The city of Madera is the county seat of Madera County in Central California that offers a slew of destinations with plenty of things to do.
In Madera, you have nearly 42 square kilometers of the city to explore in its enclave dubbed as “The Heart of California.”
The Spanish influence in this city manifests in its name Madera which translates to “lumber” in Spanish.
Originally given to Madera County, this name traces to the loggers in the 1870s who built a flume to deliver by rail to the east logs from the vast Sierras.
There’s no timber industry in Madera.
Instead, what you will find in the areas surrounding Madera are vineyards and wineries.
Because of these fruits of the valley, the region can offer visitors the Madera Wine Trail for a delightful tasting and touring experience.
However, there’s more to this city, as these 15 things to do in Madera prove so.
Visit the Madera County Museum
Located on West Yosemite Avenue, this museum is run by the Madera Historical Society.
The Madera County Museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts, including documents and photographs depicting the highlights of Madera’s history.
Aptly, this museum is housed in the vintage Madera County Courthouse, which was constructed in the 1900s.
The museum’s main floor features separate exhibits revolving around themes like Native Americans, pioneers, agriculture, logging, and turn-of-the-century highlights.
Some of the most attractive artifacts here are a full-size logging flume reproduction, Native American basketry, and an ornate temple altar cloth from the city’s Chinatown.
Have Fun at Lions Town & Country Park
This park is located on Howard Road with several facilities for the entire family's enjoyment.
Visitors of Lions Town & Country Park can have a picnic while watching ball games in its sports fields.
The park also provides a disc golf course offering play on its mostly wooded grounds with various elevation changes.
You can also go on an easy walk on the 0.3-mile flat trail in the park and relax afterward at its pavilion.
Watch out too for the event schedules at the Allen Harkins Amphitheater inside the park for movies and concerts that it hosts.
Go for Taste Tests at Papagni Winery
Sample the wines of the Papagni Winery, one of the prime destinations in the Madera Wine Trail.
This winery proudly offers its high-quality wines at its tasting room at the intersection of Avenue 9 and Highway 99.
Papagni Winery is family-owned with a wine-making tradition built over 100 years that trace back to Bari, Italy.
The Papagni family’s Madera winery opened in 1973, with state-of-the-art facilities that set industry precedents locally.
This winery is the first in San Joaquin Valley with stainless steel tanks for wine-making.
It is also the first in the Valley to craft wine varieties from specific types of grapes rather than blends.
One of the winery’s award-winning masterpieces is the deep, dark wine Alicante Bouschet delivering a taste with rich fruit, spice, and a gentle earthiness.
Pick a Play on Madera’s Golf Courses
Visiting golfers have two choices of golf courses in Madera, one a city-owned municipal links and the other in a privately run country club.
Madera Municipal Golf Course is located on Avenue 17 at the quiet, picturesque edge of the city.
This 18-hole championship course plays at par-72 over 6,833 yards from the longest tee.
Touted as one of the best in the California Central Valley, this course provides a pro shop, golf lessons, and a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch.
About 5 miles road distance from the municipal links, golf rounds can also be enjoyed at Madera Golf and Country Club.
This country club, located on Road 26, was founded in the 1950s, with its 18-hole layout offering play over 6,647 yards at par 72.
Its course rating is at 71.2 while its slope rating is at 127 on Bermuda grass.
Segue on Tasting at CRU Winery
CRU Winery at Avenue 20 corner Road 21 is another Madera source for award-winning wines.
This winery offers outdoor seating to its visitors eager for taste samplings of its prize-winning wine products.
One of CRU Winery’s offerings is its Sierra Madre Pinot Noir which received a Platinum Award at the 2021 Monterey Wine Competition.
CRU Winery owns the bragging rights to its consistent 90+ point scores and gold medals from industry publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits Magazine.
This winery’s success owes much to its grapes sourced from prestigious vineyards and appellations throughout California’s Central Coast.
Bring the Family to Centennial Park & Pool Complex
Go swimming with your family in the large public swimming pool at the corner of Flume and East 5th Street.
This facility is located in the Madera Centennial Park & Pool Complex, where there is also a well-designed children’s playground.
The design of Centennial Park’s playground is based on inclusive play features that the locals themselves handpicked after some thorough planning.
Madera also provides a similar and newer playground at Pan-Am Park on the corner of Sherwood and North Lake Street.
Its site is also home to the Pan-American Senior Center and the Pan-American Community Center, which is also worth visiting.
Visit the Rotary Park
You can enjoy several outdoor activities with a visit to Rotary Park at South Gate Drive.
This park is dog-friendly, and it provides a playground and a large field.
On its south end, Rotary Park also features a concrete skating facility, the Zero Gravity Skate Park, open for all ages.
Through this park, you can also access the multi-use Vernon McCullough Fresno River Trail.
Running along the Fresno River stretch in Madera, this trail is accessed by city residents and visitors both for recreation and non-motorized transportation.
The Vernon McCullough Fresno River Trail passes under Highway 99 and sports an endearing trail and compass dedication plaque.
Move Onward the Madera Wine Trail to Ficklin Vineyards
The Ficklin Vineyards, located on Avenue 7 1/2 corner Road 30, was founded in 1946 and committed solely to the production of Port wines.
Since then, the Ficklin Vineyard’s Port wines have grown popular and eventually became the most-awarded Port in the US.
The California State Fair conferred to Ficklin Vineyards’ owner and winemaker, Peter Ficklin, the Wine Lifetime Achievement Award, as another highlight of this winery’s achievements.
The Ficklin Vineyards promises an unforgettable experience in its historic Adobe Cellar.
This tour provides an in-depth view of the winery where the Ficklins have worked and lived.
Later, you can turn to the Ficklin Vineyards’ Barrel Room where there are five unique Port wines to tease your taste buds.
Go for Fine Dining at the Vineyard Restaurant & Bar
This restaurant immediately exudes charm as it nestles amid the lush trees on South 1st Street.
The Mariscotti family, who settled in Madera more than 100 years ago, established the Vineyard Restaurant & Bar in 1976.
The restaurant’s niche is Italian and American food with local flavor melded in, and its beverage list features Madera wines as well.
The Vineyard Restaurant & Bar provides live band music, and its patio is perfect for a romantic dinner.
Choices in this restaurant’s menu include Sriracha Maple Fried Chicken, Shrimp Remoulade, and Lamb Sliders topped with feta cheese.
The Vineyard Restaurant & Bar often serves as the host of various local charity events, and mainly because of this, the Madera Rotarians feted this restaurant as the 2019 Business of the Year.
Watch It Live at Madera Speedway
The Madera Speedway prides itself as the fastest one-third-mile car racing track in the West.
This race track is located on Cleveland Avenue across the north of the Madera flea market.
The Madera Speedway moved to its current location from across the street, where it has been operating since the 1940s.
In operation for over 50 years, this race track hosts many prestigious racing events covered on national television.
The events to watch out for their schedules at the Madera Speedway include Olga’s California Dream 100 Mini Stock Nationals and the Pumpkin Cup Open Comp Late Model races.
Savor the Specialties of Joaquin Wine Company
A husband-and-wife team—Steve and Cindy Schafer—runs this winery on Avenue 16.
The couple founded Joaquin Wine Company in 2005, banking on Steve’s more than 40 years of experience in the wine industry.
Since this winery started production, it has grown its wine varieties from four to 18.
The Joaquin Wine Company’s annual production has reached 22,000 cases, part of which is exported to the world market.
Visit this winery’s tasting room for some outstanding wine sampling and a chat with the Schafers or their friendly staff who can share more about this gem of the Madera Wine Trail.
Shop at the Madera Flea Market
Located on West Cleveland Avenue, the Madera Flea Market is a welcome place for families to shop, sell, and explore.
This commercial hub just south of the Madera Speedway is open on Wednesdays and Sundays; it has been a family-owned business since 1987.
Set in a site of over 35 acres, the Madera Flea Market boasts a swap meet that has grown as the prime outdoor market of Madera County and the Fresno metro.
About 400 to 500 vendors populate this shopping destination, where you can bag discounts on a wide array of new and used items.
The offerings at the Madera Flea Market include clothes, jewelry, electronics, shoes, toys, beauty products, knick-knacks, furniture, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Pick Your Fancy Drink at Birdstone Winery
This winery on Road 36 is a family team effort to turn Madera-appellation grapes into world-class, award-winning wines.
Behind Birdstone Winery are husband-and-wife Tony and Kimberly Kirk along with their sons Conner and Travis.
Visit their winery, and you’re likely to find them with their kin and friends in the Tasting Room bar or in the grape-crushing area during harvest time.
Birdstone Winery’s products are hand-crafted to perfection, aged in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.
Your choices in this winery are winners in regional, national, and international wine competitions, such as Alicante Bouschet, Chardonnay, and Cabernet.
As tempting in Birdstone Winery are bottles of Tinta Madeira Port, Merlott, Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangioveseor, and Dolcetto, all of which are award-winners also.
Visit the Madera District Fairgrounds
Reserve your visit to Madera in September for this is the month when the city hosts the event-filled annual Madera Fair.
This premier county fair is held at the Madera District Fairgrounds of 50–60 acres on Cleveland Avenue.
The typical events lined up at the Madera Fair include a circus, cheer and dance competitions, drum and bugle parades, cattle auctions, magic shows, and band concerts.
In ordinary months and days, you can also watch out for some events lined up at the fairgrounds, such as fun runs.
The Madera District Fairgrounds also has space with hookups for RV campers for a maximum of 14 days rental.
Stop for More Wines of Toca Madera
Have a full appreciation of the Madera Wine Trail, with a stop at Toca Madera on Avenue 9 just south of Birdstone Winery.
A weekend is the best time for a reservation at Toca Madera, during which it features live musical performances of local artists.
This you can enjoy amid the winery’s beautiful landscape while tasting Toca Madera’s superb, award-winning wines.
The winery’s selection includes Cabernet/Syrah, Mouvedre, Muscat, Dulce Vida, Grenache/Tempranillo, and Zinfandel,
Notable picks, too, are Toca Madera’s bets that bagged medals in the wine competition of the San Francisco Chronicle, such as Conmigo and Mirame Rose.
The city of Madera is an enjoyable place to visit for the entire family, with its well-developed parks and sports facilities.
This city is also a must-stop for wine lovers as covering the wineries and vineyards of the Madera Wine Trail alone can already count as a bucket-list item for them.
Lastly, the city’s historical past has evolved a wide variety of things to do in Madera that appeal to visitors with varying interests.