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Things to do in Chico

Some of Our Favorite Things to do in Chico

There are many many things to do in Chico, but that's a side-effect resulting from the people who live there. People live in Chico for many different reasons. They were born and raised in the town and never left (the Generationals). They were born in Chico, left to go to school and/or pursue a career, then returned (the Generational Returnees). They went to college at Chico State and either stayed (the Collegiates), or left and then returned (the Collegiate Returnees).

Then there are the Strangers - those who had no previous connection with Chico, and maybe had never even heard of it. But they came to visit someone, or to take a job, to catch a birding festival or a yo-yo contest... whatever the reason they came, they fell in love with the town and decided to stay.

Why? Because the people are so friendly and welcoming, the shopping is so very unique, there's so much to do...

Downtown is lovely and walkable...

Bidwell Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country...

Chico State is right downtown... It's just a great little town and everyone who comes falls in love!

Check out these very special and unique Chico things to do and you'll begin to see why we - and so many others - feel that way! And the best part is that  a lot of them are free!

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Things to do in Chico with the Kidlettes

Caper Acres by Wolf RosenbergCaper Acres by Wolf Rosenberg

Caper Acres

You'll find this fairy tale playground near the One Mile area in Bidwell Park.

Your young children will be delighted with the child-size scale of this playground, and by Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall.

They'll giggle sliding through the Swiss cheese holes (my grandson dives head-first - Yikes!).

And they won't be afraid to take a drink from a lion's mouth!

Check out the crooked house, a medieval play fort, swings and slides... and the Nico Project, with its mosaic dragon that undulates through an ocean of blue play mat, and its Pirate Ship play structure!

Other things to do in Chico for you and your kidlettes:

  • Katherine's Cottage (2201 Pillsbury Rd) - thousands of dolls from antique to modern, plus bears and other toys
  • Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation (Oroville, CA) - home to many exotic species and a Companion Animals program; in their new facility and open for business as of April 14, 2011! Hours are 9-5, Tuesday through Sunday
  • CalSkate and Funland (2465 Carmichael Dr) - roller skating, batting cages and miniature golf
  • Shubert's (178 E. 7th St) - family owned and operated ice cream and candy shop since 1938
  • Gateway Science Museum (625 Esplanade) - an interactive, hands-on experience for young and old alike

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Things to do in Chico for the Arts Patron

Chico Art Center & Empire Coffee by Suzi RosenbergChico Art Center & Empire Coffee by Suzi Rosenberg

Chico Art Center

You'll find the Art Center housed in Chico's historic railroad depot at W. 5th and Orange Streets.

In addition to fostering and promoting local artists in the visual arts, and offering exhibits and art classes, Chico Art Center sponsors the Open Studios Art Tour during its Artoberfest celebrations in October.

Visit the center, and be sure to stop in at Empire Coffee out front - its in a refurbished 1947 Pullman rail car and it houses an ever-changing gallery as well as the Empire Coffee and Tea shop, which also has cookies and pastries - a nice respite from a busy day!

Additional things to do in Chico from the Arts community:

Things to do in Chico for the History Buff

Centerville Schoolhouse by Suzi RosenbergCenterville Schoolhouse by Suzi Rosenberg

Historic Butte Creek Canyon

Take a drive along Honey Run Road (turn left off the Skyway), and you'll find yourself in a different world altogether.

Pastoral and scenic, there's something new around every corner; with the rugged volcanic walls of the canyon and the cold, clear water running in the creek, it's the kind of scenery that inspires poets!

Besides the picturesque drive, Honey Run's main attractions are the

  • Honey Run Covered Bridge - it crosses Butte Creek and boasts that it is the only covered bridge in the United States with three distinct roof lines! Stop to explore and maybe have a picnic lunch! Then follow the road to the right to discover the back road to Paradise, but be forewarned that the last leg is very unpaved, one-lane, and long and winding! You might want to turn around once you reach that part!Or, take the road to the left of the bridge to see the following:
  • Centerville - don't blink or you'll miss it! We did the first time!! - with it's historic schoolhouse, cemetery, and beautifully appointed...
  • Colman Museum, which contains Indian artifacts, gold mining artifacts, Civil War relics, and the history and relics of Centerville's founding families.

Added things to do in Chico for the history buff:

  • The Stansbury House (307 W. 5th St) - former Victorian home to Dr. Oscar Stansbury and his wife, it's now a museum
  • Bidwell Mansion (525 Esplanade) - former home of John and Annie Bidwell, founders of Chico
  • Chico Museum (Salem & 2nd Streets) - the former Carnegie Library building hosts over 85 exhibits celebrating Chico's past - plus they're now associated with the...
  • Patrick Ranch - don't miss the Country Faire and Threshing Bee in June!

Things to do in Chico for the Nature Lover

Sycamore Pool by Wolf RosenbergSycamore Pool by Wolf Rosenberg

Bidwell Park
(Starts at Pine & Valombrosa)

Bidwell Park, at 3,670 acres and nearly 11 miles in length (with Big Chico Creek running down the middle), is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

It's so big, in fact, that it's divided by Manzanita Avenue into Lower Park (the more developed section) and Upper Park (the wilder portion).

Lower Park has roads, trails, picnic areas, playing fields, the Nature Center, playgrounds, and Sycamore Pool at One Mile Recreation Area.

Sycamore Pool is a unique swimming hole created by Mother Nature, but improved upon by man: the sides and bottom under Big Chico Creek were cemented in! Sycamore Pool is the largest in-creek swimming pool in the United States.

But Lower Park also is a get-away-to-nature spot with its opportunities for creek-side play and its canopy of trees - stroll, hike, ride a bike or a horse, birdwatch, discover the salmon finding their way up steam; you'll enjoy the feeling of getting away from it all, even though One Mile is just a few blocks from downtown Chico!

Upper Park is for those who like their nature getaways a little more rugged - it's to the east of Manzanita and Centennial or Manzanita and Chico Canyon Road (Upper Park Road).

At first you'll see some developed areas (like Five Mile Recreation Area, Horseshoe Lake, and Wildwood Park - there's even a municipal golf course).

But soon you'll start to climb into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to leave civilization behind while you climb Monkey Face Rock or follow the beautiful canyon of Big Chico Creek.

Follow the Yahi Trail - pedestrians only - alongside Big Chico Creek and you'll discover the less well-known (read Insider Secret) attractions of the park: the series of swimming holes along the creek!

You'll come to Alligator Hole first, followed by Bear Hole (some say the spelling should be Bare Hole for the obvious reason), the Diversion Dam (not a swimming hole, but a point of interest), Salmon Hole (usually less busy than Bear Hole), Devil's Kitchen, and Brown's Hole (highest up and the least busy of them all). On a hot summer's day it can be heavenly to take a dip into Big Chico Creek's cold, clear waters!

And, if you're real lucky while in Upper Park, you might get a peek at some of the area's indigineous wildlife - the park shelters mountain lions, several deer herds, raccoons, wild turkeys, red fox, rattlesnakes (watch where you're stepping!), and even bear!

More things to do in Chico for nature lovers:

  • Have a pleasant walk and do a little birdwatching at the USDA Genetic Resource and Conservation Center (2741 Cramer Ln) - the path is called the Comanche Trail and it meanders along Edgar Slough among exotic species planted long ago (keep a lookout for the distinctive Lewis's Woodpecker)
  • Go salmon, steelhead, or shad fishing along the Sacramento River, or float the river in an inner tube or a kayak
  • Try Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park (River Road) for starters, and enjoy the riverine habitat

  • Take a drive up to Table Mountain - I like to go in from Cherokee Road and Highway 70 - at any time of the year for the beautiful scenery, but especially in the Spring when the wildflowers are putting on an amazing show!

Things to do in Chico that are Typically Chico

Sierra Nevada Brewery by Suzi RosenbergSierra Nevada Brewery by Suzi Rosenberg

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

You've heard of Sierra Nevada beer! Well, Chico is lucky enough to claim Ken Grossman, founder of the brewery, as one of its own.

He started a little brewery back in 1979 using "dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler, and equipment salvaged from defunct breweries." Today that little brewery with the modest beginnings is considered one of the best craft breweries in the United States.

Sierra Nevada is a gorgeous facility of brick, copper, and glass that's located at 1075 E. 20th Street. It contains the brewery, a taproom and restaurant with an outdoor eating patio, an event room, and a gift shop.

Guided tours are free and offered throughout the week, or you can
do a self-guided tour. Then stop in for lunch or dinner and try the beer sampler! You'll be glad you did!

Additional "typically Chico" things to do in Chico:

  • Catch the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at the Silver Dollar Speedway, including the Gold Cup Race of Champions
  • Visit the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory - near Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park - on a clear night to observe the evening skies
  • Shubert's (178 E. 7th St) - family owned and operated ice cream and candy shop since 1938 (I know I mentioned this in the kidlettes section, but adults love it too!)
  • Scotty's Landing (12609 River Road) - an "Old Chico" favorite and tradition where you can enjoy the Sacramento River with a beer and a burger while staying dry! (It took a Chico Native to get us to try it - first time we drove by - and didn't stop, I might add - Hubby Wolf said it looked like something out of Deliverance! We have since become regulars!)

There are many more things to do in Chico, but that should get you off to a good start! You definitely won't be complaining that there's nothing to do while you're in Chico!

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