Visalia is as California as it gets: colonial buildings, sunny skies, warm weather, and a welcoming community for all.
It's part of the San Joaquin Valley, a rich agricultural region known for being one of the state's sources of quality produce and livestock.
But Visalia is more of a bustling city—it is the fifth largest in the region with more than 134,000 residents.
Even though it has a sizable population, the town has maintained a charming small-town ambiance devoid of skyscrapers and teeming with outdoor facilities.
There are many community parks, nature trails, and other attractions that provide locals and visitors spaces for fun and enjoyment.
The city also serves as the "Gateway to the Sequoias" owing to its proximity to the world-famous destination.
So whatever your preference, there's something for you in this charming location.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Visalia, CA:
Watch a Stunning Performance at Visalia Fox Theatre
The Visalia Fox Theatre is an icon in the city, a prominent landmark that has been around since the 1920s.
With its tall and immaculate clock tower that glows with neon lights during the night, this attraction is hard to miss.
Upon arrival, you'd see the theater's lavish and decadent architecture, which is styled after the French trompe-l'œil technique.
This was common in theaters during the Roaring Twenties, most of which were built with atmospheric interiors that evoke the feeling of being in an exotic and fantastical place.
Visalia Fox Theatre is designed after the temple gardens in South Asia, with design cues taken from India's religious structures.
The result is a truly magical experience that's a show in itself.
But of course, you're visiting a theater to catch a show, so buy a ticket and find a seat among the 1,275 available.
The production companies based in the facility will deliver stunning plays and concerts that match the theater's grandeur.
Enjoy the Thrilling Rides at Adventure Park
Adventure Park is a family-friendly destination ideal for those who want to try something exciting and memorable.
By combining elements of racing, rides, and arcade games, this expansive amusement park offers a wide range of attractions for kids and adults.
Test your driving skills by joining a race on their tracks or see how well you can putt by playing a few rounds of minigolf.
There's also a bowling alley for those who want to feel the satisfaction of hitting all the pins.
On the other hand, the arcade section offers old classics and revamped versions, giving you plenty of opportunities to relive childhood memories.
For some fun in the water, check out the Sequoia Springs area and enjoy the cool waters as you drop from towering slides.
There are many other adventures to try within the seven-acre park, so be sure to visit them all during your stay to maximize the thrill!
Let the Kids Play at ImagineU Children's Museum
For those bringing kids to their Visalia trip, make sure to stop over at ImagineU Children's Museum.
This engaging and enjoyable facility is designed with young learners in mind, so the exhibits and activities stimulate kids' imagination and nurture creativity.
Your child will have plenty of opportunities to explore, experiment, and enrich their knowledge among the many interactive displays and informative exhibits.
They'd develop new skills related to communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and other areas that are crucial in their day-to-day lives.
If you plan your schedule accordingly, your kids can even catch the special shows and events held at the facility.
So visit their calendar today and see their upcoming activities.
Stay Awhile at Blain Park
Blain Park is a community attraction that brings in many of Visalia's residents every day.
It's located at the southern end of the city, near the suburbs where most families in the city live.
So this park has become a favorite green space for the residents who want a quick escape from busy lives.
You're welcome to visit here, too, especially if you enjoy wide green fields, shady wooded spots, and well-equipped playgrounds.
There are also many picnic benches, ample parking, and other modern amenities that make for a convenient stay.
See Ancient Trees at Mooney Grove Park
Before human development changed Visalia, it was once a dense oak woodland filled with ancient trees.
Now remnants of these forests are being preserved at Mooney Grove Park, one of the most expansive oak groves in the state.
This green space is a local favorite, with towering trees lining paved trails and a small lagoon on one section.
At certain times of the day, the sunlight passing through these trees creates a magical effect that will have you marveling at the scenery.
Exploring the lagoon on a paddle boat is also a great experience for those who want to try water-related activities during their visit.
But if you don't want to get wet just yet, you can play on the disc golf course or explore the many trails winding through the trees.
The best thing about this park is that it's not far from the city center, so you can enjoy a tranquil green space without having to travel too far from your hotel or accommodation.
Immerse in History at Tulare County Museum
Visalia is part of Tulare County, a region in California steeped in history from its Native American and colonial past.
One of the best ways to learn more about this heritage is at Tulare County Museum.
The facility contains a vast collection of artifacts from bygone eras, all housed in several buildings that form the whole complex.
One of these displays is the largest collection of Native American baskets in California—all showcased within class shelves to preserve their frail material.
There are also other artifacts like tools, weapons, and documents that offer a glimpse of life back in the day.
You’d also see modern collections, specifically the agricultural technologies that helped shape the county's lands.
There are tractors, farming implements, and other machines that were vital in the region's premier industry.
Splash Around at Riverway Sports Park
The days can get hot in Visalia, so if you're looking for a place where the whole family can cool down, check out Riverway Sports Park.
Sitting next to St. John's River, this community destination is known for its many sports facilities, modern amenities, and a splash pad open for everyone.
You're also welcome to play a few innings on the eight baseball and softball diamonds on the park's western section.
In fact, you might even catch a game or two during your visit, as there are many small tournaments held in the park.
The other sports amenities include basketball and tennis courts as well as a well-maintained soccer field.
If you simply want to stay in an open area and take in the fresh air, there are many picnic benches and shady spots in the park for you to enjoy.
Ace a Hole-in-One at Valley Oaks Golf Course
Whether you're an amateur or a professional, you're guaranteed a great gameplay here at Valley Oaks Golf Course.
This 27-hole golf course is a scenic attraction nestled on the northwest edge of Visalia, with well-maintained fields, vast putting greens, and the ancient oaks from which the course is named.
While the simple layout may look easy, the rolling terrain and the course's water hazards may pose a challenge for the uninitiated.
So make sure to brush up your putting and course management skills to avoid any mishaps.
If you find yourself needing some equipment before your round, visit the well-stocked pro shop.
They offer balls, clubs, and even golfing attire that's fit for the occasion.
See the Sights Along St. John's River Trail
St. John's River is a 26-mile body of water that passes the northern side of Visalia.
Running parallel to it is a beautiful route that brings you to scenic riverside spots and attractions: St. Johns River Trail.
With a length of four miles, this well-paved and tranquil route is the longest one in the city.
That's why it's been a favorite venue for special events, running marathons, and other fitness programs both for public and private audiences.
Traversing the trail will bring you to tree-lined segments, riverside lookouts, and two parks: the Riverway Sports Park and Cutler Park.
So whether you're out for a walk, a run, or a ride on a bike, this trail is a perfect little escape from the city noise.
Stay at Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA
If you're looking for a convenient base for your Visalia adventures, Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA is the perfect place to stay.
It's the city’s premier campground with many modern amenities, spacious grounds, and an easy-to-find location within the city.
And it's more than a campground, as the facility has its own pool, volleyball court, game room, and a playground of children.
There are spaces for traditional tents as well as RVs, which are near electric and water hookups.
But if you want fancier accommodations, Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA has rental cabins that can serve as your home away from home.
Catch a Game at Valley Strong Ballpark
If you're a fan of baseball, then you definitely shouldn't miss a match at Valley Strong Ballpark.
This sporting facility has been around since 1946, and it currently serves as the home to the Visalia Rawhide, a Minor League Baseball team with skilled members.
The ballpark is the smallest MLB-affiliated facility in California that's still operating, undergoing many expansive renovations to improve amenities and operations.
After these upgrades were made, the overall spectator experience in the park has been vastly enhanced, with spacious seating, ample parking, and several concession stands.
So if you're planning to watch a thrilling match on the location, visit their calendar and check out the schedules.
You'd be in for an exciting game that will have you cheering for your team.
Watch a Race at Plaza Park
Among the other community parks of Visalia, Plaza Park arguably offers the most varied set of facilities and activities.
One of its most prominent features is the large lagoon often filled with frolicking waterfowl and freshwater game for fishing.
There's also the Plaza Park Raceway, which occasionally holds thrilling and fun Winged Kart tournaments.
And if you want to try more sporty activities, the park has tennis and pickleball courts as well as baseball diamonds.
Valley Oaks Golf Course is also just on the other side of Plaza Drive if you want to test your golfing skills.
Shop Fresh Produce at Visalia Farmers' Market
For those who want to partake in the rich harvests of the San Joaquin Valley, make a stopover at Visalia Farmers' Market.
It's the perfect destination to buy fresh produce grown by local farmers and gardeners in the city and nearby rural areas.
The market is open every Saturday morning; it features more than 80 merchants offering a wide range of products.
You'll find seasonal vegetables, dozens of fruit cultivars, and premium root crops that are all freshly harvested.
In addition, some stalls offer locally made products, such as preserves, cured meats, handmade artisanal furniture, and baked goods.
Make sure to mingle with the locals during your visit to make new friends or get secret recipes.
Take Snaps with Sequoia Legacy Tree
Visit Visalia inaugurated the Sequoia Legacy Tree in April 2018.
The feature stands amid the city's historic and attractive downtown district.
Visalia's historical gem and source of pride is also a reminder of the valley's critical relationship to the Sierra Nevada.
A circular decomposed granite walkway encircles the tree, which was supposed to be as large as the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park.
This gives a sense of scale for the potential size of these trees. Giant sequoias can survive for almost 2,000 years in the right conditions.
When visiting Visalia, it's hard to miss this towering landmark.
Stroll around Downtown Visalia
As early as 1963, chain retailers began moving out of the city centers and into shopping malls across California.
Downtown Visalia has seen the closure of J.C. Penny, Sears, J.J. Newberry, Montgomery Ward, and Woolworth.
Amid these losses, a handful of determined merchants worked hard to keep Downtown Visalia thriving and lively.
Within 72 square blocks of downtown, they organized themselves into an advocacy group dedicated to boosting local businesses.
With their early and sustained commitment, Visalia's downtown is one of California's most successful.
Small communities across the country, including Visalia, are working to preserve their downtowns and make them more appealing to residents and visitors.
Historic buildings in the city's downtown area vary from Italianate to Art Deco in architectural style.
Grab a self-guided tour map from the See Visalia office and visit its historic structures, some dating back to the 1800s.
Gaze at the Exhibits at Arts Visalia Visual Art Center
In downtown Visalia, California, Arts Visalia is a non-profit community arts center.
See an array of works by well-known artists from the region, the country, and worldwide every month. Unique gifts made by local artists are on display at our gift shop.
Arts Visalia Visual Art Center holds events like First Friday meet-the-artist receptions, talks, workshops, Family Art Days, and open studio sessions.
Both children and adults can benefit from our educational offerings.
Due to the generosity of private and public donors, its scholarships for kids can help hundreds of students each year.
Test Your Wheels at Provident Skate Park
The 24,000-square-foot Provident Skate Park is one of the state's largest municipal skate parks.
The three main components are a giant fun box, barbell/volcanoes, and a snake run with a bowl at the end.
The park has a mind-boggling number of features.
Rails come in various shapes and sizes, some curved, some straight, some level, and some inclined.
There are a variety of benches to choose from, each with its unique height and material.
The skaters at Provident Skate Park may expect a never-ending stream of fresh air.
There is enough room for between 50 and 75 skaters at a time in the park's 24,000 square feet of space (with hundreds of others watching).
In addition to the fun box for street skaters and beginners, there is a middle portion that includes the volcano, a bowl and snake run for more advanced skaters, and a quarter pipe.
Bring Home Knickknacks from Visalia Vintage & Antiques
Antique shopping has never been easier for locals since Visalia Vintage & Antiques opened its doors in October 2017.
Today, it's one of California's most popular attractions and shopping malls. Visalia Vintage & Antiques stands along South Mooney Boulevard in Visalia.
You may find some of the best antique vendors in town, with over 100 booths spread over the 26,000-square feet complex.
The Bose sound system in this two-floor antique mall provides an incredible 70s soundtrack to a day of shopping.
Visalia Vintage & Antiques also offers BBQs, massive deals, and even freebies for shoppers on certain days!
Other Things to Do Nearby
Once you've had your fill of Visalia adventures, why not visit these other places nearby?
Marvel at the Majesty of Sequoia National Park
While it's still more than an hour away from Visalia, the Sequoia National Park is still a must-see destination during your trip.
In fact, many people treat the city as a base camp for their adventures to the world-famous park, with many businesses offering tour packages to the attraction.
So find one when in Visalia and join them to see and marvel at the towering trees.
Sequoia National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, spanning more than 404,064 acres.
It's famous for the gigantic sequoia trees, including the world's tallest: General Sherman Tree.
Visiting here is like being transported into an alien world filled with massive trunks and canopies that reach impossible heights.
Aside from exploring the majestic flora, you can go camping, museum touring, and swimming in the many lakes and rivers dotting the landscape.
See the Wildlife of Kaweah Oaks Preserve
As mentioned, this region of the San Joaquin Valley was once a dense oak woodland.
So aside from Mooney Grove Park, one of the other places where these ancient trees are conserved is Kaweah Oaks Preserve.
Spanning 344 acres, this site is one of the last riparian habitats where oak trees are still flourishing.
You're welcome to explore the trails and see these age-old trees, as well as the many creeks winding across the plains.
Since it’s left undisturbed by human development, the preserve also hosts a large number of wildlife, such as owls, foxes, insects, and native bird species.
Visalia has the perfect blend of history, culture, and nature that makes it a must-see destination this side of California.
From ancient oak groves to lavish theaters, from vibrant community parks to scenic trails, there's something for every preference here.
Reference this list so you won't miss the top spots of this charming city.