February 02, 2021
As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
It’s no wonder Chico is nicknamed the “City of Roses”—the charming town is rich in natural beauty. Besides being among the best NorCal cities to live in and one of the top inexpensive college towns in the Golden State, Chico is home to a wide array of activities everyone can enjoy.
Whether you’re looking to go out in nature and explore new parks or wanting to venture into the city and visit the charming downtown attractions, one thing’s for sure—you won’t run out of things to do in Chico. As an insider’s guide to Chico would tell you, this underrated Northern California city is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
Fun things to do in Chico
1. Spend a day at Bidwell Park
With numerous hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, swimming holes, and other spots for recreational activities, Bidwell Park is a great place to spend the day. As one of the largest municipal parks in the nation, the 2,500-acre expanse has been a haven for Chico residents since 1905, and there’s no shortage of places to explore here.
Is disc golfing a passion of yours? Bidwell Park boasts two disc golf courses: Sherwood Forest in Middle Park and Peregrine Point in Upper Park. More of an avid hiker? From the Yahi Trail in Upper Park that follows Big Chico Creek to the scenic Guardian Trail that leads to breathtaking views, Bidwell Park offers trails for hikers of all levels and interests.
Looking for things to do in Chico that don’t require trekking a trail on foot? Good news—most trails are multi-use, so you can explore them on two wheels or on a horse. As if all of that wasn’t enough, paragliding, fishing, and swimming are other fun things to do at this Chico destination. Need we say more?
2. Let out your inner child at DeGarmo Park
If you’re traveling with children, DeGarmo Park is a must-see stop on your California family road trip. Offering plenty of outdoorsy stuff to do in Chico, DeGarmo Park is also constantly adding new amenities to its already impressive list. Currently, you can enjoy the youth softball fields, multi-use turf fields, playgrounds, walking paths, and picnic areas. In the near future, you can look forward to the opening of additional sports fields, an aquatic facility, and a gymnasium (all of which are all currently in the works). If you’re on a getaway with your four-legged friend, there is a large dog park here that you’ll both love.
3. Admire the spectacular Bidwell Mansion
Situated in the heart of the city, Bidwell Mansion represents one of the most well-preserved examples of early Victorian architecture in the Golden State. This spectacular Chico attraction serves as a tangible link to the Bidwells—two very notable figures in California history. John Bidwell was considered an important pioneer, soldier, statesman, politician, and philanthropist. His wife, Annie, was well known for being the daughter of a high-ranking Washington official and was very involved in the suffrage movement. They hosted the likes of John Muir and Susan B. Anthony at their grand Chico estate.
Now a museum and state historic park, the Bidwell Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for the public to explore on their own or on guided tours (during normal circumstances). Besides being a gateway to the social, cultural, and economic heritage of this NorCal city, Bidwell Mansion can also be rented as a beautiful wedding venue in California. Whether you’re heading to this Chico attraction to admire its sheer beauty or to celebrate a milestone, it is among the best things to do in Chico and definitely worth a visit.
4. Go for a swim in Sycamore Pool
As with a lot of cities in Northern California, Chico’s location means the weather is relatively cool throughout the year. But if you’re visiting during the sunny summer months, taking a dip in the refreshing Sycamore Pool can be one of the best things to do in Chico. This natural swimming hole is a perfect Chico attraction for families—the water is regularly cleaned, and there are lifeguards on duty during summertime.
5. Visit the Chico Certified Farmers Market
Fresh, regionally grown produce and handmade food from the local community can be perfect souvenirs to take home with you from Chico. So, head to East Second Street to discover the wide selection of organic fruits and vegetables offered every week at the Chico Certified Farmers Market.
Although the big draw here is the fresh produce, you'll also find arts and crafts, bath and body products, handcrafted jewelry, artisanal baked goods, and local honey at the market. Stuff your face with your body’s weight in delicious food, then walk it off around the downtown area. This is a top thing to do in Chico that foodies are bound to enjoy.
6. Get inspired at the Museum of Northern California Art
In addition to its many natural wonders, Chico has a rich cultural arts scene. The Museum of Northern California Art hosts rotating exhibitions of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photography by NorCal artists—it is a prime destination for an introduction to the region’s amazing emerging talent.
The museum also hosts many special activities and events throughout the year, including guest speakers, art workshops, and festivals (currently online). The latest exhibition, which ran until January 24, was titled Selfie and focused on the theme of “self” during the first 10 months of 2020 and COVID-19. The next exhibition, titled Dream State is set to be unveiled in early February; it can currently be viewed online.
7. Explore the public art around downtown Chico
As if the natural scenery of Chico wasn’t beautiful enough on its own, one of the fastest-growing cities in California is also home to unique public art. Downtown Chico is adorned with everything from intricate mosaic tiles and larger-than-life murals to picturesque fountains and striking sculptures.
Taking a self-guided art tour of the downtown area is one of the best things to do in Chico. Our Hands, Love Mural, Unity Mural, Luminary Benches & Pedestal Arts Seats, and Diamond Alley Arches are some of the pieces you should consider adding to your public art tour while in Chico.
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