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Laid-back vibes, iconic foods, unique attractions, and stunning scenery—California's Central Valley offers more than you might think. From the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and San Joaquin Fish Hatchery to Forestiere Underground Gardens and the Discovery Center, this surprising region is the perfect place for parents and youngsters alike. So, plan your next family road trip and stop at the top family-friendly attractions in Central Valley.
The Best Attractions in the Central Valley
Forestiere Underground Gardens
Family-friendly California attractions are aplenty—you'll even find them hidden underground. Head to the Forestiere Underground Gardens to uncover the hand-built underground home featuring ample rooms, courtyards, and passageways. As you meander through 10 acres of chambers and grottos, appreciate the handiwork of Italian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere; in search of shade from the scorching California sun, Forstiere went underground to build his residence. Take a guided tour through the underground caves and gardens dotted with fruit trees that receive direct sunlight from open-air skylights.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Fresno—one of the most affordable places to live in California—is home to the beloved Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Spread across 39 acres, the zoo features more than 190 species. Traverse one of the zoo's many trails with your kids; take the Twiga Trail to visit the giraffes. Appreciate the moments when you find yourself within the presence of roaring lions, peaceful elephants, and magnificent cheetahs. Take your kids back in time at the "Zoorassic Park" exhibit, where makeshift dinosaurs move, roar, and nest—your kids will experience life when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Educate their young minds about agriculture and land cultivation at the "Valley Farm" exhibit.
San Joaquin Fish Hatchery
Situated along the San Joaquin River and downstream from the Friant Dam, the San Joaquin Fish Hatchery is an awesome opportunity for outdoor recreation in the Central Valley. The prime producer of trout and inland salmon, this hatchery is a fabulous place to take the kids to practice their fishing skills. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of the multicolored trout sculpture before you go.
Color Me Mine
Expand your kid’s palette with a paint-your-own pottery class at Color Me Mine. With more than 75 colors and hundreds of ceramic pieces to choose from, Color Me Mine will invoke a sense of art in you like no other. The hands-on classes here are a fantastic way for kids to unleash their creative spirit while producing unique artistic houseware pieces. So, prepare to get your hands dirty and bond with the family.
A modern ceramic arts studio found in Visalia, Clay Cafe is perfect for those seeking a creative outlet. The ceramics are pre-molded, baked, and ready to paint—all you need to do is unleash your inner artist. Aside from offering kid-friendly classes, the studio also offers events such as date nights, ladies' nights, team building activities, and birthday parties.
Nothing says family bonding like bowling. With dining, gaming, and bowling areas, Fresno's Bowlero is one of the best family attractions in the Central Valley. Go for the bowling, and stay for the billiard tables and arcade games. Bowlero features a state-of-the-art arcade packed with video games and vintage classics. Play to your heart's content at the arcade before heading to the pool table to show off your billiard moves. Both you and your kids are bound to have a great time.
Let your kid’s imagination run wild at ImagineU in Visalia, a safe space where imagination is encouraged and children can expand their minds through play. The interactive museum for children—which focuses on collaborative, creative, and independent play—will help your children learn to take on responsibility and become productive members of society. Take part in the Shield Exhibit, where kids can dress up and take on professional roles they admire; your child can dress up as a fire(wo)man and practice saving others and putting out fires around town.
Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots
The humble yet expansive Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots farm is a hot spot for apricot picking. Pick your own apricots and indulge in nature's sweet treats. Since the farm only grows apricots, it's only open for a few weeks of the year, so plan your family trip ahead of time to ensure you make it in time for the apricot-picking extravaganza.
Tulare County Museum
Tucked within Mooney Grove Park, the Tulare County Museum exhibits the region’s rich farming and labor history and is home to one of the greatest Native American agricultural displays. Travel back in time to explore and experience the cultural influence of the people who established themselves in Central Valley and cultivated the land. The barn-like museum showcases the history of various immigrants making their way to the West Coast, including the arrival of Armenians, Dutch, and Portuguese.
The Discovery Center
The Discovery Center is one of the best Central Valley attractions where children can learn, grow, and just enjoy being kids. Founded in Fresno, the Discovery Center is home to the Deutsch Cactus Garden—a beautiful space for kids to picnic, run wild, and expend energy. The garden also boasts more than 250 different kinds of cacti and succulents. Students of all ages can come to learn, explore, and discover new environments through interactive, park-like exhibits. The museum itself boasts hands-on exhibits such as the Reptile Room; go back in time and dig up dinosaur bones at the dino-dig.
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