Fresno unfolds in the center of California across the fertile San Joaquin Valley, cut through by busy Highway 99. Though surrounded by sprawling farms and expansive orchards, Fresno itself is a very developed urban center, home to a diverse population of roughly 430,000. While the city itself isn't a prime tourist destination it has acquired a reputation as both the main cultural hub between San Francisco and L.A. and a gateway destination for activity in three nearby national parks.
In addition to a pleasant clutch of museums - including the region's only modern art museum - Fresno boasts an assortment of Art Deco buildings and other historic structures which lend the Tower District and main downtown area a bit of character. Farmers Markets and fresh produce are easily come by in these parts, and there's a very respectable list of local wineries happy to indulge oenophiles between sight-seeing forays around the city center.
While Fresno is frequently used as a springboard on to the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range to the east, there's a handful of lakes closer at hand good for boating or fishing during summer months as well as a popular multi-purpose trail frequented by bikers and walkers. Worth a detour is Forestiere Underground Gardens, an intriguing historical landmark that offers a cool alternative to traditional landscaping, but for flora in a truly natural environment it's the mountains that should be your ultimate destination.
Flanking the peaks to the northeast is Sierra National Forest, which covers some 1.3 million acres of rugged mountain terrain, nearly half of it designated wilderness. Hiking, camping, and mountain biking are popular activities, and nearby bodies of water like Huntington Lake attract sailors, canoers and anglers. Yosemite National Park is at the upper edge of the national forest while Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks take in serious acreage accessible via a route that runs to the southeast. Time it right and you can catch one of Fresno's popular annual events when you return like the Clovis Rodeo and the Conours D'Elegance car show. A range of lodging and dining options in town provide full services to visitors.
Fresno is located along Highway 99 in central California, about 190 miles southeast of San Francisco and 220 miles north of Los Angeles.