Visalia is a town of more than 140,000 people in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The region is known for its agriculture industry, but many visitors to Visalia encounter the town on their way to the nearby Sequoia National Park, which is about 30 miles away to the east. Visalia represents an ideal place to stay when visiting Sequoia or on any exploration of Central California.
Visalia offers its visitors an interesting history, as it is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in Central California. However, historic Visalia does offer modern attractions like events at the Visalia Fox Theatre and a strong arts culture within the city’s creative center.
Visitors can explore Visalia with the family, on a solo trip, or with a significant other and find several ways to occupy their time, from exploring the grand Sierra Nevada Mountains to enjoying local recreational opportunities.
Many of the town’s hotels are located downtown in beautiful restored buildings. You’ll find more than one hotel with rustic but contemporary décor and a full-service onsite restaurant that prepares meals using only the local food system. Continue reading to learn more about what to do in Visalia, California, when to visit, and how to take advantage of everything this friendly and historic Central California town has to offer.
- Most significant landmark – Visalia Fox Theatre
- Best park – Mooney Grove Park
- Best activity for kids – ImagineU Children’s Museum
- Best activity for adults – Visalia Fox Theatre
- Best food – The Vintage Press Restaurante
- Best nightlife – Bowlero Visalia
- Best all-around accommodation – The Darling
Best & Fun Things to Do in Visalia, California
1. Sequoia National Park
Address: 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271
Sequoia National Park was established in the late 19th century to protect the one-of-a-kind trees called giant sequoias that inhabit the forest. Then-President Benjamin Harrison created the park to protect the massive trees from logging and the park is managed today by the National Park Service.
The amazing trees represent some of the oldest living things on the planet. One of the most famous landmarks within the park is the General Sherman Tree, which is a massive sequoia reaching 275 feet tall and measuring 36 feet in diameter.
In addition to gazing at the amazing trees, the forest also offers some opportunities for activities like hiking and climbing. Moro Rock is a stone stairway that you may climb, and reaching the General Grant Tree requires a stroll of about 1/3 of a mile.
Not only can visitors touch and walk right up to the beautiful trees that live in the park, but many opportunities also exist to marvel at the surrounding mountains and valleys. Simply driving through Sequoia is an amazing experience. The best month to visit Sequoia is August, when the weather is warm and roads aren’t blocked because of snow.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
2. Kings Canyon National Park
Address: 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271
Kings Canyon National Park is directly north of Sequoia National Park, and visitors commonly explore both of these beautiful national parks on the same trip. Kings Canyon covers more than 461,000 acres and was established in 1940 by the federal government. You can visit both parks on the same day, but there are so many amazing sights that you might want to take two days to explore the natural wonders throughout each park.
If you’re not afraid of driving down to the bottom of Kings Canyon (it does take some time to navigate the twisty road), one of the best views of the canyon is from the bottom, with the amazing rock formations jutting up from the banks of Kings River.
Another activity is hiking Zumwalt Meadows, which is a quick 1.5-mile hike that offers beautiful views of the canyon, river, and meadow. For an amazing view of the park, the Kings Canyon 15-minute Scenic Helicopter Tour and walking tour will show you the stunning variety of landscapes within the park.
3. Mooney Grove Park
Address: 27000 S Mooney Blvd, Visalia, CA 93277
Visalia is known for its many natural features, and one of them is the presence of beautiful oak trees throughout the area. Mooney Grove Park celebrates these trees with opportunities for walking among them and touring historic buildings. The park was established in 1909 in an effort to protect the beautiful oak tree grove for the community’s future generations and is the oldest county park in the state.
If you’re traveling to Visalia on a family vacation, you’ll want to visit Mooney Grove Park for the trio of play structures and fun things at the park, which features climbing apparatuses, slides, and other activities. If you’re an avid fisher, the pond at the park is available for fishing, but make sure to have a fishing license before casting a line. There are also some opportunities to use paddle boats in the park, but it’s best to check with the park staff before arriving to see if they’re available.
In addition to offering opportunities to spend time outside in the community with the oak trees and the lagoon, this Tulare County park is also home to the Tulare County Museum. Explore exhibits like the largest collection of Native American baskets and a display featuring information about the history of agriculture in the region.
If your visit to the Central Valley coincides with the Visalia Farmers Market, which is just a mile north from the park, you’d be wise to indulge in some delicious food from the food trucks that attend the market or fresh produce from local farmers. The farmers market also features works from local and regional artists. If the work of local artists inspires you, consider taking a class at the Arts Visalia Visual Art Center.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California
4. Rawhide Ballpark
Address: 300 N. Giddings St., Visalia, CA 93291
You’ll want to plan a visit to Visalia Rawhide Ballpark if you visit during baseball season to see a minor league baseball team play at Valley Strong Stadium. The local baseball team is a member of the California League and a Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Visalia Rawhide play against teams throughout Southern California, from the Inland Empire, Orange County, and Los Angeles.
One of the best reasons to see a game from a local baseball affiliate team is that the ballpark is smaller than one of the Major League Baseball stadiums, so every seat in the house affords a great view of the action. Visiting the stadium is easy from virtually any hotel in the area, and you’ll also find a nice selection of restaurants just to the east of the stadium in Downtown Visalia.
Try Fugazzis if you’re interested in Italian food, or the Pita Kabob for Mediterranean-style gastropub food. The Vintage Press Restaurante is one of the best fine dining establishments to consider, but you may need to dress up a bit after attending a baseball game. For a more casual spot without the need for fancy attire, Bowler Visalia is a bowling alley, bar, restaurant, arcade, and more, all in one.
Of course, you can also try the concession stand at the baseball park, where you’ll find classic baseball eats and cold drinks like corndogs, hot dogs, nachos, and burgers. For something different, try the carne asada burrito from the concession stands on the 3rd base side of the stadium.
5. Visalia Adventure Park
Address: 5600 W Cypress Ave, Visalia, CA 93277
Visalia offers many opportunities for your family to see beautiful natural wonders and experience the outdoors. However, a trip to Visalia Adventure Park is an excellent way to add some silly fun to the mix with water slides, an arcade, a laser maze, and other fun kid-centric activities.
The family friendly attraction is one of the best things to do in Visalia with kids. Enjoy learning about the history of Visalia at the Tulare County Museum one day and visit Visalia Adventure Park the next. If you visit Visalia Adventure Park in the summer, you’ll get to play at the Sequoia Springs area, which usually opens for the season in May or around Memorial Day.
Not only can you enjoy getting splashed all day on the slides and water features, but the park also has private rooms and cabana rentals, which means you can relax and enjoy a hot summer afternoon between bouts in the water park.
For vacations to Visalia in the winter or when it’s not warm enough for the water park, take the kids to the arcade, where you can win points to exchange for prizes. If you recently had fun at Rawhide Ballpark at a baseball game, you might want to visit the batting cages with the kids, where you can rent the cages for a half-hour or hour at a time.
See Related: Best Cheap Places to Travel in the US
6. Visalia Fox Theatre
Address: 308 W Main St, Visalia, CA 93291
The Fox Theatre in Downtown Visalia was built in 1930 as part of the Fox chain of theaters that operated in the first half of the 20th century. The vibrant performing arts center cost $225,000 to build, which is equivalent to millions of dollars in modern currency.
The property was originally owned by William Fox, who would eventually create the 20th Century Fox movie studio. Today, the historic building and landmark movie palace is one of the most notable Visalia tourist attractions.
The theater hosts a variety of performances, from groups like the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra to traveling performances from standup comedians and live bands. The theater also shows classic films during various holidays. You’ll want to check out the current calendar of events at the theater before your vacation so you can buy tickets or choose one of the performances that interests you.
7. Riverway Sports Park
Address: 3611 N Dinuba Blvd, Visalia, CA 93291
Riverway Sports Park is an expansive park managed by the Visalia Parks & Recreation Department, and it’s one of the best free things to do in Visalia since there’s no entry fee. The park is particularly popular throughout the summer and fall, when families gather at the picnic tables, use the playground, attend youth ball games, and play at the splash pad with its interactive water features.
If you plan to visit Visalia with another family or with extended family, you may want to rent out one of the arbors for a gathering. You’ll find barbecue grills and picnic areas, which are available to secure with reservations through the Parks & Recreation Department Business Office on the park property.
If you’re exploring Visalia and the rest of Central California on a road trip, you’ll find Riverway Sports Park is an excellent place to stretch your legs, especially if you’ve just arrived in town after a long trip in the car. If you arrive in town early and can’t check into your hotel in Downtown Visalia, consider a picnic lunch at the park and some time spent running around one of the three children’s playgrounds.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California
8. ImagineU Children’s Museum
Address: 210 N Tipton St, Visalia, CA 93292
ImagineU Children’s Museum is run by a non-profit organization and offers activities and exhibits that feature lessons on science, art, and agriculture. Some of the fun activities for kids involve pretending to work as an auto mechanic, a construction worker, or a farmer. Kids can pretend to milk a cow and perform different jobs like they might as an adult.
The museum also has an outdoor play area with a fishing pond where kids use magnetic poles to “catch” fish. Some of the popular exhibits include the slime station, the tree houses, and a wall painting area.
If you’re searching for a way to spend a hot afternoon in a clean, safe, and air-conditioned space, the ImagineU Children’s Museum will definitely suit you and your children. The museum has quite a few activities, so it’s easy to spend several hours exploring everything.
The ImagineU Children’s Museum is just a few blocks from The Darling, a 5-star hotel in Visalia with a sun terrace, swimming pool, and an excellent breakfast spread. The museum is also close to several local restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy a delicious lunch and then head over to the museum for some afternoon, family fun.
9. Kaweah Oaks Preserve
Address: 29979 Rd 182, Exeter, CA 93221
Many of the venues in Visalia offer structured play opportunities on play equipment and similar installations, but the Kaweah Oaks Preserve is one option to get the family more connected to nature. Covering 344 acres, the preserve is one of the last valley oak riparian forests in the region. The preserve is open 365 days per year, from sunrise to sunset, so it’s one of the best things to do in Visalia no matter the season.
Exploring the preserve is a wonderful activity for families, couples, and solo travelers who want to spend some time hiking. Travelers who have their dogs along for the journey should visit the preserve, as the pups are allowed as long as they remain on a leash and their waste is collected and discarded. The preserve is also a great place to introduce young travelers to the joys of hiking and nature since the property isn’t too remote or difficult for kids to conquer.
You can pair your visit to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon with a stop at the preserve since it’s on the way to the parks when you’re heading from your hotel in Visalia. If you plan to drive around Sequoia for a few hours, Kaweah Oaks Preserve is a nice area to stretch your legs. It’s also a wonderful place to hike in the winter when you might not have access to the entirety of Sequoia National Park but still want to commune with nature on a stroll or easy hike.
What is Visalia, California, known for?
Visalia’s main claim to fame is its proximity to Sequoia National Park and the Giant Sequoia National Monument, but the town does have some significance to the history of California with the historic Fox Theatre and a handful of museums. The town’s beloved outdoor parks like Mooney Grove Park and Riverway Sports Park are popular among both locals and visitors.
Is Visalia, California, worth visiting?
Visalia is definitely worth a stop on any road trip through California and the San Joaquin Valley, if only for its perfect location for visiting the beautiful national parks of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. However, the town is large enough that there are several local museums, many historic buildings, and kid-friendly installations to fill a brief stay.
What’s close to Visalia, California?
Visalia is close to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and it’s the fifth-largest city in California’s Central Valley. The most notable things near Visalia are Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and the town is also about halfway between Bakersfield to the south and Fresno to the north.
How far is Visalia, California, from the beach?
Visalia is a true central California town, but it’s not part of the famed Central Coast region of California, which features several towns that sit alongside the Pacific Ocean. Rather, Visalia is around 150 miles to the coast and the beach, depending on the route you take to get there.
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