Traveling to Chico, California? Need to entertain your parents in Chico? Coming to visit Chico State? In the spirit of the “listication” of travel, here are the Top 5 things to do in Chico, CA. Later, I will post more details, but at least you can keep yourself busy for a weekend. Everyone here is friendly, so reach out to a stranger for more tips.
- Sierra Nevada Brewery. If you have picked up a bottle of Sierra Nevada beer since 1980, you will find CHICO, CA proudly on the label. Sierra Nevada started before craft beer was cool, taking a huge risk. Now, it is the 2nd biggest craft brewer in America. They are also a leader in sustainability. This is a great tour, followed by a tasting.
- BONUS: It’s a free tour! Leaving you more money for the restaurant & gift shop.
- TIP: book the tour in advance online. The weekend tours sell out fast.
- TIP: eat before or after in the Taproom. Creative and local cuisine, without being arrogant or expensive.
- SOUVENIR: a Sierra Nevada hoodie is almost the official clothing of Chico.
- SOUVENIR: pick up some beer that is only distributed in Northern California (the “Old Chico” line)
2. Bidwell Park. At 4 times the size of Central Park, it can be a bit overwhelming, so I will break it down for you.
- LOWER BIDWELL PARK is mostly forested paved paths. Perfect for a morning run or an afternoon walk. It feels more like a state park than a city park, and it’s right near downtown. In the summer, cool off in Sycamore Pool, which is a city pool filled with water from Old Chico Creek. You can walk here from downtown (or pick up a rental bike at a bike shop downtown).
- UPPER BIDWELL IN THE SUMMER: to park by Alligator Hole, then take the wooded trail along Old Chico Creek. If you get hot, just jump in.
- UPPER BIDWELL FOR THE SEMI-RUGGED: The most popular trail is the trail up to Monkey Face. It can be steep and not shaded, so I like it better in fall, winter, and spring. Once you are at the top, you can look out over Chico, or continue along to view the canyons and the buttes.
3. Bidwell Mansion. John Bidwell was once the owner of all that is Chico. He even ran for president as a member of the prohibition party. The tour is long enough to be interesting and independent enough to not get bored. Plus you can find out how painters can get the eyes on portraits to follow you all around a room.
- FUN FACT: John liked to drink, but became a prohibitionist when he met his wife.
- TIP: it’s only open 4 days a week, so plan accordingly.
- TIP: The mansion gift shop has the best postcards of Chico State and the Chico area.
- BONUS: After touring the mansion, take a few minutes to walk through Chico State’s (formally called California State University, Chico) campus, which is adjacent to the mansion. Maybe stop by one of the museums.
4. Downtown Chico. Unlike some cities, where downtown and the college district are separate, Chico’s downtown is conveniently located by campus. Walk around the local shops. Stop by the visitors center to learn more. Grab some fast food (try Celestino’s New York Pizza by the slice) or something upscale (5th Street Steakhouse or Rawbar for sushi). Grab a coffee or a beer pretty much anywhere. Because that’s what you do in Chico.
5. Chico Farmer’s Market (Saturday morning only). It doesn’t matter if you are just here on vacation. Come by for souvenirs like almonds (over 20 different kinds…from cinnamon to butter toffee), apricot syrup, local olive oil, local teas, or tie-dyed kids t-shirts. Or a cup of coffee or a breakfast burrito. (Wear your Sierra Nevada sweatshirt with shorts to fit in like a local).