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Central California Life Magazine

Explore Your Own Backyard: 5 Fresno-Area Places to Be a Tourist

Sep 12, 2016 04:52PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Kings River Expeditions. Photo courtesy of the Kings River Expeditions Facebook page.

When the word "vacation" comes to mind, oftentimes images of relaxing on the beach, or being far from home, come to mind. However, Fresno is known for being right in the middle of a lot of exciting and interesting places to explore. You don't need to go far to discover new things!

Put on your tourist goggles, and step outside. We've compiled some fun and exciting places to consider exploring, in your own backyard. Who knows, you may find your new favorite spot!

Forestiere Underground Gardens

Contact(559) 271-0734

Location5021 W Shaw Ave, Fresno, CA 93722

Not only is this historic site a California State Landmark (No. 916), but it also won this year's best underground attraction in the USA.

The Forestiere Underground Gardens was the underground home of Sicilian visionary and self-taught artist/builder Baldassare Forestiere. It is a network of hand-built, Ancient Roman architecture - arches, vaults and stone-built walls, with underground rooms, courtyards and passageways reminiscent of the ancient catacombs. In this space, there is a series of unique fruit producing trees, shrubs, and vines growing underground, some over 90 years-old. 

Adults - $15 Seniors (60+) - $13
Ages (5 -17) - $7 4 and under are free

Courtesy rate of $12 each for:
College Students (w/ID) * Active Duty military (w/ID)
Discount also available for private groups of 15 or more.

For more information, visit their website

Kings River Expeditions

Contact(559) 233-4881

1840 Shaw Ave #105-70, Clovis, CA 93611

Kings River Expeditions (KRE) is the premier whitewater rafting company on the Kings
River. They offer both one-and two-day trips packed with fun, action and great service.

Originating high in the Southern Sierra, the mighty Kings River is a beautiful Class 3
river, perfect for both beginning and intermediate rafters. Twin Pines Camp is home base for KRE and lies just above Pine Flat Reservoir, only an hour and a half
east of Fresno.

Kings River Expeditions was the first to offer whitewater rafting trips on the Kings River
back in 1972. Justin E. (JEB) Butchert started guiding the river in 1978, and still kayaks
along with most trips, shooting photos and videos and enjoying the river, our guests
and guides. Julie Butchert started guiding on the Kings River in 1991, and runs the
KRE office. She also guides weekend trips. KRE has grown quite a bit since its early
days, but chose not to expand beyond the Kings River, offering guests an experienced
staff and the most unique whitewater adventure on the river.

For more information, you can visit their website

Shinzen Japanese Garden

Contact: 559-840-1264

LocationWoodward Regional Park, N Friant Rd & E Audubon Dr, Fresno, CA 93720

The Shinzen Friendship Garden is a traditional northwestern American Japanese Garden located in Woodward Park, Fresno, California. The Garden was constructed to honor Fresno’s Sister City, Kochi, Japan, celebrating the spirit of understanding and promoting educational and cultural awareness. We continue to be a part of the Sister City organization and appreciate the support Kochi has provided to Shinzen since our incorporation and dedication in 1981.

The beauty, grace and serenity of Japanese design is present in the use of varied plant material, rocks and stones, and water throughout the five acre garden. Shinzen is designed around the four seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter; granite markers identify each section.

The Garden is in partnership with the City of Fresno and the Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Service Department.

For more information about the garden, you can visit their website

Warnors Center for the Performing Arts

Contact(559) 650-1154

Location: 1400 Fulton St, Fresno, CA 93721

Warnors is a 503(c)(3) nonprofit and registered National Historic Landmark built by Alexander Pantages, located in Downtown Fresno. It was originally built in 1928 to house vaudeville acts, but shortly after opening transitioned to playing silent films. Today we’re known for our Classic Film Series and many cultural events including Mexican folkloric dance performances and Punjabi concerts.

In 1929 this Pantages Theater was purchased by Warner Brothers, and its name changed to “Warner’s Theatre.” Fresno thus became the second West Coast city to have a Warner Brother’s motion picture theater. The theater was used primarily for silent movies until “talkies” came out in the 1930’s.

The Robert Morton Organ Company was a producer of theater pipe organs and church organs located in Van Nuys, California. Known for their huge sound and high quality, the company’s hay-day was in the late 1920s, the era of the lavish movie palace theaters exhibiting silent films. Today, there are only 21 of these beautiful organs in use at theaters across the country, so their organ is quite rare in that it was created for this theatre, has never left this theatre, and is still fully functional.

Many long time Fresno residents may remember coming to see Cinerama films in the theatre in the 60’s, or attending large concerts during the time that Frank Caglia owned the facility. Mr. Frank Caglia purchased the theater and renamed it Warnors (for copyright purposes) in 1973. He claims he bought the organ, and the building just happened to surround it. Since that time, the Caglia’s have sought to preserve this theatre in its original state. 

A new generation of community members, students, volunteers, patrons, and donors have fallen in love with this Historic Icon. We hope you will enjoy your time here, and that it has left an impression on you as well. 

Follow them on social media to learn more. 

Project Survival Cat Haven

Contact(559) 338-3216

Location: 38257 E Kings Canyon Rd, Dunlap, CA 93621

Founded in 1993 with the purchase of 100 scenic acres just west of King’s Canyon National Park the Cat Haven offers guided tours of some of the rarest cats in the world. It also promotes grass-root level support for range country conservation through Project Survival, a 501 (c) (3) organization.

Project Survival's Cat Haven is set in 100 scenic acres on the edge of the Sequoia National Forest, 15 miles west of King's Canyon National Park, California. Visitors enjoy an hour long educational walk along a ¼ mile wooded trail in the company of a trained tour guide. It is an opportunity to visit, photograph and learn about some of the rarest and most beautiful animals in the world. School groups are particularly welcome.

Project Survival, Cat Conservation Group, is dedicated to helping researchers and conservationists in their efforts to study and protect wild cats. Its goal is to engage the support of like-minded individuals, though education, and channel it directly to specific projects. While focusing on North, Central and South America, Project Survival intends to assist individuals around the world.

For more information about the Cat Haven, you can visit their website

What is your favorite local spot to play tourist? Let us know by contacting us.