//Choose Your Own Summer Adventure

Choose Your Own Summer Adventure

By Dave Fountinelle | dave@fresnoflyer.com

The days are getting longer and the nights are getting warmer as summertime returns to the Central Valley. This is the time of year when most Valley residents split into two groups – those who enjoy the hot weather and local amusements, and those who prefer avoiding the scorching temperatures by escaping the sweltering Valley entirely. Regardless of which group you belong, Fresno Flyer has compiled a handy list of things to do and places to go this summer that is sure to please.

Don’t Stay Home!

Living in the Central Valley means enduring some pretty extreme heat during the summer. Fortunately, being located smack dab in the middle of the state means that, if triple-digit temperatures become too much to bear, everything from mountain air to coastal surf is only a short drive away.

*Dave Recommends!

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

400 Beach St. Santa Cruz




Family friendly – Food – Entertainment

Shopping – One-tank trip – Affordable

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the oldest amusement park in California and one of the last great seaside amusement parks in the United States. Opened in 1907 as the “Coney Island of the west” the Boardwalk has since become one of the most popular summer attractions for Californians and tourists all over the world. Part of the reason for the popularity of the family-owned park is their commitment to providing an experience that is both fun and budget-friendly. Admission is free, summer entertainment is included, and the ride tickets and concessions are affordably-priced.

When it comes to all-ages entertainment, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has it covered. Thrill rides, kiddie rides, bowling, mini-golf, laser tag, arcades, restaurants, shopping, weekend concerts from some of the biggest names in music, and so much more. Not to mention the beautiful Santa Cruz beaches, home to some of the best surfing in the world.

Whether you’re looking for a fun-filled day trip or a weekend getaway for the whole family that won’t break your bank, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a solid choice.

Morro Bay




Family fun – Food – Hiking – Sightseeing – One-tank trip – Affordable

Located on scenic Highway 1 along the southern Central Coast, Morro Bay has long been one of the most popular getaway destinations for Valley residents looking to beat the heat. Best known for Morro Rock, the iconic extinct volcanic peak rising from the ocean just offshore, Morro Bay offers so much more than its picturesque ocean views and excellent dining. Hiking and biking trails, golfing, museums and art exhibits, and brewpubs featuring live music and comedy shows are just some of the many ways visitors can unwind and make memories in Morro Bay. And don’t forget the Thursday Farmers Market, running until the end of December. 

Sequoia National Park

Tulare County




Family friendly – Affordable – Hiking

Sightseeing – Food – Shopping

One-tank trip

The winter storms were not kind to most of the Sierra National Parklands, and Sequoia National Park has been no exception. However, much of this majestic national forest is still open and more sections of the park will be reopening in the weeks to come. For those looking to flee the Valley heat by heading up to the mountains, summer temperatures in the low to mid 70’s await you, along with some of the most incredible views in the entire state. You can pitch a tent and rough it in one of the many campgrounds in the park, hitch your RV and enjoy some glamping instead, or book a cozy cabin in the shadow of the world’s tallest redwoods. Then spend your day exploring the winding mountain trails and breathtaking vistas.

Yosemite National Park

Highway 41 in Mariposa County




Family-friendly – Hiking – Camping

White-water rafting – Sightseeing

Food – Shopping – Entertainment

One-tank trip – Affordable

Located a little over an hour north of Fresno is one of the most popular national forests in America. Tourists from all over the world flock to Yosemite National Forest to camp out amongst the wildlife, hike, bike, or horseback ride the many trails that wind throughout the valley, and take in the incomparable views. Some of the more daring visitors test their mettle by climbing legendary El Capitan and Half Dome. And for the real thrill-seekers, there’s even skydiving! Most of the park is expected to be open by mid-June and the runoff from this year’s winter storms should produce some amazing waterfall activity. If your summer dream is to get away from it all and become one with nature, Yosemite National Park is the place for you.

Pismo Beach

Highway 1 at Highway 101




Family-friendly – Affordable – Food – 

Shopping – Camping – Entertainment


South of Morro Bay, where Highway 1 and 101 meets, is the beach destination of choice for residents in the South Valley. It’s a bit of a drive, so staying at least overnight in one of the many hotels, Airbnb’s, campsites, or RV parks is recommended. Then you can spend all day strolling along the beach, browsing the many shops and boutiques, enjoying world-class dining, or just laying out and catching some rays. Pismo Beach is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to enjoy a warm, sandy, SoCal beach experience that is only a little less crowded and significantly less traffic.

Hearst Castle

750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon




General Reservations: (800) 444-4445

Or: reservecalifornia.com/Web/Activities/HearstCastleTours.aspx

Family-friendly – Affordable

One-tank trip – Sightseeing -Museum

Located in the rolling hills just north of San Simeon is the stunning former residence of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst began building his grand estate in 1919 on his private Central Coast ranch. It was originally named ‘La Cuesta Encantada’, Spanish for ‘The Enchanted Hill’. By 1947, Hearst’s hilltop manse had expanded to include a twin-towered main building, three gorgeous guest houses, and 127 acres of terraced gardens, fountains, and pools. Hearst Castle turns 100 this year, and after undergoing a major restoration in 2018, is as beautiful as it was when the media mogul walked its hallways.

Hearst Castle is a unique and memorable museum tour. The complex is so massive that it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. The Hearst Castle tour experience is broken into sections, such as the Grand Rooms, Upstairs Suites, Cottages and Kitchen, and the sprawling gardens and pool outside. Hearst’s impressive art collection is on display, as well as a fascinating and informative exhibit chronicling California’s history in the early 1900s and Hearst’s rise to success.

Hearst’s architectural masterpiece overlooks the quaint seaside town of San Simeon with hotels and campsites available. And just down Highway 1 is the town of Cambria, where you can find one of the best small-shop strolling experiences on the Central Coast. French bakeries, curio shops, boutiques, and more line the main street.

If you’re looking for a unique and educational travel experience with some of the best insta-worthy art, architecture, and views, located in one of the truly hidden gems of the Central Coast, then you need to check out Hearst Castle. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium

886 Cannery Row, Monterey




Family-friendly – One-tank trip

Sightseeing -Museum

California’s coastline is home to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean. And there is no better place to see and learn about it than the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The complex features room after room of towering aquariums, so tall you’ll feel like you’re walking along the bottom of the Monterey Bay. Dancing jellyfish, playful sea lions, patrolling sharks, schools of colorful fish, and so much more await around every corner, along with informative interactive exhibits to educate and entertain. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with all of the creatures that inhabit the bay, head outside and watch the sea lions and otters splash and play, and you may even see a whale or two. Located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey, some of the best food, shopping, and entertainment on the Central Coast is a short walk away. Or catch the Trolley and ride in style!

Here to Stay!

You don’t mind the heat. In fact, the hotter the better! There’s no need to travel to have fun this summer. There are plenty of local attractions to keep your vacation calendar full. Water parks, festivals, trails, museums, and other places of interest can be found all over the Central Valley. 

Wild Water Adventure Park

11413 E. Shaw Ave, Clovis




Family-friendly – Entertainment

Picnic/BBQ – Food

For the past 50 years, Wild Water Adventure Park has been the biggest water park in California. Expanding over the years with attractions like the Blue Wave Pool, The Rapids, and Adventure Bay, Wild Water Adventure Park has become the premier water park in the Central Valley. Opening Memorial Day weekend, Wild Water Adventure Park is hitting the ground running with special events throughout the month of June. Polynesian dancers, and the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson are just a few of the events you can book a spot for. Discounted admission for groups and birthdays is available. There are also cabana spots available for reservation if you’d prefer to relax with family and friends and fire up the grill. With plenty of rides for kids, adults, and daredevils of all ages, Wild Water Adventure Park has something for everybody. Whether you’re looking for an exciting day of water slides and rides, or a relaxing afternoon in a cabana next to one of the fish-stocked ponds, Wild Water Adventure Park is an excellent addition to your summer itinerary.

Island Waterpark

6099 W. Barstow Ave, Fresno




Family-friendly -Food – Picnic 


Not to be outdone by its Clovis competitor, Island Waterpark has been entertaining Fresnans with thrilling water slides, lazy rivers, and a massive wave pool of its own. Food options celebrate the tastes of summer, with burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream, and snacks galore. And for the grown-ups, Waikiki Willie’s Bar is coming soon, serving beer and mixed drinks, because riding the Tsunami sober just isn’t wild enough, am I right? Island Waterpark also has cabanas available for families, friends, and groups of all sizes. BBQ facilities are not currently available or allowed in the park, but visitors can bring their own prepared picnic spreads to enjoy. Admission is a little cheaper than that other water park in Clovis, and season passes are available as well. 

Forestiere Underground Gardens

5021 W. Shaw Ave, Fresno




Family-friendly – Affordable

Museum – educational

In the early 1900s, Baldassare Forestiere envisioned a truly unique way to escape the sweltering Fresno heat. Over the next 40 years, with no formal training, using only shovels, picks, and other hand tools, Forestiere dug a series of tunnels and catacombs beneath what was at the time unused farmland in the Fresno countryside. He also planted fruit trees and vineyards in the underground garden, many of which are still thriving there today. The result was a truly remarkable subterranean oasis filled with trees, shrubs, vines, and ancient roman-inspired architecture that winds around 10 acres, and as deep as 25 feet. The microclimates created in Forestiere’s underground gardens are up to 20 degrees cooler than the temperatures above ground, providing the relief from Valley summer heat that inspired his life’s work. 

Unfortunately, Forestiere never got to see his vision reach its completion. While his goal was to create a Mediterranean-inspired underground resort, what he did manage to accomplish is an impressive and expansive network of gardens, catacombs, and houses that attract visitors from all over the world. Thanks to the Forestiere family, the public can visit the underground gardens and marvel at Baldassare’s creation. Tours are available daily and provide a fascinating look into both the early history of Fresno, and the mind of the man who created something truly one-of-a-kind just below the surface of what is now West Shaw Avenue. 

*Dave Recommends!

Fresno Chaffee Zoo

894 W. Belmont Ave, Fresno




Family-friendly – Entertainment – Food

Activities – Educational

The early history of Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo is a rather vague one. No official records were kept, but available accounts describe it as a rather haphazard collection of unwanted pets and hoof stock that began in the late 1900s and continued to grow in a slapdash manner until it was officially recognized as a zoo in 1929. For the next 18 years, the zoo continued to expand and add new animals, until Eldon “Curly” Blocker was hired from the San Diego Zoo to serve as the first foreman. Under his direction, more elaborate exhibits were built. In 1949, the beloved elephant Nosey was purchased with help from the local Rotary Club. That same year, the Fresno Zoological Society was created to support and create interest in the development of the zoo, and help raise funds for expansion and maintenance.

For the next three decades, the Fresno Zoo would continue to expand, adding more and more exotic animal exhibits. But perhaps its most valuable asset would arrive in 1978, with the construction of the Edward A. Kane Reptile House. It was the first computer-controlled reptile exhibit in the world, capable of maintaining separate climate-controlled environments for each display. Expansion, development, and improvements would continue for the next decade, including the addition of the Tropical Rainforest exhibit. The Fresno Zoo was renamed the Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno in 1990 in honor of longtime director, Dr. Paul S. Chaffee, who passed away that year. 

In 2003, a fundraising drive, prompted by a letter of support from ten-year-old Angel Arellano raised $700,000 for the zoo and led to the passage of Measure Z, which added a .01% sales tax increase with proceeds going to the maintenance, upkeep, and operations for the zoo. The measure brought in nearly $200 million. In 2006, a private non-profit agency, The Fresno Chaffee Zoo Corporation, took over operation of the zoo from the city and the name was changed once again to “The Chaffee Zoo” as it’s known today. Thanks in large part to Measure Z revenue, some major improvements were made to the zoo over the next ten years, including the massive African Adventure exhibit, which replicates the natural environment of the African plains and savannas, and features herds of lions, rhinos, cheetahs, and elephants all coexisting in the open 13-acre habitat. 

Admission to the Chaffee Zoo is still pleasantly affordable. A family of four can get in for less than $50, and year-long unlimited memberships start at $75. With the recent restoration and remodeling of Storybook Land right next door in Roeding Park, there’s nowhere else in Fresno where a family can have so much fun, and enjoy so many different activities, for such a great price. If you’re looking for a fun family experience you’ll want to return to over and over this summer, the Chaffee Zoo should be at the top of your list.

Fresno Grizzlies/Chukchansi Park

1800 Tulare St, Fresno




Grizzlies Season Schedule: milb.com/fresno/schedule/2023-06

Family-friendly – Affordable

Food – Entertainment

Baseball is as much a part of summer as backyard BBQ’s and sunburns. For over twenty years, Fresno has been home to one of the most beautiful and versatile modern minor league ballparks in the nation, Chukchansi Park. And, playing in that park all summer long, are the Fresno Grizzlies. The 2023 season is underway for the single-A Colorado Rockies affiliate team, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable time for the price. Tickets are under $20, making an evening at the ballpark something that everyone can enjoy. 

If baseball isn’t your cup of tea, Chukchansi Park also hosts concerts and entertainment events all summer featuring some of the hottest acts in music. Connect with them on social media to stay up to date on their summer events schedule.

Graffiti Summer

Downtown Modesto


Family-friendly – Affordable

Entertainment – Food – Events

Modesto is the birthplace of George Lucas, best known for creating the Star Wars franchise. However, his first hit movie was a film about life as a teenager in Modesto, called “American Graffiti.” Throughout the month of June, the city of Modesto celebrates the iconic film and its impact with street fairs, classic car shows, parades, concerts, and a showcase of American Graffiti culture. It was a way of life that included cruising Main Street all night, drive-ins, carhops, 50s music and just having fun. The tradition carries on in 2023, with a stacked event schedule taking place the second weekend of June, including a parade on June 9th, and a car show and festival June 10th and 11th. Over the years, the American Graffiti Festival has featured a host of celebrities associated with the film and 50s culture in general, including Lucas himself, who was Grand Marshall of the parade in 2013. 

               The Festival!

Summertime is also music festival time, and the diversity of locations and lineups in the California festival circuit is unmatched. And they aren’t all two-weekend desert endurance tests like Coachella, either. From the mountains to the beach, country to hip-hop, and traditional to just plain weird, there’s sure to be a festival out there to get you to dust off that tent and spend a weekend partying with a few thousand new friends.

Splash House 2023

June 9-11, August 11-13, August 18-20

Palm Springs




Splash House is a summer festival series held in southern California and your ticket to a house and disco escape with great people and great fun. Held over three weekends in sunny Palm Springs, the party takes place across three hotel resorts. The lineup includes some of the best names in house and disco, and each resort is a world of its own. 

Hog Farm Hideaway

June 9-11





The Hog Farm Hideaway is a three-day family friendly music festival located at the beautiful Black Oak Ranch in Northern California, where oak woodlands and majestic meadows provide a magical setting for camping with friends and family. The String Cheese Incident is headlining all three nights, along with over 30 bands, scores of all-star jam sessions, and late-night DJ sets to keep the party going all night long. 

Country Summer Music Festival

June 16-18

Santa Rosa


Celebrating its 9th year in 2023, Country Summer has evolved into a colossal three-day destination country music event. The festival features a total of 20 performers on the Chevy Silverado Stage and the Redwood Credit Union Stage. 

Stern Grove Festival

June 18 – August 20

19th Ave and Sloat Blvd, San Francisco




Magical, world-class, legendary, inclusive, and free. The Stern Grove Festival has been bringing free live music to San Francisco for 86 years. Every Sunday from June 18th to August 20th, a different amazing, legendary artist or group will take the stage. This year’s lineup includes Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, the San Francisco Symphony, Buddy Guy, Patti Smith, and The Flaming Lips, just to name a few.

High Sierra Music Festival

June 29 – July 2





Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, High Sierra Music Festival boasts a family friendly atmosphere packed with artists from all musical genres. The eclectic lineup at the festival is backed by a picturesque venue surrounded by a mountainous landscape and national forests. More than just music is offered at the High Sierra, with yoga areas, audience participation parades, children’s areas, and more.