Introduction to Fresno, California
Fresno, whose name is the Spanish word for "ash tree," is located in the San Joaquin River Valley in central California, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Fresno's growth began in the 1870s after the site was selected as a station on the Central Pacific Railroad. The area's great land and weather attracted farmers and ranchers, many of them immigrants, resulting in a melting pot of nearly 100 nationalities still reflected in Fresno's culture. In 1875, the raisin industry started in Fresno by accident, when grapes at a vineyard were allowed to dry on the vine.
Today, Fresno is among the nation's 40 most populous cities, with a population of around 430,000 and a rapidly-growing metro area. Fresno County's $3 billion agriculture business makes it the top county for agriculture in the country. Grapes, lettuce, cotton and tomatoes are the leaders among its more than 250 crops. Fresno's economy is also supported by diverse industries such as agricultural chemicals and equipment, food processing, computer software, glass and plastics. Aided by its proximity to both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Fresno is enjoying a growing convention business.
Fresno's cultural attractions are far more numerous than in other cities its size. The Saroyan Theatre, named for Fresno-born poet and author William Saroyan, hosts the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Fresno Ballet. The city also has the Fresno Grand Opera, local theater companies, and music and dance productions. Its museums include the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, the Fresno Art Museum, the African-American Museum and the Discovery Center. Each October, Fresno's annual Blues Festival in the Tower District (under the famous namesake water tower), attracts thousands of fans. The Conours D'Elegance, held each spring at California State University in Fresno, is the nation's most eagerly anticipated antique auto show.
Fresno Sports and Leisure
The Fresno Grizzlies, triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, play minor league baseball at Grizzlies Stadium. For major league sports, Los Angeles (baseball's Dodgers, NBA's Lakers, NHL's Kings) and San Francisco (baseball's Giants, NFL's 49ers) are a short roadtrip away. The Fresno State Bulldogs, a perennial contender in basketball, play at Selland Arena. Fresno State has a strong fandom in all sports.
An agreeable climate, and proximity to both ocean and mountains combine to make Fresno a haven for lovers of the outdoors. For athletic Fresnans, surfing Pacific coast beaches such as Santa Cruz in the summer, then skiing the Sierras in the winter is commonplace. Sailing at Huntington Lake and canoeing the San Joaquin River are popular activities. And Fresno is the only city in the country surrounded by 3 national parks: Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite. Pebble Beach, the most storied golf course in the country, is just a 2-hour drive away (Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay are two other top-rated courses in Pebble Beach).
Fresno at Night
Fresno's nightlife offers a myriad of music, dining and entertainment options reflecting the city's youth and diversity. The Tower District has many great places to see live music. Several wineries inhabit the area. Combining the best of both worlds, Fresno has big-city amenities while retaining a friendly, small-town atmosphere.