Fresno, CA is home to an ecclectic mix of attractions. From a Japanese health oasis garden to a tea shop that sells scones and egg salad sandwhiches served by waiters and waitresses in Victorian era garb. Evan Rail, a writer for New York Times Travel, explores Fresno in his article; Fresno, Calif.
“FIRST things first: Fresno has gotten something of a bum rap. It’s usually thought of as an isolated place to pass through rather than go to. But perhaps because of that isolation, Fresno itself has turned into a quirky destination. Here, generations of immigrants from around the world have mixed together and invented their own ways of doing things, from underground gardens to far-more-than-organic peace farms. Moreover, if you plan to explore Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, Fresno’s location in the middle of California’s long San Joaquin Valley makes it a perfect base. It’s not exactly cool — at least not literally, certainly not in the summer — but the ‘No can be a surprisingly individualistic city.
Start the day with a chicken-pie omelet ($6.75) at Grand Marie’s Chicken Pie Shop (861 East Olive Avenue, 559-237-5042), a midcentury diner the size of a hardware store. Farmers, welders and poets sink into avocado-green vinyl booths for endless cups of coffee and huge plates of stick-to-your-everything fare: eggs, links, patties, bacon, pancakes and the pies ($4.75). Fresno hipsters meet here before tracking down what must be the valley’s greatest natural resource: a never-ending supply of pristine vintage clothing from shops like Retro Rag (733 East Olive Avenue, 559-497-0717), which stocks disco duds, 80’s T-shirts and classic 50’s chiffon dresses ($10).
Fair warning: in warm weather, the valley turns into an inferno, and about the only place to seek refuge is underground. From 1906 to 1946, Baldasare Forestiere created an expansive subterranean arboretum with trees from his native Sicily and around the world, digging some 10,000 square feet of bedrooms, skylights, living rooms, a kitchen, a chapel and even his own underground fishpond. Today, the Forestiere Underground Gardens (5021 West Shaw Avenue, 559-271-0734) are open to the public, and yes, they’re mercifully cool when the mercury rises. Mr. Forestiere’s great-nephew Andre lives on the site, giving tours (adults $10) at noon and 2 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday, Memorial Day to Labor Day”