’s been restored as a center for performing arts.
An upcoming show includes “Friends: The Musical Parody” and Georges Bixet’s “Carmen.” The former will be taking place in July, and the latter in August. “Friends”
The Tower Theater is situated in Fresno’s Tower District, the city’s “arts and entertainment district.” Visitors can find a number of restaurants, cafes, galleries, and local retail shops within walking distance from the theater.
Another theater in the Central Valley that’s worth visiting is Clovis’ own CenterStage! This theater is about providing year-round affordable family entertainment, preserve musical theater, provide an artistic platform for community performers, and to ignite the imaginations of artists and theatergoers.
The theater originally started in 1991 in conjunction with CUSD. Now, the theater operates as a community-based nonprofit. CenterStage’s upcoming production will be Legally Blonde The Musical,” coming to the stage on July 25.
Kearney Mansion Museum
Discover some Central Valley agricultural history at Kearney Mansion. Originally owned by Martin Theodore Kearney, a major figure in agricultural development, this mansion is now operated by the Fresno City and County History Society as a museum. The site contains 50 percent of the original furnishings.
The mansion consists of a main residence and a servants’ quarter. The existing structures were intended to be a part of a “Chateau Fresno” that was intended to be designed in the French Renaissance style (the existing structures are built in this style). The mansion is located at Kearney Park.
Tours are available schools, groups, and the public. Public tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Schools tours are available between Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The Discovery Center
Fresno’s Discovery Center is a community-based educational history and science space that offers visitors hands-on learning experiences. The site was originally home to the Estella Blanca Vineyards. When prohibition came around, the five-acre lot was donated to the City of Fresno.
The Center now operates as a nonprofit and features a Deutsch Cactus Garden, tortoise compound, and an interactive science museum. Visits are open seven days a week, and the Center even has a $1 First Friday special. This occurs every first Friday of the month between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.